Some of what I’ve done on my main site has come through seeing what other websites (not just copywriters) have done and ripping them off. I believe the term du jour for that is "modelling".
Not the actual content of the site -- heaven forbid -- but things like design, use of white space, images, and also what they've decided to do with things like metatags (page titles, page descriptions and keywords). Most of the time I find myself making a revolted face and thinking "Well, I wouldn't do it that way", but you can learn as much about what you want and need to do by seeing examples of what you don't want sometimes.
Checking out a website's metatags can be very instructional and tell you a lot about what the website owner's intentions are. The three main parts to check are:
Title -- the bit you see in the blue bar at the very top of your screen when you look at a website. Very important for SEO, because the search engines look at it as your way of defining who you are and which keywords you want to be found for.
My site's homepage title is: "Daniboy - Marketing Copywriting | SEO Copywriter | Ad Writer". It's 60 characters long -- you should aim for up to 70 characters, maximum; anything more than that gets ignored by the search engines -- and tells you exactly what keywords I want people to find me for.
Description -- the two-line long blurb you see for each site when you have a page of search engine results. It's not given SEO weighting by the search engines, but writing a description that gives an accurate, interesting-sounding view of the page you want clicked will affect how many people looking at the page of search engine results actually bother to click on your link.
My site's homepage description is "My name's Daniel O'Connor and I'm a freelance copywriter. I've written for solo organisations and world-famous corporations. I can write for you, too." It's exactly 150 characters long, which is the length you should aim to hit. Anything longer than 150 will leave characters 151 onwards with the dreaded ellipsis of death that comes about when descriptions are too lon...
The search engines expect you to have original titles and descriptions for every page of your site, by the way. Just as every page of your site is unique (right?), so the way you describe it should be unique. No repetition of titles and descriptions. Yes, it is a pain.
Keywords -- not given any SEO weight, but an interesting way for you to judge the intentions of the person writing the page you're viewing.
My homepage keywords are -- and yes, I know this is too long and should be pruned -- "copywriter, copy-writer, copy writer, copywriting, copy-writing, copy writing, copywrite, copy-write, copy write, writing copy, write copy, technical copywriter, technical copy-writer, technical copy writer, SEO copywriter, SEO copy-writer, SEO copy write". I KNOW! How many possible combinations of "copywriter" can there be?
That sounds incredibly time consuming, though, doesn't it? Having to plough through the background HTML of every website you want to spy on looking for the stuff you need hidden in the code?
Here's an add-on for Firefox that will change the nature of your espionage. It's called SearchStatus and makes life very easy when you want to quickly check out what your adversary is trying to do with his/her/its site:
Here’s the link:
This is what it will show you once you download the add-on:
- Meta Tags -- as discussed above -- titles, descriptions and keywords
- See in Archive.org -- almost magically interesting: Archive.org takes regular snapshots of websites over the years and stores them in its cache. Use this function to see how a website has changed over the years
- Whois information -- see how long a website's been in existence -- it's important, because domain age is given a weighting in SEO. The older, the better
- Show sitemap.xml -- view all the pages on the website, even the ones that aren't linked to from the main menu (other than the ones that are specifically barred from public view)
- Keyword Density -- see how much the site writer is trying to pound the reader over the head with the repetition of their chosen keywords
- And much, much more
It’s gold, pure gold. You may not know what some of the things I’ve written above actually mean right now, but try it out and see. Check up on your enemies. I guarantee it’ll help your website’s SEO.
Oh, and hey, nearly forgot to mention: if you have read this far and thought "Nice, I learned something from this", why not click on the "Tweet" and "Like" buttons below? I will love you long time if you do this.