An Introductory Guide to SEO:
The Universe within a Universe
Q: What’s SEO?
A: SEO is a buzz-word (ok it’s an abbreviation) that buzzes around business, marketing, and of course, copywriting circles. It’s something you must have; it’s a term which inspires fear, wonder, and dread.
“You didn’t use SEO when you wrote your blog?!?” gasps Geoffrey, wiping his clammy forehead with a handkerchief as he slowly starts Losing. His. Effing. Mind
“Did you set up your website with SEO in mind?” asks Susan, trying to think of reasons why her sister’s business still isn’t ranking.
“What the flibberty-jiblets is SEO?!” cries the panicked start-up/entrepreneur desperately trying to find an elevator shaft.
I’ll start with some truth-telling…
Alright, those were made up scenarios. Except the last one.
The panicked start-up/entrepreneur is me. Before I decided to be a copywriter, if I saw someone write about SEO I’d have thought it was a misprint of SAO, the cracker biscuits I used to find in my school lunch box with butter and vegemite on top. They also make a cracking base for vanilla slice.
Then when I started learning about it, I thought I’d need to be some kind of copywriting Dirk Gently, who solves crimes by looking at the holistic interconnectedness of all things…and I was kind of right. I’m yet to attain such wizardry in SEO, but I’ll attempt to explain it with Douglas Adamsian flair.
SEO is an important means to an end: there’s so much stuff Out There, you need to use little tricks to try and tickle the Google algorithm’s fancy and make sure you’re found in the vast, deep seas of cyberspace.
What Is SEO Really, and What Does It Do?
Google is the god of search engines. It has mysterious ways, many of which we will never know. It uses enigmatic algorithms to pick which sites rank, and which do not. SEO is the use of tricksy tricks to make your content shiny so it stands out. Often confused with keyword-stuffing, good SEO is finding things that work in a changing and unsteady landscape.
Those tricks are using keywords, key-phrases and meta-descriptions the Google search-bots and web crawlers will see twinkling away when someone asks a question. Bigger, loaded descriptions are better than short ones – think of it as pebbles falling through a seive. The bots scuttle over and grab the big shiny ones. They drag them out of the huge, grey, heaving seas of web content, and place them onto a smooth white beach where it’s easy for everyone to see you.
It’s best for you if they plonk your content at the populated end of the beach where all the people are, closest to the person who has asked the question. Because who can be bothered schlepping all the way down the endless coastline, trawling through increasingly obscure findings? Nobody got time for that – most people don’t look beyond the first page of search. The crabby little bots do that for every search phrase and search word we enter into Google.
And even though I was poking fun at it earlier in the piece, that, my dears, is why you do need to think about SEO. We’re in a glut of information and we don’t have time to put on our Indiana Jones hats and find the goods. Also, we can’t be bothered. We’re used to being able to find out NOW, dammit.
Q: Jennifer, are YOU an SEO expert?
A: Yeah, nah. I’m not. And I’ll never market myself as an ‘SEO Copywriter’
I just don’t wanna. It’s my choice to strive for the ‘Jen totally rocks at…’ tag on other elements of copy, like syncing in with you and creating a strong brand voice for your business. Don’t get me wrong, I have a solid understanding of SEO. I’m learning more about it, because it’s never going away – I like Kate Toon’s Recipe for SEO Success course – it’s one of the good ones, and Kate offering evergreen content is a wonderful thing. But you know, I’m pretty happy to be a cracking content writer with serious storytelling chops, and a very good copywriter. I’m about to start talking about why that matters. A lot. But first, you need to hear about the pitfalls.
The SEO Pitfalls
Dodgy SEO operators who smell of snake oil are sniffing out a profit in calling themselves SEO experts. It’s gotten so bad the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission wants to start targeting the ‘bad’ SEO operators who will try and rip you off.
There is such a thing as SEO experts, and they’re worth listening to. But if a business approaches you telling you it’s the answer to your SEO woes, tread carefully. Make sure it’s reputable. In my view it’s best for you, the business person, to do a (good) bench level course so you can at least learn enough about it to identify dodge when you see it and give them a wide berth – and NONE of your hard earned cash.
The thing is, it cuts both ways. You can’t always blame the copywriter.
As a copywriter, I know this simple (if crudely expressed) fact: you cannot polish a turd. Sometimes the business idea just isn’t solid, or there’s not nearly enough demand for it. No amount of truly excellent copywriting with SEO up the wazoo will save it, and the copywriter can’t be held responsible for a bad business’ lack of success. So what do you do? Work to set and manage expectations. If you have reservations about the business idea, voice them. Make sure your client has a sound understanding of what SEO is, what it can do, and what it’s limitations are – and make sure your chair-shaped butt is covered by your contract so you don’t find yourself liable if the business you write for doesn’t rank.
Q: Well why do I need good copy if I’m already killing it in the SEO stakes?
A: Because although ranking is important, it’s only the first step.
A Site Well-Ranked Can Live a Life Half-Lived
If you’ve optimised the crap out of your content and are ranking well, but your copy is boring and your message gets lost, you’re going to be lonely at the top. That’s because boring copy doesn’t engage, it doesn’t persuade. If it doesn’t persuade, it sure as…shellac doesn’t sell.
If you’re thinking ‘She’s got sour grapes because she’s not an expert!’ [fume, fume, righteous indignation, dismissive eye-roll]. It’s ok. Don’t take it from me. Take it from someone who IS an expert. ‘SEO Lover’ Kate Toon’s number one tip is:
“Focus on humans first, and Google second.”
Here’s another way of phrasing that:
Good, Strongly Branded Copy and Content Is Good SEO
With each Google update, good, strongly branded content and copy becomes more and more important. (I say that as if there were a time when it wasn’t important: this isn’t even true.) Relevant content with a clear message – yes. Using bright baubles of words, sentences with tantalising textures and sublime sounds is also very, very important. Well-branded business offerings that humans recognise easily first, then google. Do you want to be noticed? Then don’t be beige.
“When you have a strength, effing nail it”
That’s what one of my coaches at the gym said to me once, and it’s something I apply in other areas of my life. So, while I completely I like the cut of SEO’s jib, writing compelling, strongly branded copy is the other half of the equation. Who’s reading your well-ranked stuff if it’s boring or badly written? No one.
So let’s get real: unless you’re a writer, when you write your own copy you need to be open to the idea that it might be….well, crap. And if you’re a writer who writes their own copy, you might find it’s soooo much harder to tell your own story. That’s where I come to the fore. Because I when I write copy, it’s persuasive and attention-grabbing, blurb-aliciously bold and beautiful chock full of brave words. Oh and I do humour too. If you like the sound of that – let’s talk.
#blurbology #copywriting #adelaidecopywriter #buildbetterblurbs #seowhoa