It’s often the case that what works for PPC works for SEO, and vice versa – at least to a degree. You’ll certainly have to tweak your techniques when moving between organic and paid search efforts, but there’s no reason that gains and losses in one area can’t inform your decisions in the other – this goes for keyword research, landing page optimization, and, I’d argue, copywriting.
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PPC ad writers know that tiny tweaks can make a huge difference in your click-through rate (CTR). Why not apply some of the tried and true rules of PPC copywriting to your SEO copy? Anything that boosts CTR in a paid search ad could do the same when applied to the title and first few sentences of your article. PPC copy techniques can also improve your meta descriptions, increasing click-through from the organic search results.
Here are five tips borrowed from the world of PPC that can improve your SEO copywriting.
1. Experiment with Exclamation Points
It’s well-known among PPC copywriters that adding an exclamation point to your ad can increase CTR.
Why? Probably because it’s the textual equivalent of raising your voice, so you’re just more likely to snag someone’s attention. Try this out in your SEO titles. While an exclamation point is unlikely to improve your rankings, you might find that titling an article about terrible customer service “Comcast, What Is Your Problem?!” instead of the calmer “Comcast, You’re Starting to Annoy Me” gets more clicks from the SERP and social media citations like Twitter and Facebook.
2. Use Data and Evidence
Symbols and proof are also known to improve CTR in PPC. How can you use these in your SEO copy? Instead of making vague claims like “Negative keywords reduce your AdWords costs,” cite a statistic – for example, “Negative keywords can reduce wasteful AdWords spending by up to 30%.” Naturally, you want to use real data here, not just make up a number (like I just did). Unlike a PPC ad, an article written for SEO gives you room to cite or link to your source.
3. Try Virtual Dynamic Keyword Insertion
In PPC, you can use dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) to incorporate exact wording from the search query in your ad on a – you guessed it – dynamic basis. For example, Amazon might send searchers to a category page for shoes, with an ad whose title mirrors whatever type of shoes they are searching for. If the person types “open-toed shoes” into Google, the title of the ad will appear as “Open-Toed Shoes,” probably with some generic-ish copy like “Search a huge shoe selection. Flat rate shipping.” Since people tend to click on ads that seem to deliver exactly what they are looking for, DKI can improve CTR for more general ads.
You can’t do the same thing with the title of an SEO article, but you can emulate the technique by anticipating different variations on a search query that might lead someone to your article. Obviously, you should back this up with keyword research. If you know there’s search volume for a set of similar search queries (say, “emergency plumber,” “short-notice plumber,” and “same day plumber”), you can build three different pages with similar content, but each optimized for a different keyword. That way, you stand to rank for all the variations.
4. Test Like a PPC-er
PPC copywriters are testing maniacs. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to A/B test full pages as it is to test PPC ads, but it’s not all that difficult and the results can pay off. You can use Google Website Optimizer to test two different versions of an article written for SEO. Think of the page as a landing page, even if it has nothing to do with PPC – you still want to engage your readers and lead them to a desired action. Elements to test might include title, length (word count), images (number of images, layout, and the actual content of the images), offer (including wording and type of offer), sidebar links, etc. In some cases you can extrapolate from the results to improve other SEO pages, without having to run individual tests.
5. Don’t Waste Space
In PPC, you really have to distill your message and avoid any redundancy. If you’ve never tried to write an AdWords ad, trust me, it’s hard to say what you want to say – and be clever and interesting to boot – within that tiny space. Luckily you don’t have to be that concise when it comes to SEO copywriting, but the lesson is still valuable. When writing for the web, you never want to beat around the bush, bury the lead, or say in ten words what you could say in five. Earlier today, I wrote something like “When it comes to PPC, what you get out of it depends on what you put in.” Then I realized I could say the same thing in a lot fewer words: “In PPC, you get out what you put in.” More words don’t make you sound smarter; they make you waste people’s time.
If you can think of other ways that PPC copywriting best practices can inform your SEO copywriting, let me know in the comments!