Applying common sense when optimizing your content for SEO and readers
Myths of good and bad practices in online marketing tend to be shared and reshared and can become self-perpetuating, so it can be confusing for newcomers to online marketing to understand what will work and what wont. Given the importance of SEO and the many ranking factors, it's not surprising that many myths have developed. I hear many of these SEO myths daily, so in this post, I hope to separate some of the facts from the fiction, specifically related to copywriting for SEO, highlighting the most common myths we are still seeing and how to avoid them.
1. Insisting on 'keyword density'
Believe it or not, I still receive requests from clients for a specific percentage of keyword density in their copy. I always strongly advise against it [Editor's note - not a surprise, we were asked about the Recommended keyword density for SEO in our forum]. Think about it logically – Is Google really going to deem your site to be the most relevant because the targeted keywords are included in the copy 10 times? Particularly since there are so many other more important SEO ranking factors. Is a copywriter really going to produce their best work which will engage prospects if they have to edit it in order to include a certain keyword a certain number of times?
In 2007, when I started working as an SEO copywriter, a page may have been more likely to rank due to the repetition of a keyword, but we have come a long way since then. My advice today is to make sure keywords are included in title and header tags and where natural in the body copy, but focus on writing compelling, insightful copy that the reader will find genuinely useful. Matt Cutts may no longer be active in advising on SEO best practice, but we can still take this summary on trust.
2. Believing longer is always better
In my last post, I wrote about how, for certain queries, Google appears to be favouring longer pages, and while this is true for certain verticals, it’s by no means the case that every page should be as long as possible.
Let’s say you have an e-commerce site, 1000 words on a category page for socks is completely unnecessary and soul-destroying for even the most creative copywriter. A landing page for a law firm on the subject of conveyancing, on the other hand, would require a significant amount of detail. The length of a page should depend on its subject and context.
As a rule of thumb, I recommend the following but it does vary for different companies and no hard fast rule.
- Brochure site pages/services landing page/[blog posts] - 400 words+
- E-commerce category pages - 200-300 words
- Product descriptions - 100 - 200 words
3. Shoehorning ridiculous anchor text
This is probably my biggest bugbear when dealing with SEO agencies. We all know that exact match anchor text can give SEO benefits provided it's not repeated too much, but don’t force your copywriter to write clumsy, mediocre copy by shoehorning in a ridiculous keyword phrase.
My heart sinks when I read briefs that include instructions such as, 'must include keyword - 'hiring a skip from A1 skip hire in Rotherham'.' Instead the calls-to-action should fit customer journeys as calls-to-action to a related article.
4. Having below the fold 'SEO copy'
A lot of sites, particularly in the retail sector, have a section for what is usually poorly written, keyword littered 'SEO' copy hidden somewhere towards the footer of pages. Again, this may have had some impact a few years ago, but today it's most likely a waste of time and budget. If you aren't going to put copy on a page where it is accessible and will add value, don't bother.
Instead, invest in a short, succinct summary of the content of a page and place it at the top, with useful navigational links. ASOS do this particularly well.
5. Having a zero-tolerance policy on duplication
Like everything in life and SEO, in moderation, a little duplication is fine. Apply some common sense, for example, these are fine: text such as a quote taken from a source article and technical specifications taken from a manufacturer's website.
Entire paragraphs of text scraped from other sites and comprising all of the copy on a page is asking for trouble.
So these are 5 of the myths arising from client requests I see A LOT. What do you see? Do you agree these are the most common myths?