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June 18, 2008

Should You Change Your Copy When Rankings Fall?

I’ve been on a seesaw for the last year. I have a client who, for almost 12 months, has been asking me to rewrite their home page copy because they dropped from the top 10 to position #11 (the dreaded second page!). My question to her was always, “Is your copy still converting the way you want it to?” She answered yes every time to which I advised, “Leave the copy alone.”

“But what about my rankings?”

“Is business suffering?”

“No, we’re swamped.”

“Leave the copy alone.”

“But it’s over a year old. Don’t you think it needs to be refreshed?”

“Is your copy still converting the way you want it to?”

“Yes.”

“Leave the copy alone.”

We’d have this same discussion every 3 or 4 months. Some people just get hung up on being in the top 10 and their tunnel vision can cause them to make decisions they otherwise would not make. Others think that, because they are tired of seeing their website copy, others are too. This is usually not true.

My suggestion was to enhance her linking campaign with some quality articles through an article distribution campaign, but to leave the copy alone since it was still doing its job. Search engine positioning isn’t the whole ball of wax. Getting top 10 rankings shouldn’t be your primary goal. Attracting and keeping more business is what it’s all about. If that means using search engine optimization as one tool, so be it. But too many times, website owners bow to the SEO gods and sacrifice conversions and their best business sense all for the sake of saying they are #1. Not advisable if you ask me.

I am happy to report that, after holding at #11 for many months, this company’s site is now back in spot #5. While we can’t say with any certainty that it has driven any more business to their site than being at #11, the managers are quite pleased.

Never Change Your Copy?

Is this my advice in every case where rankings drop? No. There are instances where you do need to change your copy if your rankings decrease. Ask yourself (or your client) these questions:

1) Are conversions suffering?

If you’re experiencing a decline in conversions, by all means take a look at your copy. It might need some help. But keep in mind that decreasing conversions may also be due to a new and more complicated shopping cart, recent design changes that impaired usability for your visitors or a dozen other reasons.

2) Have products or services changed?

If you have products or services to add or remove certainly you’ll want to change your copy to reflect that.

3) Has business fallen off?

If, due to the decrease in search engine positioning, you’ve tracked a definite lag in business, then yes, you’ll want to make an effort to gain the lost rankings back. But changing the copy isn’t the only way to do this. If you answer no to the other questions, I’d leave the copy as-is and opt for an article distribution campaign first.

4) Other than hoping to appease the SEO gods, is there any other reason that the copy mandates changing?

If the answer is no, don’t change the copy.

With all of the above, if the answer to the questions is no, leave the copy alone.

There are as many reasons for your positioning to change as there are days in the month. Guessing at and trying to adjust for mysterious shifts usually does little good. Plus, while you’re chasing the golden ring, you may be losing sales.

By Karon Thackston © 2008, All Rights Reserved

Learn to write emotionally driven SEO copywriting with Karon’s Copywriting Course at http://www.copywritingcourse.com. Read Karon’s copywriting blog at http://www.marketingwords.com/blog.

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