How to explain SEO copywriting to clients

Do your clients think that “SEO copy” is a bad word?

Unfortunately, I’m not surprised.  An article called, A 3-Step SEO Copywriter Confession by Kelly Watson joked, “As an SEO copywriter I often get lumped in with keyword spammers, blog content aggregators and overseas article writers.

Sound a little familiar…?

Clients – both small and large businesses – may think of SEO copywriting as “keyword spamming” and want nothing to do with it. Sure, they know they need good content. But where they get confused is what good SEO copy looks like. Maybe that’s because all they’ve seen is bad copy. Or maybe that’s because although content is crucial, it’s not necessarily valued.  After all, Yahoo! owns Associated Content – accused by some as being a “content mill” company. Some SEO companies pay low-dollar for writing and refuse to pay more for higher quality work. We love what content does for us. But we want it cheap. And cheap typically means really, really bad stuff.

And unfortunately, there’s so much “bad stuff” out there, it gets mistaken for “normal” SEO copy best practices.

For instance, Stephen Spencer in his Multichannel Merchant article, Black Hat Tactics Can Ruin Your SEO said one black hat tactic was:

SEO copy — slipping keyword-rich content (often with keyword-rich text links too) meant only for spiders into the very bottom of the page

Whenever I see SEO copy I roll my eyes and think to myself, can you get any more obvious than that?

Well, yeah, I understand what he means – he’s talking about keyphrase STUFFING, not keyword-rich content.. At the same time, the casual reader (someone who is not SEO savvy) reads this and thinks, “SEO copy is bad and obvious. I shouldn’t have it on my site.

Another example comes from the 3-Step Confession article.

Confession: I have inserted misspellings into my own writing.

I have rejected really good headlines and great lede sentences for mediocre ones that start with a keyword or phrase.

I have stifled the urge to delete redundancies. I’ve even added redundancies to get one more keyword into my writing.

Don’t get me wrong – the rest of the post is great. But adding misspellings purely for SEO purposes has never been best practices. And adding redundancies makes me think of fluffy, keyphrase-stuffed paragraphs that talk about “home business opportunities” for the next 750 words.

And if *I’m* thinking that – what are clients thinking? I know if I was a clueless client, I’d wonder, “So, I have to have misspellings on my site for search engine rankings? No way.”

Is it any wonder that clients are a little confused?

The great news is: Once the clients understand the benefits, they’re excited. They’re on board. They realize that their copy will not, in fact, suck.

You just have to explain what good SEO copywriting is first. Here’s how to do it:

  • Get a sense of your client’s knowledge levels – and be prepared to spend time addressing the basics. Don’t assume that your client understands what SEO copywriting is just because they contacted you. Or because they throw a few buzz words around. They may know that they need it – but they may be pretty fuzzy about the specifics. They may really believe that it’s all about stuffing the page as “spider food” (as Spencer mentioned.) Take some time to share with them why the writing is so important, and explain how it could impact their site. Bonus points if you create a PDF with some fast copywriting facts.
  • Show examples of your past writing. I talked to a prospect the other day who said, “I know exactly what SEO copy is. My SEO company wrote something for me and I hated it.” When I showed him that (good) SEO copy was completely different than the keyword-stuffed page he received from his SEO, he immediately mellowed out.
  • Explain your process. Take time to impress upon your client that you’ll be doing more than just shoving keywords into the copy. You’ll be learning about their business, creating benefit statements, developing a strategy and telling a compelling story. I heartily agree with Watson when she says, “SEO is the easy part. The hard part is capturing readers’ attention with writing they actually want to read.” Clients need to know that, too.
  • Ask what questions your client has – and listen to what they *don’t* ask. Unless you have a highly direct client, they may not say, “Hey, I’m afraid that I’m going to pay you a lot of money for content that sounds like hell.” But they may ask things like “How can I tell if it’s working,” or “Why should I hire you at $X/page, when I can get this for $Y/page.” Same fear. Different approach.
  • Do a rockin’ job. It sounds basic, but if you’re not returning your client’s calls/emails – you’re sending a bad message. If you’re sending so-so copy because you’re “busy,” the client won’t be happy. Show your client how fantastic (and professional) SEO copy really  is. Once your client has seen your awesome writing (and the resultant sales paired with some impressive search positions,) they’ll be a fan of SEO copywriting (and you) for life!