Writing Copy For the Web

When you’re writing copy for the Web, you really need to pay attention to additional things that wouldn’t matter if you were just writing copy for a brochure.  After all, when you’re writing for a brochure, you need to pay attention to things like the length of the copy so it all fits in the design.  However, on the Web, you have to realize that you’re not only writing for the people who are reading your page, you’re also writing for the search engines.  Never forget this point.  In order to write successful copy, you have to write copy for people and search engines simultaneously.  You have to make the copy convey what you want to communicate to your readers, but you also have to make the copy look good to the search engines so they rank your site above the thousands of other related sites.

So how are the two writing styles different?

When writing for actual people, you need to make the content compelling, grabbing, convincing etc.  But the search engines don’t care about how compelling your copy is.  After all, the search engines aren’t actual live people; they’re computers who are reading through all of your content and cataloging every word.  Then later, when someone searches on Google for a phrase like, “Hawaiian honey” just the sites that contain that phrase will be returned in the search results.  The search engines are not concerned with how well your content is written.  They don’t care if you’re a good writer.  They only care about how relevant your page is to the search.  This is over simplified, but if your page mentions “Hawaiian Honey” 6 times and the other guy mentions it 2 times, your site will likely rank above his.

Avoid the temptation to try and optimize an individual page for multiple phrases.  If you want your site to be found when people search for “Hawaiian honey” and “Macadamia Nuts” then it’s better to focus on one phrase per page rather than talking about both phrases on one page.  Look at your top keyword phrases and dedicate at least one page on your site to each phrase.  Writing several pages about each phrase is even better…in Google’s eyes.

A Word About Keyword Density:

Keyword density refers to the number of times that you mention your keyword on your page.  You want to shoot for an optimal keyword density of around 2.5% to 5%.  If you write 100 words you need to be sure to use your keywords at least 2 or 3 times.  Now, that may seem a little excessive to repeat a phrase that many times so take advantage of the “hidden” parts of the page to include your phrases.  That way you can write a page with, let’s say 250 words, and not have to mention the phrase 7 times.  That just gets a little old when you’re reading a page that sounds that redundant.

The hidden parts of the page are never viewed by the reader so you can include your phrase 3 or 4 times in your visible text, and then hide it another couple times in the code.  Here are the places where you can “hide” keywords: the meta keywords, the page title, the meta description, the headline, the actual paragraphs of the body copy, the alt tags and the comments.  Let’s take a look at each area so you know what to write for each section.

Let’s assume that you’re writing a page all about macadamia nuts.  You want to be found when someone searches on Google for “Hawaiian macadamia nuts.”

Meta Keywords: These are part of the code.   At the top of the code, we include a line that’s called the meta keywords.  They are essentially used to tell certain search engines what your page is all about, at a glance.  Some sites choose to list strings of keywords so that they are sure to cover every topic that they want to be found for.  Unfortunately, this dilutes the keywords so we recommend that you just use the one phrase for which you are optimizing that specific page.  WARNING: if you included phrases in your meta keywords that are not included in your body copy or your headline, you may be in jeopardy of having your site banned from Google.  To avoid this, just list the one phase that you’ve optimized the page for and possibly something that’s a slight variation, like “Macadamia Nuts from Hawaii.”  That’s fine.  But don’t just throw in something about the island of Hawaii.  Stay focused and you’ll do better.

The Page Title: This is what you see at the very top of every page on the Web.  At the top of this page it probably says “Rocket Blog>>Archive>>Writing Copy for the Web.”  That’s the page title.  Notice that this page is about “writing copy for the web” so that phrase is included in the title.  When you’re writing your title, include the keyword phrase and maybe even mention it twice.  That’s a great thing if you want Google to rank you higher.  So your title could read something like, “Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts: Discover Macamania made with Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts.”

The other use for the page title is in the Google search results.  You know how when you look at Google’s results, you see a blue, underlined link, then two black lines of text, followed by the green website address on the forth line?  Well, the blue hyperlink is the same as your page title.  So think carefully when writing your title.  You want to make it relevant to the reader’s search while convincing them to click on your page rather than the other 10 listings.

Meta Description:  This one is very important because Google uses your description when they display the two lines of black text mentioned above.  Use the description to convince people to click on your site.  Think of it as an advertisement for your page.  Include the chosen keyword phrase at least once.

The Headline: Obviously your headline needs to speak to your readers but it’s also used as one of the primary ways that Google determines how relevant your site is and in turn how high your site will rank in their results.  Keep your headline brief.  While some people may disagree with this advice, because headlines are often more than 3 lines, it’s best from Google’s standpoint to keep it brief.  The more words you include, the more diluted your headline becomes.  Think of it this way, if you have a three-word headline and it says “Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts” and you have one that says “Buy Your Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts From Our Online Store,” which one is more about “Hawaiian macadamia nuts?”  The first one.  The second headline is more diluted so it’s perceived by Google as being less relevant, therefore ranking lower.   While keeping Google in mind, never neglect to communicate what you need to say just to please Google.  It does no good to get your site ranked well and drive lots of traffic to it, if the content is dry or lacks conviction.

The Body Copy: When writing your main body copy, you can pretty much have free reign as long as you keep a couple rules in mind.  Think about keyword location. You want your copy to use your keyword phrase as close to the top of the page as possible.  Beginning of paragraphs is good and beginning of sentences is good too.  If you mention the phrase 4 times, it’s better to squeeze it in to the top paragraph at leas twice.  So start off your body copy with your keyword phrase close to the beginning of the first sentence.  Look at the top of this page.  Notice that the first sentence says, “When you’re writing copy for the web…”  The keyword phrase, “writing copy for the web” is included in the first sentence.  It’s also in the headline and the title.  See where I’m going with this?

ALT Tags: The ALT tags are hidden in your code where the viewer will never see them.  Just include a sentence or two that talks about your chosen keyword phrase.  This is just one more place where you can include a few keywords so that you don’t have to cram as many into the visible text on your pages.

Comments:  Same as the ALT tags.  Just write a sentence that includes the phrase.  Basically just summarize the page in a sentence.  That way we’re able to hide the keyword one additional time, minimizing the number of times you need to mention it in your visible text.

When you’re all done, just count the number of words that you’ve used and see if you’ve included the keyword phrase between 2.5% to 5% of the time.  Once you finish one page, move on to the next page, choose another keyword phrase that you want to concentrate on and do it all over again.  Good luck!

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