Despite the marketing background, I am part of the group called SEO copywriters. I’ve bootstrapped my way into the fundamentals of SEO copywriting because I know how important it is to a website. I’m not claiming I am a complete wizard at it. There are SEO copywriters out there that can kick my butt. But I definitely know what works and what doesn’t.
What puzzles me is that there are web developers who sell websites who haven’t done the same. You see, as much as a copywriter (creative, SEO or otherwise) needs to know the basics of SEO copywriting, we need to work with developers who know SEO too.
In fact, the technical level of SEO is far more important now because Google is happier with conversational language. As it switches to a focus on allowing for mobile and voice search, things are becoming simpler for us word nerds.
But the people who still need to put in the hard yards are the developers. I’m sick and tired of seeing people sell websites that suck. So I’m telling you oh potential customer how to catch them out.
Here’s how your developer could be screwing your SEO copywriting endeavours and giving the SEO copywriters you work with grey hairs. And how to spot it so you can ask the web developer to fix it.
No robot.txt and/or XML sitemap
This is basic web development stuff. Yet you’d be surprised at the amount of web developers forget to add your robot.txt and XML sitemap.
Without going into gory detail, these elements are essential your SEO. It helps guide the Google Bots along your website and work out what your pages are for.
If they’re missing, it makes the poor old Google bot’s life pretty damn difficult.
There are a variety of different free tools you can use to check to see if your robot.txt and XML sitemap are present on your website. I use SEOPTIMER as it’s free and gives the results in plain English.
The site speed is awful
SEO copywriters cannot add anything special to your website when they’re dealing with a website that no one, not even Google, is patient enough to read.
The average website has 7 seconds to make an impression. So if you use too much of that waiting for it to load, you can forget winning over your customers. Not only that but Google wants to get in there quickly, too. So if you’re lagging in the loading stakes, don’t expect much love from Google either.
The most common contributors to site speed issues are:
· Photos and banners that oversized and heavy
· Lots of plug-ins – especially inactive ones
· Sliders and excessive use of above the fold content
· Poorly designed templates
Your customer won’t wait around with a slow website. Or they’ll dread coming back. Really slow sites can also timeout payment gateways making it near impossible to sell your products.
If you find that you do have site speed issues, your web developer (if they know what they are on about) will be able to improve it.
If they can’t, fire them.
I know that sounds harsh. But a website that loads slowly is about as useful as a paper bikini at a modesty conference. The minute you dive in, everything turns to hell.
Google cares so much about site speed it’s built a tool to measure it. Make sure you use it.
The website pages aren’t setup properly
To Google, whether you use a WWW and a non-WWW URL doesn’t matter. You can have one or the other or both.
If you have both, make sure you have a 301 redirect in place so that your Google traffic stats are recorded correctly.
The major problems begin when the same site features some pages configured for WWW and some without. As Google treats the URL provided as a different site. So an inconsistency means Google won’t index your website properly.
You may think some pages are not working because they don’t show up. In fact, it’s usually a sign the developer has screwed up.
Accurate Google Analytics help you see what works and what doesn’t . Don’t open the margin for error by allowing your website to have invisible pages through poor setups.
Siteliner is a great little tool for making sure you’ve got your links setup correctly.
Thinking page titles and meta descriptions don’t matter
Your web developer should have Yoast or All in One SEO or similar SEO plugin in mind when developing your website. Your web developer doesn’t need to fill this bad boy up for you- that should be your creative copywriter. But the web developer should install it.
When Google declared meta descriptions weren’t a ranking factor (I think it was 2009 or 2010), they did so to stop keyword stuffing. They wanted to stop idiots typing the same phrases in the meta in an attempt to game the system.
That doesn’t mean meta descriptions are no longer important.
Page titles still matter and still need keywords and proper descriptions. They sit like a spine does on a file, they let Google know what the page contains.
Meta descriptions feature as the rich snippets people see when they are searching on Google. You know the descriptions that site underneath the suggested search? You need to write that to entice someone to click through to the page for information they need. If you don’t include that info (or just write “big cats” or something equally as stupid), you lose click throughs. Or you risk high abandon rates from potential readers feeling mislead by the description of your content. Click throughs and abandon rates count towards your Google rankings. They show what is and isn’t popular in a human’s eyes.
So your web developer needs to supply a plug in. SEO copywriters need to write something appropriate to help describe each page.
Ignoring basic opportunities to rank
There are a couple of overlooked ways that you can improve your SEO that a lot of web developers overlook.
Having a blog can definitely help you make an SEO splash. A blog gives you the opportunity to demonstrate how you look after your customers. It also gives you a legit way to feed Google some tasty fresh content. Just choose to plan out your blog topics so you can make the most of it. SEO copywriters may seem biased by pushing the blog agenda, but believe me, it is important!
Naming your website media with keywords in mind is a great way to improve your rankings. Not only does it help with Google image and video searches, it helps with Google search overall. Your web developer should have the brains to work out that logo.jpeg or bannerhome.png is poor form anyway. Explaining they’re better off using it to power your SEO copywriting endeavours shouldn’t be up to you, but unfortunately a lot of the time, it will be. For the best result, optimise page images in line with the featured keywords of that particular page or post. And name banners and logos with your company name. You can check (and change) the details for your images via the Media section of your website.
Social media usage helps people discover your business. It also sends a nice little social tick of approval back to Google. Google wants to extract the searches that humans deem the most worthy. It uses the amount of times a page is accessed and loved up on social media as part of that determination. So having popular posts on your website and/or an active social media following helps. Social media happiness is only a plug-in away.
Page errors shouldn’t happen in a newly built website. But they can and do happen. Especially if the web developer you’ve chosen has decided to charge you top dollar and then off-shored the work to make a tidy profit. Or you’ve chosen price over professional. You can check the error messages and what they mean on this W3 article.
Make sure the links aren’t broken. Or pointing to the staging site. This is a common error even the best developer can make when they’ve built a new website. Broken links and ones directed to staging sites confuse (and piss off) your audience. They don’t do much for Google either. Broken Link Check is a nifty tool that can help minimise that problem.
Choose a web developer who knows SEO copywriting or who will listen to SEO copywriters
When I work with clients, I like working with Ryan from Brightspark Creative and Cathy from Two Ten Solutions. They understand that copy is just as important as development and design when it comes to SEO.
When I am working with other developers, I check for these common errors as well. I’m not afraid to stop a web developer and ask about these vital elements if they seem absent from the plan. And I spend a lot of energy and effort in the early stages of a copywriting job explaining why these elements are important to the client. After all, knowledge is power.
If you are going to get a new website:
- Spend some time putting the web developers own website and their projects through the free tools supplied within this blog
- Look for signs the chosen SEO copywriters on your short list understand SEO by looking at their blog
- Make sure you take the time to test your website before you pay the final invoice
In short, don’t release the web developer from their obligations to ensure they have done the job properly.