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Your SEO could be wrong…

Has an SEO ever ruined your carefully crafted copy?

If so, you’re not the only one. Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, I worked with an agency client that outsourced their SEO. The agency wrote the copy. The SEO researched the keyphrases, inserted them, and took the copy live.

But here’s the problem: The SEO shoved in words that made the copy sound dumb. One sentence even read, “Do you have fear of doctor?” Why? Because [fear of doctor] was a keyphrase and the SEO thought it should be included.

The SEO ruined the content.

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My client thought the content had to read that way — after all, that’s what their SEO told them to do! Did they like the content? Well, no. But who’s going to argue with an SEO?

I am. And you can argue with them, too. Because your SEO is not always right.

Here’s the thing: SEO folks are not stupid people. They live a life of programming, research and metrics. They see a list of relevant words for a page and think, “Hey, [fear of doctor] is a popular keyphrase — and I can slip it in — so why not?

Why the disconnect?

It’s all about the skill set

It’s easy to say, “Oh, bad content editing mistakes only happens when you hire offshore or low-cost SEO companies.”

But that’s not always true.

I’ve seen large SEO firms (and even content marketing companies) destroy well-written content. “Trust us,” they say. “We’re adding these words because Google needs to see them.”

They’re right, to a point. As I discussed in my previous post, keyphrase research is still important.

But, here’s where the disconnect kicks in. Some SEOs have different priorities. Some may not consider the buyers’ journey, the site’s voice, or overcoming objections. They aren’t worried about the content flow.

Instead, they’re looking at everything from a purely geeky, “we want to drive traffic, this keyphrase can drive traffic, let’s make it work” perspective.

But SEO writing is more than sticking keyphrases into the copy.

It’s about preserving your brand’s “voice.” It’s about providing valuable information and solving a problem. It’s about grabbing your prospect’s attention and not letting go.

True SEO writing is seamless. It doesn’t sound like it’s keyphrase stuffed. The keyphrases naturally flow within the copy — and the result is great, spot-on writing.

So, how do you protect yourself?

First, if you receive content from a freelancer, agency, or even in-house that is grammatically incorrect, stuffed full of keyphrases, or is otherwise subpar, don’t post it on the site.

The writer (or SEO) may complain. They may say that they “had” to do it that way for Google.

Don’t believe them.

Yes, the keyphrases need to appear on the page. But, they shouldn’t dominate the page.

Second, consider training your writers in SEO writing best practices. Training your writing team often streamlines the content process and reduces SEO costs — so the initial time or monetary investment pays for itself.

In this scenario, the writers would research keyphrases (perhaps side-by-side with the SEO) and insert keyphrases into the copy. An internal content editor would check the copy for flow and confirm it matches with the SEO requirements.

This may involve a process change and some in-depth training time, but most writers — even writers with a print background — can be trained in SEO content best practices.

Yes, your copy should drive Google traffic — and on-page keyword optimization is still important. But, your copy should also be authoritative, informative and — in the case of sales pages — convert like crazy.

Good SEO writing provides all those benefits — and more. Isn’t that exactly what you want from your site copy?

Did you do battle with an SEO department? Do you have questions I can answer? Contact me and let me know!

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Discussion

  1. Avatar Chris Abraham

    That’s too true. And I feel like a proper SEO consultant would be able to work with the copy writing team to allow them to write towards the SEO. The good news, right, is that Google’s caring more and more about the form and the function. Caring more and more about whether people like what they see when they get there. Seeing ‘fear of doctor’ pasted in, sounding more like ESL homework than marketing copy. But the fear of doctor, the buying links, and all the stuff that is going to, more and more, be frowned upon as Google starts to hack away at bad faith behavior and spend less and less time suffering “too big to fail” top performers and heavy-with-JS media and ecommerce sites, the more the copy writing class will be less and less offended by the state of the art of writing for search will become. I know, I know, “if we don’t write that way, we won’t get the traffic at all, even if that traffic bounces, maybe if they come we can at least tag them with a retargeting cookie and then market them via display ad.” OK, that sort of makes sense. But, oh the humanity! While it looks like Google is still allowing the top performers to behave badly because they’re too big to ignore, when it comes down to us little guys, it’s essential to follow both the letter and the spirit of Google’s Law.

    1. Avatar Heather Lloyd-Martin

      Hey, Chris!

      Thanks for your comment!

      Well, it all depends on your definition of a “proper SEO consultant.” 🙂 I know some great technical SEO agencies that totally miss the content mark. Plus, sadly, many SEOs view content as a commodity, so they don’t care what the copy sounds like — they see it all as Google-bait.

      You know how it is. 🙁

      Your last line is a big one — yes, it’s essential to follow Google’s Law. However, that’s not always such a bad thing. After all, it’s a lot easier to follow Google’s guidelines and create great content than it is to chase the algorithm. Plus, readers dig your copy way more. 🙂

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