SEO Copywriting

An SEO copywriting tutorial by John Scott

The Place of Copy in SEO

SEO copywriting, as detailed here, is page-elements SEO. In short, we will speak briefly about page titles, H1 and H2 tags, bold text, italicized text, keyword density and keyword prominence. The only aspect of page-elements SEO which we will not discuss in this article is Internal Link Architecture.

One thing to remember about SEO copywriting is that it is only effective with keywords which are less than highly competitive.

To quote myself:
The simple fact is – and even a child can understand this – you could put the words “search engine optimization” in your page titles, in your H1 tags, in your ALT text and a hundred times in text of the page and it would not get you into the top ten for that search term.

If you are going to be competing on fiercely competitive search terms, your focus should be on Inbound Links & Anchor Text.

Page Titles

Page titles are most likely the single most powerful aspect of page-elements SEO. A keyword included in your page titles can give you ranking for that keyword even if the keyword is not included anywhere in page copy or anchor text of inbound links.

In a test of Google’s treatment of the page titles, we put page titles in several pages. We did not include the unique keywords in the body copy. In other words, the unique keywords appeared only in the page titles and nowhere else.

We then searched for each keyword contained in the page titles. In each case, Google returned the page in the search results.

It should be noted that Google’s cache of the page stated, These terms only appear in links pointing to this page:. So it would appear that Google is treating the title as anchor text of a link.

The pages titles were tested up to 750 characters, and all words included were effective in gaining ranking.

Meta Description

In our testing, the meta description tag has not shown any significant effectiveness. When identical pages were deployed – one with the unique keyword in the meta description tag, and one without – the page with the meta description tag did outrank the page without. But when meta descriptions were changed in several pages in competitive searches, the change did not affect ranking one iota.

To learn more on this topic, please read these recent articles:

  • Google and the Meta Description
  • Google and the Meta Description – Update

    Meta Keywords

    The meta keywords tag has no discernable affect on a page’s search engine ranking.

    H1 & H2

    H1 tags in themselves are highly effective, as far as page-elements SEO goes. The H1 tag is generally a larger font than the rest of the text, and the search engines – particularly Google – assume that the words inside H1 tags are suggestive of the page content.

    In one test, we took an established website, and changed all the H1 tags to H2 tags. We noticed a slight drop in some of the more competitive keywords, and no ranking changes to the less competitive keywords. When the H2 tags were changed back to H1 tags, the previous ranking was achieved.

    Body Copy

    Keyword Density
    We often hear the terms “keyword density”, and on occasion we hear about “ideal keyword density”, but these after doing some research on this topic, it would be silly of us to state a figure. Pages with 5% keyword density ranked right along side pages with 20% keyword density and higher. In fact, even at 60% keyword density we did not experience significantly different rankings from pages with 5% keyword density.

    It would appear that Google, at this time, places more emphasis on other elements, and very little on keyword density.

    Inktomi, on the other hand, generously rewarded 20% keyword density.

    Keyword Prominence
    Keyword Prominence is placing your keywords near the top of the page; it is usually thought best to start out the first paragraph with your primary keywords.

    At this time, we have not tested the effectiveness of keyword prominence. Even without testing, it is a good idea to keep your primary keywords near the top of the page.

    Bold Text
    Bold text carries more weight than regular text. The same applies to italicized text, to a certain extent. We are currently testing these elements, and will update this page when the results are in.


    Discuss this article in the Webmaster Forums.

    1. customscustoms08-14-2006

      Google puts a lot of emphasis on content with themed words. Experiments show that a page polished for SEs especially with high keyword density first time sits on a top of rankings (after a great linking campaign), then suffer from a some kind of penalty. Otherwise, if a page is not over-optimized and have a lot words from an one theme, it rocks and nailed to a top almost forever.

      It’s my observations and IMHO I’m probably right.

    2. Alex GoadAlex Goad02-05-2007

      Great Article. Bookmarked.

      We hear a lot of talk about these factors but you actually did some testing and show real results.

      Update: Google bombing no longer works so links to a page that doesn’t contain the anchor text have a strong probability of being ignored.

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