Balancing your user-friendly and SEO copy to produce quality web content

Posted under Content, SEO, Website

Getting the balance right between optimised web copy and user-friendly content on your website is a challenge. But it’s crucial to do so and here’s my take on how to go about it…….

My journalist background means I’m often too heavy handed on the user-friendly approach and need to rein myself in and add a good dose of SEO-friendly copy too.

But copywriting for the web isn’t a million miles away from any other form of writing, many of the same principles apply, you just use different techniques to get there.

The real secret to remember is that at the end of it all, you need to present a compelling piece of copy that has readers interested, engaged and happy to share with others – exactly the same principles I applied when writing news copy 20 years ago.

So, how to go about it? Here are some tips which could prove useful next time you’re sitting blankly at your screen…..

Swap places with your audience

Before you start a piece of copy put yourself in your audiences’ shoes. Ask yourself:

  • Your audienceWhy are they visiting your website, and this particular page, in the first place?
  • What do they want to know?
  • What’s going to be of genuine interest to them?
  • Is it information that’s helpful to them (in my newspaper days this was called ‘news you can use’, today it’s user-friendly copy)



?

Quality web content at all times

Once you’ve established what your audience wants to read, think about the content and a good angle to grab their attention.

Your writing style should be consistent with the rest of your website but also appropriate for your audience. 

The content must be in-depth, you can’t simply skim the surface of a subject, you need to show a deeper understanding and knowledge. Search engines want to see quality copy that people will want to link to and share. You will sometimes see this referred to as ‘sticky content’. Here’s some more useful info on what constitutes sticky content

It’s always good to give yourself and your audience a headstart with a strong opening paragraph; this becomes your scene setter and will whet your audiences’ appetite to read on. Search engines also read from the top of your copy so this will help them determine what you are writing about.

TIP: Remember, an average web page should be 300 words or more, although news articles on the site should be the length they are truly worth, while blogs are now tipping 600 words, if you want to follow Google’s latest guidelines.




Structure your web content

Don’t simply start writing, plan what you want to say and it will flow so much better. 

To make it easier for your audience, format your copy, so break it up into easily digestible paragraphs, rather than one long slab of copy that you expect someone to wade through.

Add in clear headings which provide explanations of what’s coming next. Use bullet points or even lists if this will help break up the copy and make it easier for your audience.

Use images to break up the copy further and other graphics which are relevant to the subject you are writing about.

TIP: Think how many pages people visit when they are browsing the web. If they don’t instantly get excited by what they see when they come to one of your web pages, why should they waste their precious time and read it? It has to grab them.

Don’t over use keywords

SEO imageKeywords are vital to your copy but don’t overdo it. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make and search engines will spot straight away when keywords have been overloaded into copy.

The bad news is, if you are heavy handed with keywords you are likely to be penalised by the search engines and your ranking could be affected. Search engines can spot forced or contrived copy, so just don’t do it.

Always start with a list of keywords you want to include. Don’t keep repeating them throughout the copy. Use them liberally and when it’s appropriate. Just let your copy flow naturally and the keywords will filter through. The most important focus for you is always your audience – keep asking yourself, will they find this interesting and useful? 

It may be worth getting one or two in the opening paragraph so as search engines know immediately what the content is going to be delivering.

TIP: You can also consider including alternatives to your keywords. Not everyone searches on the most obvious phrases all the time, eg: ‘Peterborough-based opticians’ could also be described in search as ‘Local eye specialists’.

How to use anchor text in your web copy

LinkYour web copy has to be useful to your audience and this means sometimes linking to other sources. When you create this link, use keywords to create the actual text link in your copy.

It will usually appear as another colour and so is easy to identify. The important part to this though is that it must relate to relevant information, otherwise again you are going to get marked down by the search engines. 

You may have another page within your own site that provides further information around the subject you are writing about. Link to this, it’s not only useful, it’s also good for your SEO.

External links are good too, if they’re relevant. Links to authority websites are crucial in SEO – after all, this is exactly what you want to happen to your content.

TIP: Try to avoid using ‘Click here’ in your anchor text. This will be appropriate on very few occasions but instead make your anchor text descriptive and natural so as your audience has a good idea of where it is leading them. And don’t use the same anchor text each time.




Is your web copy clean and well written?

There’s no excuse for spelling mistakes or typos in your copy. Not only does it smack of unprofessionalism, your audience can start to question your brand and lose confidence and trust in what you’re saying – eg: ‘if their copy is wrong what else is wrong?’ Here are some typical grammar goofs to avoid from copyblogger

From an SEO perspective, search engine algorithims pick up grammatical errors and will mark you down.

TIP: If you’re guilty of regular typos in your copy why not ask someone else to proof read it for you? A fresh pair of eyes will spot an error straight away while you may have read the article so many times your eyes may gloss over any potential hiccups!

Putting a call to action in your web copy

Let’s be realistic, the ultimate aim of any website copywriting is to encourage and entice your audience to take some form of action with you, whether it’s simply signing up for an email newsletter or proceeding to make an online purchase from you.

It is okay to include a call to action but try not to be too selly about it. Remember, content has to be useful to your audience; if you turn it into a straight advert with phone numbers littered through it, you are doing yourself a disservice and not helping your SEO chances. Include subtle calls to action where appropriate.

TIP: Why not offer a further piece of useful info (eg: a downloadable tips guide) if people sign up for your e-newsletter or an exclusive incentive to buy from you directly from this copy – both are valid ways to encourage a website conversion for your business.

Dawn Strange

Dawn joined Media Matters when the business was just six months old. In 2018 she took over the reins as MD.

A former journalist and experienced PR professional (Dawn is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations), she has played a key role in Media Matters’ growth.

With 25 years behind it, Dawn relishes the opportunity to develop the company further while still remaining true to the core values that have earned Media Matters its excellent reputation to date.

Dawn oversees existing accounts and Media Matters’ multi-talented and multi-skilled team.

Out of work, she skis, ‘Moon Walks’ (for charity, not for fun!) and reads for Peterborough Talking Newspaper for the Blind.