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At this time of year, it's hard to resist making predictions about what the coming days hold. Financial analysts, doctors, politicians and experts from virtually every industry in the world give insights into what they think may happen during the course of the next 12 months. Although my mother always warned me about following the crowd, I'll chip my two cents into the pot anyway and give you a couple of predictions about the future of SEO copywriting.
Looking Back Before Gazing Forward
In the beginning was the word. The keyword, that is. And when it was placed into the keyword META tag of any web page, that page received high rankings. Then the Internet boom raged throughout Cybertown. It soon became a greater challenge to rank in the coveted top 10. Enter search engine copywriting.
As algorithms changed, a need arose to use keywords (and soon, keyphrases) throughout a page's copy in addition to its tag set. Here's where typical Internet behavior set in. The online marketing mindset that is so common took hold: If one is good - 1,000 is better. Well-meaning copywriters began to shove keyphrases into existing text willy-nilly. It didn't take long before site owners and their customers began to baulk at the way SEO copywriting sounded.
But, with theories about keyword density and fears of keyword stuffing floating through Cyberspace, copywriters did their best to find balance.
Coming Full Circle
Due to unceasing demand by site owners for copy that sounded natural while still being optimized, SEO copywriters began to flush out ways to write content that didn't sound "like that." And so, we came full circle - from virgin copy that was written exclusively for the site visitor to copy that was butchered horribly in the name of higher rankings to natural-sounding SEO copy that pleased everyone.
Seems as though all is well and SEO copywriting has settled into an acceptable balance, right? Yes. But other changes were taking place behind the scenes that should influence the future of SEO copy.
Search Engines Get New Skills
Along the way, Google and other engines have been picking up new skills for indexing and evaluating copy. Many years ago, Yahoo! and other engines gained the ability to read PDF files. As time went on, SEO taboos - including frames and the dreaded Flash - became less fearsome as engines adapted, acquiring the technology to read these formats as well.
Prediction #1 about SEO copywriting is this: Search engines will begin to index the copy that is superimposed on the screen of videos, in video voiceovers and in audio clips. The technology actually already exists for the most part. Closed captioning for the hearing impaired could easily be adapted for this purpose. Search engine copywriters take note: You'll soon be asked to write optimized voiceover and audio scripts.
Rather than simply optimizing the web page that hosts these files, the scripts themselves will require a search engine touch. This will make it all the more imperative that copy be written naturally. It is annoying enough to read something like this:
Texas Web Design Firm in Dallas, Texas
Welcome to our Texas web design site. Our Texas web design staff is highly skilled in creating beautiful and functional sites. When you need a Texas web design firm to help build your Internet presence, one of our Texas web design specialists will be glad to speak with you.
Ugh! Can you just imagine having those words spoken as part of a voiceover? The old tip of reading your copy out loud to see how natural it sounds will absolutely become standard practice once scripts are indexed.
Prediction #2: Latent semantic indexing will continue to evolve, making the use of synonyms in SEO copy vital. Early in 2008, Google announced it was indexing synonyms (although not heavily from what I've seen). I think this practice will be put into full force in the next year or two. For example, we’ll begin to see results from a search for "handbags" that contain that term as well as "purse," "pocketbook" and "bag."
I also believe that Google and other search engines will consider the overall context of a page more, in addition to the keywords and phrases that are used. Hopefully this will alleviate much of the elementary SEO copywriting that goes on now. (See Texas example above.)
As with everything online, change is inevitable. While certain core practices and techniques will remain foundational to SEO copywriting, advancements in search technology and site visitor preferences will continue to alter the face of this copywriting niche. Adjust, adapt, advance!
See Karon Thackston live in Boston April 2-3, 2009. Get info at http://www.highrankings.com/seo-workshops Or buy Karon's SEO copywriting course and learn at your own pace. http://www.copywritingcourse.com
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