In a recent interview, I casually mentioned that I've been finding a great deal of my copywriting projects are now SEO copywriting. The SEO expert with whom I was speaking immediately stopped and asked, "What makes SEO copywriting different than regular copywriting?"
I was a little surprised by his question, mostly because I started my career in a newsroom where print publication was still king. In the central Illinois town were I lived, people still loved having something tangible to hold onto. My first taste of writing for a public audience was writing for a print audience.
In the 15 years since then, the world has changed. Most young people will never care that the newspaper arrived at 5:30 a.m. instead of 5:00 a.m. They don't have any interest in combing through huge pages of newsprint and coming away with black ink on their hands just to find out where Justin Timberlake performed last night.
In fact, they probably already know. The Internet is reknowned for putting information at our fingertips, usually the second it's happening. Search engines have replaced indexes and tables of contents.
And you have approximately three seconds to capture a Web user's attention before he hits the back button and resumes a new Google search. It's not like the old days when people had already bought the newspaper or magazine, so they were your audience whether or not they cared what a headline said or how a "teaser" caption read.
SEO copywriting has to take into consideration today's user's short, very short attention span. It has to get to the meat and potatoes of a call to action, sometimes in the headline. And most importantly, it has to be findable. One of the key ways this is possible is through keyword density, but even that has its complexities.
As a writer, I have the power to make an article so awkward that it puts off an audience. Words that appear too often, so often that it looks as if they were intentionally placed there, lead to clumsy articles. And it only takes a second for a reader to click away; that's the key to SEO copywriting, what makes it different than traditional copywriting. It only takes a second for a reader to click away.
Copywriting today is about reaching a whole different type of audience; it's not just low, low prices or catchy tag lines that engage readers. It's creating worthwhile content that sells, but also informs, and in a way that compels readers to start at word one and end at word 500.
Even the best of us can have difficulty doing that with an audience that has been hard wired to be attention-deficient when using the Internet. That's where SEO copywriting comes in--it's a lot more manipulated, targeted and strategized than perhaps any traditional copywriting before it.