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How Copywriting for SEO has Changed

Before Google…What was it Like?
Once upon a time, back in the pre-Google days, content on the Web required certain key factors to be found. Firstly, it had to be promoted on IRC (Internet Relay Chat), bulletin boards, or similar because there were few search engines and SEO was even more of a black art then than now. “Which search engine are you optimizing for?” meant that techniques had to be many and varied to suit multiple engines.

Secondly, it had to be compelling content because back then most of the people writing and sharing content (your target audience in any sector) actually knew what they were on about. Or stayed noticeably quiet until you produced sub-standard writing.

If content was poor, it was slated and the author flamed. It would quickly fall into obscurity, be deleted, or re-written by some well-meaning geek who would hack into the hosting server and put things right!

‘Keywords’ Becomes the Buzzword

Then, we moved beyond IP addresses into the world of domain names, and search engines became more user-friendly. Keywords became the order of the day, to the extent that practices such as keyword stuffing and hidden text became the norm to game the algorithms. Some people have become stuck on keyword-rich text and optimized content, which is a shame because actually it went out of fashion about a decade ago.

Keyword research to fit into the algorithms became big business (and still is). Whether it actually achieves the primary aim of the website is still, often ignored. For many, the goal was to prove to someone that if you typed their top keywords into a search engine, their site would show up. “I know it was here yesterday,” would be the wail, followed by a slew of different keywords to try to find the site somewhere, anywhere in the top SERPs.

There was a New God

Content which had multiple variations of a keyword or phrases would bore the readers rotten. The text would be stilted, repetitive phrases or variations thereof failed to expand the content into new and different areas of the subject. As much the reader could see, that would be where the article would go.

No, no, more important to satisfy the search engines. But, of course! (Really? Think about this a moment....) Search engines became God.

Then, due to fairly aggressive techniques and some hype, there became just one search engine. A verb in fact. To Google. “Just Google it”. No more Altavista or Webcrawler or Goto or any of the other myriad engines to check for different results. Just the one—who decided that the algorithm was a secret and all must obey the unknown rules or be penalized. Which could cost you your entire business if you failed.

Content Acrobatics!

Hoops. It was all about jumping through hoops. Instead of focusing on all the different places to reach an audience, copywriters were often forced to meet an increasingly rigorous set of guidelines imposed by the SEO team so that the quarterly reports could show the top 10 positions on multiple keywords. For many copywriters, it was a very trying time. Why? Because generally, we write for our audience to push buttons, generate an emotional response, encourage a measurable response that benefits the business – a sale, an email enquiry, a share, and so on.

Social Party Begins

Luckily, along came social. Which allowed the populace to go back to behaving a little more natural. Great content was rewarded with a ReTweet, a Like, a Share, it was linked to and passed around, amended in the comments, reworded and re-shared in a new iteration, developed and ideas advanced. A sort of Darwinism - evolution of content.

Even better, it was shortened. To a mere 140 characters. Of which many would, at first, be the hyperlink. This stretched content writers. Where before they had needed to waffle to ensure they had sufficient keyword density to hopefully meet that Great Algorithm's need for the magic sauce (recipe unknown), now they needed to be succinct. Win in a headline. That takes some imagination, innovation and courage.

The trouble was, the great Google does not own social. And it wasn't too keen on it at first. It has taken around 6 years, but it seems that social signals have finally been recognized in the algorithms.  Now, we can once again write emotive copy that generates a reaction without worrying one whit whether or not it has the correct keyword density. Is it great writing? Oh yes, look 100 people have ReTweeted it! And the reach of the article is far beyond what we could have expected from a search engine listing.

To Link Or Not to Link…that is the Question

Meanwhile, the optimizing world is in a quandary about whether to link or not. Should you claim your source for a fact, or will it bring that website owner down on your head like a ton of bricks because they have received a manual penalty for something entirely different in their linking strategy? The hyperlink is under attack, although many have not noticed, and that which makes the Web, well...a web, is struggling to keep us all linked together.

Press releases with a well formatted link and carefully considered anchor text seem to be forbidden. How on earth are you supposed to provide high quality content for your readers without listing sources except in footnotes (which nobody ever notices as they are in 6 point font)? Who really knows?

♫ For this is the End, Close Your Eyes and Count to Ten…♫♪♪

(Love Adele. Love Skyfall. Couldn’t resist that!)

Copywriting for search engine optimization has not changed…it may have ceased entirely. If you put all your eggs in the Big G basket, beware. A Panda update may come along and leave you stranded on a distant island with no passing traffic to see your well-crafted words.

You must write copy and content that grabs your reader, stimulates them, excites them, leads them to pastures new, cites sources, links to in-depth content (yours or written by others), and it should also encourage interactivity. If it fails to show on the search engine, then be very glad you have fostered a whole host of relationships through email, on social networks, in the comments section of blogs, offline, and through old school media such as newspapers and TV.

What kind of content should you produce then? How do you strike that balance between writing for your audience and not getting the death penalty from Google? Talk to us at MintCopy. Call 888-646-8003 or send us an email.   

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