How To Write SEO-Friendly Copy That Actually Sells Things

“Our {keyword} is the best {keyword} service that any {keyword} company provides…” No optimised copy should have to sound like that.

Old-hat SEO, the kind that talks about “inserting keywords into strategic locations” might have you thinking that it’s impossible to write sales copy that is both search engine optimised and can actually sell something to a customer.

But you’d be wrong.

Whilst peppering a page with keywords just for the sake of search engines will almost certainly produce content that is so robotic it might actually discourage sales, good SEO has become about so much more than that.

Since the earlier days of obsessively focusing on keywords, Google’s algorithm has, thankfully, evolved towards a far better understanding of topics.

The result: SEO is no longer just about getting as many keywords in; it’s about conveying topic authority.

Instead of sounding like a broken record with a woefully limited vocabulary, contemporary SEO best practice now actually demands that a website participates in a comprehensive conversation around a topic.

This has brought SEO and sales closer together than ever before.

As the rift closes between sales and SEO, it’s more important than ever that SEO practitioners are expert copywriters, and that sales teams know a thing or two about SEO.

Here are a few thoughts on how to create SEO copy that can actually sell things.

More content, better

Whilst it’s less about keywords than ever before, SEO is still very much about words in general. For a page to convey its authority in search, it still needs to contain a considerable amount of content.

In search, less is still less and a page with a sentence or two may look good, but it won’t do much to persuade a search engine that it’s the best option.

Fortunately this is also a basic requirement for writing good transactional copy. A simple features list is hardly ever enough to sell a service or a product anyway.

Your visitor is looking to your company to either feel better or solve a problem. Telling them how your product or service will achieve that provides plenty of opportunity for rich, optimised copy.

A handy framework from the pre-web era

Since persuasive content writing predates the web by millennia, we don’t have to reinvent the copywriting wheel to find a meaningful framework for guiding persuasive, optimised content.

We can borrow from the wisdom of sales experts pre-www instead.

One such guru is Victor Schwab. Hailed “the greatest mail-order copywriter of all time“, Schwab knew a thing or two about retail therapy.

Recognising that people buy in response to “emotional drivers”, he compiled a list of 40 drivers which he categorised into four main groups.

In summary: We buy to either gain, save, be or do.

(All 40 are listed below for you to peruse at your leisure.)

Emotional drivers in the business world

Whilst the mail-order context that gave rise to Schwab’s drivers is inherently B2C, they translate easily to the commercial environment.

That’s why a good SEO practitioner will need to ask you questions about your service and how it feeds into your customer’s key drivers.

These might include: What will your customers gain? How will they save? What can they be with your service or product? And what will it help them achieve?

Everyone wins

Thinking about how a customer is motivated to purchase a product or service not only increases the chance of sales, it also helps search enginge marketers create content that is more likely to be visible in search.

Happily, a Google algorithm that is becoming increasingly adept at serving genuinely useful content means resources put towards creating customer-focused copy have never been better invested.

Schwab’s Drivers:

Schwab’s drivers were first published in a book titled “Mail Order Strategy” (Hoke Communications, 1956). Copies of the book are hard to come by, but several online sources list his 40 drivers, including the Copywriter Collective.

Schwab later compiled his lessons for copywriters, publishing it under the title: “How To Write A Good Advertisement“, copies of which are more readily available online.

People want to gain:

  • Health
  • Popularity
  • Praise from others
  • Pride of accomplishment
  • Self-confidence
  • Time
  • Improved appearance
  • Comfort
  • Advancement: social-business
  • Money
  • Security in old age
  • Leisure
  • Increased enjoyment
  • Personal prestige

They want to save:

  • Time
  • Discomfort
  • Risks
  • Money
  • Worry
  • Embarrassment
  • Work
  • Doubts

They want to be:

  • Good parents
  • Creative
  • Efficient
  • Recognised authorities
  • Up-to-date
  • Gregarious
  • “First” in things
  • Sociable, hospitable
  • Proud of their possessions
  • Influential over others

They want to do:

  • Express their personalities
  • Satisfy their curiosity
  • Appreciate beauty
  • Win others’ affection
  • Resist domination by others
  • Emulate the admirable
  • Acquire or collect things
  • Improve themselves generally

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