Should you always optimise your web copy?

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SEO, keywords, metadata, H1 tags. Does it wear you down? This post is for you. I’m not going to talk *tech*, I want to get some perspective on the issue of optimising web copy to please the likes of Google. Is it essential, optional or a happy balance? Read on.

What is copy optimisation?

It’s a long and fancy word. Let’s get to the point.

Optimisation is the act of making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource.

OK, so it’s making something the best it can be. Or the most effective. Applied to websites, it’s generally considered to mean making them as visible as possible on search engines such as Google.

And this can put demands on your copy.

Why build a website if nobody visits? It’s a fair point. And many of us find the websites we visit through search engines.

But here’s the thing. Effective copy must engage and motivate your specific target audience. If they don’t “get it”, their visit is wasted. They’ll be off in a click.

So, which comes first: engaging copy or SEO copy? And can the same copy be both things?

Write for your reader first

Maybe I’m biased. Happy to put my hand up to that one.

But with good reason.

There’s plenty of dreadful web copy out there. You know, you’ve seen some of it.

Home pages that don’t make sense

Excessive talk about “solutions”

Distant corporate-speak

Business drum beating: “XYZ company is the leading… we boast enviable expertise and a professional approach…”

Optimised or not, does it engage you?

Great web copy understands its target audience and draws them in. Great web copy informs, influences, motivates and even sells. You WANT to read great web copy because it’s easy to do so and it resonates with you.

Never take your eye off the primary objective of writing for your reader first. Even when Google is breathing down your neck.

Is optimised web copy better?

Optimising web pages is a long game. There are no instant results. It depends on the value of the keywords you choose and your understanding of how the search engines rank pages.

And that’s just it. NOBODY knows EXACTLY how Google’s algorithm works. And NOBODY can GUARANTEE you a first page ranking on Google (unless it’s for a keyword that nobody uses).

Optimising your web copy is an investment. Done properly, it can help to build your traffic over time. In conjunction with many other SEO tactics.

Done badly, it’s a waste of money and can even bring in irrelevant traffic to your site (take care on keyword choice). Imagine running a pet shop, but nobody coming into the store owns a dog!

But…

In an ideal world, your site would present engaging copy written for the reader, and optimised copy. It is possible with thought and creativity.

But this post isn’t about how to do it. It’s about whether you should do it.

So, what’s the answer?

My answer might differ from others. My opinions are drawn from years of working with many different websites, small and large, B2B and B2C.

To me, this is one of those occasions where one size does not fit all.

If you’re an e-commerce business, optimisation is key for you. Your customers will search via a raft of keywords. You need to be on the ball. Product descriptions, category copy, it’s all there to be optimised. Don’t miss your opportunity.

Optimisation can get a little muddier when considering B2B.

I recently developed a new website section for a small B2B business. We carried out some keyword research with their target audience in mind. It was clear they didn’t search for what my client was offering. Not in a way that you could optimise copy for.

Why? Because in this instance, word-of-mouth and networking were far more important. These people were high-level decision-makers. They didn’t spend their days searching for suppliers!

I know of many fantastic websites that have captivating copy with little sign of it being optimised.

Think like your customers.

Would they search? Do worthwhile keywords get volume use?

You might find certain parts of your website warrant optimisation more than others. For example, some businesses will optimise top-level pages only. This can be a relief if your site has grown to 100 pages. Others will focus on their FAQ section if common questions get frequently searched.

There’s more to marketing than optimised web copy

I’m not snubbing the importance of optimising your copy in the right circumstances. Far from it. I am saying there’s much more you can do to bring prospects to your business.

For one, that overriding phrase: search engine optimisation covers a raft of things. Whilst copy is part of your on-page optimisation potential (along with metadata, H1 tags, and relevant links), off-page tasks exist too. Quality backlinks, directory listings and the like.

Beyond SEO, you’ve still got work to do. For example, social media enables online networking with interested parties. Your local area or industry sector might host networking events. You might email a list of warm prospects.

Optimising web copy can be important for many businesses. But, so can everything else! The trick is to find the right path for you.

Want a chat about your web copy? Please get in touch.