Five Myths About SEO Copywriting


SEO copywriting is mechanical

1. SEO copywriting sounds forced and mechanical. This myth is almost true: Bad SEO copywriting sounds forced and mechanical. You can spot it from a mile away:

The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

What are the benefits of apple cider vinegar? The benefits of apple cider vinegar are many! The benefits of apple cider vinegar include improved health and boosted immunity. This page is all about the benefits of apple cider vinegar.

I guess if this page starts ranking for "the benefits of apple cider vinegar" I'll have to eat my words, huh? But seriously folks: SEO copywriting doesn't have to, and shouldn't, be robotic. Keyword research is a supplement to good writing, not a replacement for it. The only reason that keyword-targeted copy would end up sounding as ridiculous as the above paragraph is if the writer is overly focused on keyword density—which brings me to the next myth.

2. Once you've settled on a keyword, use it throughout the text without variation. Back when SEO was more of a buzzword than a business model, this bit of advice got thrown around a lot. It went hand in hand with keyword density—to rank for a keyword, like "best blog software," you needed to show the search engines that your page was really relevant by using those exact words, in that exact order, every 100 words or so. Using variations would just water your page down.

It no longer makes sense to craft a unique page for a single keyword. Any given site should be targeting thousands (at least) of keywords, and many of those keywords are going to be tightly related. A more sensible approach is to segment related keywords into small, tightly knit groups and target each page toward a group of keywords, not just one. So a page covering the best blog software might use that keyword in the URL, title tag and other key fields, but also include relevant variations in the text, such as "best blogging software," "best blogging platform," "highest rated blog software" and so on. This ensures that you rank for your main keyword as well as less popular variants.

3. Be brief – online readers have short attention spans. This is true, to an extent. Many readers only skim and scan online. But we've found that longer blog posts and articles often rack up more links and traffic over time—provided that they're information-dense and not needlessly wordy and redundant.

This is true for two reasons:

  • Putting more words on the page gives search engine spiders more to crawl. With a higher word count, you have the opportunity to put many long-tail variations of your primary keyword on the page, increasing the number of visitors you can attract and capture (Venus flytrap style).
  • People using information-seeking search queries are probably seeking actual information. Don't sacrifice good, rich content in the interest of brevity alone. If you've got 2,000 words' worth of solid information to share on a niche topic, by all means use all 2,000 words.

Nonetheless, you still need to consider the tendencies of web readers. There are many ways to make text more readable on-screen aside from slashing word count: make use of bulleted lists and jump links; break up a long guide into sections or split it up over multiple pages.

4. The age of clever headlines is over. Again, this is true to an extent—9 times out of 10, your title tag should be first and foremost informative and keyword-rich. Many catchy headlines suck for SEO because people don't know to search for your cute little pun. They're just looking for information and they're looking for it with keywords.

However, there are situations in which you can bend the rules. By employing both the title and H1 tag, you can essentially craft two titles: one smarty-pants, attention-getting title that will display in RSS readers and on the page itself, and one keyword-optimized title that will display in search results. This is a great tactic for blog posts, since the more informative title is the one that goes down in search engine history and can continue to capture search traffic over time. Remember, you can also use your clever headline when promoting a post through Twitter or other social media.

5. When doing a list post, write an introduction. I'm not sure this is a myth per se, but every list post does seem to have an introduction. And it's almost always completely generic, something along the lines of:

Since the dawn of the Internet era, SEO copywriting myths have flourished. It is high time that an SEO copywriter worth his or her salt debunked these nefarious myths. Without further ado, I present my list of five SEO copywriting myths …

I don't think anyone reads these introductory paragraphs; they just skip right to the list. Maybe people are writing them for the Google snippet? Well, that's what the meta description is for. Unless you actually have something interesting to say in your intro (i.e., if the title for some reason doesn't tell the whole story), get to the good stuff.

Photo credit: Mike Licht,

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Nov 11, 2009

Excellent article. This is the first time I have stumbled across your blog (Thumbed it up) -- Keep posting, I'll keep reading.

Elisa Gabbert
Nov 11, 2009

Thanks, Billy! We post pretty much every day ...

SEO – seo optimization | SEO Mixer Blog
Nov 11, 2009

[...] Five Myths About SEO Copywriting Debunked | WordStream13 hours ago by Elisa Gabbert  Learn why you don't need to follow these five SEO copywriting rules, like write for brevity and don't use clever titles. – [...]

Cindy Bidar
Nov 12, 2009

Good point on the introduction! I say go ahead and write them if it helps you get warmed up. Just remember to go back and delete them (and the equally boring conclusion) before posting.

Beth Hrusch
Nov 12, 2009

Yes, some good points here! People like bullet points and numbered lists- studies have proven that the eye goes right to them. They also want you to get to the point quickly. It's hard sometimes to cut out the fluff, but that's what you need to do. Thanks for the post!

SEO Blogging Software
Nov 12, 2009

[...] Five Myths About SEO Copywriting Debunked [...]

Good Web Content: Short or Long? | Nathania Johnson
Nov 12, 2009

[...] Elisa Gabbert took to the Wordstream blog to bust some myths about copywriting – one of which was the idea that copy needs to be short. Gabbert says that long copy actually [...]

J Olenick
Nov 13, 2009

1 Important Non-Myth About Reading SEO Copy

1 important non-myth about people and the reading of copy is that if a line of text has more than 95 characters in it we are less likely to ready it. In this era of wide-screen monitors this is especially significant to keep in mind when producing content for digital delivery and dissemination. Case in point: on my home screen (which isn't as amped as my work screen) I am getting 236 characters per line from your article above. I wanted to immediately bounce back. The human eye simply does not want to scan such a landscape of text. For a more successful site I'd recommend you give your CSS a makeover.

Perhaps unwanted advice section concluded. On to my feedback on your article.

I liked it!

Paul Hancox | SuperPowerCopy
Nov 14, 2009

I loved the "two headlines" tactic, very smart. Google have been online for 11 years now, so they've got pretty good at spotting relevant content without resorting to things like keyword stuffing. Also, interesting thought about the intro paragraph for lists. i do read them myself at times, but maybe it's just better to get straight into the list.

¤ Myths About Search Engine Optimization ¤
Nov 29, 2009

[...] Five Myths About SEO Copywriting Debunked | WordStream [...]