Continuing the theme on SEO and writing to attract the attention of search engines, today we’ve got an interview with a man who has mastered the art of SEO copywriting.
Glenn Murray is a world-class SEO copywriter from Sydney, Australia.
He’s also the director of digital agency, Silver Pistol and has worked for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Toyota, IBM, Virgin, Honeywell, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra and BigPond. Needless to say Glenn’s writing oozes sassiness.
Glenn was kind enough to sit down and answer a few of my questions.
If you’re at all interested in learning how to write web copy to attract the search engines, then you can be sure you will get some great advice and tips to apply in your own business.
1. Thanks for indulging us, Glenn! I’ve been an avid reader and follower of your blog for sometime now. I first contacted you two years ago with a question about what the difference is between web content writing and web copywriting? Your response was “unfortunately the answer is yes. Some people are starting to think about web content writing as the writing of content for search engines. Whereas they think of copywriting as writing of content for people (with an implicit agenda to sell).” Can you elaborate on this please?
Ha! I got myself in a bit of hot water with that answer. Turns out quite a few copywriters actually consider themselves content writers, and some took offence. Obviously I didn’t mean there’s necessarily a difference in skill level between people who call themselves copywriters and those who call themselves content writers. My point was simply that the term ‘content’ is perceived as, well, cheaper by clients. They think of content as text, video, audio, images and hyperlinks. Here’s how I described the distinction in a recent article for Chief Content Office magazine:
“Clients have always seen copywriters as artistic types – integral to the ‘creative’ department, the driving force behind the entire ‘creative’. ‘Copy’ is appreciated as clever, witty, inspirational, memorable. Content? Well, that could mean anything that appears on the page, even mere filler. There’s absolutely no implied value. Hell, even someone who spins a hundred articles a week, for $1 a pop, could be called a content writer.”
2. You call yourself an “SEO Copywriter.” For the uninitiated, what does that mean exactly?
An SEO copywriter is someone who writes sales and/or corporate copy, then optimizes it for search engines. In reality, the optimization process is the easy part. It’s really just ensuring the words the client wants to rank for appear in the copy relatively frequently. And that a good spread of semantically and grammatically related words do too. When you write helpful, on-topic copy, it’ll usually be pretty well optimized, naturally. The optimization process is typically just a final pass.
It’s important to note the order in which I described the tasks of an SEO copywriter. I said s/he writes sales/corporate copy first, and optimizes second. In other words, s/he writes for readers first, Google second. People who do things the other way around aren’t usually copywriters at all…
I met Darren (ProBlogger) at an SEO conference a few years back. We got on well, and stayed in touch from then on. A couple of years later, Darren suggested we write an ebook together, and I thought that was a great idea. So we did.
Doing anything with ProBlogger will always boost your credibility. 😉
4. Last week I wrote a post about the page title. What on-page factors do you consider to be most important for attracting search engines? What should we ignore and concentrate our efforts most on to get the maximum results?
Quality. Because that attracts readers. And Google’s all-consumed by trying to rank pages that are good for readers.
5. I’ve read an article where you mentioned search engines are smart enough that we don’t have to optimize our copy any more. Do you think there is such a thing as over-optimizing webpages?
Definitely such a thing. For a start, if you simply make 10% of your copy keywords, readers will hate it. And Google’s getting on board with that too. Stick to writing for readers and tweaking for best practices…
6. I make a point in my blog to highlight the importance of using correct grammar in writing web content. Do you believe grammar can affect SEO? Can having bad grammar have a negative impact on your SEO efforts?
I doubt grammar has any impact now. I suspect it MAY have an impact in the future though. Google tries to emulate readers. If you judge a website as low-value because it’s poorly written, then Google will want the same capability. That said, even when it starts to happen, I don’t think it’ll impact ALL websites. Only the ones that you — as a human reader — would flick due to poor grammar. You might be quite prepared to forgive poor grammar in an interview transcription, for instance, because sometimes people speak poorly, and the interview could be awesome. Google would be shooting itself in the foot to diminish the interview’s value just because the speaker split an infinitive!
7. Following on from this, do you believe SEO and usability have an important relationship to each other?
Absolutely. It’s already important, and become more so. Always remember Google wants to make its search results as useful to people as possible. In order to do this, it has to be able to ‘judge’ the overall quality of a page, not just the subject matter and how many backlinks it has.
8. I’ve purchased all your ebooks to date and think they are fabulous. Hence I promote them on my site. What prompted you to write SEO Secrets, and Practical SEO Copywriting and how can they benefit small business owners who write their own content?
Thanks for buying the books. I agree, they’re great! 😉 Originally SEO Secrets was just my notebook when I was learning about SEO myself. As an ex-technical writer, I couldn’t help but turn it into an actual ‘manual’ sooner or later. Practical SEO Copywriting, on the other hand, was something I’d planned for a couple of years. I was always answering questions about SEO copy, and occasionally speaking about it, so I decided to write a book about it!
9. Finally, what websites and resources would you suggest for my readers — many of whom are small business owners – to learn to write their own web content and copy (apart from ShaeBaxter.com of course)? 🙂
Occasionally I have something useful to say at http://www.divinewrite.com/blog. You’ll also find very useful stuff at http://untangletheweb.com.au/blog/, http://www.menwithpens.ca, http://www.snappysentences.com/blog/, http://www.katetoon.com/blog/, and http://www.contentwriter.com.au/wordpress/.
A big thank you to Glenn for answering these questions.
If you enjoyed this interview, then please let me know. Make a comment below or tweet it with your friends.
And yes there are affiliate links in this article.