SEO Copywriting – The Great Debate

SEO Copywriter

One of the hottest debates in the SEO copywriting world is word count.

As a freelance copywriter, I have worked on many SEO copywriting projects. Many are direct with my clients others are for SEO web designers and companies. Most clients realise that I know quite a lot about SEO copywriting and in particular how it works. I have written copy for many sites that rank on the front page of Google for their chosen keywords – not least my own website which is on the front page of Google for ‘copywriter’ (out of about 6 million results). So as SEO copywriters go, I’m pretty good – even if I do say so myself.

Of course, that’s not to say my clients’ success is totally down to my writing. Obviously it plays a big part in it, but other off page factors such as link building are also a major contributing factor.

But anyway, back to SEO copywriting.

Most of my clients leave me to it when it comes to writing copy for them. They know I’ll come up with something that will not only help them rank well, but will also convert visitors into sales.

However, many SEO companies that I work for are fixated on word count. When talking about SEO copywriting, phrases such as density and word count probably impress clients, but I have a real problem with them, especially word count. There is a saying in the copywriting world that basically goes:

Copy is as long as it needs to be

As soon as you start placing limits on its length problems start.

Word Count Won’t Affect Your Rankings

I’m about to make a bold statement – there is no evidence whatsoever to support the thinking that more words will result in greater ranking success.

Despite this, I am often asked by designers to produce a specific number of words per web page (usually in the realms of 500 to 600 words). The copy may well call for that number of words but, if it doesn’t, imposing a limit on words plays havoc with my creativity.

The truth is the copy has to be led by the product or service it is to sell. There are web pages with as few as 70 words that rank just as well as pages with 600+ words. There is no rhyme or reason to it. But what matters is that I am not forced to work within strict boundaries.

If I have to write 700 words, but the product or page subject matter only calls for 300, the remaining 400 words are just going to be padding. And that’s bad.

Every word on the web page has to be there for a reason, and that reason is to sell. As I mentioned earlier, your rankings are not going to be just down to words, there are many other factors that will determine how well your site performs (site navigation, META tags, ALT tags, link building…).

Plus you have to think about the reader. How many people are really willing to sit and read a web page that is 600+ words long? Not many. For most people, if you haven’t convinced them within 200 words you’ve lost them.

So what I’m saying is don’t commission me to write a certain number of words for you; commission me to write fantastic SEO website copy that is interesting to the reader, sells the product and converts web traffic into sales – because….

It’s the quality that counts

As with many things in life, it’s the quality that counts, not how much of it you’ve got.

It’s very rare to find a web page that contains mountains of text that is actually interesting all the way to the very end.

Time is a rare commodity these days so people don’t want to be reading the equivalent of ‘War and Peace’ just to find out whether your product/service is for them. They need to find answers quickly – something short copy is very good at.

The effectiveness of the copy must be measured by its conversion rate. A niche market will mean low levels of traffic, but if that traffic has a 100% conversion rate you’re laughing. Your web copy is there to target a specific audience. If it does it’s job, the traffic it brings will convert. After all, what’s the point of having 1000s of visitors a day to your website if your copy doesn’t convert them?

Why you need to know this

Imposing word limits is counter productive. It will either force your copywriter to pad with unnecessary words or they’ll have to ruthlessly cut their text which could seriously damage its impact. Either way it will lead to ‘unnatural’ copy that, however good your SEO copywriter is, will read strangely having a detrimental effect on your conversion rate.

A good SEO copywriter will understand:

  • Conversion
  • Keyword usage
  • The importance of tags
  • The optimum places for keywords

Trust their judgement and leave them free to produce the copy for your website. They naturally arrive at a word count that suits your product or service.

Usain Bolt’s coach wouldn’t impose a time limit the runner isn’t allowed to break, so why clip your copywriter’s wings with word count?

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#1 Joe Pelissier on 09.08.10 at 5:00 pm

Hi Sally,

I like this and agree. The trick is getting clients to trust you.

In addition to what you say, characters per line and the ability to have a quick scan to get the gist of what the copy is about will influence whether ‘long’ copy will work.

But then ‘long’ copy is only really written for those who are interested. We don’t about about the 80% who wont.


#2 Steven Evans on 11.07.11 at 5:43 pm

Great article. Many SEO Copywriters are charging by the word, whereas “traditional” Copywriters charge by the hour, which do you recommend? I find most clients expect money per word, but would rather charge an hourly rate.

#3 admin on 11.08.11 at 7:50 am

Hi Steven, I find that with SEO copy (as with every other form of copywriting) my clients are looking for fixed fees based in their project. That way, the are in control of their costs and know precisely how much it will cost them from the outset.

Best wishes.


#4 Steven Evans on 11.12.11 at 1:02 pm

Thanks Sally. Yeah that definately makes sense, it’s important for clients to reamin in control of costs especially when outsourcing to freelancers. The old price per hour model is perhaps on its way out as more and more freelancers work remotely.

#5 Steven Evans on 11.12.11 at 1:05 pm

Thanks for the response Sally. That definately makes sense as many copywriters work remotely these days, so it gives clients better control over their costs. Perhaps the “traditional” model of price per hour is on its way out.

Many thanks,


#6 admin on 11.12.11 at 1:50 pm

No problem Steve, glad to help.


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