Can SEO copywriting be a phase two approach for a new Website?

I’m sure that 99.9% of SEO experts would agree that it’s best to integrate SEO elements into a new site build (OK, I know that’s a totally unsubstantiated stat – but c’mon, I’m sure it’s close!). But what if adding on the cost of “SEO-ing” a site just isn’t possible?

I’ve talked many times about the advantages of including your keyphrases as you write your first Web copy draft. Any other technique requires a “back-assward” approach, requiring you to include your keyphrases where they “fit” within the final draft. Sometimes, that works OK for existing informational copy (especially in the case of existing site articles or FAQ-like pages.) But it’s much more tricky when you’re optimizing a sales page. This could be because of the SEO ramifications (the existing copy is too short to effectively insert keyphrases) or a conversion one (adding keyphrases makes the copy sound weird.) I’ve seen many a good Web page turn bad after someone “optimized” the sales page – and what was once a nicely-converting page devolved into a SEO dud.

The thing is, it’s easy to forget that some folks don’t quite have a SEO budget – yet – but they do have an alternative marketing plan. I talked to someone like this just the other week. This gentleman was in cost-slicing mode and was trying to figure out the best strategy for the lowest cost. Since he was a direct mail expert, he wanted to use direct mail to drive Web traffic during the initial launch. Then, as he drove more revenue, he’d go back and optimize the pages.

I explained the cons and listened to his pros. He understood his approach meant no search engine presence (he was relying on direct mail for phase one, so this wasn’t as important.) He understood that optimizing his pages as a phase two approach would cost him more money and take more time. In his mind, this was still the best solution.

My job was to figure out a “best of both worlds” strategy approach. Here’s what I told him.

  • Do the keyphrase research now. Although the client saw this as a “Phase two, SEO step,” the keyphrase research provides important data. Instead of writing your Web copy with no information, the research tells you how people are really searching for your products or services. This is especially important when you’re developing your tone and feel and determining how to structure your copy.  Additionally, you can learn what questions people have about what you offer.  You may not want to write a blog post or optimized FAQ page yet – but you can still use the information to determine alternative content that may be beneficial later on (articles, white papers, resource centers, etc.)
  • Don’t skip foundational Web writing steps. It’s always tempting to cut corners when you know that you’ll be revising the copy later. One corner that’s super-easy to skip is holding off on the customer persona until the next copy revision. The customer persona is a crucial step – it helps define who buys from you and why. Since driving sales and making (fast) money is important, skipping this step and writing untargeted copy could cost sales. Take the time to do this right at the beginning of your Web writing campaign. You can always revise it later – but you can’t recoup lost sales from dreadful copy.
  • Know your SEO Web writing plan. The client thought he had a brilliant stop-gap strategy.  He’d write a bunch of super-short product pages (25 words or less) to save time and launch faster. But there’s a downside to that approach – you can’t optimize super-short copy easily. There’s not enough content to intelligently include the keyphrases. The workaround in this case is to figure out what information should appear on each page, and plan on writing slightly longer copy. When you go back to optimize the text, you can work with the existing copy without having to rewrite the page. Which leads to the final tip…
  • Even if SEO copywriting is a phrase two approach, plan for it now. The online writing decisions you make now can make your phase two work easy and seamless – or expensive and horrid. If you understand the process (like my client,) you can make intelligent decisions about how to structure your content, write your copy – even create your Titles. However, if you “don’t know what you don’t know,” you can hobble your progress, cost yourself money and waste time. What would you rather do?