Excuse me, your SEO is showing

* ru: Бурый медведь (Московский зоопарк) * en:...
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Without looking ahead, tell me if you can spot the problem with the following paragraph.

Grizzly bears are ferocious. Also known as the silvertip bear, grizzly bears may have descended from ancient bears in Russia before they migrated into North America. Grizzly bears are the second largest carnivore in America. Found mostly in the western United States, grizzly bears are one of the most aggressive bears, and grizzly bears are often depicted as ferocious killers in the media. Utah even named a hockey team, The Utah Grizzlies, after the grizzly bear.

Didn’t catch it? Let me add emphasis.

Grizzly bears are ferocious. Also known as the silvertip bear, grizzly bears may have descended from ancient bears in Russia before they migrated into North America. Grizzly bears are the second largest carnivore in America. Found mostly in the western United States, grizzly bears are one of the most aggressive bears, and grizzly bears are often depicted as ferocious killers in the media. Utah even named a hockey team, The Utah Grizzlies, after the grizzly bear.

That’s six uses of the term “grizzly bears” in five sentences. Notice how jarring it is, how after the second or third “grizzly bears” you feel like the writer doesn’t trust the reader to understand that yes, the entire paragraph is talking about this particular species of bear? Feels like chewing some thick, fibrous bread, topped with peanut butter, with nothing to drink.

Why would any writer do this?

Web writers are quickly ushered into the idea of writing with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in mind.  SEO is a complex practice that companies hire specialists for to help drive their website up in rankings. If you don’t believe me, check in on what one of my Twitter pals has to say about it.

What many writing websites will tell writers about SEO, however, is that they just need to do two steps for maximum SEO efforts:

  1. Do a little research to find out what keywords people are actually using when searching for your topic; and
  2. Use those keywords as densely as possible in your writing.

What ends up happening is a barely readable, shallow, pile of … well, let’s just say you’ll need a plastic bag if you’re going to take those articles for a walk.

The premise behind these web writing tips is good. Keyword density is a good thing to build your article in rankings, and you’re going to write better if you properly target your article to your audience. SEO tools are like walking up to your audience and saying, “Hey, what matters?” and they give you the answer. The five minutes it takes to do basic SEO research is a technological marvel for selling web content in this day and age.

Using keywords, however, is an art. You can’t just plug in the same keyword phrase every sentence and expect to rocket up in rankings. I see some of my writing friends do this and it makes me cry a little inside. It’s poor writing, which means it drives your quality down, and, because the keyword density is so high, it also drives your ranking down. In other words, using the same keyword over and over in every sentence is not productive to your purpose.

The art of keyword use means creating engaging but relevant, searchable titles. It means varying keyword use and including related keywords.  It means catering your content to the SEO research you find, and not catering the keywords to your content. It means artfully weaving keywords and terms relevant to the topic in your content without revealing your bluff. Keyword use extends even to the images you use and how you name and describe them.

A skilled web writer does not reveal their SEO; in fact, a skilled web writer’s SEO is usually so integrated, even an SEO expert has to take time to discover it. So if your SEO is showing, take time to consider how to return to being a wordsmith, instead of a keyword spammer.

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8 Responses to Excuse me, your SEO is showing

  1. OK, let me guess … Grizzly bears?

    Are you asking me to write a post about grizzly bears and give some hot link juice back to your blog … because I will! Just tempt me and watch what kind of grizzly bears (grizly bears, grissly beers, etcetera) keywords we will mutually conquer like a couple of polar bears (polaris beer, polarity bearings, etcetera) seeking the big prey.

    I often get a little overboard with some keyword density, if I want to whack ’em over the head with it. Most of the time, I simply find that as I was writing, I need to go back and say it a little clearer. That sometimes means saying “buy my darn grizzly bear, will ya?” There are instances where any writer has to look at their work and say … “OK, that stinks of grizzly poo.”

    A big lesson I learned a long time ago was to write as if search engines did not exist. then, you find that you are writing more for the reader … the one with the checkbook (credit card, sack of gold, hot wife, or whatever payment option you accept). then, a lot of really cool people will find a value in it and even link to you … if you are not a jerk to them. that can mean everybody concerned gets rewards … like the hotlinks back with a kick-butt article about grizzly bears I am pondering right now. 😀

    We all have to be sure our content has the keywords, but what is even better is if a boatload of others are linking to you with useful and relevant text in their links. Inbound links make more difference than the on-site text in the big picture. I do not actually have any pink ponies for sale, but if you search for pink ponies for sale, you may just find an article about some big grizzly bear poo that got stuck between the ears of a whole lot of scared SEO buyers.

    That is what I have to say about that. 😉 Oh, and one more thing … don’t buy any of the off the shelf bear poo before sniffing it.

    Nice touch, Chris! Maybe we can look into some grizzly bears eating pink ponies all the way to some serious SEO results. that is, if we can shake off the smell of the grizzly poo and the glitter of the pink pony and unicorn that so many people accept as truth.

    • Jaime says:

      Mark, this is why I adore you. Thanks for your illicit, I mean illegal, I mean lucid comments on the terrible trading of grizzly bear poo for pink ponies.

  2. Keep an eye out … my progressing blog post will include grizzly bears. I just had to!

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  4. Melody Jones says:

    Jaime, love your title and love your post. I still have a hard time being a smooth SEO operator.

    Do I love grizzly poo or, for that matter, pink ponies? Ummm….

  5. Sara Broers says:

    Nice post~ this is something I struggle with from time to time. It is definitely an art! You, my friend, are such a seasoned writer, you have no problems with this~ grizzly bears~ here I come!

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