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Lose the SEO Lingo and Optimize for Customers

Posted on Aug 22nd, 2011
Written by Lee Odden
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    SEO CopywritingNo doubt, you’ve searched Google or Bing and found web pages that were clearly “optimized” in the name of SEO. That kind of copy might help a page appear higher in search results (less so with Panda) but doesn’t do much for readers once they click through.

    When I see those pages, it reminds me of the increasing importance of optimizing for customers and user experience vs. the common overemphasis on search engines.  Keep in mind, technical SEO and how bots interact with servers and web pages is timeless, but writing web copy that’s more useful and a better reflection of what customers are looking for, (vs. chasing the most popular keywords alone) just makes sense.

    Along those lines I recall reading a SEO blog a long time ago that advised creating websites, copy and links as if search engines didn’t exist.  By itself, that seems a bit naive – especially if you’re in a competitive category.   Creating, optimizing and promoting content based on customer interests that leads them to a purchase makes the most out of both useful content and SEO best practices.  Great SEO copywriting doesn’t read as a list of keywords, but instead balances keyword usage with creative writing that appeals to the reader; educating, influencing and inspiring action.

    Consider the difference between these general SEO copywriting recommendations:

    Use the most popular keywords at the beginning of title tags, in on-page titles, body copy, anchor text and image alt text in combination with attracting relevant keyword links from other websites so the pages rank high on Google. Higher ranking web pages can result in more visitors and sales.

    In comparison, try this advice absent any explicit SEO lingo:

    Use the words that matter most to your customers in titles, links and body copy to inform and inspire them to take action. Text used in titles should make it easy for readers to understand the topic of the page quickly, in the first few words. Text used to link from one page to another should give the reader an idea of what they’ll find on the destination page. A consistent approach to titling, labeling and copy in web page text, image annotations, video descriptions and links will create confidence for the reader in the subject matter and inspire sales.

    Both recommendations should result in more focused and relevant content for search engines. But the focus on #1 is only on keywords and search engines. The advice in #2 is less SEO specific, but emphasizes relevance from the customer point of view and at the same time, is search engine friendly. Maybe more copywriters would take SEO advice if it didn’t use so much SEO lingo.

    Does that seem a like a reasonable difference in approach or more a matter of semantics? Do you think more content producers would implement SEO practices if advice was more customer-centric? Better implementation of SEO best practices by creatively talented and customer focused content producers seems like a win, all around.