What advice would you give to new freelance copywriters about getting to grips with search engine optimisation? I wrote the following to someone recently who is starting out as a copywriter, and who wondered how techy one needs to be.
I don’t think you need to be techy.
Position yourself as a copywriter, not an SEO expert. Show that you are SEO savvy in your writing – but let others take the blame if the client isn’t #1 in Google.
There is almost as much writing about SEO on the Internet as there is porn and pictures of kittens. Quite overwhelming. On the other hand, good advice is freely available if you know what you’re looking for.
These are the basics of what a web copywriter should do when it comes to SEO:
1. Write self-descriptive headlines and copy – in other words the copy is clearly about its subject.
2. Mention search keywords in everything you write. (Ask your clients for their keywords).
3. Add a healthy dose of hyperlinks to other content on the same site.
Where it falls within your remit, you should also know how to do the following:
4. Hand craft metadata for each page, making the following readable and full of keywords:
- Meta descriptions
- Page titles
- Image alt tags
- Link anchor text
These are quite straightforward – a quick Google search will tell you what they are.
5. Suggest URLs (unique webpage address) with keywords in – although these may be auto generated.
The first 20 pages of Google’s Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide cover most of those elements.
And the guiding principle is never, never, never do any of these things to the detriment of readability. I like Adam Tinworth’s summary of the tension between SEO and content.
After that, the rest of SEO is either out of your hands (structural stuff) or most likely snake oil. Google constantly updates its search algorithm, trying to reward the best content – not the best optimised content. In other words, content that is well written, well structured and clearly about its subject will eventually win out. People who attempt to game the system may get wiped out the next time Google releases an update. That sort of SEO is a mug’s game.
Hence our approach at Fluent.
And that’s it. Including SEO in your copywriting is way easier than SEO salespeople would make out. The key thing is simply to write clearly, briefly and full of meaning.