Do I need SEO expertise to write website copy?

(18 Posts)
Curlywurly1975 Wed 03-Oct-18 23:12:30

Posted this in AIBU but thought this is probably a better place for it:

Feel a bit stupid asking this as I feel I should know better but...

I'm a freelance PR. Really enjoy the copywriting side and have written all sorts from the usual press releases, to brochures, instruction manuals, leaflets, blog posts - all sorts. Clients seem to like my writing.

I'm a bit out of touch with SEO and can't say I really know a great deal about it. A client I work with now and then wants to completely redesign his website - graphics and copy. I'm sure I could write the copy but I'm worried that really I should be an SEO expert to do this and that there are important things I might miss because I don't know what I don't know, iyswim. So instead of taking the job on myself, I've said I'd help him find a website copywriting expert and designer.

Am I being a fool by not offering to write the copy myself? I've written blog posts for his site and I've tried to SEO them as best I can (by reading tips online!) but I feel like a full-on website needs someone with SEO expertise. I'm just really worried I won't do a proper job.

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AjasLipstick Thu 04-Oct-18 04:29:59

I am a copywriter. All of my online work includes SEO copy. You need to know don't have to be an expert but the basics.

Regarding your client, are you capable of graphic design? And'd need to understand more about web design than just how to write copy. You could miss out important coding elements if you attempted it alone so you were right to refuse.

What a copywriter's role within web design, is as you suspected...simply to write copy.

Knowing where to put certain codes and also certain phrases within a site and not necessarily visible, is a web designer's job.

BUT a copywriter should also understand how to research the right keywords and phrases and how to insert them into the content on a site.

Not only within the page descriptions and "about us" and so forth but also within blog entries. Back-links are another thing...there's a lot to it OP as you rightly suspect.

PiperPublickOccurrences Thu 04-Oct-18 07:54:01

Agree with Lipstick - I do similar and although i know the basics I'm in no way an expert. Clients mostly just tell me what they want and I write it.

If you have ever used sites like Wordpress it has an inbuilt SEO tool which works on a traffic lights system and helps you write good SEO copy. So it reminds you that if you're writing about "baking cakes" as a keyword that you should use that keyphrase in a subheading and so on. I'd say that identifying the keywords in the first place isn't really a writer's job though.

I always remind clients that having a blog or a news section on their website which is regularly updated with unique, relevant content is a huge part of SEO anyway.

Curlywurly1975 Thu 04-Oct-18 08:54:59

Thanks Ajas. No, I’m not a graphic designer at all so I wouldn’t even attempt that side of it.

With regards to backlinks, how would they apply in a blog entry on your own website? I thought they were links from another site to your own? I try to include keywords in blog posts (but these are usually just ones agreed with the client) and format a post into small paras rather than a block of text. TBH, with blogs I focus more on it being an interesting read and the fact that an active blog will help keep a website higher up on search results. But clearly there are gaps in my knowledge. I’m worried he’s going to question why I’ve written blog posts for him but have turned down writing his site copy....exposes my ignorance somewhat...

Can you recommend anything I can read/short courses I could take? There’s so much conflicting info about SEO online.

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akkakk Thu 04-Oct-18 08:56:57

far more important to understand the business needs and how you move people from arriving to purchasing / making contact (which are the two main drivers for a website) most seo happens off-site now, and on site is more about not being penalised by google than pushing up the rankings...

Curlywurly1975 Thu 04-Oct-18 08:57:48

Sorry Piper. Didn’t see your response when I posted my reply.

So what would you say are the essential basics?

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PiperPublickOccurrences Thu 04-Oct-18 09:00:10

I found the Google Digital Garage a good introduction. Short explanatory videos and multiple choice questions to check understanding. Not just about website SEO but also stuff about google maps, social media etc.

Backlinks don't have to be external - often I write copy where the client inserts "click here to apply online" or "click here for more information" and then links that into another page on their own website.

Curlywurly1975 Thu 04-Oct-18 09:00:38

Makes sense Akakk. I need to learn this - any recommendations gratefully received!!

