Are You a Slave to SEO Keywords? Why You Should Write for Readers, Not Bots

Apr 24, 2019

Article ImageSearch engine optimization (SEO) is a very important consideration in today’s digitally-driven content environment. After all, if you can’t get visitors to your site, and get them to engage with your content, you’ve obviously missed the mark. But, in an increasingly competitive quest to rank ever higher in Google SERP (search engine results page), some content marketers may go a bit overboard when it comes to chasing the numbers. 

Content Quality Over Quantity

Ron Stefanski is an internet marketing consultant and college marketing professor who runs a portfolio of successful websites that, he says, “get hundreds of thousands of visits each month and I do very little SEO at all.” After working in the field for more than 10 years, he says: “I can say confidently that I’ve basically given up on stressing about SEO. I’ve read hundreds of articles claiming that their SEO tactics are best but, what I’ve realized over the years, is that the best way to succeed on search engines is to make amazing content that people need and share it.” 

One of the challenges that content marketers have long faced, of course, is that Google is continually shifting its algorithms. Yet, those shifts are all directed at achieving a single, primary goal: delivering quality content that meets the needs of people looking for information. Over the years Google has taken a broader approach to determining what content is “high quality”—based not just on how many times a specific search term is used, or if it appears in headings or hypertext, but whether the content is relevant at a much deeper level. In fact, Google is already exploring the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver better results.

For marketers that means the need to focus more on the quality—and uniqueness—of content and less on using certain words and phrases a certain number of times.

A Practical Approach to SEO

“The core of all great SEO is simply to write great content,” says Chas Cooper, CEO and founder of Rising Star Reviews. “If you do that, you’re 95% of the way to doing great SEO. The other 5% is mostly outside of the hands of the content marketer—it’s web design stuff that affects internal linking structures, makes the site easier for crawlers, improves page load speed, and so on.” 

That’s an important point. Often the argument about the value of SEO gets bogged down by the many elements that go into achieving good results. Copy, or content, is one side of the equation—design and algorithms another.

While there are certainly those who are firmly in either the “yes” or “no” camp when it comes to how much emphasis content marketers should place on SEO, most fall somewhere in the middle, acknowledging that the focus taken will vary based on the type of organization, its market, and its business strategies.

Cooper offers a basic, two-step approach for doing this that can vastly simplify the process, and the angst:

  1. Know what search term you want to show up for, look at the competing content already showing up for that term, and write a new piece of content that's significantly better from the point of view of the audience that's searching that term.
  2. Include that target search term in the page title, H1 heading, and early in the first paragraph.

“Done. That’s it. All the other on-page optimizations that many content marketers fret over are optional at best,” he says. If you take these two steps—and your web team does a great job on technical SEO, you’ll rank, Cooper says. “Just give it some time.”

Said Khan, SEO and content marketing manager at RunRepeat sums it up well: “Content and SEO go hand in hand but you must avoid both extremes.” Too much obsession over SEO keywords can ruin the quality of the content. On the other hand, Khan says, “you cannot ignore SEO because you will miss out on some great opportunities to get targeted visitors.” A key takeaway from Khan: “Think about SEO before and after creating the content and forget it when you are working on your piece.”


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