Here’s a truth: You want people to read appealing content on your website. Though beautiful and relevant visuals are certainly eye-catching elements that attract visitors to your site, they must sit on a solid foundation of written content that answers users’ questions and encourages them to move forward.
Here’s another truth: To get people to your website, you need to make the copy appealing to search engines.
And here’s the challenge: People and search engines are very different.
While a potential patient is looking for clear, easy-to-understand, informative, and maybe even entertaining content, a search engine is looking for keywords that prove a page is authoritative—in essence, “worthy” of being displayed at or near the top of a list of results for a given search term.
At first glance, the two audiences may seem impossible to satisfy simultaneously. You can either write naturally for a human audience or calculatingly for an artificial intelligence.
Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll see that the two share one very important quality: They recognize forced writing. Nobody wants to read copy like this: “As a Los Angeles doctor, he performs LA face lifts for men and women who want a facelift in L.A.” It’s stilted, awkward, and obviously a clumsy bid to shoehorn in as many important and search-appealing terms as possible.
Search engines will penalize overstuffed writing like this by keeping it low in their rankings; actual humans will penalize writing like this by simply not reading it.
The key, then, is to balance the two audiences. The most effective web copy is created by writers equipped with the knowledge of the most-searched-for terms in a specific geographic area, and who can artfully seed these terms throughout a webpage so that the copy both sounds natural and registers as authoritative.
To that end, every word counts. In fact, every word counts double: Each term, call to action, procedural explanation, and revelation must quickly capture the attention of a critical reader with limited time and present an aura of authority to programs with algorithms designed to sniff out ham-fisted tactics found in sloppy writing created solely to artificially boost a page in the rankings.
Obviously, writing solid copy can be difficult. Excessive medical jargon that may sound natural to a surgeon’s ears can be a turn-off to lay people. Pages with too little text may not scan as weighty enough to be considered authoritative. Too many uses of one particular word or another could come across as trying too hard.
There are seemingly countless ways a website may fail to appeal to its audience, whether living or virtual. The key to success is in keeping that delicate balance in mind and ensuring whoever writes for the site knows the true power of every word.
Ryan has been copy manager for MetaMed Marketing since 2014, and wrote for the company’s various clients for a few years prior to that.