Old School House

Old-School SEO for Print Collateral (and more)

We rediscovered an interesting article recently, in which Jeffrey Cohen, Managing Editor of SocialMediaB2B.com, encouraged readers to begin integrating SEO keywords into copy intended for non-internet publication (print brochures, catalogs, customer support, human resources, and even finance). He cited two reasons for this ostensibly unorthodox use of SEO: (1) because much of the copy you write for traditional (non-web) distribution will eventually end up on the web anyway, as a scannable PDF, and (2) because using keywords in all of your communications encourages your customers to associate those words with your organization. Fair enough. And while we agree, in principle, with his recommendation, we have to wonder…

How did this keyword thing become a new idea?

Fact is successful marketers have always stuffed their copy with words and phrases that resonate with their target markets. Of course, we didn’t call it “keyword optimization” before the internet; we called it “message mapping,” but the concept was pretty much the same: Leverage research to find out what your markets value. Learn their lingo. Develop creatives that play to the audience’s needs and values in words that make them feel comfortable. Fill your communications with words and ideas your target market will identify with. Test your work to see if the messages resonate. And never stop adjusting and fine-tuning your messages as your markets evolve. Yep. Sounds pretty similar. And we didn’t even use the word “keyword.”

Maybe SEO wasn’t a new concept in the first place. Maybe SEO is just a new application of one of the oldest laws of communication: Speak in their language.

So, we’d recommend you follow Mr. Cohen’s keyword advice – if you’re not already.

And while you’re at it, here’s a really useful tool for checking which words you’re emphasizing (or which ones you’re overusing) in your copy. Visit www.wordcounter.com; plug in your brochure copy, or your ad copy, or your HR training manual, or the speech you’re writing for the upcoming shareholders’ meeting, and hit “GO.” WordCounter will instantly tally your word use and stack-rank the most common words in your copy. Now check those words against two lists: (1) the “keyword” list you developed as part of your SEO strategy, and (2) the “never-use-these-words-again” list that all good writers keep by their side – you know, the list of worn-out, meaningless, industry-specific jargon sure to turn off even the most devoted reader. Optimize your copy for list number one; minimize against list number two.

And there you have it – SEO, old school.