SEO Copywriting Is Really Music to the Reader's Ears

by Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) July 13th, 2009 

Ever wondered what the difference is between a well-written piece of copywriting and one that just seems…clunky? Or why one piece becomes far more successful than another, even if you spent hours working on the one that sucked? Well, I did too, but interestingly enough, my musical background held the answers I needed (glad all that training was good for something!).

Now, I agree that these concepts aren't particularly noticeable to the untrained…ear? But, each one will ultimately determine the quality of the written work. In fact, I believe that SEOers, webmasters, copywriters, and anyone else who writes content are really just a different strain of singers, dancers, and musicians. (Did you just get a mental picture of SEOs singing a rousing rendition of "It's Only Money', while wearing sequined tuxedos and top hats? Never mind…moving on…).

Are You Balanced?

SEO copywriting requires good symmetry and form in order for you to feel the quality of the piece, and music is the same. Here's what I mean: You can choose any song or written work, from any genre, and you'll find that each one has an intro, a climax, and a conclusion as well as an overall balance. Without it, the work will feel unfinished or just plain awkward, like you're waiting for the main point or melody to show up.

When you're writing something, does your work have a form? Does it appear balanced? Does it feel finished, or does it just leave you hanging?

Does Your SEO Copywriting Have Dominance?

In music, the dominant note (or fifth note of the scale) plays a prominent role in many pieces for a good reason: our ears and brains feel unsatisfied until they get it. Don't believe me? Try a little experiment: sing a well known melody and stop just before the last note. You'll find that those who heard you sing will either sing the last note or at least finish off the song in their heads. It's almost impossible not to…'Three blind mice, three blind ___' (Guess which word is the dominant one ;) )

Music is also based on patterns. For example, the I IV V I chord progression (the first, fourth, fifth, and first chords in a scale) is found in everything from 'Lay Down Sally' to many classical, big band, and jazz pieces (you'll see and hear it easily in the little instructional video).

We don't have scales and chords in writing, but we still have to follow a pattern when writing in order to make an article or web copy make sense. Sentences are just one example; they all have to have a subject and a verb.

When you write, your dominant note is the main concept of the piece and the rest of the notes in the chords are the supporting points. However, instead of repeating the exact same chords like you would in a piece of music, repeat the main concept and use the rest of the points to fill in around them (In this post, I keep comparing music and writing). This improves the reader's ability to understand what you're saying and makes it easier for them to remember the main idea.

Do You Build Up the Tension Before Releasing It?

In music, notes and melodies are expressed in a phrase to give the piece emotion. Basically, this means we take a deep breath, start playing, and don't stop until we've reached the end of the 'thought'; breathing acts as the capitals and periods in a sentence. Also, musicians tend to start quietly and increase the volume until they reach the center of the phrase. Then, they end it at the same dynamic they started in (generally, of course). The piece as a whole also has a similar dynamic pattern.

If you want to get conversions of any kind with your writing, you need to follow a similar idea in order to pull at the reader's emotions and capture their attention. Start off gently and increase the intensity as you go. Make the climax of the piece by revealing you 'ah ha' moment, and release the tension by providing the solution. Good copywriters will also identify with the reader, make them want to read further, and show them that you can be trusted to provide a satisfying solution. In short, AIDA.

Do You Follow the 'Three' Rule?

Human beings like to hear things in groups of three. To be perfectly honest, I don't know why that is. I'm thinking it might have to do with the fact that our brains work similar to a computer. In music, we often have three movements or themes and we'll fit three notes into one beat (called a triplet or tri-ple-it). Trios are popular and chords often contain three notes.

In writing, the Rule of Three keeps sentences at a comfortable length, makes the lists easier to remember, and it'll just sound right. (See?) Trilogies are popular, stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the list goes on. Therefore, try to stick to this 'rule' to help your readers get the most out of your writing. If you need to make a longer list, use bullet points to keep everything clean and easy to read.

Have You Got Rhythm?

Copywriting and music both have to have a good rhythm in order to have the desired effect. This makes a particular piece easy to digest and interesting to read (or listen to). Now, in music, rhythms consist of notes and rests at varying lengths. Rhythm in written works, on the other hand, are composed of letters, words, and sentences.

Sentence length and syllables are good examples. Some of the most effective sentences consist of a short sentence followed by three long ones and another short one. If you're going for a high energy piece, you'll find that a series of short sentences followed by a long one is more effective. Some combinations work better than others, but it will ultimately depend on your audience and what they're used to hearing.

Perfecting this isn't exactly easy. So far as I know, the only way to develop your writing rhythm is to practice, test, and develop a natural feel for it. After you've gotten used to sensing it, you'll notice that professional writers tend to beat to his or her own drummer, but it will still feel right to your inner ear. This means it will also be comfortable to the reader and you'll get a much higher readership because of it.

Do You Know About the Exceptions to the 'Rules'?

As with anything, there's always an exception to the rule. While the Rule of Three generally works, the rhythm of the piece can sometimes make 'three' feel uncomfortable. In this instance, you might need to use a group of four or break it into groups of two.

Privacy statements and formal type writing has very little of these rules because it doesn't require a particular emotion or feel in order to be effective (we know they mean something and have repercussions if we don't follow them). In other instances, being quirky and going against the norm is exactly what makes the piece effective. However, I'm a firm believer that your should really know the rules before you can break them and get a positive response.

I know that these are areas involved in writing that are rarely talked about, but they make a huge difference in how your writing is perceived by others. I mean, if they don't like it, they aren't going to read the whole thing and won't be recommending you to their friends right? Well, if you haven't already done so, add these traits to your SEO copywriting and let me know how it goes!

Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services. She loves to create SEO Web copy and other types of online and offline content, but she figures SEO and Social Media is pretty great too. She likes to chat about business and marketing, find great links, and more. Oh, and you can find this copywriter on Twitter too.

Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom)

Angie Haggstrom is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services, specializing in online and offline content including SEO web copy, brochures, and more. A Twitter and blogging fanatic, you'll find she chats about SEO, Social Media, business, marketing, and just about anything else she finds interesting along the way.

Angie's Copywriting

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