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6 Ways to Optimise Your Print Copy for Use Online

…or “How to turn great print copywriting into excellent SEO optimised copywriting that human readers will love too”.

If you’ve had experience writing successful copy for offline functions, you’re most likely going to enjoy some success when writing copy for your website. However, you will need to add a few mildly techy, chiefly SEO-related tricks to your repertoire when you’re writing text for use online.

If you don’t have experience in writing copy of any kind, this article probably isn’t the best place to start. Copywriting newbies will probably be better off starting with the following guides from the Yell archives:

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So without further ado, let’s turn your (already awesome) text into SEO-optimised copy.

1. Keyword Research

Properly utilising keywords is probably the biggest adjustment to get your head around when optimising text for SEO. And the best keyword optimisation comes after thorough keyword research.

Keyword research is the practice of identifying which search terms people are using to find companies like yours, or when they want to learn more about your niche. Including relevant, yet popular, search terms within a page’s copy informs search engines of that page’s fitness to answer a searcher’s query. As such, encouraging search engines to find you for popular, relevant key terms is great for search optimisation.

Carrying out keyword research can have value outside of SEO too. It can help provide insight into how your audience is talking about your industry online, and it can provide a wider picture of what’s going on in your niche, including competition and market behaviour.

So how do you perform keyword research? We’ve got a handy guide just for you: How to Do Basic Keyword Research.

2. Keyword Density

You also need to be aware of the amount of times you’re mentioning your keywords for best SEO effect. But don’t think that more mentions equals more SEO juice – far from it. Back in the bad old days of SEO, some websites would try and trick the system by cramming reams of keywords into a single page. Search algorithms didn’t use to be anywhere near as sophisticated as they are today, so more keyword mentions could catapult a site up the rankings.

However, search engines soon caught on to this practice, and nowadays “keyword stuffing” (as it’s called) can go against you in the optimisation stakes. Though Google is a little cagey about guidance on precise keyword densities, SEO experts Yoast suggest that the optimal keyword density is between 0.5% and 3% for a single page.

To reveal how many times you’ve mentioned any one term within your text, SEOBook’s Keyword Density Analyzer is an excellent free resource.

3. Page Title & Header Hierarchy

Properly utilising HTML headings is a great practice when writing for the digital world – both for human readers and search algorithms. Headers are a hierarchical set of 6 available headings – H1 represents the most important heading on a page (it’s advised to only have one H1 per page), then H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 which designate subheaders of decreasing importance.

To give you an example, this page’s H1 is the article’s title. The subheadings within this article are H2s, and if I were to include any subheadings hierarchically underneath the H2s, they would be H3s, below that would be H4s, and so on.

Using headers makes it easy for both digital and human readers to understand the relevance and context of the different sections within your text. Though there is some debate about the importance of optimising headers H2 to H6 for SEO, it’s essential to keep H1 headers informative, keyword-rich, and descriptive. However, optimising the “lesser” headers is unlikely to do any harm as long as you aren’t repeating yourself unnecessarily and stay below the 3% keyword density limit for the whole page.

But the most important header to optimise is a page’s title tag – this is generally the title that appears as the blue link in Google search results and displays in your browser’s tab when you have that page open.

4. Scannable Text & Bullet Points

Research has suggested that our comprehension is higher when reading from paper compared to reading from a screen. It’s thought that this is because operating the device at hand and dealing with the glare of a screen is surprisingly mentally taxing on an unconscious level.

Bear this in mind when you put your web copy together:

  • Use hierarchical HTML headers to provide structure to longer copy
  • Use line breaks liberally to keep paragraphs short and digestible
  • Present sets of salient points in a visually appealing way, e.g., by using bullet points or graphics.

5. Clear Calls to Action Throughout

Following on from the psychology of screen reading, it’s probably safe to say that if a page is quite long, then some folks probably won’t hang around until the end. With this in mind, if you place a single call to action at the end of a longer page, it’s unlikely that everyone is going to see it and know what you want them to do next.

Therefore, it makes sense to pepper longer pages with eye-catching calls to action throughout. This will help to direct those who don’t have the time or attention span to go searching for a CTA.

And hopefully, if your copy’s persuasive enough right out of the gate, they may not need to read the rest!

6. Know That All Levels of Expertise Could be Reading

I know we’re moving away from SEO territory here, but you need to bear in mind how you use niche, jargon terms when writing persuasive copy to be published online.

To get back to basics for a moment, when you’re writing copy for any audience, you need to bear in mind their own knowledge of your industry and the topic at hand. For example, if you operate a business that has some quite technical aspects, it’s probably not a good idea to beat your readers over the head with technical terms, acronyms, and metrics if they’re not going to be au fait with those concepts themselves.

However, you need to be extra careful around the use of niche industry lingo online. Refer to your keyword research – are people using those terms online in your industry? If people are using them to search for organisations and solutions like yours, then you’re probably safe to fire away!

But bear in mind the difference between how offline and online media is disseminated. When you’re handing out a brochure or flyer, you have some control over who you’re giving it to. If someone comes across as a complete novice, then you’re unlikely to give them a highly technical piece of literature or vice versa.

However you don’t have the same control over who visits your website – it’s just sort of… out there. Therefore it makes sense to write without making any assumptions about your audience’s level of expertise – you don’t know who’s going to be reading, so keep it simple without being too “dumbed down”.

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Do you have any rules of thumb when optimising online copy? Have you got any further queries about how to SEO-ify written text? Or indeed any psychological copywriting tips you’d like to share? Do you know of any cool tips or tools that are out there that may help your fellow readers? Please share your thoughts down in the comments!