Keywords – introducing writing for the web


Web copywriting is a different skill to writing for paper, because people read webpages differently to the way they read paper pages.

One of the fundamental skills to successful web copy is cracking keywords.

Why do keywords matter?

Keywords are little signposts that tell the search engines what a website is about. It’s a fair bet that a company with a site that includes flowers, bouquet, roses, wreaths, and Interflora is going to be a florist rather than a mechanic. That’s the first step in getting the website to appear when people search for the goods or services your client sells.

How can you find your keywords?

With a bit of common sense really.  

What words would you use if you were looking for your client’s business?  Well, those are the ones everyone else will use too.  Including the competition.

Although you should certainly use these major keywords, it’s really valuable to narrow it down further. These are the ‘long tail’ search results – refining your major keywords into keyword phrases. Designer florist in Richmond, or Florist open on Sunday, for example.

As well as your major keywords and phrases, use secondary keywords.

Not only florist but also wedding flowers, birthday bouquet, mothers’ day flowers and so on.

You can also get a good idea by looking on social media. What do other businesses use?  What  are your client’s ideal customers talking about?  

If your florist client wants to break into hotel displays, then using words that are attractive to event organisers, hotel chains, spas, and so on will be a good idea.  What is the jargon of your client’s sector? (I keep meaning to write a case study about one of my clients who saw a several hundred per cent increase in site visits after I strategically placed some industry jargon into his site.)

Don’t be tempted to use a misspelling. I know it can work with eBay, and it may be that one of your keywords is really easy to mistype – meaning your deliberately misspelled site will pop up when others don’t.  Just don’t go there. It’s bad practice, makes your client look ignorant, and the search engines don’t like to be tricked.  

Use words that mean the same as the keywords.  Partly because the search engines will know that a florist is also a flower shop, and partly because you may pick up people who are using different words in their searches.

How should you use keywords?

It won’t do to just list all the relevant words.  

The quality of the writing matters too.  Badly written websites are penalised by search engines.

Keywords need to be skilfully included in the text on the website. The number of times a keyword is used is important. You should be aiming for around 5% of the copy – certainly no more than 10%.  

The placing of keywords can make a difference. Try to use keywords early on the webpage, and include them in titles, sub-headings, and page URLs.  

Keywords also need to feature in the page’s coding. Ask the website designer or developer to include keywords in the title and alt text tags, and use a strong call-to-action meta description to encourage people to click on the site when they see it on the search results page.

Hopefully, people will link to the website you’ve written.  

The quality of the site linking to yours matters. A link from the BBC will count more than a link from your friend’s blog – but any natural links help.  

If you get a say in the anchor text of the link, choose something that includes keywords. A link using the keywords is more powerful than a link saying ‘Click Here’.

Tell your client how using keywords with social media is a great way to get more links to their site. Not only the link from the keyword-rich original post, or tweet, but the shares and retweets of others all add up to more evidence that this site is worth visiting.

There’s no black magic to using keywords

People can get very excited about keywords, and there are plenty of opinions out there about how to use (and abuse) them. But I think that if you write well, and understand how to communicate effectively, you won’t find them much of a challenge.

This is a shortened version of Keywords for SEO – how they help your business, which is published on Word Hen Ltd.’s website.

Joanna is a business copywriter, and the driving force behind Word Hen Ltd., a company that specialises in compelling communication for financial and legal firms.

Picture from Pleuntje


7th October 2016

Lorraine Forrest-Turner

Great article, Joanna. I also read the long version on your website. I’m going to buy myself a couple of extra URLs. I stupidly used my name as my URL. No-one searching for a copywriter is going to search for!

9th October 2016

Campfire Copywriting

Keywords are so important, and too many clients tend to not understand why. You write copy for them with the keyword research done and SEO optimised, only for them to want to change it..omitting those essential keywords! Great post!

10th October 2016

Joanna Brown

Thank you for the comments. I am really glad you enjoyed the article. Lorraine, don’t dump your name URL, because when you are world famous, people will search for your name. Think of Saatchi!

21st June 2017

Matthew Drzymala

A great piece.

Although I have studied in Copywriting, the course didn’t always go in-depth with all aspects.

I’ve found this helpful starting out as a copywriter. Thanks for this 🙂

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