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SEO Copy Writing

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 13 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Copywriting Search Optimisation Engine

When you've just started up a writing business and are searching for jobs, there are a lot of bewildering acronyms to get used to. One of these, which keeps cropping up in reference to copywriting jobs, is SEO.

It translates as 'search engine optimisation'. When you see an employer looking for 'SEO Copywriting', what you've found is a position which is not just about writing for humans, but also about writing for robots.

Robot Wars

These robots are not mechanical men sitting in front of computers like yours. They're the tools which search engines use to determine the relevance of particular pages. When you type a term into a search engine, it will bring up a list of pages according to what it thinks you're most likely to be looking for. However, since it only has robot 'intelligence', it can't assess what it finds the way you could.

Instead it uses a variety of techniques such as counting the number of times words in your search appear on each page, considering how prominent they are, and looking at how many links other websites have made to it (thereby getting a measure of its popularity). But as robots have evolved these techniques, marketing experts have evolved counter-strategies aimed at getting the pages they represent to the top. One of these techniques is SEO copywriting.

What SEO Copywriting Means to a Writer

Over the years, SEO copywriting has itself been subject to a process of evolution. In the early stages, it simply consisted of listing a lot of 'keywords' - popular search terms - at the top of an article. However, robots soon identified this as a trick, and what's more, it put off human readers.

There's no point in getting lots of people to access a page if they immediately leave again without reading it. Modern SEO copywriting is much subtler and usually aims to distribute search terms throughout writing which seems as natural as possible to the human reader.

When you apply for a job producing search engine optimised work you'll need to ask what ratio you're required to work to. This tells you how often search terms should appear in your article. Sometimes you'll be given a simple number - for instance, 'repeat the keywords six time each' - and sometimes you'll be given a percentage.

The higher this percentage (some employers ask that every fifth word be a keyword, despite the fact that this will make most robots suspicious), the harder it is to make writing look natural, so you may wish to look for jobs with low keyword ratios as you get used to this kind of work.

If you develop a specialisation in SEO copywriting, you will always be able to get work, because there's a huge number of websites out there in desperate need of your services. However, rates of pay for SEO copywriting can be very low. This is because it's considered to be quick and easy to do, as articles tend to be lightweight and require minimal research - sometimes you'll simply be given an existing article and asked to rewrite it using optimisation techniques.

However, SEO copywriting can still be difficult to do and can use up a lot of mental energy. Don't let yourself be ripped off.

Search Optimisation Tips and Tricks

To make your SEO copywriting more effective, here are some simple tips and tricks you can employ:-

  • Pay big attention to small words - Most of the words in any given sentence are small words - prepositions, conjunctions and articles. Often you can do away with some of them by rephrasing what you have to say. This will reduce your overall word count, increasing the frequency of your search engine terms.
  • Don't waste space on pronouns - Try to avoid saying 'it' when you could use a keyword instead. Similarly, you should avoid using alternative, non-keyword terms, even if they make your writing look more eloquent.
  • "Verbing weirds language" - So said Bart Simpson, and he has a point. Often words which we think of as nouns can also function as verbs. Occasionally they can also be adjectives. Exploit the different functions of your keywords.
  • Interrupt yourself - Sometimes you can change the meaning of a search engine term by interrupting it with a comma, dash or full stop, making each of its constituent parts part of a separate phrase. This can give you a lot of additional flexibility. However, not all employers are happy with it, so you should check first.

These techniques can make SEO copywriting much easier, but ultimately, there's nothing like practice. The more such work you do, the better you'll get at it, and the more you can demand in return.

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