Writing compelling web copy to attract Google’s attention

Neither Google nor visitors are turned on by hastily written copy stuffed with keywords. Here’s how to increase the quality of your web content and help your site rise in the rankings

Mon, 26 Jan 2015

Neither Google nor visitors are turned on by hastily written copy stuffed with keywords. Here’s how to increase the quality of your web content and help your site rise in the rankings.

Writing for the web is neither a black art nor rocket science. And savvy website owners are finally realising that attracting Google’s eye is as much about providing well-written, original and engaging copy as performing clever techie tricks behind the scene.

Bruce Stander, chief executive and founding director of Optimal Internet, which specialises in recruitment website design and marketing, and the jobs search engine Go Job Search, says many recruiters make the mistake of producing dynamic content with low word counts and using “typical keyword cannibalisation” because they think it will increase their site’s relevance.

“The Google algorithm is an advanced piece of technology and content these days needs to be of a substantially high-quality with visitor value,” he says. He adds that techniques such as inserting multiple “cloak” pages — meaning the use of a technique to try to trick search engines into giving relevant sites higher rankings — can result in a heavy penalty.

Moreover, Andy Drinkwater, founder of internet marketing specialists iQ SEO, believes that many recruiter websites simply lack interesting content and that their pages are too similar to that of their competitors. “If you want to write about ‘hiring sous chefs in London’, then just stating this along with the fact you offer ‘the best rates’ won’t cut it,” he says.

“Put yourself in the eyes of a client: what will they want to see? Testimonials, hiring techniques, easy-to-read content; your strengths? The list can go on.”

1. Be original and relevant
Whether it’s the home page, the ‘about us’ or any other section of the website, think carefully about your message and how to ensure the company stands out from the billions of other pages and lines of copy indexed by Google.
Ensure the copy is cleanly written, gets to the point and engages the visitor. Drinkwater says many site owners believe that taking copy from another website and making a few changes will be enough to satisfy Google.
“Write copy that is heavily on-topic to the page in question,” he says. “When someone arrives at a page, you want to make sure that they don’t leave again — causing a bounce in Google’s eyes — because they didn’t find the information they were looking for.”

2. Don’t go overboard with keywords
Using the right keywords is essential in order to be found — but don’t overuse them. Stander emphasises that content needs to be written for the reader, not the search engine. “Methods of keyword cannibalisation and keyword stuffing are all now penalised by the algorithm as content of low and poor quality,” he says. Meanwhile, Drinkwater advises using a thesaurus to research synonyms or when conducting a search, to find out what other words crop up in a Google search.

3. Avoid duplication
Don’t repeat a piece of content throughout your site. Drinkwater describes this as “a huge problem”, which can lead Google to devalue or even penalise a site for overuse of this technique. “It says to Google ‘I wanted to rush through this page and decided to copy elements from other pages’,” he says. “You also want to make sure that any content that you have had written has not been re-written (spun) from content that has been published hundreds of times before.”

4. Be up-to-date
Ensure your site carries fresh and regularly updated articles. Too often the first page of online news sections displays stories from not just one, but sometimes two years ago. This sends a terrible message to visitors, let alone Google. “Information that is out-of-date provides no visitor value and Google will not position you well for poorly researched content,” says Stander.

5. Use links to increase your authority
Make sure other sites link to yours from relevant content as Google favours this as a method of using content to improve popularity. And if your pages include a statement about a particular subject or issue, back up your position with citations and links through to the original research. “You can also help by including testimonials or reviews from current and past clients,” Drinkwater says. But, he adds, it is important to strike the right balance between your voice and that of other people: “Don’t overdo it: no one wants to read a page that either appears to consist of someone else’s work or that is littered with ‘glowing’ reports.”

6. Test your page
If preparing a speech or presentation, you would test it on an audience — so adopt the same approach with your website copy. “Remember that your own personal opinions of what makes a compelling page might not be the same as those clients and candidates who are visiting them, so employ live-user testing to help you see how others view your pages,” says Drinkwater. “Critiquing page content can often be the biggest eye opener for you.

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