We've been working on optimising a website for an office fit out company who do absolutely stunning office interior design. The clean, modern feel of the website reflects their clean, modern design ethic; the friendly copy reflects their approachability. All great integrated marketing, the trouble is no one can find their site in search engines. It's one of those times where the design and copy are a positive barrier to our client being found by potential customers online.
On this site, the copy made the fundamental mistake of not talking about the actual business. By focusing on the more descriptive 'what kind of business are we' messages, it neglected to mention what they actually do. And although to a user it may be clear from the images that they fit out offices, to Google it looks like they plan understanding, adaptability and identity.
In this case we added search terms to the copy and made sure that phrases like 'office design', 'office interior design' and 'office fit out' were liberally sprinkled across the pages, so that the business was clear in words as well as pictures.
The other problem with copy that we often see is quantity over quality. Quite often sites have loads of pages all saying similar things, very often using the exact same phrases. Whereas our office design client had copy written for users but not search engines, it is equally as bad to have search engine friendly copy that forgets that websites are read by people. People want to read useful stuff - every page should have a purpose and that purpose should be clear. Even from an SEO perspective padding out a site is bad practice as lots of duplicate content can be penalised by search engines; much better to have fewer, high quality information rich pages.
Google highlighted this in their most recent update on 24 February 2011. This is designed to target content farms and will effect over 11% of search queries. Here's what Google says:
"This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on."
Proof, if you needed more, that great copy is critical to a website's success.
Top 5 optimised copy tips:
1. love your copy - don't optimise it, at least to start with. Start out writing in a way that will make sense to your audience and don't worry too much about search terms. Every page should have one unique point that it is trying to make, whether it's about a product, a service or a message for customers.
2. find out what your potential customers are looking for when it comes to your business, and use these search terms. More on search term research.
3. make sure the page headline contains the most important search term for that page. This headline should also be the h1 tag (more here on h1 tags) and make it clear to users what the page is all about.
4. be descriptive about what you do using the search terms, not simply adjectives. I often find it easier go back and add search terms into my copy after I'm happy with it. For example Noisy Little Monkey doesn't offer 'an excellent service' we offer 'an excellent SEO and digital marketing service' (tell your friends). But be reasonable – too many search terms makes your copy look like its been written by an SEO geek (or possibly a machine), rather than a human being.
5. Once you have copy you love that clearly makes the point of the page using popular search terms, then re-read it. Get your friends or family to re-read it. Get the dog to re-read it. You want to check that it makes sense, is descriptive but not so search term packed that only your mother would tell you its great.
This last point is really important. We sometimes have a tense moment with clients about whether search term packed copy makes sense; and often they are absolutely right, we can get too close and Google obsessed, elbowing in terms where they shouldn't be. But equally, often it's copy filled with marketing guff that can make the difference between a search engine friendly site and one that looks pretty but just can't be found.