Posted 13th June 2011 | By ExtraMile

I've seen a few firms recently offering Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) on a per-article basis: they will take your existing web copy and make it pop with some SEO. To me this seems like a terrible idea.

I understand why they're offering this service (and why people are using it). People tend to focus on the design of their website, the links, structure and everything else and forget about the copy. Or at least, they forget that the copy is crucial to SEO and then when their fantastic new article isnt getting any visitors, they wonder why.
What usually happens is that the web developer builds the site, with all the technical bells and whistles for SEO, and then the customer writes the copy. That customer usually doesnt understand SEO, or even know what it is. But they know they need it for the website and thats okay because their great web designer did it for them.
If youre not writing your copy being SEO aware then your copy will not be SEOd. Weve discussed loads of tips on SEO before so were not going to discuss them here. This post is aimed at making you think about the copy on your website and making you think, is it web optimised?
The first thing about SEO friendly web copy is that it must be written for your customer. Google, Bing et al are second in your priorities. If you write your article without a thought to the search engines and then try to retro-fit SEO into your article it is going to feel forced, however if you write your copy with them at the forefront of your mind then your copy is going to feel mechanical and badly written. Its a balance, make sure you get it right and your copy will read brilliantly and as a bonus will be search engine friendly.
You should consider using subtitles for your article. Im not talking Ceefax page 888 but more a descriptive title underneath your article (think Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus). A little more of an explanation of the article right at the top allows your reader to discover more without reading the whole thing (weve all got halfway through an article and realised its not about the thing we thought it was, subtitles avoid this). This makes great copy for the reader but also adds a bit more emphasis for the search engines.
What about headings and sub-headings? How often do you break your copy up into sections. Should those two paragraphs on the history of your new product come under the heading History? This makes reading your article easier (I dont care about the history of the antler cover, just tell me how great they are at keeping dust off my antlers!). Its also another great place to put keywords for the search engines, rather than History put History of the antler cover, place them in header tags and the search engines will definitely notice them.
What you write shouldnt fundamentally change for the search engines. Your copy should follow all of the general rules of writing and the rules of writing marketing copy etc. and then it should be great copy that is already written with keywords included, links to necessary pages and everything else search engines love.

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