My SEO career began in the summer of 2006. I spent 15 months writing news content for a range of clients, working to boost their performance on search engine results pages (SERPs). Then I took time out to get my NCTJ qualifications before returning to copywriting in 2009 at theEword.
So three years on, has anything changed in SEO copywriting?
Google, SERPs and keywords – a familiar story
On the surface, not much. In 2006, the big story in SEO was Google’s growing dominance of the search market. Fast-forward to 2009 and the company has continued to take over – it accounts for 65 per cent of US searches and more than 90 per cent of the UK market.
Indeed, many clients are still asking for the same thing they did back in 2006 – page one on Google. As the old saying goes, first is first and second is nowhere.
Keywords also remain an integral part of SEO. Long gone are the old Fleet Street days where writers and sub-editors got back-slaps for peppering their stories with witticisms. Until search engines develop a sense of humour, targeted keywords are vital.
Plenty of similarities then, but are there any differences?
Realism, keyword stuffing and conversions – the evolution of SEO
The truth is that SEO has grown up. Three years ago, a lot of clients attached wild expectations to their campaigns. It was seen as a quick fix, a silver bullet, a sure-fire way of turning round their business overnight. Now I detect a lot more realism - companies recognise SEO is an ongoing process and a long-term investment. What worked last year may not work this year and clients are willing to engage in the creative process rather than tearing their hair out whenever rankings fluctuate.
Related to this is the fact that keyword stuffing has become less common. In 2006, some industry experts still thought cramming copy with keywords was enough to reach number one. Now we know there is much more to it – the content must be readable, titles have to be clean and embedded hyperlinks should encourage browsers and spiders to explore the site.
Finally, there’s a more holistic approach to marketing on the web today. The theory that SEO is just about tricking Google has been debunked and there is a renewed emphasis on measuring success by quality of click-throughs, not quantity. Focusing on conversions means you need to be more creative in content – after all, Google spiders don’t buy products or register email addresses. Blogs, social networking groups, tweets and video landing pages are all increasingly popular and demonstrate that modern SEO copywriting is about more than just keyword-heavy news stories.
So what does the future hold?
Bing, Microsoft and Yahoo - SEO copywriting marches on
The only honest answer is that it’s impossible to know. SEO copywriting has subtly but noticeably evolved over the last three years and it’s a safe bet that it will continue to adapt to the increasing sophistication of web users and search engines.
On the search engine front, for example, this summer has already seen the introduction of Microsoft’s Bing and a technology-sharing deal between Microsoft and Yahoo. Even time-honoured constants like Google’s dominance of search suddenly look less certain. SEO is a dynamic industry and copywriters must always be ready to adapt to the unexpected.