I’ve been reading O’Reilly’s The Art of SEO on my iPhone, and am picking up lots of useful tips – both new and half-forgotten.

The book has a very short section on effective online copywriting. In essence, it advises readers to show their ‘content creators’ the significance of keywords (and how to research them) and how to use title tags. That way “you are well on your way to empowering your content creators to perform solid SEO”.

Fair enough. But I think a better solution is to have online copywriters who really understand the mechanics of websites, and of SEO. That’s why I’m reading the book. And that’s one reason why I’ve developed my knowledge of HTML, CSS and other web technologies over the last 12 years.

Copywriters and SEO experts

If copywriters and SEO experts or internet marketers can work together, and share a greater body of knowledge, then the results are likely to be much better. It’s common sense.

But what happens when the copywriter knows more about the nuts and bolts of SEO than a web designer (and it’s more common than you might think)? More than once or twice I’ve produced online copy for sites that have already been built, and are poorly optimised for the web – often neglecting title tags and sometimes relying on tables instead of the <div> tag and CSS.

In each case I’ve explained that SEO relies on more than just content. But in most cases I’ve been loth to give free SEO advice (I have some expertise, but I am far from being an expert) – and have instead tried to point them in the direction of an internet marketing agency.

But I find it a dilemma. If you’re hired to produce SEO copy, then surely you have a duty to point out the shortcomings of site design and structure that will hinder attempts to rank highly in the search engines? And if you do that, surely there’s a danger you’ll lose future work to the less scrupulous or competent? Or sour your relationship with the web agency you have to work with?

It’s a tricky one – because the companies that design the site first and think about SEO and content later are the ones that need all the help they can get.