I could actually write a book only about this as it is the single most important element to getting your website found.
Okay, I give up. Content is king
Every time someone says “Content is king” I involuntarily shiver because it’s such a cliché. Although it is a cliché, that phrase does help people understand what the whole ”content” idea is coming from. Content is, indeed, the most important factor and the place to start when undertaking an SEO optimization project.
“Content”, however, no longer refers just to the text on a page. It certainly encompasses text but also includes other collateral, like images, movies and .pdf files – and includes the concepts of accessibility and usability too. Creating content that people cannot easily access and cannot use is pointless. Creating content that isn’t explained properly is just as much a disservice to your potential audience: if you’re not doing your job explaining your pages, people who really want to buy your products or services might not ever find you, and maybe they were looking for exactly the goods that you have, at the price point that you’re selling them. This means there are two losers: your potential buyer, and you.
Search engines follow people, so you need to follow the people too. To do that, you need to understand people. So put on your amateur psychologist’s cap and start thinking about the people you think would want to visit your site and perhaps, buy something from you.
To be accessible for all, your content needs to fit well into the general design of the site, to be readable and comprehensible.
You already know that people are different, but did you know that the Web users do not read Web pages the same way you read a newspaper, a magazine or a book?
The most appropriate term for how the Web users read the Web would be “scanning.” And the scanning begins when they click on your link from a search result, and continues once they hit your page.
So let’s start by understanding that Web readers are different and let’s prepare the content for their needs and not for print.
Write “scannable.” 80% of the Web users do not read the texts on the Web pages they visit. They “scan” looking for precisely what they were searching for. They look for that particular key phrase that brought them to your website.
How to Write Compelling SEO Copy
The answer to “what makes people buy” is quite simple: trust. People make a purchase based on personal motivations, and trust is the most important factor in this equation.
How the content on your pages is written and the general look and feel of your website need to make people trust you.
When your visitors see that you understand what they need and that you are ready to respond to these needs, they will buy from you.
To build trust, you need to provide accurate information on your site. The smart buyer will double check the information anyway — so stay away from paying people to give you false testimonials. Do not lie to your visitors.
People take action when the product you sell and the way you sell it respond to a need they have. Avoiding pain and trouble are other strong motivations. Even gaining pleasure is a need.
Learn to know your visitors. Anticipate their wishes. What motivates them? What makes them tick?
You need to answer these questions in your Web copy. You need to be clear and obvious: you have less than 10 seconds to convince your visitors that you know your business and that you mean business. Understand where they want to go, and take them there.
Let’s say you sell Web hosting services. Obviously, you are not the only one doing that: you have to compete with thousands of companies who are all trying to do the same thing. In order to compete, you must find a way to prove your value and become the number one choice for your visitors. You need to find a hook.
Why would anyone choose your services? To figure that out, you need to find out what people are looking for in a Web hosting company.
Most of your clients might not understand complicated descriptions and technical terms. You certainly need to list them in the features, but in order to de-mystify your business, you should start with the benefits.
Your visitors will want easy setup, instant access to their accounts, free stuff and reliable customer support. They will also want to be sure that all private data is secure and that no one has access to the information that is saved on your server. All in all, what they really want is a hassle-free, reliable service.
List all these benefits at the most visible location on your website and link to the shopping cart first and then to the “features.” Your links after you enumerate the benefits should look like: “Buy Now ¦ Features”
If you take a look at the most successful businesses in your field you will notice that they target their content on what people need, providing information that lets them take action. None of these companies starts selling with a “Our company is the best hosting service around…”
Instead they write something like: “New customers get free domains, unlimited email accounts, etc.”
Free and unlimited. Two powerful words.
There’s another powerful word: the personal pronoun “you” and by “you” I don’t mean you, silly, but them.
Leave the self-praise for the About page and write the rest of the content to answer the needs of them, the visitors, and show them the easiest path possible so they can take action.
You don’t write content for the Web as you write for print media, not when you want to sell something. If there’s a similarity in writing styles, I would get you to think about radio ads. They have 15 or 30 seconds to get a key idea into your head before the music starts playing again. You have about 10 seconds worth of scanning from a visitor before they decide your site is worthy of their time, or if it lacks merit. So focus on readability: write in short paragraphs (not more than one idea per paragraph), using plenty of white space to allow an easy “scanning” of the page, use bullets to list important features and benefits and bold or italicize the ideas you want to highlight.
Break your text with headlines and sub-headlines. They should make sense and not be used for SEO purposes. It is recommendable that you use keywords in the titles and sub-titles, but don’t abuse this and don’t over-saturate the readers. Your readers should not feel that you are using keywords: the keywords should be natural extensions of your writing.
Start with the conclusion: this is a very good technique that Web writers borrowed from the traditional media. This writing style is called the inverted pyramid style and it leads people straight to what you want them to know and do.
Because Web users read in an “F pattern” the main ideas of the page should be concentrated in an area they actually read. The call-to-action should be there. You tell people first what you want them to do, and then you give them details.
When you tell people what you want them to do, you shouldn’t boss them around. You tell them first why you’re taking them down a particular path.
“With the newestyou get even more free tools and resources than anywhere else plus an unlimited number of sub-domains and forwarding email accounts. All at a promotional price that will remain unchanged for the whole duration of your contract. No hidden costs, no recurring fees.”
I’ve highlighted the main keyword phrase. It is located in the first paragraph of the content, pretty close to the beginning of the sentence. Note that the keywords appear only once. The search engines will scan the rest of the text and determine the relevancy of each word you use.
To announce the new Web hosting package a good headline (<h1>) would be:
NewPromotion Gives You More Free Tools
Part of your targeted keyword phrase appears in the <h1> too. Note the relationship between the title and the paragraph: the title is 100% relevant to the content. Also note that both the title and the first paragraph place the accent on the benefits, on what people actually get and need rather than technical details. The first paragraph also makes a promise of quality and reliability.
To maximize the SEO effect, link the “Web hosting package” key phrase in the first paragraph to the actual product page. A possible way to write that link:
<a href=”http://www.yourwebsite.com/hosting-promotion.html” title=”Discounted hosting plan.”>Web hosting package</a>
All the content on that page should reflect quality and reliability. It should answer questions clearly and concisely. Questions you anticipate, answers that will convey trust and lead people to action.
Write for the People
People. People. People. The Internet may be a network of interconnected machines, but at the end of those machines are the people, and they are the fundament of the Web. They are the heart of the Web 2.0. When you touch this heart, you become part of this amazing living organism. That is the best optimization you can do.
- write in radio style and write clearly, concisely and accurately. Get to the point.
- do not deceive your customers, do not mislead them. They’ll blow the whistle on you if you do.
- build trust and rapport: keep your promises, provide excellent customer support. If you don’t, people will find out about it.
- write simply, write well, make the content personal and credible