SEO: Yes or No?

‘‘Tell us, Ian, are you an SEO copywriter?’’

Please, please… spare me that question.

I wrote my first ‘digital copy’ for Sydney University’s design school website in 1997. Over the years, I’ve conceived ideas for, and written, online ads and emails and banners and entire websites.

I know my cookies from my breadcrumbs, my skyscrapers from my leaderboards and my Drupals from my WordPresses.

So, am I an SEO copywriter?

To call me SEO is to miss the point, I feel.  I believe the brand should come first. Yet what happens when you entrust your copy to a (so-called) ‘SEO copywriter’?

Well, he/she does what many (so-called) SEO copywriters do. They say, ‘‘I’ve got a bunch of keywords and search terms – just watch me pepper this baby with ‘truly optimized’ SEO copy to within an inch of its life.’’ Dull, dull, dull.

In comes repetitive and predictable copy – out go all those well-intentioned promises you made to the brand team to keep your words engaging and customer-focused and… crucially… On Brand.

Of course, I’m not dismissing SEO. Far from it; it’s important. But SEO copywriting can – in the wrong hands – fly in the face of what ultimately optimizes your site: quality content.

Google (et al) ‘looks’ for unique content. Content that people actually want to read. So you get Google brownie points for doing precisely what your audience will love you for, keep coming back for, and share and link to. Striving for on-page optimization (SEO copy) can therefore be tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot.

Give Google what it wants. First, get your code right. As long as search engines can see your content in the code, they can merrily index and rank you.

Then, as for your SEO copy, I’ll observe the ‘rules’ and accepted wisdoms: keywords in the title/anchor text/meta data etc. But not at the expense of metaphors or slang or pop culture references or, indeed, the levity that your copy should be imbued with so that it can be enjoyed by real people.

After all, who chats in SEO speak?

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Comments
  1. Ran says:

    Speaking as one of the mass of talentless, indistinguishable “(so-called) ‘SEO copywriters'” you’re afraid of being taken for, trust me, you’re not one of us! For starters, we’d have generated far more hits, not [sic] mention comments.

    Don’t be short-sighted. SEO isn’t always a dirty word; when you’re writing for the web, you can’t assume your work will ever even be read. Why should a company pay for work that won’t generate revenue?

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