Optimize So You Don’t Get Eaten Alive
For many people, writing search engine optimized (SEO) copy sounds like a drag. Creative writers, business owners and passionate advocates often think writing for SEO is limiting and forces them to have tunnel vision focused on structure, keywords and rules that hinder the creative process. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s possible to have a unique identity and tone, create an authentic connection with your website visitors and have a high search ranking. Your SEO content writing can be artistic and creative. It’s all about striking a balance.
FIRST, LEARN YOUR RULES…
We’re advocates for thoughtful and technically excellent SEO execution. A clever man named Dwight K. Schrute once sang, “Learn your rules, you better learn your rules, if you don’t you’ll be eaten in your sleep.” Think about search engines in the same way. Learn their rules and you will survive. This includes writing titles and meta descriptions that are the correct length, not stuffing keywords (including excessive keywords in an attempt to trick the search engine) and keeping content up-to-date. You should know best practices and follow them, and once you’re doing that, the world internet is your oyster.
BUT DON’T LET THEM LIMIT YOU
Search engine rules exist to help you, not hurt you. Google’s algorithm, for example, is designed to cultivate an excellent user experience. Google will bring people to your website or a specific page, but your copy is what will keep them there. Therefore, writing titles and meta descriptions that are engaging and the appropriate length should be seen as an opportunity to excel in creative writing, not the commencement of your demise (aka death by SEO).
Our advice? Research keywords with vigor, create a list and then simply set them aside. Write freely and creatively with your purpose and audience in mind. If you’re a business owner or loyal advocate, no one knows your organization better than you. You know what questions customers ask and you know your brand’s voice. As you proceed, develop your identity, clarify your purpose and think of your writing as art (instead of marketing material).
After you’ve drafted your copy, begin to filter. This is where you strike the balance between creative writing and writing with an SEO mindset. Reread what you’ve written and ensure the content is useful, compelling and valuable for your visitors/customers. This will help establish your website as an authority. Then, find the list of keywords you researched prior to writing and begin to add long tail keywords (specific keyword phrases with three-or-more words) where they naturally fit. Write questions or phrases in your copy in the exact way that users search, and use predictive search to see popular search phrases. Masterfully weaving keywords into your copy without sacrificing the quality of the content is an art in itself.
Aligning your language with your objectives and identity is possible, but it won’t happen right away. You’ve got to keep optimizing. Revisit your website copy, more often than you think you should, and improve to optimize for different keywords. Look at your website analytics and take cues from your visitor’s habits. Your work as a creative is never done when you’re optimizing. Think of it as a copywriter’s ultimate creative challenge.