There’s an old saying that goes ‘first impressions count’. If you’re a website owner, looking to optimize your site for search engines but dependent on your online presence for sales, there are two sets of first impressions to worry about and two audiences you must sell your site to.
The first is the impression your site makes on the search engine spiders. Does the content contain enough keywords? Is there enough text on the site? Is keyword placement optimal? Are important phrases used in title tags? The second first impression is the few fleeting seconds you’re permitted to convince the would-be buyer that you have the product or service they’re looking for, for the price they’re willing to pay and are a company they want to do business with. It’s a tough ask when you realize that these two first impressions could both be happening at exactly the same time.
So, how do you satisfy two needs and two wants with one ‘it’s all here’? The answer lies in the way you tackle your site’s on-page optimization. Central to this is the quality of the copy that makes up the site’s content.
If you know the numbers, selling your copy to a search engine spider requires nothing more than a simple to follow formula. A search engine spider will crawl through text looking for good keyword placement, an optimal – but not overdone – keyword density, the use of titles, alt tags for images and useful anchor text. The spider will also want to see a logical link structure aiding movement from one page of the site to another.
Search engines are savvy and will compare the text and sentence structure of each page with similar pages from other websites. If you avoid the temptations of keyword stacking and other questionable techniques, incorporating all of these considerations into your content is surprisingly easy. You ensure that a keyword is used to describe alt tags for images, you name your pages according to the content they contain, and you ensure that each time a product or service not on the page is mentioned, a handy link to the relevant section of your site is provided.
The difficult part is marrying these technical considerations with the more complex and subjective needs of a potential client.
Initially, a human set of eyes will also scan for many of the things a search engine bot hunts out. The use of titles and sub headers make it easy to glance through the page and split long text into more manageable chunks. The use of keywords and synonyms in prominent locations subconsciously reassure the reader they are on the right track. Alt tags are an accessibility must have and, for readers with slower internet connections a timely description of a slow loading or missing image is an absolute must to fill in any blanks on the page. So far, so good.
However, a human also has more complex needs and the content on the site must sizzle off the page if it is to achieve its objective of increasing conversions and selling products and services. Writing sales copy is an art form and one that many companies find difficult to master. To some extent the corporate culture will dictate the style taken and whether or not special offers such as discounts, cash back or money off play a role. Regardless of the style of the content, certain elements must be clearly on show if the search engine optimization of the site is to be a success.
Keywords must be positioned as early on in the text as possible but, you do not want to risk putting the reader off by forcing them into a location where they are not a natural fit. Equally, don’t shy away from using a keyword and then revisiting the point. The use of synonymous is a great SEO copy tool as it allows keywords from the search string to enjoy their moment in the spotlight. It also means calls to action can be reinforced and keywords re-used without resorting to repetition.
A photo really isn’t worth a thousand words from an SEO perspective as the search engine’s can’t crawl through the information contained in an image. A snappy picture is an invaluable sales tool though and should be included in the copy if possible to entice the much more visually stimulated human being. A caption using keywords and a useful Alt tag will keep the search engine spiders happy while also encouraging the reader to act on their initial interest.
Nothing is more frustrating for someone looking to buy online than a poorly structured website and difficult navigation. As the search engine’s look for internal links, make full use of the web’s facilities with links from one section of the site to the other to aid the user journey. Allowing them to view related products and services gives kudos to the vendor and means the buyer can skip through the copy, traveling to relevant sections to shore up their interest, and then return. Rather than writing pushy copy that can be off putting, this technique gives the reader free reign to roam around the site, further reinforcing your brand’s USPs.