Internet Marketing Conundrums: Sales Copywriting vs. SEO Copywriting

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One of the biggest dilemmas in internet marketing copywriting is whether copywriters should write for Search Engine Optimization purposes or purely for actionable, direct response purposes. We know that SEO sells and if you don’t, you didn’t read my post on internet marketing and how it can grow your business! History tells us that direct response copy sells too (and so does present-day).

Actionable Copywriting

In my view, copywriting is the art of using words to get someone to take action. Your internet copy needs to do one of two things. It should get someone to:

  1. Buy something, or
  2. Do something

Internet marketers want their copy (or their copywriters) to get website visitors to:

  1. Click, or
  2. Buy, or
  3. Fill out a form

BUT! As internet marketers, we want copywriting to reflect the basic and advanced tenets of SEO. To meet these, a keyword that you’ve chosen to be the focus of your writing needs to be in the title, metas, URL, headers, etc (Watch out for a future post on this in detail!). More importantly, the keyword needs to be in the body copy – not too much though or else search engines will penalize you!

The Copywriter’s Dilemma

So here is the dilemma that copywriters face. Do we write copy for the one purpose it should serve – to sell? Or do we write copy with keywords in mind and splash those keywords in our body copy as sensibly as possible?



You’d think the best way to go about this is to weigh both sides evenly. That is, we want to write to persuade the reader to take action on the webpage they are on. But you also want to make sure your keywords are in there. You want the buyer to be persuaded and you want your page to rank well too.

An Alternative Solution

A lot of search engine and internet marketers like to optimize the post after it has been written. This is completely normal and acceptable. When I say optimize, what I’m saying is that the additions of keywords and the optimization of the post for readability are done after the copy has been written. This is fine but with ONE caveat: The optimizer needs to understand what the copy is intended to do and cannot disrupt the flow of copy, from start to finish.

My Solution To The Copywriting Dilemma

What I would push for is to write your copy from direct-response perspective. This means you’re:

  • Persuading and describing with vivid imagery
  • Hitting hard on benefits. Your copy should pass what I like to call the “WIIFM” test (What’s In It For Me?) – Is this going to benefit the reader and how does it benefit the reader?
  • Making sure the Unique Selling Proposition is being harped on
  • Avoiding ineffective, weasel words like “try”, “may”, and “wish”
  • Avoiding the use of unnecessary cushion words like “certainly”, “really” and “absolutely”
  • Condensing sentences for fluidity
  • Creating a sense of urgency (depends on the situation, obviously)
  • Throwing in some repetition and rhyme for style. I’ve learned that the former is great in speech writing and debating – and you always want to be writing like how you talk (avoid formal writing).

You want your readers to fly through your copy so seamlessly that they get to your offer and are so uncomfortable that they must pick up the phone and call you. Copwriting legend John Carlton calls this “balls to the wall” copy writing.

And once you’ve written with the sole purpose of getting that reader to take action, then and only then can you go back and look at whether your copywriting has met the tenets of SEO.

Remember: Your sole purpose is to get that reader to take an action that drives sales. Your purpose with your copywriting is to sell. Yes, search engines matter and I argue that the SEO side of it comes naturally if you’re solving your reader’s problems, speaking to your reader, and persuading them to take an action.

For example, let’s say you are writing copy for a home alarm company. If you’re educating your reader on the benefits of a home alarm system, chances are your keywords are going to come naturally in your text. You’re going to be writing about safety and home security and variations of those words.

Splicing in a few more of those keywords in the body copy only if it makes sense for the reader is never a bad idea. My point is that copywriting should be directed at the buyer and only the buyer so that they are so compelled that they MUST take action. The SEO will closely follow.

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