Content and Copywriting, Featured News, Opinion Pieces, Social Media & Community Management

Stop being mean to content creators: Knowing SEO doesn’t make you God

May 18, 2013

content creators

Following on from pointing out the popularity of content doesn’t mean it is useless, I thought I’d tackle the problem of resentment towards content creators by SEO copywriters.

It bemuses me a whole heck of a lot to see SEO web copywriters all pooh-poohing content- via their blogs mind you, and their social.

“Pssst… wanna hear a secret? Not everyone finds what they want simply by clicking through on the first page on Google.”

The standard answer to that is “More people can find my content because I know SEO.”

It’s like saying “more people can find McDonalds, so no other cafe or hamburger joint is worthy”.

As someone who hasn’t eaten McCrap for over a decade, I call bollocks.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe SEO definitely helps. If you and the content creator next to you are level pegged in terms of usefulness to your intended audience, that Google ranking is a distinct advantage if a customer  has 6 possible choices and can only be bothered making a shortlist of 2 or 4.

However, there are a few problems with the whole “I’m SEO so I’m better” attitude:

  1. It implies we all use the internet via search engines only. But we don’t, do we? We’ll in fact discover things on purpose and by accident through social media, returning to the same sites we know and trust, peer recommendation, bookmarking, StumbleUpon, Reddit and Delicious, word of mouth, clicking from one site to another, newsletters and a whole bunch of other ways. What counts is the content itself, not how well it rates in a search engines eyes.
  2. There is an assumption we’re only persuaded to engage with a website when we’re in purchase mode. But we’re not. Anyone who has ever walked out of a shopping centre with an unplanned purchase knows it is entirely possible to be attracted to and invest in something outside of what their original intentions were. How that six degrees of separation moment plays out isn’t down to SEO alone in cyberspace. In fact, sometimes SEO has sweet Fanny Adams to do with it.
  3. Content isn’t single source. It’s gaining exposure to a topic, product or idea at multiple touch points. The average person will usually encounter an advertising campaign in 4 or 5 different formats prior to making a purchase. Content gives you a greater ability to create that chain of events for your customers. Just because you know SEO doesn’t mean you know how to effectively create a strategy in order to make sure that happens.
  4. Content has its own technical requirements. What is produced as the end result of content is the tip of the iceberg. Behind each blog is research, personas, buying cycles, scheduling, repurposing, social promotion, community management, newsjacking, style guides, product management, product storytelling, customer service, customer relationship management and a bunch of other things that are a heck of a lot more involved that “Duh, I fink I is gonna write today!”

Honestly, most of the sledging of content by SEO professionals reminds me of the ‘TV will kill radio’ and ‘internet will kill TV’ stuff that happens. Both satiate a different set of needs, both work brilliantly together, both survive without having to cross over to the other, both have their loyal audiences, both have those who have abandoned one for the other. Both work and both fail in the right hands.

SEO isn’t a magic bullet, nor is content. Can we shake hands and move on now?

For my next trick, I’ll bust the myth that content is super easy.


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  • Michelle May 19, 2013 at 21:41

    Couldn’t agree more. I feel like there’s waaaay too much emphasis on SEO these days, too. I’d say half the content I read is sourced through emails, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, news websites, etc. Unfortunately, from the web writer’s point of view, SEO is hard to ignore. But you’re right – it kills creativity. And it’s not “writing” by a long shot. It’s a methodical approach to improving search rankings. Thanks for the great post!

    • admin August 24, 2013 at 16:25

      Thanks Michelle. Appreciate the comment.

      Balancing the needs of SEO and the audience are the main aim of the game. I certainly don’t ignore SEO, but have found that writing for it simply doesn’t work for me with my business. I’d rather have the freedom to express my personality.

      It really depends on the business and the vertical, too. If search is going to drive what you do, then of course that should be the focus, however if you want people coming back for me and building community, translating into regular users of the product and becoming word of mouth champions, then the words have to appeal to people, not Google, Yahoo or Bing.

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