SEO – The Death of Language or a Whole New Way of Thinking?

By our third month, we clearly understood that we would need to learn basic copywriting for web techniques if we were to truly make it online. We both consider ourselves artists as well as writers and found the thought of writing copy for search engines rather than people rather horrifying.

How could you possibly express your true thoughts if they must be articulated only to grab the passing fancy of an (undefined) algorithm?

Simple, by keeping Google only in the back of our minds, always placing the reader’s level of comfort first and stepping into a brand new frontier of written art.

It’s all too easy to misunderstand Search Engine Optimization. We did. And anytime you are trying to build on weak pillars, you risk the entire edifice crumbling in around you. One of the biggest hurdles in understanding SEO lies in knowing who to trust. There are countless voices clashing with controversy. How does the eager learner know which voices are authentic?

Ignore everyone and look SEO right between the eyes. Understand its purpose, then look past it to see where it might be going tomorrow.

The primary goal of Google is to give searchers the best experience possible. This means leading readers to pages with well written and easy-to-read content that answers the queries they entered. SEO copy that is riddled with keywords just for the sake of placement may rank well now, but as Google continues to improve, those pages will be left behind. Writing well and putting keywords second is a way of future-proofing your copy.

SEO is mathematics and language, nicely blended. Yes, there is an element of structure to SEO and you do want to pay attention. It is important for your keywords to show up in the right places. Headlines, especially the title tag that Google sees, are important. Keyword density, not so much.

The human eyes you hope to land on the page are infinitely more important than the bots that crawl across it. If you publish words written for a robot, you will only succeed in laying road to nowhere.

The best balance is a beautiful art, something we first discovered when playing around with the rules.

After having bought Naomi Dumford’s excellent SEO School we started to experiment on our own. We aimed for a few simple-to-grab keyword phrases, published our posts and smiled at the results.

We had the basics down.

Though it is important to understand the fundamentals, it is more important to understand why they are there in the first place. The true magic of SEO is perhaps best captured in the advice of Copyblogger’s Brian Clark – deliver content that other people will find compelling enough to link to, with your basic SEO set reasonably in place, your results will quickly kick in like a shot of adrenaline to the bloodstream.

We feared the SEO dragon, but stood together and slew that sucker dead.

SEO is steroids for your copy – if that’s what you are going for. If your blog can in any way benefit from search engine traffic, you owe it to yourself to pay attention to the fundamentals. On the other hand, if search engine traffic means nothing to you, put it out of your head and focus on the most important asset you have – your voice.

Stay tuned. Wednesday we’ll be publishing the next part in our series looking back at our first year online.

4 responses to SEO – The Death of Language or a Whole New Way of Thinking?

  1. Marc

    Drugs and dragons; it’s no wonder people fear SEO. Of course, as with anything to do with the Internet, there’s a dark side to everything, but people should learn to work with SEO rather than against it.

    Instead of slaying the SEO dragon, people should slay the SEO misconceptions. They are far nastier beasts. Instead of steroids, think of SEO as multivitamins, omega 3 etc. Far healthier.

    • Sean

      Hi Marc!

      Ooh, I like that, slaying the SEO misconceptions. I totally agree. While SEO still isn’t my favorite way to write, I do understand the mechanics and totally get how it is a tool in the modern world that cannot be ignored.

  2. Susan Greene

    My, what a long way you’ve come, Sean. I think my first encounter with you was over a blog post stating SEO was an obstacle to good writing and creativity. Glad to see your position has changed.

    For me, SEO has been a great boon to my copywriting business. Some clients used to feel they could write their own copy. Now when the issue of search engine optimization comes up, they realize they are way out of their league. And that’s when they sign on the dotted line.

  3. Sean

    Hi Susan!

    I no longer feel that SEO is an obstacle to either good writing or creativity, though I do admit it isn’t my favorite way to write. I’m more than willing to do it, and do feel comfortable bouncing around amid its natural boundaries, but I would be sad if Dave and I were forced to follow the rules of SEO when writing Available Darkness, for example. SEO is awesome as part of our copywriting business, but I am glad it is only a dimension to what we do rather than the totality. If that makes sense. : > )

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