Ask a web copywriter about keywords, and there’s a chance you’ll be met with rolling eyes. As common as keyword strategies have become, there are still a lot of writers out there who are put off by the idea of an SEO specialist micro-managing their word choices. Admittedly, I used to be one of them. It’s not that I’ve ever doubted the potential of an effective keyword strategy, and I’ve never minded the extra work. It’s that I sometimes get stuck with keywords that are less than flattering to the tone of my copy.

Some keywords are dry. Robotic. Downright boring. And when a client depends on a writer to create messaging that’s colorful, engaging, and compelling, bland keywords can be a challenge. But it’s a challenge any web writer worth his or her salt should be ready and willing to accept.

Because what good is great copy if no one is reading it?

It’s why I’ve come to respect keywords as more of a blessing than a burden. Keywords help search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and Google find our work. Keyword research gives writers real-time insight into how their readers think and act on the Web. And when it comes to creating compelling copy, that’s a huge advantage.

I used to think that implementing a keyword strategy into my copy meant writing for two different audiences: people and search engines. Dumb. It’s a silly distinction that only makes a writer’s job harder. The fact is keywords are the terms people—my readers—are searching for. On his site, Copyblogger, respected web writer Brian Clark writes:

“Hang around web writing circles for any length of time, and the inevitable ‘write for search engines or write for people’ debate comes up. Last time I checked, it’s people who use search engines, not some other life form. So you’re always writing for people.”

Well Done’s very own Scott Woolgar notes, “It’s really fuss about the language people actually use to search for information, and that’s part of good copywriting. The copy itself should solve two concerns: understandability and findability.”

Following Scott and Brian’s logic, my personal opinions about the “ugly” keywords I’m stuck with are irrelevant. If I’m to consider myself a good artisan of my craft—and I do consider copywriting a craft—I should be welcoming new challenges with open arms. After all, isn’t making something beautiful out of something ugly a true testament to one’s craftsmanship?

Here are five things to keep in mind when writing with keywords:

  1. Don’t overdo it. Obnoxiously repeating keywords in your copy can get you into trouble with Google and other search engines. So what’s obnoxious? Just be sure you’re using keywords naturally. If it looks “spammy,” Google may treat it that way.
  2. Don’t obsess over keywords. Always do your best to include recommended keywords, but don’t completely compromise your message, the user experience, and your sanity to make one word or phrase work.
  3. Keep your keywords current. Your audience’s search habits may change over time. Doing a fresh keyword analysis and updating your content from time to time will help you stay current.
  4. Help your client understand. Clients may be thrown off by some of the keywords you’ve selected. Be sure they understand that these are the terms their audience is searching for.
  5. Be patient. The fruits of your keyword analysis efforts won’t be instantaneous. Give Google (and the other guys) time to crawl your website.
Of course, that’s just a start. Keywords are part of the deal when it comes to writing web copy, and as a team we’re researching and testing and learning more all the time.