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SEO versus Marketing: The Fine Art of Copywriting

Forget everything you've ever read, heard or seen about web marketing. Forget the marketing gurus and poo-bahs who tout the need for SEO (search engine optimized) text. The information upon which you've based your on-line marketing strategy is outdated. It is soooo last millennium.

SEO text is an aberration - a nasty bump on the digital road to real, Internet marketing. Marketing to humans. Traditional SEO text is an outgrowth of the earlier, primitive search engines. Remember, SEs as we know them today have only been around since '94 and, initially, they were as dumb as a box of rocks.

The Curse of Keyword Density
To rank individual sites by their relevance to a user's query, early search engines relied heavily on keywords - words that appeared in headings and within the site's corpus (body of text).

These early spiders didn't do much except count the number of times keywords appeared within the corpus. The higher the frequency, the more relevant the site. And thus was born SEO text.

Murphy's Olde Time Canoes are all hand made. You won't find a better hand-made canoe than a Murphy's Olde Time Canoe. When it comes to hand-made canoes, Murphy's Old Time Canoes deliver more canoe bang for your canoe buck.

Gibberish. Garbage text. Words written for a machine, not for humans. An SE bot that spidered Murphy's website would have no trouble determining what the company sold. Unfortunately, to any literate carbon-based life form, this was hardly the stuff of which sales were made.

The Quality of SERPs
Search engines live or die based on the quality of their search results. That's the whole raison d'etre for a search engine - to find the search engine results pages (SERPs) that list the most useful sites.

Google, Yahoo and the hundreds of other SEs spend a bundle tweaking the rating mechanisms used to assess and rank a site. These complex, algorithmic formulas are top secret, eyes only information. In fact, Google's search algorithm is its most valuable asset. It's the product it sells to all of us who use it everyday.

SE algorithms are constantly being tweaked. Weighting factors are added, deleted, increased or decreased with one goal in mind - to deliver the highest quality SERPs possible.

That means that sites providing useful, helpful information and other on-line amenities, like relevant links, are more valuable to SE users and, therefore, should rank higher than sites that don't provide helpful data.

So What Do Search Engines Want Today?
With each tweak of the algorithm, spiders became more sophisticated at determining the usefulness and helpfulness of a given site. Oh sure, keyword counts still matters. So does the placement of keywords. But SEs are smart enough to detect SEO-keyword-stuffed-text. And they don't much like it.

Instead, the sophisticated algorithms employed by Google and Yahoo (the two biggies) want more than keyword density. A lot more.

Keep It Fresh
Google spiders at least once every two weeks. Yahoo makes the rounds every 48 hours. When a spider visits, it takes a snapshot of the site. When you do a Google search, simply click on 'cache' to see the site as it was when last indexed.

Now, when that spider comes back a few days or weeks later, it compares the cache with the current site looking for new content. Search engines like new content. No new content, you may lose a few points in the PR race.

Now this doesn't mean you have to update your site daily or weekly to maintain a nice PR. But update it now and then and you'll keep your rank and maybe even move up a few pages.

Keep It Informational
SEs want to deliver quality results. Part of that means delivering good, useful information. Not sales hype. Quality content that visitors can read and use. Of course, because it's your site, a good copywriter can provide text that's informational, with just a pinch of sales thrown in.

Is It Helpful?

Keep thinking - quality SE results. Quality.

Is your site helpful to the visitor? Does it offer useful outbound links? Does it offer resources, alternatives and, again, useful information? Will visitors feel that this is a site worth a bookmark? Helpful sites will be. And that return traffic is gold.

Review your site from outside in. Does it contain helpful, useful, accessible information? Or, is it page after page of hard sell. A mixture of the two will help your visitors and help you improve your PR.

How To Make Your Site Attractive to SEs and Humans
There are two layers to your site: the 'presentation layer' and the 'behind the curtain' layer. The new key to truly successful on-line marketing is to use both layers in a solid, licit, unified marketing strategy.

The Presentation Layer
You can write (or have written) motivational, inspirational, informational or educational copy. This differs from the hard sell you see on the home pages of too many sites.

Do You Want to Earn $1 Million
In Just 21 Days???!!!!!*

(*Note the extraneous punctuation intended to convey a sense of urgency.)

No hard sell. It's insulting and smacks of Dr. Whizbang's Traveling Medicine Show. Snake oil. Hogwash.

Assume some intelligence on the part of the visitor. Sure, push the goods. They're the 'best, cheapest, greatest, lightest, biggest' in the world. No problem selling. Just be sure to include some informational content about the product.

Use a two- or three-column layout on your site's home page. This allows for numerous headlines "above the fold" where spiders will easily pick them up.

Break text up into small blocks.

Write like you talk.

Add pictures and graphics for eye appeal. (Note: SEs don't spider graphics, so this is for humans only.)

Behind the Curtain
If you don't know a Meta Tag from a dog tag, call a designer or SEO expert. There are numerous 'black hat' tactics that can be employed to 'fool' search engines. Pure, 100% SE poison.

Example? Invisible text. Display white text on a white background and voila - it's disappeared! Well, maybe to your eyes, but spiders read this text. So, while you're reading about gift baskets on the home page, the company is also selling marijuana grow lights out the back door. SEs hate black (or gray) hat tactics. Because it's deceitful, it diminishes the quality of the SERPs.

So, if you don't know how to maximize your 'behind the curtain' marketing, talk to a site design pro. And if you've forgotten your 8th grade rules of grammar, punctuation and spelling, hire a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool, Internet copywriter.

These professionals more than pay for themselves by designing sites that appeal to human sensibilities and SE bots alike.

The cyber landscape has changed and for the better. As site owners, we can develop site copy that appeals to humans - their wants, needs and desires. Real marketing and sales copy that compels human action. We've been liberated from keyword counts.

It's quality that counts today.

Bio: Frederick Townes is the owner of W3 EDGE, a business web design company out of Boston, MA. W3 EDGE provides SEO copywriting services as a key compliament to their design and web hosting offerings. If you have any questions about web design, SEO copywriting, hosting or online marketing feel free to contact Frederick at ftownes@w3-edge.com.

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