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In my copywriting trainings, this topic invariably comes up. And usually it’s because I’m questioning my students’ choice of words on their websites or other online promotional copy.
“I chose that word because it’s a good SEO keyword,” they say.
Ah. It may be a good SEO keyword but it’s certainly not a good people word.
But before I get too far down this path, let me give you all a little background info. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. What that means is you make your website and other online copy “search-engine friendly” so the search engines will rank you high for your chosen keywords. (Like on the first page when someone does a search for that keyword.)
One of the main tactics used to optimize your site is to scatter your chosen keywords throughout your copy (the frequency and positioning seem to change depending on how close the Moon is to Jupiter so I’m not going to even go down this path today.)
Why do you want that? Presumably so you get more online visitors to your site.
On the surface, it makes sense. Your website ranks high on the first page when people do a search for your keywords, they see your website and click on the link.
First off, SEO (like everything Internet-related) has changed. A few years ago, SEO made perfect sense. That WAS the main way people found things on the Internet.
However, with social networking taking the world by storm, and more people on Facebook and YouTube then Google, people using the search engines have dropped significantly.
Now, that’s not to say you don’t need to take the search engines into consideration. There’s no question people are still using the search engines. But their searching habits have changed. Now they’re more likely to search for you after hearing about you via offline methods (like newspapers, magazines, television, direct mail, speaking, meeting you at an event, etc.)
Of course, people will still do generic searches for keywords that relate to what you sell. But trying to get yourself on page 1 of those rankings can be really difficult. And with Google changing their algorithms every time the wind changes directions, you can be on Page 1 one day and knocked down to Page 20 the next. (Also known as the dreaded “Google Dance.”)
So what do you do?
Well, my thought is while optimizing is not a bad idea, I wouldn’t put too much energy into it. And I certainly wouldn’t put words that sounded weird or off to my ideal clients on my online materials even if they were strong keywords. (Look, if you’re going to do all this work to get your ideal clients to visit your site, do you really want to turn them off with bad writing and poor language choices?)
Google and all the other search engines are going to reward you if your website isn’t deceptive, offers great content, and the content changes regularly. If you do that, the search engines WILL like your site regardless of your SEO. (You might not end up on Page 1 but the search engines will regard you fondly and will probably not move you around too much during any dances.)
And the reality is, it makes far more sense to focus on other avenues for people to find you. Be active on social networking sites, post articles, upload video, blog more. All of these things will increase your visibility out in that wild world we call the Internet FAR more than simply focusing only on SEO.
And if you focus on those activities, then you can put your very best writing on your website — the kind of writing that will make your visitors eager to learn more about you and do business with you — instead of suffocating your copy with keywords that may make those very same visitors click away.