What do we do, as content creators? Obey SEO rules, or think about our audience?
Or do we even have to make that choice? Turns out, we do!
And for the new, digital businesses, it's often hard to make the right decision!
With SEO being the buzz word on every business' agenda, have we all become too focused on what Google wants, rather than our reader? Do we care more about how many times we mention a particular keyword, as opposed to the experience we offer our prospects? I honestly think we are beginning to get to that point and quickly forgetting the number one rule: it's all about engaging your audience!
But wait! I'm not going to deny SEO's importance, as organic traffic is absolutely critical for your website and business, which means you need to make your content compliant for Google... but when we forgo the reader to do so, then there is a problem.
Now, Google obviously claims that all of their SEO requirements ARE focused on the benefit of the reader, which is true for most things (like penalising annoying pop ups, restricting poor websites, etc), however that's not always the case (even though that sounds extremely counter productive). Take, for example, that Google has been proven recently to be favouring 2,000+ word blogs, even when your reader only wants 500 words. Who reads 2,000 words anymore? Most of your readers are long gone by then.
So whose side do you choose?
Writing for Search Engines: SEO
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation copywriting basically means creating content in any form which is written in a certain way to appease search engine criteria, in order to rank well in their results when the audience is looking for it. Makes sense.
This includes, for example, inserting specific key words in places like titles and sub-titles, as well as using targeted phrases and words with a frequency and density designed to satisfy a particular search engine algorithm. Again, makes sense as it uses those elements to serve up relevant content to the user- it's good customer service after all.
The saying "you can hide a dead body on page 2 of Google results as no one ever looks there" holds so true in this case. People of today are time poor and bombarded, so we all demand relevant and highly tailored search results each time we type something into that search bar.
Hence why we as copywriters and businesses aim to create relevant content that will bring our customers to us via Google, Yahoo and Bing, etc. Again, it all makes perfect sense. But who are we creating this content for in the beginning? Or actual audience, or the spiders that crawl our website to find it?
Our Customers Matter The Most
When it comes to content, what’s actually most important is what our readers get out of it, as well as what they say about it and how many times, more than anything else. In other words, it's all well and good to tick all of the SEO boxes so that one customer can simply find us when Googling, however its even better if that one customer loves what he or she finds, and spreads the word about our business by sharing, commenting or mentioning it to others.
Basically, our customers' actions impact what matters most, which is successful leads, conversions and sales.
It's the same as, for example, the difference between a prospect who was referred to you via another customer's positive feedback versus one that simply found you on Google- the difference in the quality of that lead is very significant.
Coincidentally, this will boost your rankings in search engines anyway- when customers rate you on Facebook, Google and other feedback websites like True Local, this impacts how high your website shows up when relevant keywords are searched. So providing good customer service and mechanisms to encourage good testimonials are great ways to help your digital exposure anyway.
However, the difference is, you started with the person first. Don't put the cart before the horse: it's about your people first, and the good ranking will follow. It's always about engaging your audience, and then letting success flow from there.
It's not about aiming for good SEO to get your customer; it's about pleasing your customer to bring about good SEO. There is a difference.
Online is similar to offline in this regard: word of mouth is incredibly powerful. Basically, search engines like Google already incorporate user feedback into their algorithms so that when people link and tag the posts of content due to positivity, the algorithm favours this over anything else.
What does that mean?!
In other words, you'll do better overall as a business by pleasing Betty with the information and customer service she was looking for and then letting her tell all of her friends, than you ever will spending time building in layers of streamlined code, or naming all of your picture files strategically (two highly publicised techniques commonly promoted by grey-hat SEO dealers).
When it comes down to it, it's all about devoting time to the most profitable activity, and this is your customer's needs.
Strong and Engaging Content is Crucial
This is why I created The Copywriting Blog! To help people find me by serving them interesting material! Great copywriting leads to great SEO if it gets you positive links and feedback from others, which then turns into conversions. Basically, since blog posts are a form of public relations, and PR is highly dependant on high quality copywriting, there's a method to my madness!
So stop consuming all of your time on ticking a few SEO boxes, and start producing incredible content and networking in your niche space. Strong copywriting will help you excel in both anyway, and your customers will love you for it- which, in the end, is all that truly matters.
Don't Worship The Search Engines
Obviously, you can never completely ignore things like keywords in your writing. But the point is to ensure the keyword anchors are there for the benefit of your customer first, and not for Google first. Don't let the tail wag the dog!
For example, take the title of this blog: "Copywriting: SEO or Your Reader" - it has the right keywords that the so-called SEO Experts would be happy with, but still (and more importantly) helps the reader by allowing them to easily determine what the article is about and if it is relevant for them, all in the space of a few seconds- it's the best of both worlds, but I didn't start with SEO in mind.
Hence why, on my website (www.melottimedia.com.au), I have a FAQ page that has all of the common copywriting and marketing questions my potential clients will find interesting. I put it there so they have a library of easy-to-search content always waiting for them, right at their fingertips.
So, the winner is?
If you have to choose between the reader and SEO, always go for the human factor first and foremost.
Search engine algorithms update and change every few months, but our human nature remains the same. It's our customers we need to make happy, not Google! Let Google, Yahoo, Bing and the rest of them follow us.
Goodluck! Any comments? Leave them below!
Copywriter and Marketer