SEO copywriting tough love: Control what you can control

I’ve just returned from DMA ’08 in Vegas. In a neon and gambling chip haze, old school marketers (list brokers, print copywriters) merged with SEO firms, search technologists — and yes, even 2.0 social media agencies. I saw 50-something marketers dance to The Village People’s “YMCA” (complete with arm movements) and boogie to Rick James’ “Superfreak” (in a decidedly psychedelic/Dave Chappelle moment.)

And I saw a lot of learned helplessness. And heard a lot of “Yeah, we know that we can (change our Title tags, rewrite our content, do 301 redirects, look for incoming links.) But we’ve already spent so much on SEO with such little effort. Why bother.”

Will. You. Please. Snap. Out. Of. It.

Yes, the economy is scary. Yes, business may be slow, receivables are taking forever to collect and prospects are scared.

Ignore the fear and look at the facts.

Marketers, now is the time to seize an incredible opportunity — building your Website rankings and increasing your conversions. Rather than moan and complain (“nothing has worked before, our rankings may not increase enough to matter, I don’t know where to start,”) focus on what you can control. It doesn’t have to mean a huge budgetary expenditure. You can even do it in-house. Just do it.

Think about it: why sit back and let your competitors gain search engine market share when you can do something about it — especially when much of the work can be conducted in-house? Getting frustrated won’t help you. Complaining about the “SEO that did you wrong” won’t help you. The only thing that will help you is good, old-fashioned momentum. Here’s how to get started now:

If you haven’t conducted keyphrase research, do it now. Last week, I discovered one-third of my audience hadn’t researched their keyphrases. Still other audience members did some initial keyphrase research, but hadn’t double-checked their keyphrases for six months or more. If this sounds like you, it’s time to update your keyphrase list. Run your research by using a free online keyword research tool or consider for-pay solutions like WordTracker or KeywordDiscovery. And if you’re new to keyphrase research, this article by Christine Churchill provides a good foundation.

Review your on-page keyphrase usage. It’s amazing how many companies will say that a page is optimized for X keyphrase — yet that phrase doesn’t appear anywhere on the page. Make sure that your main phrases are represented more than once, but aren’t sabotaging the flow of your copy. If your text sounds like “Our widget site has the cheapest widgets online. View our widget selection now,” it’s time for a rewrite.

Edit your text for keyphrases. If your pages don’t have a strong keyphrase focus, editing for keyphrases (inserting page-specific keyphrases into the copy in a way that doesn’t detract from its tone and feel) is an excellent SEO copywriting alternative. As a side note, if you notice your text suffers from “too many keyphrases,” try slicing a few for improved readability. Whenever you edit your text, don’t forget to…

Jazz up your Titles. Yes, Titles are important to search engine positioning. And yes, your keyphrases should appear in your Titles. However, a snazzy Title helps to encourage conversions from the search engine results page. Part art, part science, learning how to pen Titles is a profitable skill set (and can instantly help positions.) If you’re new to writing Titles, this article provides a primer.

Test your copy. Why complain that your SEO copywriting “isn’t working” when you can do something about it — for free. Google’s Website Optimizer allows you to test different versions of your Web pages and “easily increase revenue and ROI whether you’re new to marketing or an expert.” This level of testing used to cost thousands just a few years ago, so the price is definitely right. Tim Ash also writes about landing page testing in his blog — it’s definitely worth a read.

Look for SEO content opportunities. So many companies focus on what can’t be done, that they completely ignore what they can accomplish. Is it impossible to add additional content to product pages? Build a blog where you can wax poetic about your products and link into individual pages. Is your budget so small that it’s almost laughable? Are site Titles dynamically generated (and not the best?). See if you can hand-create Titles for a special campaign. Need to establish your site as an industry resource? Consider writing articles and white papers. Adding additional content helps gain new positions, new leads — and new conversions.

Get help when appropriate. If your site has 10,000 pages, and Google has indexed 2,000 — don’t just wonder why. Hire a consultant to help you untangle the situation and focus on what’s really important. Yes, this solution could mean spending $5,000 (or more). According to Jessica Bowman’s article about the value of site audits for in-house SEO’s, a full site audit can cost up to $35,000. Sure, the initial sticker shock sounds scary. But do the math — how many new customers could you acquire (or products you could sell) with increased search engine visibility? Site audits gives you the freedom of knowing what to fix (and sometimes, how to fix it) for the fastest results. That more than justifies the cost.

Wondering what SEO content changes would provide your site maximum ROI? SuccessWorks offers customized SEO copywriting training and SEO copywriting reviews. Contact us for details.