Anne Holland

SherpaBlog: Before You Write Copy or Blog, Make a Keyword List

September 15th, 2008

What information do you give your copywriter, creative team or company bloggers to act on now?

You’re probably giving them lists of product and service features, promotional campaign info and, perhaps, a branding memo outlining rules regarding slogans, trademarks, tone and such. But you’re most likely not giving them keywords.

Keywords are the highly specific words that your target audience would use to describe anything that has to do with your offerings, as well as the personal reasons why they’d buy. Initially, keywords mattered because they were the words that people typed into search engines when looking for something on the Internet or on your site.

But, as a copywriter myself, I’ve come to realize that keywords are much, much more powerful for reasons other than just SEO. Because all advertising boils down to “What’s in it for me?”, your job is to convince prospects that their needs will be met. And, nothing is more compelling than speaking in a prospect’s language – describing their own desire or pain to them in exactly the words they would use.

Do they say “bicycle” or “bike”? Do they say “cheapest” or “least expensive”? Do they want a supplier in the “Kansas area” or the “Midwest”? Do they yearn for the excitement of “new” or the safety of “guaranteed”?

You’ll discover these words everywhere the customer is on your own site’s search engine, focus groups, customer hotlines, online customer-written reviews, etc. You *won’t* find them in your competitor’s copy, and don’t bother looking in the media or in analyst reports. Those aren’t typical customers, so they use different words.

Your final goal is to attach a set of keywords, including phrases, to everything your copywriters and internal bloggers may write about – ranging from your product benefits, promotions, customer pain points, features, offers, user conferences, etc.

The most important places to get keywords inserted are:
o Headlines
o Subheads
o First paragraph of body copy
o First bullet point on a list
o Copy immediately next to or included on an action item (click link, button, toll-free number, reply card, etc.)
o Blog categories, topics and tags

If you are the copywriter, my advice is to take a two-fold approach. First, review the keywords list, then write your copy – but don’t let the keywords restrict you too much. Often, the big battle is just getting words onto paper.

Then, when you go back to review copy, look for places where you can plant words from the list. Sometimes, it’s a quick replacement of one term for another; other times, the process involves inserting an extra word or two.

Some copywriters feel they are not being creative if they use the same exact words or phrases multiple times through their copy. They want to switch up the terminology, make a change for change’s sake. Generally, nothing could be more wrong. Rinse, lather, repeat, repeat, repeat. Consumers are not reading every word of your copy! They are glancing and spotting a few words. If you want to be sure your keywords have been seen and have an impact, put them everywhere.

Great copy is less about creative or clever phrasing and more about clarity of message for the skimming eye. So, the next time a marketer hands you a writing assignment, say: “Thanks. Where’s the list of keywords for this?”

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