search engine optimisation image of physical engine

What Is Search Engine Optimisation And Does It Matter To Copywriters?

What is Search Engine Optimisation? Some local businesses I talk to believe they need it, others think it’s a waste of time.

But does it matter to copywriters? Yes, absolutely it does, but not in the way you might think.

Copywriting is ALL about conversion. If your copy doesn’t convert, it fails. And if your clients want free conversions (ie. organic ranking in the search engines), then you’d better know enough about it to be seen as the expert.

But how do you do that if you haven’t got a clue about SEO?

Here’s what you need to know:

Search engines have Terms of Service (ToS). Anyone found breaking those terms runs a risk of having their site banned.

So we need to create the moral high ground and stand firmly on it. And you do that by following the primary condition of every search engine: “thou shalt not game the system”.

Do that and you’ve got corporate due diligence backing you up (if they argue they couldn’t care less, they are not your customer).

The second moral high ground stance to take is that the best articles now rank on merit alone. They’re up there because search engines can only ever stay in business if they learn to deliver better results. No question. It’s obvious and logical. Spammers will never win the long game.

If they question this, ask them to type in a search term and see if the top results include anything remotely spammy. It’s very rare these days. If they get deeper and say something like “that’s because they’ve probably got thousands of backlinks” – which they won’t – tell them to install the free MOZ tool to check. There’s nothing more convincing than the truth.

The third stance to take is that you not only care about getting them the best customers, you care about their and your reputations. You know that both of you are in this for the long term. You know that unless you write them the best possible article, neither of you will benefit.

So what is SEO? It’s one thing: Getting an article to rank on page 1 for multiple search terms without breaking the search engines ToS. And the ONLY way to do that for the long term is to write articles that are better than any other articles out there for the terms you want to rank for.

Get this right and your articles will pick up natural backlinks (because people will want to link to them – if they supply useful information). And it will most likely rank for a considerable amount of time (until, that is, so many writers out there understand that gaming the system no longer works and they too must write on merit).

So what really matters when it comes to SEO? These things:

  1. Meta title and description. Search engines will pick out any pieces of text they fancy if these two tags are not set (but note, they don’t always use them if they think they’re not appropriate).
  2. Headings. You write these for the reader not the search engine.
  3. Links. Optional. Make any outgoing or internal links relevant to the content. This helps the reader and the search engine understand them better (provided the pages they point to are also perfectly aligned – and any pages those pages point to are aligned too – links are always about quality – that’s what the reader expects – so it makes sense that search engines expect it too).
  4. Images. Optional. You’re the copywriter, which means you should also have a say in any images that go along with your article. The purpose of an image is to get the reader to read the article.
  5. Video. Optional. We watch more video than we read. But that doesn’t mean people no longer read. They do. Global book sales have never been higher.
  6. Number of words? Irrelevant – with the exception that if the top 10 articles all contain thousands of words for the term being searched, then it’s evident that the competition is strong and you’re not going to get away with lesser quality.
Quentin Pain

Quentin Pain started his first business, a courier company aged 23. He sold it 4 years later and used the profits to start a recording studio. A couple of albums later, he started two software companies, the last one being Accountz, which he grew from zero to 36,000 customers and which is still going strong today. His current company is ProofMEDIA, a specialist digital consulting business focusing on online growth. He's also a published author (including a Dummies title), and has won many awards including the IAB Small Business Mentor of the Year in 2013. Quentin is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.