Search engine optimization (SEO) copywriting works best when it doesn’t look like SEO copywriting. It’s easy to spot an article that’s been stuffed with ill-placed keywords, either because the writer isn’t adept at keyword placement or because the client asked for an awkward keyword phrase.
Keyword phrases requested by clients in content services are a dual responsibility: That of the client making the request and the writer who must integrate them into the copy.
Clients: Think About the End Result
Clients should think about what they ask of their freelance writers. Keyword phrases that are awkward, have typographical errors or are missing punctuation (such as “mens apparel” instead of “men’s apparel”) make the client, the writer and the content look unprofessional.
Perhaps you wish to leave out punctuation or use a misspelling to tie the content to Web users who are typing those phrases, but that creates articles or blog posts that appear poorly written and could turn people away from the company and its products or services. There are other ways to draw people to your content, like coming up with a great topic or the writer adding a neat twist, which can be paired with smart, well-targeted keywords.
What about awkward keywords? Consider making a hard-to-place phrase like “2-bedroom apartments in Dallas” simply “apartments in Dallas,” when the content is not directly speaking about apartments. Ask that the writer use both phrases, but each only once.
Writers: Be Readers, Too
Writers who provide content services should read through their copy to ensure it flows well with the keywords in place. Reading aloud is a great way to accomplish this. Pretend you’re a news anchor or that you’re making an online video. If something makes you frown, go back to your document and rework it until you can read it through without a second thought.
If you’re stuck on how best to place a keyword phrase, there’s another use for reading aloud. Say the phrase out loud to yourself over and over, working in other words and phrases, like a poet or singer trying to get inspired for the next line. Taking a step back can sometimes help you get focus.
What about awkward phrases? Writing “San Francisco apartments” three times in 300 words isn’t so bad, but what if you have to plug it in three times in 75 words? Don’t just throw it in there. Place it well, early and late, and find a good spot in the middle where it makes sense. If that doesn’t work, split up the keyword. End one paragraph with “San Francisco” and start the next with “Apartments.” Suddenly you have a different approach and two concepts.
Of course, if the keyword phrase truly is unworkable, either don’t take the assignment or send a note to the client explaining your issue with the keyword phrase.
A Team Effort
Keywords are one important way to direct traffic, and clients and writers can work together so keywords make, not break, articles.
Laurie S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.