Great Copy Doesn’t Start with SEO
Posted by Lacey Wilcox | May 11, 2022
One of the things that can make digital marketing such a challenge is that things are constantly changing and evolving. Just when you think you’ve mastered a component of your digital strategy, you find out there is a new platform, method, or buzzword that needs to consume all your time and attention.
SEO is one of those components. It’s incredibly valuable and necessary, but only when it’s used in the right way with the right focus. And so many people do it wrong.
Many people start with SEO first when they’re creating content and copy. The result is that the internet is completely oversaturated with websites that aren’t truly helpful or valuable. Not only have search algorithms begun to pick up on this trend, but your audience also has, too. Your prospects have a nose for authenticity and true value.
The only way you can earn their trust and attention is by writing copy that first compels and then converts. And you can’t do that if you start with SEO.
What a Summer Trip has to do with Your Copy
A few years ago, our family set a goal to visit all of the national parks in the U.S. before my daughter graduated college. This past summer, we traveled to Minnesota, where we wanted to cross Voyageurs National Park off our list.
This was going to be our 14th or 15th park, and we made a huge mistake: we got cocky. You see, we’ve developed a routine we really like with each new park we visit: we take a half-day to check out the visitor center, stamp our park passports, grab our swag, and drive around to get a feel for where we want to hike or explore more. While each park is different, it’s worked really well for us.
Until we got to Voyageurs. We made our way to the Ash River Visitor Center, and quickly realized a huge problem: It turns out that Voyageurs National Park is completely surrounded by water.
“There are literally no roads in Voyageurs,” I said to Kade in a small panic. (Ok, a large panic, but since I’m writing this, I get to present my best self.)
The visitor center recommended that the only way to see the park was by swimming around for two days, or finding a boat tour. We conducted a quick Google search, where we pulled up a random site. And this is what we read:
There is a lot I would change about this site, particularly in regards to UX and design. It’s more complicated than it needs to be, it takes too long to load, the font is too small on the home page, and it’s not super intuitive or responsive.
But this guy absolutely nailed his home page copy. In one sentence (broken into three images for some odd reason), he said almost word for word what I had bemoaned to Kade.
He knows his customers and their problems, and he highlights their needs as strongly as he highlights his solution.
So Where Does Great Copy Start?
This is where great copy starts: with your customer.
Everyone wants to think about their business, their SEO, and what they are going to say first. Those aren’t bad things – in fact, they are necessary – but great copy that actually converts doesn’t start there.
Research shows you have less than 10 seconds for users to make a decision about your business before they leave your website. You don’t have time for overused keyword phrases that readers could find duplicated by your competitors, lengthy complicated descriptions, or sentences so packed with keywords for SEO that they don’t actually communicate anything of value.
Want to write copy that sells? Let’s dive into three ways you can do that.
- Start with your customer. Who is your ideal customer? What are their needs and wants? What problem do they come to you to solve? How are they going to ask for that solution? What are they hoping to find? In order to be able to answer these questions, you have to know your ideal customer inside and out. You have to know them so well, that you could literally spell out their problem word for word on your website.
- Clearly identify your solution. It’s not enough to know the problem your audience is facing. You have to know the unique solution you offer them, and you have to spell it out directly in your copy. If you’re writing for your website, keep it short and right to the point. Check out this website we built for Vofspace:
In one sentence of five words, you know exactly what Vofspace is. And the rest of the website shows you clearly what it does.
- Include SEO in an appropriate, relevant context. Look at our example above.
- We have clearly identified a phrase Vofspace’s customers would already be using. Can’t you just hear an online educator saying, “I can’t afford an office right now, but I wish I had some sort of virtual office space”?
- The copy gets straight to the point of solving the customer’s problem: Vofspace is the premier virtual office space.
- The copy STILL includes keywords that are powerful for SEO: for example, “virtual office,” but it does so in a way that thinks about the customer first.
Tip: Keep your voice active instead of passive, and focus on the second person (“you”) in your copy.
Why SEO isn’t Dead
Check out this quote from Rand Fishkin (founder of Moz) about SEO:
“I am concerned about how competitive the SEO field is and the relative ROI of input to output, especially for early-stage, just starting out content practices.”
He’s not saying that SEO is dead or ineffective. Instead, he’s saying that it has to be used correctly. This means that:
SEO should be used as a tool to increase the effectiveness of copy that is written with customers in mind. It should not be the sole focus. Yes, you need to think about your keywords and your performance in search, but only after you have first optimized your site for the humans who will actually be reading it.
Instead of trying to stuff your pages with overused phrases and keywords, focus on your unique selling point. Vofspace doesn’t tell you that they’re an “all in one” office space. They don’t tell you they are a “unique office solution.” Their homepage tells you exactly what they are, and exactly what you need: a premier virtual office space.
Sometimes copy gets an unfair reputation because everyone has the ability to take words and make them into sentences. But your web copy isn’t just a configuration of words and sentences.
It should be a tool that is constantly working to earn the attention and trust of your audience. Not sure where to start, or if you’re anywhere close to getting it right? We can help. Set up a website audit with our team. We’ll help you identify where you need support, and help you build a site with copy that converts.