SEO Copywriting For ‘Newbies’ – Day 15: Tough Work? “Not So Much…”

By On 22, Apr, 2008 |  In: Search Engine Optimization |  | 0

The maxim (mantra?) for an SEO copywriter is, as I was told on Day 1, “Content is King.” The key, as in any type of writing, is finding subject matter and writing content that is (a) relevant, (b) topical and (c) interesting to the audience. A broad survey of the search engine optimization (SEO) terrain shows that some companies will put up ‘content at any price’, and at the lowest price possible, or so it seems – ignoring these ABC’s of good composition.

To that end, there is a tendency to outsource copywriting to offshore markets where labour, even creative labour, is relatively inexpensive. Following trends in other industries, copywriting is being outsourced to emerging economies, like India, where a significant portion of the population is schooled in English. There are even accounts in some industries, like customer service and support, where jobs are geing re-outsourced from India to other nations such as Egypt with a small but significant number of workers are versed, if not necessarily well-versed in English.

The trouble with this particular strategy in SEO is that you run the risk of paying for content that is duplicate to or derivative of material that is already in your sector of the online domain, if not purchasing outright ‘cut-and-paste’ plagiarism. Stories abound of content that is just reproduced under another writer’s byline, or of foreign language articles that are machine-translated and posted as original English language content. You don’t have to go venture far in the blogosphere before encountering content that is recognizably English, but the jist of which is barely recognizable to the end-user – the reader you are aiming at. The question then becomes how relevant or interesting is it to the audience you are aiming at?
As an inveterate newspaper and internet reader before entering the SEO field, I assumed that it need not be too difficult to find relevant, topical subject matter that is interesting to the audience. Enough time spent reading the daily newspapers, trade journals, and the articles and blogs that pertain to one’s industry and interesting patterns and peculiarities would seem to emerge of themselves. That was my thinking.

Some days that proves true, yet on other days it doesn’t. It is interesting the variety of information that is available to strike one’s creative fancy as a copywriter. Again this morning, I was struck by the catchiness of a stylistic phrase which seems to be on everyone’s lips and is now leaping from lip to print. That is, the “damn with faint praise” literary device of asking a question with a clearly negative answer and then answering with the phrase’ “Not so much” as a dramatic yet effective understatement. (The emphasis seems to be on the pause between the long, drawn out “not” and the two-word or one-word follower, “somuch“.)

Examples of the use of this “damn-by-faint-praise” technique can be found in today’s copy of the National Post, where the results of the latest Ipsos Reid poll on Canadian and American political attitudes were reported. Turns out, that a slim majority of Americans feel that the world would be safer under a John McCain presidency than one of his Democratic contenders. “Canadians?”, asks National Post reporter, Sheldon Alberts. “Not so much.”

The variants of this emerging, but not-yet-trite phraseology first caught my eye in print this morning in an entertaining and informative posting on social marketing by Social Media Group‘s blogster, Rob Clark (see “Lies, Damn Lies and a Large Double Double”. If you don’t know what a “double-double” is, you are probably American, European or live on Queen St. W. in Toronto. Don’t worry. All you need to know is that a “double-double” is the traditional way in which Canadians order coffee at Tim Horton’s, their local, Canadian version of Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.) I’ve looked back and have noticed that this cute and catchy faux questioning has gradually crept into the speech of my friends, and more particularly my two teenaged daughters. It would be most interesting to find out its origin.

If you have read this far, you will no doubt have realized the point of my argument. It does not take much time to find content and material that is at least interesting to the reader. (I will leave it to the reader to decide whether the above is relevant or topical.) But in turning to content that is mass-produced, so to speak, off-shore, webmasters and SEO companies risk posting material that meet none of the ABC’s of good copywriting. If content is neither relevant, topical nor particularly interesting, this only makes one’s efforts to funnel viewers to a website with the content they are searching for all that more difficult. One may build the all important ‘links’ that are necessary to bring a site to the attention of the search engines, but how does this convert into potential customers for your client’s products or services?

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