I still have clients contacting me who are expert at putting carts before horses when it comes to SEO copywriting.  As anyone who follows Google’s latest diktats will know, SEO has been turned on its head since Pandas and Penguins got in on the act with their various algorithm updates.

As professional copywriters, web designers or developers, we’re privy to Google’s latest rumours – and, let’s face it, there are plenty of those flying around about how the search engine’s latest pronouncements will affect the way we work and the effects this will have on client websites, their SERPs rankings and – most important of all – how this could affect their online business performance.

For mainstream SEO specialists, this has been something akin to a natural catastrophe.  The old, familiar landscape has suddenly been replaced by a new and arid environment where old certainties no longer exist.  SEO techniques that had worked perfectly well for so long – and which many SEO practitioners thought they had down to a fine art – are no longer effective and, in some cases, could prove to be positively detrimental.

Anyone with a professional vested interest in perpetuating the status quo, as far as SEO is concerned, would be loath to spill the beans to clients, especially if they were unsure about the best new direction in which to guide their clients.  Despite this reluctance, truth will out, and ultimately there’s no hiding place.  In short, for SEO professionals, the message was: adapt if you want to survive.


It’s ancient history

Clients who are probably too busy running their own businesses to be fully up-to-date with the latest developments in SEO will therefore be talking the ‘old talk’ – in briefing meetings and strategy documents.

In many cases, it would take a brave SEO person to disabuse a client of the notion that what they’re saying and thinking now belongs to SEO history.  As an SEO copywriter, I still have clients with that outdated mindset – one in which they have probably invested lots of time just a few short months ago.  But hey, this is SEO; this is Google; and nothing can stand in the way of optimising the search experience.

Even worse, web designers and digital agencies are also mired in this outdated view of SEO copywriting (although this is compounded by a systemic misunderstanding of the strategic role of copywriting in the bigger online marketing picture).

Unbelievably, potential clients still approach me with fully-finished web-page designs with the straightforward request – as they see it – to ‘simply’ replace the ‘lorem ipsum’ place-holder text blocks with SEO copy!  More surprisingly, a fully-formed sitemap may also be presented, as if a copywriter should have no influence or impact on this vital breakdown and analysis of an organisation’s functioning.  Finally comes the announcement that ‘The SEO has already been done – here’s a few keywords to help you out!’ 

This last point not only reveals an ignorance of the diminished role of keywords.  It also displays an ignorance of how keywords – in their new post-Panda role – should be used in the SEO copywriting jigsaw (which is: ‘judiciously’ and ‘sparingly’).

Simply put, copy should never be written to fit around keywords.  Organically-attractive copy, as per Google’s latest requirements, should only use keywords where relevant and, even then, be kept to the barest minimum (perhaps in the title tag, headline tags and possibly in the opening and closing paragraphs of the web-page body copy).

What so many clients probably haven’t realised (and maybe web designers and agency execs too) is that the role of SEO copywriters has changed.  They are now far more important in the overall pecking order of web development and SEO for the simple reason that ‘quality content’ and ‘link building’ are now the central planks in Google’s search strategy.

Virtually every other SEO technique that doesn’t work towards achieving a higher quality search experience for the end user will be regarded with circumspection.  Google now has the technology to uncover the dubious practices from which many SEO professionals and their clients benefited in the past, albeit legitimately.  Above board or not, the days of trying to ‘game’ the search engines are over.


The copywriting route…

‘Quality content’ is now Google’s primary focus and one of the few ways of guaranteeing high quality is through first-rate copywriting.  An earlier definition of SEO copywriting would probably have included a knowledge of HTML and keyword research as obligatory.  Important though these still are, the current definition is now more likely to emphasise traditional copywriting skills.  These are: clarity and fluency of style and syntax that maximise in full the usefulness of whatever content is available.

To many, this may sound like heresy – or even a little over-simplistic. And yet, reading between the lines of Google’s webmaster guidelines, it is the power of clarity that will underpin the new approach to SEO copywriting and the delivery of quality content.

Suddenly, copywriters are in the driving seat.  From an SEO copywriting perspective, there’s now nowhere to hide.  Successful link building – and SEO by default – depends on the production of informative blog posts, articles, case studies, web pages and news releases that include keywords in the ways they were always intended.  That is to say, as signposts along the way – included as part of an informative, well-themed bigger picture – and maybe supported by a range of visual devices such as infographics, Powerpoints, tables, photos, videos and so on.

It’s worth noting that all the potential building blocks of the new SEO – from news releases to web pages, blog posts and so on – are copy-led.  Broadly-based expertise that can transcend sectors and market demographics calls for copywriters of exceptional versatility.  It calls for copywriting skills that embrace the tried and tested techniques of clarity and persuasiveness whilst also blending commercial and keyword relevance in a single, consolidated style.  This, my friends, is the new SEO copywriting.


About the author:

Mike Beeson is a highly experienced UK copywriter, journalist and PR consultant.  Mike’s company, Buzzwords Limited, was established over 20 years ago and is located in Knutsford, Cheshire (south Manchester). This article is the third in Mike Beeson’s ‘Talk Your Client Through It’ series.  These are featured on Buzzwords’ Copywriting Blog.

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