Archive for March 21st, 2011


What Every Content Writer Should Know About Keywords

Many web content writers working today wish they had never heard of “keywords.” To them, an SEO placing keywords in a writer’s finely crafted content is like a waiter tossing garlic tofu croutons on top of the chef’s special blackened ahi and braised arugula salad. Maybe some added nutritional value there. Maybe even kind of tasty on its own. But for crying out loud, not on the salad!

This particular aversion is not without its reasons. For about a decade now, the content writer wrote the most appealing possible prose designed to attract and keep an audience of human eyes, some maybe with wallets. And then the search optimizer figured out which words will convert to search engine traffic, and slathered them all over the page. Titles, headlines, subheads, even in the body. A writer might proudly point to a sentence like:

“These priceless ergonomic desk chairs were designed by our team of NASA engineers—using the latest technologies and algorithms—in a cooperative dance with our trés eleganté French designer from The Institut Francais de la Mode. Feel the magic envelop your spine from the moment your derrière descends.”

Only to discover that an SEO professional had changed it ever so slightly for search marketing purposes.

Cheap ergonomic desk chairs. These ergonomic desk chairs were designed by NASA desk chair engineers–with all the best desk chair technology and ergonomics algorithms—with help from the best ergonomic desk chair designer from France. Feel our magic ergonomic desk chair up your spine.”

Search engine optimized content was more often than not, “optimized” enough to break a content writer’s spirit. And the war raged on. Of course, both sides had a valid point. No matter how pretty the language of a web page is, it is all for nothing if nobody ever reads it. On the other hand, even if a well-optimized page draws millions of visits, what’s the point if almost all of them sprain an index finger trying to simultaneously hit the back button and gouge out their own eyes.

You see, it all needs to work together. In an harmonic internet dance, loved by search spiders and customers alike. Driving lots of traffic and convincing them to buy stuff. Marketing and content, together.

Well then. What’s a writer to do? If you just carry on writing your best, filled with anger and despair every time your work is optimized for search, you’ll die young and unhappy. If you start writing crap content assuming it will be hosed by an SEO, you won’t win many return engagements. How about trying the third path?

Learn to use keywords and make them part of your toolkit.

It isn’t sacrilege. It isn’t even that difficult. And in the end, if you manage to pull it all together, you can begin to sell yourself as an SEO Content Specialist (a title like that has got to be worth a couple of bucks an hour, at least). Why not? You probably already have most of the skills you need.

Know Your Audience
That’s the first thing every writer learns. Know your audience and craft your message to them. The MBA-bearing executive who hires you will call it something like “utilize your mission-critical demographic base to leverage a scalable ROI” but really, same thing. Before you begin an assignment, you ask yourself (and your probably your client) “Who is this content targeted to?” Maybe the answer is stay-at-home dads, 30-45, $35-50k/yr. Start writing your exceptional ergonomic desk chair pitch.

But Wait: there’s one more thing. Your demographic base also always includes “search engine spider, middle aged, not too bright, extremely impatient, but worth $$$.” Always. If you are writing for the web, that spider is in your demographic pool. Now start writing.

See the first of our !0 Step SEO articles, Keywords for more on the delicate art.