SEO copy: How to target negative keywords without making your copy negative

February 14, 2014 •
Free SEO copywriting advice

I received an email asking for SEO copywriting advice

This morning I received an email from a psychologist and writer who’s about to publish a book. She asked an interesting question, and I couldn’t help but blog my answer.

Here’s the question

I am a psychologist and writer and am about to publish a book about how to change your brain, and be happy, or ok anyway. It’s titled i-brainmap, freeing your brain for happiness. But I think most of people will be googling things like: anxiety, how to be happy, trauma. If I use those as my key words I’m filling my copy with suffering you could say. Any thoughts or tips?”

My answer

This sounds like quite an unusual situation, but it’s more common than you’d think… In fact, I’ve had to work around this sort of issue quite a few times. Sometimes to avoid negative-sounding copy (as is the case here), and sometimes to promote a new and unknown product or service (or a new and unknown type of product or service).

Here’s how I’d approach your specific situation…

First, write your copy as if Google doesn’t exist. Pretend you’re writing a printed brochure. Write about freeing your brain for happiness, in the same way you’d articulate it if talking to a patient, face-to-face. As Claude Hopkins says in Scientific Advertising:

We are attracted by sunshine, beauty, happiness, health, success… point the way to them, not the way out of the opposite.

Next, I’d look at your keywords (“how to be happy”, “anxiety”, “trauma”)…

“How to be happy” is easy

You’ll find it quite easy to include “how to be happy” in your copy. It’s positive and one of the reader’s main goals. In fact, you may already have used it in your copy, when you were writing as if Google didn’t exist. Especially if you were writing as you’d speak to a patient.

But if you didn’t, then think along these lines: “Everyone wonders how to be happy…” and “I used to pace the house asking myself, ‘How to be happy, how to be happy, how to be happy’. It was like my mantra.”

“Anxiety” and “trauma” are harder, but still doable

Because they’re negative, “anxiety” and “trauma”, are a little trickier. But because they’re still directly relevant to many readers, they’re not too hard.

One of the best ways to include negatives is to say your book is specifically NOT about these things. E.g. Say things like, “This isn’t a book about anxiety or trauma, it’s a book about how to be happy.” Or, “I’m not going to tell you how to deal with anxiety and trauma, I’m going to teach you how to be happy.”

Similarly (assuming it’s consistent with your actual advice), say things like, “Don’t think about how to overcome trauma or anxiety, think about being happy.” Or, “Focusing on trauma and anxiety can be counterproductive. Instead, focus on being happy. It’s a subtle difference but, psychologically speaking, when you focus on the trauma and anxiety, you reinforce the associated emotions. Whereas if you focus on the happiness, you reinforce that positivity. It’s like re-programming your brain, making new neural connections.”

Headings are a great opportunity for SEO copy

You can do all of the above in the body copy, but don’t forget headings. Look for places you can add keyword-rich headings and sub-headings. (You should be adding sub-headings anyway, to ensure your copy is scannable and readers can understand your message without reading all the copy.) E.g., “How to be happy In just 5 minutes a day” is a great heading. Another might be, “Think ‘How to be happy’, DON’T think ‘How to overcome anxiety’ “.

You’d be surprised how good keyword-rich headlines can be. Partly because if they’re keyword-rich, it’s likely they’re also very relevant to the reader’s goals. And partly because when you’re forced to think of creative ways to include your keywords, you tend to come up with more creative (or at least unusual) headlines, and this can grab the reader’s attention.

And don’t get stuck on the EXACT phrases

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to include these EXACT phrases in your copy. If you scatter the individual words around the page, Google will still pick them up and make sense of them. For example, you might say, “When I was 35, I was broke, and didn’t know how I could ever be happy.” (Bold added for this illustration only.)

Similarly, you don’t have to include the exact words, either. For example, you might say things like, “How I became happier without therapy”, or “Take charge of your happiness, and you’ll BE happy.” Google’s smart enough to know that “happier” and “happiness” are semantically related to “happy”, so you’ll still get points for them!

Want more? Think about your call to action

With just these few little tricks, you’ll probably find you have more than enough keywords in your copy. But if you’re still a bit short, try your call to action section. So long as you don’t water down the heading of that section, or the leading message (the thing the reader reads first), you can easily include quite a few here. E.g., Say, “Call XXXX XXXX to find out how easy it is to be happy. How you can leave anxiety and trauma behind, by specifically NOT thinking about anxiety and trauma.”

Buy my SEO copywriting ebook for more…

I’ve written an entire ebook on SEO copywriting. It contains practical solutions to everyday copywriting problems like this. It’s only $7.99, and it comes with a money-back guarantee. I challenge you to think of a reason NOT to buy it! 😉

Feel free to comment...
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Rita wrote on February 14th, 2014

Hey Glenn, thanks for the great tips. Perfect timing. Love your work, you make it simple and accessible. thanks Rita

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Mel wrote on February 16th, 2014

Great article Glenn. I particularly love the tip about the Call to Action as it's so important to include the benefits in the CTA, and you've confirmed a way to include more keywords as well.

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Glenn Murray wrote on February 17th, 2014

Thanks guys. Glad you found it useful. Good luck with the copy, Rita. :-)

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Rhonda wrote on February 21st, 2014

Would it have been good to just simply ask a question? "So you think you're happy?" or "How happy are you?" "Are you really as happy as you think you are?" Would this work? I think if crafted well then maybe, since I once bought a book because its title made me 'doubt' myself!

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Glenn Murray wrote on February 24th, 2014

Yes! Great suggestions, thanks Rhonda. :-)

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How To Add Creativity And Storytelling In Your SEO Copy wrote on May 21st, 2014

[…] what if you had to target negative keywords but you don’t want your copy to sound negative to your ideal […]

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