Good Grammar and SEO Copywriting: It’s a Matter of Trustby Michelle Lowery on 06/30/2011 • 39 Comments | SEO
Wait, let me guess. You don’t need no stinkin’ grammar, right? You’re a business owner, an SEO, an Internet marketer, or maybe even an SEO content provider. You have other things to do, and more important things to worry about than whether you’re using the objective form of a personal pronoun with a preposition. You’re already busy with the business of running a business. The last thing you need to be concerned with is using good grammar in your blog posts.
Yeah, that’s what a lot of small business owners are saying about SEO, and we all know how shortsighted that is, especially when we’re looking for a menu for that new restaurant that just opened up in town but can’t seem to find it. Without good grammar and spelling, your marketing efforts are only half as effective as they could be. It all comes down to trust.
Internet marketers have been giving conflicting advice for quite a while now. Any savvy Internet marketing professional will tell you that if you’re running a business, you need a blog. It’s an effective way to communicate with your customers and potential clients, and to build authority in your industry.
Then, as soon as you’re convinced you can’t possibly run your business without a blog, another Internet professional comes along and tells you that sure, you need a blog, but you don’t have to bother to write correctly, or worry about spelling. Nah. Blog posts are apparently informal, casual things you dash off while you’re on your lunch break, and if you worry about making them look good by using correct grammar and spelling, you’re a perfectionist and you have a problem.
But we’re not just talking about plain ol’ writing here! We’re talking about SEO copywriting. So let’s put that shoe on another foot, shall we? If you’re going to have a business site, you absolutely must be implementing SEO to be found, to rank, to build your customer base, and to grow your business. Oh, but you don’t really have to do it correctly. Just throw some keywords here and there—the more keywords, the better!—customize your title and description tags, get some backlinks from any site that will give them to you, and voilà! You are now an SEO!
How does that sound? It doesn’t sound very professional or well-optimized, does it? Now you know how an SEO content writer feels whenever someone in Internet marketing says grammar and spelling, elements essential to content creation, don’t matter. And if you preach that while also calling yourself an SEO content writer, please find yourself a new job title—preferably one I don’t have to share with you.
Now, here’s a question: If you make it obvious that you think it’s okay to do one thing half-assed, what’s to stop anyone from thinking that’s how you do everything in your business? If you can’t be bothered to pay attention to the quality of your own blog, why would a potential client assume you’ll pay attention to the quality of the work you do for them, especially if that work is providing SEO content? There is no client relationship without trust.
Good grammar and spelling are important to content overall, but there’s one aspect of SEO copywriting where good spelling is vital—anchor text. Say you land a client who sells accessories for the art of letter-writing. You’ll be doing your client a disservice if every link you build uses stationary in the anchor text, rather than stationery. Aside from the correct word having a higher search volume, your client will look pretty stupid to their customers if it appears they can’t even spell their own product correctly, and that’s not going to be good for sales.
I’m not saying your blog has to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. But there’s a difference between making mistakes and being completely indifferent to their existence. Blog posts can be well written without sounding like dissertations. Casual is not a euphemism for incorrect. There’s really no excuse for poor quality content, especially when there are easy ways to avoid it.
Here are some SEO copywriting tips to get you started:
Refresh Your Memory
It’s been quite a while since you had to diagram a sentence in school, so no one expects you to be able to recite all eight parts of speech off the top of your head. (Some sources claim nine or ten parts, but eight is traditional.) But a quick refresher of the basic grammar rules never hurts. You probably don’t have time to take an English class, although that’s not a bad idea, especially if you’re a writer. Instead, gather some good resources. Grammar Girl is one of my go-to sources when I get stuck. If books are more your style, pick up Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. Don’t be put off by the pandas on the cover—they don’t work for Google.
Hire an Editor or Proofreader
Yes, that means you will actually have to spend some money. Have you spent money on a premium blog theme? On a site designer? On conferences? On other tools necessary to do your job well and maintain a high level of quality in your work? Then don’t skimp here. If you don’t have the time or inclination to shore up your grammar and spelling skills, find someone who makes it their business to do that for you. Before you hire anyone, though, take a look at their site and their blog. If they’re a mess, you’ll have an idea of what you’ll get for your money.
Hire an SEO Content Provider
An essential part of running a successful business is deciding what to spend your time on. If you’re at a point where running your business is taking up most of your time, and you’re no longer able (or willing) to write your own content, hire someone to provide it for you, whether it’s an agency that offers content creation services, or an independent contractor. By taking content creation off your plate completely, you can focus on the things you’re really good at, and leave the writing and editing to someone who specializes in SEO content creation.
Get over the idea that being able to spell and use correct grammar are elitist or snobbish, or that having a blog rife with typos is some sort of badge of honor, like bragging about how little sleep you get. The fact is, everyone should strive to produce quality work, whether you do it on your own or with outside help.
You’ll build more trust with your audience when you’re not dumbing things down and making excuses, and when it’s obvious you care enough about them to put in the time and energy to give them quality content. Plenty of people out there appreciate good grammar and spelling. Have some respect for them, and for potential clients. You’ll be showing them that if they hire you, they can expect the same kind of hard work and attention to detail in their deliverables. Besides, anything worth doing is worth doing right. Right?
About the Author
Michelle Lowery is an ardent word nerd, but is also known to say "y'all" from time to time.