Search Engine Optimisation is vital to your business. Everyone says so. Everyone who works at an SEO company at least. Most copywriters will sing you a slightly different tune. They’ll say SEO content is bad copy stuffed with keywords and that in many cases it actually harms your business by turning customers away when they find your page to be a jumble of catchphrases, poor grammar and uniform sentence structure.
Andy Maslen, author of ‘The Copywriting Sourcebook’ hates SEO. Really hates it. Take a quick look at his blog and you will find posts joyfully expounding the fundamental flaws of SEO and predicting its impending doom. In one he describes SEO copy as “boring, mechanistic copy that attracts visitors but then repels them the moment they arrive.”
Maslen’s views on SEO are neither new, nor unusual. Back in 2009 copywriters like Alastaire Allday were already asking questions about the efficacy of splashing keywords and meta-tags all over your pages. On his blog Allday criticises SEO for looking bad, reading worse and, again, switching off the customer. The common thread shared by most anti-SEO arguments is that the negatives of poor quality content far outweigh the benefits of increased traffic.
Of course the arguments used to support SEO Content are persuasive too. In simple terms of dollars and cents optimising your web presence for search engines just makes sense. Increased traffic to a website more often than not means sales and business owners are unlikely to stop using a service that is working for them.
SEO also has benefits when it comes to better understanding what your customer wants from you and how you’re coming across to them. If you are higher in the Google rankings then you are going to get more organic (unpaid) visits. This traffic can shine a new light on the frame of mind people are in when they find your site. If people are searching ‘dog grooming products’ and landing on your page dedicated exclusively to cat grooming, perhaps its time to expand your product range. Alternatively, if you sell spare parts for washing machines it may be time to rephrase some of your on-page copy.
Speaking of frame of mind, it is worth remembering that the majority of the time people use a search engine they are looking for a product or service. Before they even land on your page they are ready to buy. Compare this to your attitude when confronted with a poster advert on your two-hour evening commute and the advantages of SEO are clear.
Of course, there is a middle-way argument. If a copywriter is doing their job properly they’ll be mentioning keywords anyway. If their writing is on-brand and relevant to the customer then surely it will come out optimised as well. More importantly, they’ll be writing fluent pieces that visitors will actually want to read. And it is this second aspect – fluency, readability, or whichever intangible characteristic you personally ascribe to good writing – that really matters. Especially now.
You see you can’t talk about SEO without at least mentioning Google. And – without getting bogged down in penguins, pandas and algorithms – there are a few things that have changed since the birth of SEO that we need to consider. The first is Google’s new page ranking system that values social shares over inbound links. This development effectively flips the world of search marketing on its head and prompted Ken Krogue, writing in Forbes magazine no less, to announce the death of SEO. Krogue’s piece used at its heart a quote from SEO expert Adam Torkildson who said of the changes “Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete, SEO will be dead in 2 years.”
But why would Google do this to those poor SEO marketing firms? To tell the truth Google don’t like SEO, at least not in its sloppy keyword splashing incarnation. The search engine giant wants the best content at the top of its listings and it is believed that by switching to a focus on social rather than links there will be a greater chance for the content people actually like to shine through.
All this points to one thing. Quality content is king once more. What copywriters have been saying for years has finally been vindicated. Write it well, and the rest will come.
And yes, this does mean that if you want to compete for a place on the first page of Google search results you’ll need to get a G+ account.