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Are You Making These 6 SEO Copywriting Blunders?

Freelance writer / critic Leonard Pierce on th...

Freelance writer / critic Leonard Pierce on the panel "Songs Absorb Conflict" at the 2008 Pop Conference, Experience Music Project, Seattle, Washington. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are You Making These 6 SEO Copywriting Blunders?

If you’re like me, you already have. Heck, no one’s perfect. But, Google’s 2011 release of Panda (and 20 subsequent updates so far) means that the search engine focuses on quality content much more than ever before.

Because Google’s goal lies in serving the best quality search results, you can bet it will continually refine its ability to give the marketplace what it wants. What Google means by quality is much different than what an experienced freelance writer produces as a final product. But, if you pay attention to these 6 common blunders, you keep the quality of your copy at a level both Google and your readers appreciate.

Here are the mistakes in no particular order:

Focusing on SEO Over Quality Content

Google has been rewarding SEO more than quality content for most of its existence – until the Panda update of February 2011. But, that’s all changed now. Some people are still stuck in the mind frame of getting the keywords in the article first and creating quality content second.

However, the reverse should be happening. If you want to foolproof how you do this, write your copy first and then go back over it and add in the keywords.

Avoiding META Tag Use

The META keywords tag is deprecated, so no need to pay attention to that one. But, the description tag is hugely important. Why? When you type a keyword into Google, it gets bolded if it, or a similar term, appears in your site’s META description. That bolded keyword helps searchers find the most relevant results.

In addition, an action-oriented description talking about the benefits the page offers has a noticeable impact on your click-through rates. Benefits are the reason anyone clicks through on any search result. Focus exclusively on SEO, and you are killing your conversion rates.

Failing to Write for Skimmers

Web readers only care about getting the answer to their question – so make it easy for them to find! They won’t read any more than they have to, even if your copy is well-written.

To write for web readers, I follow these general guidelines:

· Paragraphs are less than 7 MS word lines long

· Sentences are less than 1.5 MS word lines in length

· Subhead and bullets should be used throughout the content

· Casual, direct language should be used

· Subhead should be less than ½ MS Word line in length

I don’t follow these rules explicitly. For example, if a paragraph goes 8 lines long, I don’t have a heart attack. But, overall and in general, I try to follow these rules.

Use of Passive Tense

Passive tense is one of my current main struggles. Is, are, was, were, and all the being verbs lead you down a path of writing copy that puts people to sleep. The same goes for future tense verbs such as will, will be, and will have been.

Web readers want to know that a product or service helps them now, not that it did help someone in the past or could help someone in the future. You don’t have to use active tense in every single sentence, but make sure to use it as often as possible.

Qualifiers Kill the Power of Your Copy

You see qualifiers used in the legal industry all the time because they have to be used. Lawyers say things like, “I can help you…” or “You could receive a settlement…”

Qualifiers put just a shred of doubt in the minds of your target audience. Unless legal obligations force you to use qualifiers, avoid using them in your copy.

That’s All Folks – What Else Would You Add?

These 6 SEO copywriting blunders are the ones I came up with. Are you guilty of them like me, or do you have any others you would add?


Dan Stelter is a freelance SEO copywriter and owner of the firm Dan’s SEO Copywriting. Dan and his team offer a full range of SEO copywriting services that covers all forms of written web content.

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