Comma tricks by SEO copywritersGoogle can be quite finicky about punctuation. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

Periods aren’t recognized by Google. Neither are commas. The average person doesn’t know this and even some copywriters aren’t aware of it. But SEO copywriters who do know use it to their advantage.

This bit of information helps us avoid keyword overload. That’s when your copy repeats keywords so often it sounds silly. It’s also called keyword stuffing.

Good for Google. For readers? Not so much

If you’re optimizing your site to rank higher in search engines (what SEO is all about), using keywords in your copy is important. They tell Google what your site is about and avoid any confusion about your site’s theme or topic.

But you can’t just throw your keywords in there willy nilly. You’ll end up with something like this:

Are you looking for a western Caribbean cruise? Since 1990, we’ve offered the world’s lowest prices on western Caribbean cruises. Use our search tool to scan a list of western Caribbean cruises for discounts and last-minute markdowns.

I'm sure you can guess their keyword phrase.  To write copy that sounds natural (and less annoying), use punctuation and formatting with your keywords instead.

Think of the period as a ghost

Google ignores periods and commas, remember? Knowing this, we purposely use them to split the keyword phrase. Your readers won't read the words as a single phrase, but Google will. Here's an example:

Sail to Grand Cayman, Cancun and other destinations in the western Caribbean. Cruises to this region offer…

You paused at the period, right? This makes the keyword phrase less obvious to the reader, but still keeps it together for Google. Using a period and a paragraph return will also work.

Titles and subheads are your friends

Another way to write with keywords is to use them in subheads and section titles. Use them as titles for bullet lists, in subheadings or as titles for small blurbs. Readers won't read them in the same way they read copy.

The keyword-rich bullet list

Everyone uses bullet lists. They’re almost a requirement for online blogging and copywriting. You can use them for keywords too. The key here is to make every bullet point a stand-alone sentence. This will allow you to use the keyword as the subject of the sentence. Don’t do this with every sentence though, just one or two.

  • Western Caribbean cruises are family friendly with programs and excursions for kids.
  • Relatively low prices make a Western Caribbean cruise an affordable getaway.

For SEO copywriters like me, writing with keywords is like balancing a scale. Use the keyword often and it’s good for SEO, but bad for readers. If you don’t use it often enough, it’s good for readers, not so good for SEO.

Our challenge is to use keywords in a way that sounds as natural as possible. With these tricks, we get every ounce of keyword richness we can, without sacrificing readability.

Want to know what Google sees on your website? Use the SEO Browser tool to find out.

(Photo by debaird)