Monday, January 28, 2008

Just Write Good Copy

"Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." ~ Gene Fowler, an American journalist and author. (1890-1960)
Part II from the AWAI Copywriting Insider interview in which I discuss SEO, web copy and what one should expect from an online copywriter.
CI: Aside from being dynamic… what do you like to see in a landing page?
The elements are really, really basic. It’s just a benefit-oriented piece of copy. It has to be very concise, and it has to quickly convince the person who lands on that page to give over their email address in exchange for a report or a subscription to an e-letter. It has to present a compelling argument, because many people will not give you an email address as they’re afraid of being spammed.

It has to be a compelling argument that makes them think, “You know what? It’s worth giving my email address to these people I don’t know so I can get that report.”

Or “I really want to get what these people have to say every day, so I’m going to give up my email address.” That’s the kind of argument the copywriter has to put forward.

By focusing on benefits and credibility, the copywriter has to convey the message, in a very concise way:

“You need this… you need this e-letter… you need this special report, and therefore you’re willing to give up your email address for it.”
CI: Early on, you talked a little bit about keywords… about how you don’t want copywriters to write to keywords, but you do want them to keep the keywords in mind as they write. Are there other SEO techniques that the copywriter should be aware of?
Again, I really like it when copywriters know the big picture, when they know what we’re trying to achieve with search engine marketing. They need to understand that a particular article or promotional piece needs to be focused on a singular keyword or phrase. Other than that, I don’t believe the copywriter needs to be involved in the really technical stuff (like the use of meta tags). But they should definitely understand title tags.

What I mean by that is that every online article should have a very good title tag that includes the keyword or keyword phrase. So the copywriter should provide us with a keyword-rich title that can be converted into a title tag.

Copywriters sometimes get too creative with their titles – and those titles have nothing to do with the marketing point of the article. So the SEO marketer has to edit them. It’s much better if the copywriter creates a title with the keywords inserted at the get-go, so it requires little or no editing from the SEO person.

I don’t want to get too technical here, but I think your readers should know that the title is the most important thing that Google looks at when assigning search engine rankings. So if they understand that the title should be not only creative, but also include the keyword… that would be of great benefit to them when writing online copy.
CI: Let me finish by asking you a wide-open question. If you were to sit down with a copywriter (kind of like what we’re doing right now), is there anything else that you would want to make sure they know?
I would want to make sure they understand that, as an industry, we’ve kind of come full circle. The online world started with a lot myths with respect to copy. But a lot of information publishing companies, specifically Agora, have proven that the same rules that apply in direct mail also apply online.

There seems to be this idea that short copy is what drives online marketing – yet Agora has been putting their long-copy direct-mail packages online and making millions of dollars. There are people who scan, and there are people who read, but the numbers are equal both on and off line. The point is, you want to use the best copy you can. As the saying goes, “Bad copy reads long, good copy reads short, regardless of length.”

So we don’t want to get caught up in the myths. And we don’t want to think that the most important thing now, today, with online marketing is the optimizing and the coding and the edits that an SEO consultant would make.

That’s 100% wrong. The most important part of the marketing process is and always has been the copy.

I can take a piece of copy and make it number one on Google by using search engine optimization – and that’s a wonderful thing. But if I have to change the essence of that copy to do it, and if copy is then no longer as strong as it could be, I may be number one on Google … but I’ve got no sales. No conversions to paying customers. I don’t want to ruin the copy.

So, aside from doing some minor optimization, I don’t touch it. Maybe that means I’m number 25 on Google instead of number one … yet, because that copy is so good and so dynamic, I’m converting at a five percent rate.

Well, that’s what I want, and that’s what most marketers want – a good piece of copy that converts … not a piece of copy that will always be number one on Google.

The most important thing is good quality copy that converts. So that’s what copywriters need to focus on.

Don’t worry about SEO … just write good copy. If you’re working together with someone who has some optimization skills, you can be very successful online.


I hope this was helpful. For more on copywriting visit the American Writers & Artists Inc. site