SEO is important, but it’s not everything.
Over the past year, I’ve noticed multiple brand clients forgoing SEO keyword phrases on assignments. I’m told to write ‘naturally’ as if I’m speaking to a good friend. Organic language will relate to the topic in a way that connects with readers and makes sense to search engines.
This approach popped up again a few weeks ago.
I was working on a project that had every piece of the content marketing puzzle in place. Project manager. Marketing department. SEO agency. Freelance creatives. Discovery surveys. Collaboration software. I could go on, but you get the picture. It was a well-orchestrated project.
As the primary writer, I was given access to the SEO research which was divided into topical categories and laid out perfectly on a spreadsheet with multiple tabs.
It was beautiful.
I studied the phrases and even made a cheat sheet with the most popular SEO phrases so I could write without many stops to consult the master list.
Then, I wrote.
The words were flowing and SEO was integrating. I was also asked to work with words that popped up frequently on customer feedback surveys and communications. The copy morphed into a nice mix of optimized and conversational language.
Then the first round of feedback filtered in and I was asked to relax the language.
I was told to focus on integrating the secondary word list more. Little by little, I was deleting the clunkier SEO long-tail keyword phrases to make room for sentences I’d actually say to a friend. I’m sure voice search software appreciates this linguistic shift too.
After the next review, I was told I was moving in the right direction and to keep writing. So, I did.
Long story short, you can’t write solely for search engines. Whether it’s a blog post, about page, social media update or any other content online, it’s ultimately being consumed by a human.
Humans talk to humans, and many times it’s better to simply write that way too.
For the SEO cheerleaders who are gasping right now, I didn’t scrap the SEO file. Many of those phrases are in the text, but only the ones that meshed with my client’s brand voice and tone without effort. Finding a balance between conversational language and SEO phrases is critical for search rankings and results as well as the user experience.
Bottom line: Don’t forget to write for people.