Search Engine Optimization

Why The Best Content Marketers Cringe at SEO Questions by @NikkiElizDeMere

There are many words that can be crammed in front of “content marketing” or “copywriting.” There’s “data-driven content marketing,” “conversion copywriting,” and “customer success copywriting.”

But by far the most frequently used (and abused) term among non-copywriters is “SEO copywriting.”

In Google’s  top seven search queries for “SEO,” “SEO blog” is currently rising by 300 percent, and hundreds of queries exist for “SEO copywriter,” “copywriting for SEO,” and “SEO copywriting services.”

Everyone needs search engine optimization. What makes the best content marketers and copywriters cringe when they hear “SEO” is this:

Just a few years ago, “SEO” typically meant cramming keywords into copy and titles. If you crammed in enough of them, and they were the right ones, the website would see a boost in traffic. This lead to a lot of very bad, nearly unreadable, blog posts.

And, this is the definition of SEO that is lodged in the minds of many people currently searching for “SEO copywriting services.”

And, these searchers are also typically the people who ask things like:

“Do you do SEO writing?”

“Is your content strategy SEO?”

“Will this work for SEO?”

When I hear any of those questions, I always have to make sure they know what SEO means now – not back in 2009. Usually, a lengthy explanation ensues, and it goes like this…

SEO is not about keywords

Yes, keywords are still part of SEO, but that’s like saying that a baker means someone who only makes frosting. You’re missing the whole cake.

Here’s what you need to know about keywords.

Google has come a long way from only directing users to their exact match keywords on websites. For starters, they’ve been including semantic modifiers, natural language, and even verbal queries (like when you ask your Smart Phone for the best nearby Thai food that delivers).

The way in which people ask questions is changing, and Google is totally on top of it with algorithms that learn what your site has to offer from its context and content, not just keywords.

For example, if I’m looking for “delivery pad thai in Tampa Bay,” a keyword-only based search would pull up sites with the words “delivery,” “pad,” “Thai,” and “Tampa Bay.” I could find sites on anything from childbirth to Thai grocery stores with search terms like that. But, what the semantic search algorithm introduced by Hummingbird in 2013 does is to interpret the meaning behind my query. They know I’m looking for Thai food, even though I didn’t use that exact phrase.

Exact match keywords are still useful, but they’re far from the only thing you need to be found. Even though you optimize for a keyword, Google might use synonyms and similar variations to replace the user’s original search query to pull up more meaningful results.

Good content marketers base their content around topics (not keywords) of interest to their target audience, using natural language and good old-fashioned storytelling to catch and hold attention.

Keywords play second-fiddle to more important factors like buyer personas and buy cycle stages, around which content should be written.

As Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hellobar, said:

In 2015 I see companies doing a lot less keyword research.

The trend I have been seeing is that companies are more so focusing on a long tail strategy, in which they blog and naturally rank for keywords.

Fewer companies each year are actually doing keyword research and manually building links to rank for specific keywords.

SEO is more about quality now than ever – which begs a question…

Today’s SEO best practices are based on how Google evaluates the quality and relevancy of content.

See, it’s Google’s mission to deliver the best search results that will help their searchers learn what they want to learn, do what they want to do, and achieve the success they’re searching for – even if it’s just the best Thai restaurant within a 2-mile radius.

That’s why we love Google. They’re looking out for us and improving how they do so every year.

So the question you need to ask is: What is the very best proof of the quality of your content?

Don’t overthink this, it’s very simple.

Do you share crummy content with your friends? No.

How often do you mention an eBook on Twitter that was a total waste of time? Not often.

Do you pin completely boring images to your Pinterest boards? Probably not.

The very best proof of the quality, relevancy and usefulness of your content is in how many people share it.

This is why when someone asks if a writer does “SEO writing,” it sends up a red flag that they don’t really understand what’s happening.

SEO now is more of a holistic strategy that depends on sharply targeted content. That content is the result of defining your target audience, creating carefully-researched buyer profiles, determining what interests and motivates your target, what they find helpful or funny, and what they want to accomplish.

The best content marketers aren’t just writers, and their research isn’t limited to keywords. Most importantly, they don’t base their content on guessing what an audience wants – they base it on what they’ve learned their audience needs.

The result is genuinely useful, hopefully original, but most importantly shareable content. Bonus points if, in producing this content, you prove yourself to be a thought-leader in your industry.

Content worth sharing is the only sure route to the summit of the SERP.

Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

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