You can frame it any way you like but copywriting of the SEO (search engine optimization) variety just doesn’t have the pizzazz and allure of the garret bound, hand-to-mouth writing of the popular imagination. On the other hand, it may help put food in your mouth.
The reality of any kind of writing that actually pays bills is that they rarely have the romance many people picture when they decide they “want to be a writer.” So one of the first things you need to do if you’re determined to make money at writing is lose the picture and come up with a new one, one that’s a little more practical.
There are two things wrong with the romantic notion. The first is that it doesn’t match reality. Even those people who do manage to make a living writing novels, screenplays and so on, live a far more ordinary life than we’d like to picture.
The second thing wrong with the romantic image is that it leads a person to believe that one kind of writing is good and exciting (novels etc.) and the other is not (like SEO copywriting). The truth is, if you really do love writing, you can get jazzed about almost any kind because each one has its challenges to overcome, and that is where the fun is. Really!
When I first started hearing about SEO writing a few years ago it seemed daunting. For one thing, I had yet another acronym to tackle, never a good sign. After deciphering the acronym and realizing it meant search engine optimization and Google and keywords and meta tags – Godfrey Daniel! It seemed I’d have to go back to school, get a masters degree and then take a few more head throbbing courses before I could even begin to figure it all out.
It was not so.
It turns out, I’d been doing SEO writing all along, I just hadn’t known it had a name. (Actually, it hadn’t. So someone dreamed one up. Unfortunately, the term they came up with was as compelling as old socks soaked in swamp water.)
I had been doing meta tags for a few years in one job. I had also been focused on headlines (even took a course on “better headlines”). I may not have been thinking in terms of keywords in the text or backlinks and so on, but that came naturally because I’ve blogged for years. For example, in this posting the acronym SEO and the keyword (or phrase) search engine optimization keep showing up. That isn’t because I’m trying to pepper the post with keywords. It’s because that is the focus of the post and I don’t know how you can write about something and not mention it.
My point is this: Many of the ideas contained in the practice of SEO writing aren’t that difficult to wrap your head around. You probably do many of them already. You just haven’t thought of it that way. Once you do think that way, I don’t believe your writing will alter to any great degree. What may alter is the way you edit what you’ve written because now you will be thinking in terms of search engines and rankings. For example, a flowery, clever headline may have to be tossed aside in favour of one that is effective. As people scan, they won’t give the headline the attention required to figure out the cleverness or even meaning of your headline, not to mention the headline lacking any keyword people might enter into a search engine. (Keywords aside, clever headlines are usually more to please the writer than to help the reader.)
There’s more to SEO than this, of course. You can find a pretty good overview over at New Media Words with their Proven SEO Tactics, eight tips to help drive traffic.
As for romance, may I suggest Casablanca?