A copywriter’s vent about crap SEO copy!

November 3, 2008 •

I read an interesting blog post today: Low value content is destroying your website.

The guts of the post: most pages of most websites are low value. People hardly ever visit them, and if they do stumble upon them, they tend not to return. Only a handful of pages are visited often. Furthermore, “… what I find… is that the search results are full of links to the press archive and other old, out-of date content. Some of the content is misleading and wrong, talking about, for example, a feature for a product that has long since been replaced.”

This post got me thinking (again!) about the implications of ‘low value content’ for search engine optimization (SEO). (No particularly new thoughts; perhaps I just needed to vent!)

As an SEO copywriter, I’m regularly asked to quote on high-volume SEO copy and SEO articles (for article PR / article marketing). By definition, there’s nothing wrong with these requests. High volume SEO copy and SEO articles can be of a very high quality. And they can be very helpful for SEO.

Unfortunately, however, the prospect’s budget usually indicates that the important part of their request is the ‘high-volume’ bit. They don’t really care how good the copy is, so long as it’s keyword rich, and there’s lots of it. They want it purely to boost their rankings.

I know this is slightly different from the low value content discussed in original post, but the end result is the same: it appears in the search results, and it’s read by prospective customers who immediately identify it as crap and infer a great deal about the company that published it.

This is particularly true of long-tail searches, because high volume, low level content tends to be optimized for quite specific keyword phrases. So when someone searches for something really specific, they’re likely to end up at a low level page. And what sort of customers Google very specific keyword phrases? Those who are ready to buy! Now, although there’s never a good time for a reader to think you’re a crap company, I couldn’t think of a worse time than when they’re ready to buy.

The moral to the story: don’t write crap! SEO copy isn’t some invisible force. It’s content that’s frequently read by prospective customers, often when they’re ready to buy. So crap content may – MAY – help your search ranking, but it’s only ever going to harm your conversion rate.

And the sub-moral (here comes the vent…): If you’re intent on having crap written, don’t ask me to quote on it. I never write this sort of stuff. When I write SEO copy and SEO articles – even high volume – I simply can’t write crap. It goes against the grain. I have to write meaningful, helpful copy, and this takes time. (Which means my prices are usually too high for clients who want volume only, anyway.)

End vent.

Happy writing!

Feel free to comment...
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Matilda wrote on November 4th, 2008

Thanks for this post. An interesting insight and something to beware of for both client and copywriter. I wonder if the current obsession with SEO is here to stay.

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on November 4th, 2008

Hi Matilda. Thanks for your comment. I think the obsession with SEO is here to stay, but I reckon its impact on copy is waning. Already, crap articles don't get syndicated often by good sites, but are often syndicated by crap sites. So their backlinks are pretty much worthless. (Note that the same doesn't apply to good articles.) Also, I reckon Google will start to focus more and more on visitor factors when figuring out rankings. So if your site has crap copy, visitors won't stay for long, click through to other pages, or come back. And that will eventually impact your ranking. Still, I think it'll be a few years before people realise that crap copy for the sake of SEO just isn't worth it. Cheers!

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Des Walsh wrote on November 4th, 2008

Another example of the need to educate the market. Which is one of the things some of us are endeavouring to do through a couple of organisations - Social Media Club (we now have one in Brisbane, when will Sydney pick up the ball, Glenn?) and International Blogging & New Media Association.

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Glenn (Owner) wrote on November 4th, 2008

Tell us more, Des...

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Should Google penalize sites that use paid content? wrote on April 13th, 2010

[...] you’ve read any of my previous rants, you’ll know I’m no fan of crap / filler content. But I still [...]

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