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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Bad Search Terms Can Booby Trap Your Content

How Bad Search Terms Can Booby Trap Your Content
by Heather Reimer, © 2004,

Web users type in some pretty far-out search terms when looking
for information online. People are in a hurry and often don't
bother with spelling, correct syntax, or logical phrasing. So
they enter terms like:

"girl sport shorts"
"car used for sale"
"copywriting engine optimization search services"

Those terms end up in lists of keyword phrases churned out by
keyword suggestion tools such as Overture's. Hard to believe but
Overture claims that last term is queried over 5 times a day...
respectable numbers but how on earth do you write a term like
that into copy that flows and makes sense?

Those of us who write search engine optimized copy have to face
this dilemma regularly:

Do we use a slightly bent phrase that is frequently searched on?
Or do we opt for a safer, more correct term? The answer can be
found simply by looking at the mangled copy that results from
using offbeat or grammatically garbled search terms.

For example, look at what happens when I substitute the third
phrase above, "copywriting engine optimization search services",
for the more understandable term "search engine copywriting" in
this passage from my site:

"Professional copywriting engine optimization search services
from incorporate your top keyword phrases
smoothly and seamlessly into website copy that's interesting,
persuasive, and grabby -- in other words, copywriting engine
optimization search services that search engine spiders and
humans will find equally enticing."

See what I mean?

The Optimizers Vs. The Search Engine Copywriters

Some search engine optimizers look only at the numbers when
selecting keyword terms. Their primary goal is to increase their
clients' rankings and traffic. And that's fine, except it
overlooks the fact that all the traffic in the world isn't worth
a hill of beans if the copy isn't capable of converting it into

Forcing awkward terms into our web content can seriously handicap
its ability to communicate clearly and persuasively because it:

- Makes our copy hard to read.
- Causes our readers to stumble and do mental double takes.
- Slows or derails their progress towards the action/order pages.
- Annoys them to the point of abandoning our site.
- Diminishes respect for our business because we apparently can't
write in coherent English.

Worst of all, the repetition of badly-chosen search terms can make
our copy confusing and mind-numbingly boring. And the need to
repeat these phrases frequently on the page for optimal saturation
means the copywriter no longer has as much freedom to use better,
more appropriate words to create emotions and desires. He/she is
too busy trying to shoehorn awkward search terms into stilted
copy that will never have the pizzazz to persuade.

Keywords of Concrete

Appealing to the emotions is a very important part of successful
copywriting. Keywords that have gone bad are like concrete shoes,
weighing down your text, making it clumsy, unappealing, and
unable to "dance".

So next time you have to select keyword phrases, try to balance
their search popularity with their writability into coherent
sales copy. Your site visitors will give you their gratitude and
respect. And maybe even their business.

Heather Reimer is an experienced web site copywriter / search
engine copywriter. Ask her for a FREE content analysis on your
site, full of tips to make your copy more compelling and search
engine friendly. E-mail to
or visit


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