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Why you shouldn’t write (just) for SEO

Nothing makes my heart sink more than a client asking me to ‘write for SEO.’ Because, often untrained in the principles as they are, what they mean is ‘stuff this copy full of keywords, even if it sounds unintelligible.’ As a copywriter and marketer, I always write for the audience. Because the goal of your copy is not just to get people to your page, but to engage, inspire, and convert them. And you can’t do that with bad copy.

Length matters

Google does reward pages with longer copy with better SEO rankings. But that doesn’t mean you should write 3000 words of drivel. The reason it rewards these pages is because people spend longer on them. How do you make sure they do so? Write something compelling that they want to read. Don’t add words just for the sake of it. If someone has come to your page for a quick answer and you give them reams of copy they will go elsewhere fast, increasing your bounce rate. Say what you need to say to get your message across, and no more.

Cut to the chase

You can tell a post written purely for SEO, or at least old school keyword stuffing SEO, as the first paragraph is stuffed with every possible permutation of the main phrase. By that point, you’ve lost your customer. You don’t have long to articulate your value proposition, some say ten seconds, so don’t waffle about it.

Keywords for key insights

People come at keywords in the wrong way. Rather than think of them as words and phrases you should stuff into your writing, they are actually inordinately helpful research into the kind of mindset your audience are in and where they are in the customer funnel. If the top result is ‘which cat food is healthier?’ you know you need to give them an answer. If it’s ‘where should I go on holiday?’ give options. ‘How do I treat an ingrown toenail?’ try facts. Doing research for keywords isn’t just about finding the words to add in, but learning more about your customer.

Get your goals right

The goal of someone who says ‘write just for SEO’ is to get someone to visit their website. But that’s not the right focus. You need to think about your customer’s goals, and how fulfilling the customer’s goals will get you to yours – more sales, more profit, more work.

Credibility counts

One of the main elements that search engines use to determine rankings is domain authority, influenced by the number of links pointing to that website. If your content is pointless, dull, or spammy, people won’t want to link to it, as it will undermine their own credibility. So just having filler keywords certainly isn’t the way to go.

SEO matters, of course. You can have the most beautiful prose or compelling copy, but if you can’t get an audience through the metaphorical door, there’s little point. But that shouldn’t be where the process ends. That’s one, very important, but certainly not the only, step through the sales funnel and customer journey. To get them to actually click a link, purchase a product, make an enquiry, you need to convince them that you are solving their problem.

And you do that through convincing and compelling copy that converts. And how do you get that? Well, you hire a copywriter of course…

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