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Curlywurly1975 Thu 04-Oct-18 09:03:06

Thanks Piper. I’ve never heard of Google Digital Garage - sounds like just what I need.

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WhatsGoingOnEh Thu 04-Oct-18 09:07:27

@Curlywurly1975 Here's a very simple guide to SEO

You're naturally on the right lines by making your copy interesting and engaging. Google can spot hidden keywords and keyword-stuffing; it's much better to write for your readers. Google rewards that.

Have you heard of "pillar pages"? They're a good way of improving your site's SEO and raising your chances of becoming a Google 'snippet". I love Hubspot's free online courses; they have a copy and content course you can take for free.

cathyandclare Thu 04-Oct-18 09:16:21

Posting as I'm interested in this too. I have the same strengths and weaknesses. If you find a course, please share!

Curlywurly1975 Thu 04-Oct-18 09:21:47

@whatsgoingoneh thank you so much! This kind of stuff is just what I need!
I’m intimidated by copywriters who are “SEP experts” but do you think they are mostly self-taught by doing online courses as recommended on this thread and just reading up on stuff?

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PiperPublickOccurrences Thu 04-Oct-18 09:28:46

I work with a woman who is most definitely a SEO expert. She is a techie though - a coder. She builds websites and knows HTML coding inside out and back to front.

From a copywriter's perspective I don't think you need to be an expert, and a lot of people who say they are, aren't. It's a fluid thing which is changing constantly. When I started doing this sort of thing, all Google cared about was you mentioning your keyword at the right density in an article. So you if you were targeting "leather shoes" as your keyword, you could write "blah blah cupcakes television prosecco leather shoes parcels weather sunshine" and that would get you up the google rankings.

Now it's much more refined - it's all about how relevant your copy is and how valuable it is to your readers. So if you have a baking website and post about new recipes, products and techniques that's all good. Adding in a random post about travel insurance wouldn't be.

Google keeps exactly how it ranks websites a very closely guarded secret and it's changing all the time. I wouldn't get too hung up on the nitty gritty of SEO, just concentrate on writing unique, relevant copy.

KateAdiesEarrings Thu 04-Oct-18 09:37:55

'Don't Make Me Think' by Steve Krug is a classic on website usability etc. If you're going to keep writing for websites, it's probably worth a read.

As akkak said how you move customers through your website is important. Your copy should be helping to funnel the visitors to an action (in as few clicks as possible) so although Krug's book isn't about SEO, it is actually valuable for making you approach your web copy in a different way.

Curlywurly1975 Thu 04-Oct-18 09:42:39

Thanks Piper. Ok, so now I’m thinking with a bit of reading up, I could confidently draft the copy for the website and then hand it to a designer to build the site?

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Curlywurly1975 Thu 04-Oct-18 10:25:39

Thanks @kateadiesearrings

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akkakk Thu 04-Oct-18 13:25:25

You can not separate design and copy and business etc.
the way in which copy is laid out on the page makes a difference to how it is read / acted upon - and while SEO is important - it is not the underlying critical issue - SEO is simply about getting people to the website, but I could get 1 million people to a website by next week - just give them all £100 (expensive, but would get them there) - the key questions are:
- how do you get the right people
- what do you do with them once you have them

so, there is a huge amount of work in looking at where your target audience is online - and then you need to go to meet them - so if they don't use Google, but hang out on e.g. a mumsnet type forum, you would be better off putting your time / money into an advert or sponsored thread on mumsnet

google bases most of its algorithms now on how the rest of the world sees a website - you will get far more 'google juice' from mumsnet threads pushing people to your website, than from messing around with SEO - because google will see mumsnet as being an authority site

and then - once on the website, why do you want them there, how do you keep them, how do you move them to the action you want them to take

those are far more likely to drive business profit than seo...

so with seo, focus on not being penalised by google (responsive website and SSL certificates are two of the recent changes that are easily fixable) etc.

and how to do it - it is traditional marketing - the fact that it is online doesn't change the underlying principles

AjasLipstick Thu 04-Oct-18 13:51:17

What gets your website a higher ranking on Google is backlinks. Backlinks from other authoritative sites.

Sponsored copy is limited in how much impact it can have.

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