SEO is Not To Blame for Your Crap Content

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During a hiring phase in November, I interviewed one social media candidate who was an active blogger.

I asked him how he optimized his blog for search engines, because a key social media skill is in understanding the interplay between search and social. He told me:

I don’t do SEO. I don’t want to risk over-optimizing my site at the risk of alienating my visitors.

As someone who got her start in online marketing optimizing for search engines, the idea that SEO pushes people away rankles me. It points to a continuing misunderstanding of exactly what SEO represents and what it can and cannot do.

The truth is, if you are not optimizing your blog or website for something, it won’t be found for much of anything, other than your domain or business name. It certainly won’t convert visitors to customers because to do that, they need to find you!

SEO Is an Advanced Writing Skill

The first rule of SEO is to structure your content so it’s discoverable.

How? Make sure the content:

  1. Is tightly organized thematically and semantically.
  2. Links out to relevant resources that enlarge the topic.

I encounter this naiveté often online, but writers unfamiliar with writing for the web are the most deeply misinformed.

Here’s a newsflash for those writers.

SEO is a research and writing skill.

I believe this is the primary reason I became so successful at it (IMHO). To master the discipline of SEO requires knowing how to:

  • Write for both humans and robots
  • Research a competitive query space
  • Speak the language of developers without having any coding skill
  • Create a compelling snippet of text that entices the searcher to click
  • Rank for hundreds or thousands of keywords, not just for a handful of big, fat head terms
  • Fix technical issues that prevent a “bot” from crawling and indexing your website
  • Identify the factors that allow a website to appear in the first page of a search engine results page (SERPs)

Those are advanced skills that quality writers can develop.

If I was rankled by the job candidate’s comment about SEO, you can imagine how irritated I got when I read a post by a strong writer entitled, SEO is Killing Content Quality.

The writer lamented the days when he could just focus on writing engaging, unique content solely for his readers. All this changed, he said, “Once Google took control of the world’s content discovery and distribution.”

Now, he has to think about ranking first, he complains.

“How will people find my content? What terms must I include? How must I word hyperlink anchor text so that I train Google about the search terms it should associate with those sites?”


Good Writing = Good SEO

If you follow Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Web spam team (now on leave), he contributes to Google’s Webmaster Central channel regularly to address SEO best practices and, more importantly, to dispel SEO myths.

In this 2011 video, he states “Even if you do brain-dead stupid things and shoot yourself in the foot, but have good content, we still want to return it.”

That was more than three years ago, yet I’m still reading this kind of “SEO is killing quality” article from writers who don’t want to develop new web writing skills and blame SEO for revealing their laziness.

I suppose this author was trying to be provocative, but he was revealing his ignorance in the process. Especially when he used exact match anchor text in his hyperlinks. It will be interesting to see if the Penguin update catches up with him.

Bottom line, good writing is a skill that will always be rewarded.

p.s. I purposely did not link to the post in question. Otherwise I would be breaking my personal rule about external linking: only link to quality, authoritative, relevant sources.