SEO: An Introductory Guide to the Universe within a Universe
Q: What’s SEO?
A: SEO is a buzz-word* which buzzes about business, entrepreneurial, and especially start-up communities. It’s a thing you must have; a beast you must tame; a universe within a universe. It’s a term which inspires fear, excitement, wonder, and dread. Don’t worry, that’s what this Introductory Guide is for.
*Ok I know it’s an abbreviation, but you get me.
“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. “Where’s that Introductory Guide to SEO Jennifer wrote??”
“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, I’m sure this won’t surprise you but those were made up scenarios. Except the last one.
The panicked start-up/entrepreneur was 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. (They also make a cracking base for vanilla slice)
When I started learning about it, I thought I’d need to be some kind of copywriting Dirk Gently, a character who solves cosmic crimes by looking at the holistic interconnectedness of all ordinary things…and I was kind of right. So I wrote this Introductory Guide to SEO for anyone who – like me – was daunted by it – or anyone who likes a fun, informative read.
SEO is a means to an important end: to get people to find your website. Who looks on the second page of a search? That’s right, no one.
A guide for the new and fun-loving: 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 the right words in the right place to make your content shiny so it stands out. Often confused with keyword-stuffing, good SEO is finding things that work in a changing landscape.
Using keywords, key-phrases and meta-descriptions, the Google search-bots and web crawlers will see content twinkling away when someone asks a question. Bigger, loaded descriptions (that’s long-tail keywords) are better than short ones – think of it as pebbles falling through a sieve. The bots scuttle over and grab the big 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.
(*You’ll notice I’ve written ‘SEO Introductory Guide’ and some variations of this a bunch of times. That’s because I’m sorting most of the red lights (SEO problems) in the back end for better search optimization. I’ve written my key phrase – ‘SEO Introductory Guide’ the recommended 6 times for a text this length. I haven’t put my key phrase variations in all of my headings – why? Because it sounds silly. My SEO rating for this blog is ‘OK’ – and I can live with that. That’s my choice, and there’s more to SEO than keyword stuffing. Much more.)
Q: Jennifer, are YOU an SEO expert?
A: I’ll never market myself as an ‘SEO Copywriter’. I don’t need that pain.
And 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 fresh copy for you while maintaining your strong brand voice. 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 an excellent copywriter. I’m about to start talking about why good content and copywriting matters. A lot. But first, you need to hear about the pitfalls.
Introducing the SEO Pitfalls
Dodgy SEO operators who smell of snake oil are sniffing out a profit in calling themselves SEO experts. It got so bad in 2019 Small Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell was calling for SEO ‘horror stories’ to so the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would take action against black-hat SEO operators.
That said, 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.
SEO isn’t a magic bullet, it’s usually a slow burn – anyone who tells you otherwise might just be one of the black-hats.
As a copywriter, I know this simple (if crudely expressed) fact: you cannot polish a turd. Sometimes the business idea just isn’t solid. No amount of truly excellent copywriting with SEO up the wazoo will save it, and the copywriter can’t be held responsible for a business’s poorly conceived idea. So what do you do?
Use your client onboarding process process to sort the wheat from the chaff, and to set and manage expectations. Write down who your ideal client is and who you won’t work with – my friend and colleague Jay Crisp Crow even puts it in her website copy for all prospects to see.
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, how you will work to achieve that, and what SEO’s limitations are. Also, make sure your chair-shaped copywriter’s 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. You want them to *stay* on your page, and buy that thing you’re selling.
A site well-ranked can be like a live half lived
If you’ve optimized 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 bad ideas don’t get buyers, boring content doesn’t engage, and poor copy doesn’t persuade. If copy 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.”
Are Image Descriptions good for SEO?
The answer is yes, if written properly image descriptions can be good for SEO – with a huge BUT.
As in, BUT aren’t you forgetting someone?
Folks, I can’t stress this enough – image descriptions are first and foremost to provide accessibility to the visually impaired. You can keep the description straight, or can have a bit fun with it – which I love to do. Take this picture from my Instagram account as an example.
The description, which I put in the comments, read:
Image: A head shot with white background of a woman with ginger hair, greying towards her left temple. She has fair, freckled skin and wears black-rimmed, square framed spectacles. She hasn’t bothered using a filter because she actually likes her face.
My no filter stance is part of my personal branding, so you could say while this isn’t overtly ‘businessy’ I’m still maintaining my brand voice. You can add some brand statements/keywords if you have the space. BUT ‘How can I write a clear description of this image for someone who can’t see it?’ should be the first thought in your head when you’re writing an image description. Like the KT quote above: humans first, Google second.
Which brings me back around to that other magical SEO ingredient which can be overlooked…
Good, strongly branded copy and content which shows value 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: there was never a time like that.) Relevant content with a clear message – yes. Using bright baubles of words, sentences with tantalising textures, sublime sounds, and hitting the reader’s feels are 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”
–Gym Dude. [Did not actually say ‘effing’]
That’s what a coach 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 enough to produce this Introductory Guide, there’s no replacing compelling, fun, strongly branded copy and blurba-licious content. And that’s my jam. 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, beautiful and generally chock full of on-brand messaging. If you like the sound of that, or you really liked my Introductory Guide to SEO, my books will open for the right client. If you think that’s you – let’s talk.
#blurbology #copywriting #adelaidecopywriter #buildbetterblurbs #seowhoa #seointroductoryguide