Depending on your personal belief, this little phrase could elicit one of any number of wildly varying emotions.
You could, for example, feel completely indifferent and powerless, thinking that search has changed the way we use the internet and that therefore everything has to be optimised as a result.
You may instead look at the phrase with a double shot of disdain, believing that quality content has to be bastardised in order to fit the remit of being search friendly.
Or you could feel anxious, as though in being search friendly, the copy has to begin “VIAGRA. KATE MIDDLETON. VALIUM. DAVID BECKHAM” or come with a trolley load of keywords bundled in to the mixture, leaving more blue text on the page than black.
In truth, of course, it’s just a phrase – no more than 12 characters in length – and all of those rather zealous beliefs are all somewhat wide of the mark.
Writing SEO friendly content is not the most simple of tasks, but it’s not impossible either. It just takes a weird Venn Diagram of skill sets, standing firmly in the grey area between journalism and marketing. However, in managing to hit this grey area, you can indeed create SEO friendly content marketing that is not convoluted, contrived, or indeed, crap.
The trick of writing SEO friendly content is not about shoehorning in longtail keywords or packing it full of potential search terms, but instead writing about what your audience is going to like and want they want to read.
The belief that ‘readable’ and ‘SEO friendly’ are mutually exclusive is greatly untrue. In writing content that you are sure your users will like, you will have already endeared yourself to them, affiliating your business and message with the kind of things they will want to find online. Then, by contributing regular content to your site, you can be more certain that the phrases they are seeking out will be in there.
Contrary to what some people may believe, this is also good in the search engines’ eyes, too. Let’s not forget, they’ve been doing this search business for years and have tweaked their algorithms enough to know exactly what is an over-optimised site and what is readable. They – after all – want to return the best list of sites in the eyes of the user, not the websites, as it will keep them coming back.
Despite all this, however, there is still the belief that content marketing is the only place where such optimisation occurs. There are still detractors who see it as a less worthy form of writing, cheapened by its primary objective of getting in keywords as opposed to the story itself. However, to this you just have to point these cynics in the direction of the modern-day newspaper market.
For cold, hard proof, just look at the Sunday Sport’s actual use of the headline: Gordon Ramsay Sex Dwarf Eaten by Badger.
That was actually printed in the paper. On the front page.
No content writer worth their salt would shoehorn in such a preposterous string of attention-grabbing words, yet are believed by some to do it on a daily basis.
This example is, of course, one of the worst, but it is endemic in nearly all newspapers from The Sun to The Telegraph, all seeking out attention grabbing keywords or pictures of beautiful people to grace their front pages in order to capture passing trade and keep people buying time after time.
So to dispel a couple of myths, then:
Writing SEO friendly content has less of a difference to writing general content than people may realise.
It is more about satisfying the people than the search engines; as if you please the former then the latter will surely follow.
Finally, that optimising content is most certainly not something that only exists online.