Writing copy for your own website is a complex business. Not only do you have to write good copy to publicise your business and sell your services but, if you want your website to get seen, you have to understand a little about how the web works. SEO, Search Engine Optimization is the buzz word. Big businesses will pay for specialist SEO services, but what can small business owners do, if they are writing and building their own websites? The first thing to look at, before you even start writing, is the choice of keywords. Keywords are the words that search engines pick up on, the words that people type in to the Google Search Bar. You can purchase programs that research keywords and rate their effectiveness and if your business is internet based with multiple websites it is an excellent investment. If however you have one small website and just want to do the best you can yourself, there is still a lot you can do in a low-tech way to improve your chances. Think about your business. What words would someone type in if they were searching for the type of services or products you offer? If you are a specialist supplier or technical expert, catering to other knowledgeable clients, then the terms they are likely to type in to search might be quite technical and specific, but if your business serves the general public then you may need to exercise your imagination. Try it for yourself. Use a search bar to type in a few keywords that you think relate to your business and see what results you get. If the selection on the front page represents mainly businesses similar to yours then you are on the right track. If not, keep trying new words and combinations of words. Spend plenty of time on this research. Have a look at what keywords your competition are using. What words recur in their titles and sub-headings, what search terms find them? Try to get the balance right between too general a term and too narrow a phrase: eg typing in just ‘travel agents’ would produce such a huge mass of results that you are unlikely to feature on the front page ever. Typing in rather ‘travel agents San Diego’, would narrow it down to a geographical area, and typing in a specialist area as well, would again narrow down the search results. So look for your specialist areas and find a phrase that covers them, but one that people might realistically think of and be able to spell. This is another area to consider. There are loads of misspelt words that make good search terms, just because people frequently spell them wrong when searching. So you could decide to misspell a word on your website on purpose to attract that traffic. This has to be offset against the detrimental effect of misspelt words to your professional image. Only you can decide that – it depends on your area of business and likely clientele. Once you have found a few keywords that reflect your main areas of business, select two or three of the most relevant and start writing your home page copy. Your chosen keywords need to be used several times each, but you must be careful to use them in natural language. Resist the temptation to over-use them. Search Engines get suspicious if you pack in keywords in artificial language and will mark you down on it. Use the keywords in the first sentence and in the last sentence of each page and, when they fit naturally, about once in each paragraph. Use your prime keywords in headings in bold too. This adds to their impact, weighting the importance and relevance that the search engines give to them. If your website is several pages long, choose different keywords according to the main subject of each page. Search engines value content above all and content that is regularly updated will maximise your chances of being seen. Build a text space into your home page that you can update every week, with latest news, a new article or whatever is relevant to your business. Do remember that Search Engines are looking for relevant content, so splashing an article about travel when your business is in catering won’t help your ratings – choose to feature latest food trends rather. After you have written up your copy with keywords in mind, read through it afresh. There is no point in perfect keyword research and placing, unless that copy also speaks to your potential clients. Your copy needs to appeal to humans as well as search engines! Copyright 2007 Kit Heathcock
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