The term SEO has a bad name among serious writers, journalists, and old-school marketing copywriters. The idea of manipulating an algorithm to make a page on a website show up in the SERP feels too techy to be artistically sound. However, I would argue that understanding and using SEO principles has made me a better writer and can do the same for you.
01: The Grammar of Writing Online
When you first begin the process of learning to write in grade school, they bombard you with grammar rules. This activity can be tedious, especially to someone with a natural ability to write. Why learn the technical standards of communication when they come instinctively?
When you recover from your hatred of textbooks and grow a little more mature, you discover the magic of good-grammar. When you pick up a classic writing guidebook, like Elements of Style, you realize there aren’t any hard and fast rules. Instead, there are grammatical tools for effective communication.
A concept like the “em dash” becomes a versatile punctuation instrument in the effort to push your reader forward. The longstanding argument revolving around the Oxford comma becomes fighting words among the seriously literate. Moreover, the imprecise use of grammar in the American Constitution has caused much lawyerly debate over the nature of our democracy.
Style and Substance
Rather than seeing grammar in its oppressive rule-based form, these elements artfully shape our writing into a cohesive style, to be used for self-expression and the commerce of copywriting. The pen becomes mightier than the sword, used for both good and ill. An obnoxious tweet, an offhanded remark in a press conference, or an unplanned admission in an interview has been shown to manifest corrupt intent from a President in power of the United States. Events in the political news are continually reminding us that words DO matter.
02: Focus on the Writing Fundamentals when Copywriting for Websites
At a rudimentary level, SEO can be viewed in the same spirit as we looked at grammar in grade school—a series of irritating rules, which ultimately state the obvious. However, a seasoned content marketing copywriter understands the value of on-page optimization when creating quality articles. SEO focuses the copywriter on writing fundamentals.
Understanding Your Audience as a Website Copywriter
For example, one of the essential elements of writing is to understand who your audience is. Keyword analysis causes you to look at a set of query terms and ask the question: What is the intent of Google user when they type that phrase? If the searcher types in “construction” they’ll see a scattershot of options, including companies and the term definition in Wikipedia. However, when one types in “contractor near me,” the user is ready to do business.
Understanding user intent associated with a keyword set is at the heart of keyword analysis and on-page optimization. The process of keyword research focuses the writer around an exact audience, an aspect of good essay writing, which is easy to neglect, even by seasoned writers.
Communicating through an Algorithm
Writing for the web causes the writer to think about how they are connecting to an audience. Although using search analyzing software way may not be romantic, who wants to be writing for an audience of no one? I certainly don’t.
We use the tools at our disposal to connect with an audience. Shakespeare used a theater, a cast of all-male actors, potent poetry, an ability to make up new words, and a knack for dirty jokes to share profound insights about the human experience. The modern writer must resound himself to the technological realities and opportunities of his day.
A coarse use of on-page SEO results in a series of repetitions of a keyword phrase. Advanced website copywriters creatively configure a keyword phrase into many permutations.
For example, “contractors near me” can be expressed:
“If you’re looking for contractors near your home here in Utah, trust me—there are many options.”
The casual reader won’t notice the craft used to optimize that sentence around three important words users regularly use when searching for nearby businesses.
Sneaking Up on You!
Great writers don’t shout their grammatical technique at you, but instead, sneak up on you through clever style-usage. So too does an SEO copywriter, expert in the art of hiding keyword sets, pronounce meaning upon you. The practice of using a particular phrase throughout the text isn’t merely an act of hiding one’s real intent, but instead focuses the writer on authoritative topical insight. The stealthy usage of repeated phrases tends to permeate the narrative in a meaningful way, rather than to harangue the reader with reiteration.
The Repetition Problem in Writing
Repetition is a singular challenge of any writer attempting to discuss a particular topic in full. Active writers find synonymous terms to avoid the overuse of phrases. SEO copywriters use more than a thesaurus. They conduct extensive research, through tools like SEM Rush and manual Google searches, to find other related topics they want to mention.
Often this research uncovers interesting angles you wouldn’t discover on your own. More importantly, you find out all the subtopics Google expects to see connected with your subject of focus. Additional pages and posts spring to mind, allowing the online writer to quickly establish a network of interlinked pages, which all together thoroughly informs the curious reader. As Google watches how your audience interacts with your content, your pages leap upwards in their SERP rankings, providing your website with more and more readers. Google only rewards worthy content.
Keeping your Audience Interested
There is a sense that SEO forsakes reader interest with the best keyword-stuffing techniques. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Google algorithm may be a heartless machine, but it measures the behavior of real people perusing your website. If a page isn’t cutting it with readers, you’ll see it in the page’s ranking performance.
Google also allows you to measure the average time on page of your website. You can see whether people are clicking on links and visiting multiple pages while on your site. This metric provides formidable feedback to the writer to improve the quality of content creation.
Heatmap analysis offered by services like Crazy Egg allows you to see exactly where on the page the eyeballs are landing and where you’re losing readership. Imagine if you got the same type of feedback on a book you’ve written?
Conclusion: The Digital Landscape Offers Dangers and Opportunities
There’s always a fear of new technology when it becomes a massive part of our lives. (There are many concerning issues related to digital technology–Facebook’s abusive use of our personal information is a problem. And Google’s overwhelming dominance in the search engine marketplace causes many of us working in the marketing industry a great deal of concern. )
However, we shouldn’t imagine that one day this whole “internet thing” is going to go away, like a hairstyle we can look back on with dread.
The digital landscape offers many exciting opportunities to writers who want to provide themselves a good living. The creation of content by companies allows businesses to establish brand trust by delivering the most exciting, most engaging, most informative media on the planet.
Writers Offer Bulletproof Branding
When companies connect with a target audience on their website, they’re establishing a relationship which allows them to adjust and grow as technology and trends shift. The content is, in many ways, more important than the products you sell.
The artistic vision of a writer gives them power in the marketplace of ideas, services, and products, a position once held only by the greatest thinkers, but now ubiquitous in the grand virtual world of interconnection. The pen is now truly mightier than the sword.