Monthly Archives: May 2012

Is it time for SEO agencies to start taking copywriting seriously?

Google’s recent algorithm updates are increasingly penalising sites with little or no unique content. Could this mean that SEO agencies will finally start to realise the value and importance of copy as part of their campaigns?

Peggy Olson

Undervalued - The life of an SEO copywriter

Econsultancy’s 2012 SEO agencies buyers guide reveals that most firms have little to say about copywriting. Of the 36 agencies surveyed, 100% claimed that they offer copywriting as a service to their clients. However, only 8 (22%) revealed any specific information on the subject and just 6 (17%) revealed that they have dedicated in-house SEO copywriting resource.

The individual responses range from the comprehensive:

“Copy writing services we offer include copy writing for sales based and information based pages, meta descriptions and external content for syndication. All of the copywriting carried out is completed internally rather than being outsourced. Where clients do not require Summit’s copywriting service, we provide guidelines of how both web site and external content should be written from a search engine and user perspective.” – Summit Media

“Stickyeyes has its own multi-lingual content team, comprising journalists and copywriters, who create and publish all content in-house.”  – Stickyeyes

To the noncommittal:

“Content marketing for online channels, rather than sales copywriting”Vertical Leap

“Sometimes – More consultancy based”iSpy Marketing

The story so far…

When I started working as a copywriter around 5 years ago, the first 2 jobs I held were at SEO agencies who had previously outsourced work to India. This ‘filler’ copy served the purposes of Google’s primitive algorithm, but not the needs of clients, who were understandably peeved about paying agency rates for copy that didn’t even make sense, let alone reflect their products and services in a particularly good light. There was a need for copy that read well, even if most of it was never actually read, and that’s where people like me came in.

Then Google began unleashing its pack of wild, game-changing animals. First came Panda, seeing off the ‘content farms’ and now Penguin, taking down sites which have been over-optimised by keyword stuffing or suspect links. A job lot of directory and ezine article submissions every month just won’t cut it any more. It’s now about obtaining those valuable, below the radar links, that only come from copy that people actually want to read.

Google animals

Google's game-changing algorithm updates

So why do so many SEO agencies shy away from copywriting?

It’s difficult – Finding good copywriters is tough. Finding copywriters with a basic grasp of SEO principles is even more challenging. Add to the mix a list of uninspiring client keywords, and it’s not hard to see why agencies don’t want to get involved with content production.

It’s frustrating – Many agency clients (particularly big ones) have lengthy and complex sign-off procedures. There’s nothing worse than writing a killer piece of content, only to have it trashed by a finicky brand manager.

It’s time consuming – Writing great copy takes time and when you’re a staffer filling in an agency timesheet, trying to justify more than 1 hour per piece of content can be a hard sell to your line manager, even if that extra bit of time could pay dividends in terms of those all-important shares, tweets and likes.

It’s hard to measure – Thrown in with the hundreds of other factors that can influence an SEO campaign, measuring the impact of content can be incredibly difficult.

It’s misguided – Believe it or not, there are actually people out there who believe that ‘keyword density’ still has an impact on rankings. Another mistake that many companies are guilty of is making a distinction between ‘SEO’ copy and their regular sales copy. The two should NEVER be mutually exclusive.

Conclusion

Google isn’t advanced enough to read copy like a human, yet. But it is surely only a matter of time. SEO agencies need to recognise this, and start treating copy as an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience.