Heather Lloyd Martin is President and CEO of SuccessWorks. She is also a highly lauded SEO copywriting guru. Her book “Succcessful Search Engine Copywriting” is garnering much notice and is a must read for companies who want to get their web site copy “search engine” savvy.
NH: I´m thrilled to interview you! Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.
HM: “Successful Search Engine Copywriting” was about three years in the making. I originally wrote it to “spread the word” about SEO copywriting and educate people about best practices. Back then, people didn´t know much about writing for search engines or why it was so important. Today, SEO copywriting is an crucial skill set in its own right – and people know that it´s a valuable component of any SEO campaign. It´s great to see!
NH: What is the most misunderstood thing about SEO copywriting?
HM: Ah, this is a pet peeve of mine! I read articles all the time stating that SEO copywriting is just “inserting keyphrases into the copy” without regard to target market, conversion goals or customer needs. And that´s just not true. I call that the “Easy Bake Oven” approach to SEO copywriting – and it´s just not effective. True SEO copywriting is much more complex and strategic, especially for larger sites. Copywriters need to have killer writing skills as well as a techie bent for true success. It´s true that SEO copywriting adds an additional “step” into the copywriting process. Writers have to clearly understand how the engines “think” about and position Web pages. However, at the same time, SEO copywriting is just like conventional copywriting. You´re writing compelling, information-rich text that motivates the reader to take action. It´s not about how many times the keyphrases appear in the copy. It´s about how well that page converts.
NH: What are the three mistakes every business should avoid if they want to write search engine friendly copy?
HM: 1. If you don´t like writing, period, don´t write your own copy. Not because the copy will show it (although it certainly will). But because you´ll put off writing it forever. As a result, the page never gets uploaded, you never see the benefit and the whole campaign suffers. 2. Don´t stuff your keyphrases into the copy. It´s tempting to get as many in there as possible to make the search engines take notice. However, this technique probably won´t help rankings in the long term — and certainly won´t help your conversions. 3. Don´t figure that one Web page optimized around term X will gain top rankings. Depending on the keyphrase, your target market, your competition, et cetera, you may have to write multiple pages all centered on a keyphrase theme. This is actually a good thing — and can help reach prospects at all phases of the buying cycle.
NH: What are tips/techniques good webcopywriting must employ? And how can companies include a keyword strategy?
HM: Tips for savvy SEO copywriting are: 1. Boast your company´s benefits and show that you understand your prospect´s needs. Don´t figure people will just “know” what makes your product or service unique. Tell them! 2. Create text that´s engaging and interesting (whatever that may mean to your target audience). There is never an excuse for boring text that doesn´t answer your target market´s questions. 3. Focus on long tail keyphrases as well as your main “money” keyphrases. You´ll see expanded traffic opportunities and relevant site visitors. 4. Never, ever stuff keyphrases into your copy. Ever. I know I´m repeating this. But it´s that important.
NH: If you don´t have the money to hire someone who is a savvy SEO copywriter, what takeaways does your book give that anyone can immediately employ?
HM: I really focus a lot on the step-by-step aspect of SEO copywriting, as well as the “why´s” behind the steps. So many folks simply say to “write your pages this way” without giving the reader any reasons or rationale. I talk about how the search engines “see” pages and why certain steps (like keyphrase research) are crucial. If you´re a fairly good writer already, you can easily go through the book and create good content, Titles and meta data. I talk a lot about what´s “good” SEO copywriting — and what´s spamming the engines — so readers can be sure that they´re getting best practice information. I´ve gotten some great feedback from folks who say that they were able to increase their search rankings and their site revenue after reading my book. That´s fantastic!
NH: What are the larger benefits companies can get from SEO optimization in laymen´s terms?
HM: Ha — that´s easy! Higher rankings, better conversions from the search engine results page, better on-site conversions — the list goes on. I´ve seen print catalog companies actually drop a catalog run and transfer that budget to their SEO campaign — search was outperforming print! I´ve heard of salespeople begging their boss to turn off their search campaign because they couldn´t handle the massive RFP load. Granted, those are best-possible-scenario stories — but they´re true!
NH: What does the future hold for SEO as Google and others impact and continue to refine searching methods?
HM: Content will always be king. Not just because the search engines index the content to determine what the page is about, but because it´s the content — and how it´s written — that leads prospects down your conversion path. What you write and how you write it has a tremendous impact in your overall conversion rates and how your customers perceive your company. From a purely search engine perspective, good content encourages people to link to your site, which helps drive traffic and increase positions. Google PPC landing pages are evaluated for “content quality” now, with strong content being rewarded with a higher Quality Score. People tag articles and share them in social search networks. Sites with good content will always have many opportunities for top positioning- and gaining visitors at all phases of the buying cycle.