Will Longer Keyphrases Hinder the Effectiveness of Your Copy?

By Karon Thackston – October 16, 2006

The length of search phrases continues to grow. Back when the Internet was just an upstart, single keywords were the only thing you needed. But in recent years we’ve seen the number of words used in search phrases triple and quadruple. Rather than a single keyword, searchers who live in countries where English is the primary language are now using three- and four-word phrases as a standard, according to Web analytics company OneStat.com.

While the worldwide average is two words per search phrase, the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia all show that searchers prefer the use of three- or four-word terms. What does this mean from a copywriting standpoint? Writing with a single keyword in mind is relatively easy. Using two-word terms is a bit more of a challenge. But when you get to three- and four-word phrases, your risk of sounding stiff and awkward increases substantially.

Why Longer Phrases?

Longer search phrases are the natural progression of the Internet population boom. As more and more information is placed online, it becomes increasingly difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for. When there were only a few thousand sites, entering the word “marketing” into a search engine would bring up a handful of sites for you to choose from.

Now, however, you find hundreds of thousands of sites dealing with everything from marketing plans to marketing jobs to university curriculums for marketing degrees. The natural action for copywriters is to follow the search trend of the target audience and use the keyphrases that they use.

That leads us back to our original question. how?

Tips for Writing with Keyphrases

The biggest mistake I find search engine optimization (SEO) copywriters making is attempting to substitute a generic term for a specific keyphrase.

For example:

At our Mexico cruise vacation site we offer the best rates on Mexico cruise vacation packages to the most exciting Mexico cruise vacation destinations. Visit our Mexico cruise vacation specials page for deep discounts today!

Or

Welcome to our Chicago web design firm site. If you’re looking for innovative and creative Chicago web design firm, you’ve come to the right place. No other Chicago web design firm has the talent or technological skills to develop the type of high-end sites we do. When you’re ready for a truly professional Chicago web design firm, contact us today.

Oh please! My 10-year-old nephew could write better copy than that. When you substitute generic terms (in this case: site, packages, vacation destinations, vacation specials, etc.) with the specific search phrase, you get a bunch of repetitive, awkward babble. The longer the keyphrases are, the more clunky the copy will sound.

The best advice I can give is to break up some of the mentions of longer keyphrases. Yes, you do need to keep the words of the phrase in the same order most of the time. However, by using punctuation and other elements you can still make the phrase appear less obtrusive.

For example, let’s look at our Mexico cruise vacation site again. Rather than using that bunch of fluff written above, try this instead:

Long stretches of sunny beaches, delightful fiestas filled with lively bandsand so me of the most delicious fresh seafood you’ve ever tasted. Where can you find it? In Mexico! Cruise vacation destinations from Cancun to Cozumel offer some of the most exciting adventures and beautiful scenery found in Mexico. Cruise vacation specials make these remarkable getaways even more affordable than you might think – etc., etc.

Do you see what was done? Using punctuation, the phrase “Mexico cruise vacation” was broken up between sentences. Because the search engines all but ignore punctuation, they see the phrase as one term. However, the site visitor doesn’t. They don’t notice that the phrase is being repeated because it spans two sentences.

If the trend continues as it has in the past, search phrases will continue to get even longer in the not-so-distant future. However, when you get creative with keyphrase use in your copy, you’ll find longer search terms are not a problem to work with.

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