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The Trouble with SEO is…

Photo: Markus Spiske / www.temporausch.com / CC BY 2.0

Photo: Markus Spiske / www.temporausch.com / CC BY 2.0

I’m afraid that I have a bit of a confession to make. As a writer, inbound marketer and marketing manager, I don’t believe in Search Engine Optimization.

If you haven’t clicked away yet, I’ll explain why.

The traditional SEO attitude revolves around keywords and ideas that need to be satisfied in order to (potentially) rank well within the three major search engines. The idea is simple: the more keyword-focused content that is produced for a website, the better the website will rank. While I don’t believe this attitude is entirely wrong, it is my opinion that true optimization is so much more than writing for robots.

At the end of the day, there is a high probability that Google will not buy your product or service. Neither will Yahoo!, nor will Bing. Instead, the people searching for your product or business will make decisions based on what they read on your website. Keyword-focused content only tells me that you’ve done a good job with that one keyword.

In order to rank well in the search engines, you need to write content that is worthy of not only being sought after, but is worthy of being shared as well. Content rich with engaging and insightful information, readable links that lead me down the decision-making trail, and a clear call-to-action will go much farther than any keyword-emphasized content will.

Though search engines are critical tools for being found in the marketplace, your concept is so much bigger than a keyword string. Instead of optimizing for a robot, I always tell groups that I work for to optimize for a person. Here are three tips for optimizing your content for people.

Identify a Concept – Not a Keyword

Every company knows what they do best. And no matter how many products you have – one main product, or one hundred items – there’s usually a common thread that runs through them. Identifying your concept goes beyond picking out keywords that you want to rank for. Instead, you are identifying your target audience, and why they are searching for your products or services. By identifying their motivations, you will be able to create content that revolves around their search experience – resulting in better actions as a result of your content.

Talk TO Your Audience – Not TOWARD Your Audience

The problem that I face with writing around keywords is that the entire experience can be incredibly impersonal. There’s a lot of copy that surrounds one single keyword and concept, but not a lot of copy about why your product or service is best for the end customer. Remember: people make decisions based on six different motives, ranging from fear of loss to pride and prestige. If your copy is all about the keyword and not driving customers to take action based on the buying motivations, then what is your copy for? More importantly: if your content doesn’t resonate with your audience and encourage them to take action, why is it written in the first place?

Be Social With Your Content

What good is your content if it’s only being read by robots? Don’t be afraid to be social with your content across channels. At the end of a compelling blog post, encourage your readers to leave a comment, ask a question, or share the information on social media. When someone does share your content, engage with them: a simple “Thanks for tweeting” will do. And as thought leaders and brand ambassadors begin appearing, don’t be afraid to ask them to be a part of your brand through guest posts or sponsored content. People don’t make purchase decisions from robots – they make them from people with real opinions and experiences.

While search engines are important, the peoplebehind them are even more important. Writing for your audience’s needs are much more important than writing for a search engine, and will deliver much better long-term results.

How do you balance writing for the experience and the search engine? What tips to do you have for creating ideal copy? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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