The Art of Writing Optimized Content

Jan 19, 2011 • 12:13 pm | comments (12) by twitter | Filed Under SEO Copywriting

Search Engine Optimization requires the inclusion of popular (highly searched) or profitable (highly searched just before buying) words into headlines, copy, and other page elements. Note that I wrote "inclusion" and not "insertion," which some people fail to grasp.

A recent thread at Sphinn includes the emotion-charging title Stop Writing for People, Start Writing for Search Engines. The thread links to an article which clearly demonstrates the author's experience in writing for both people and search engines. As our SEO Editor Mary Malbasa states:

Despite the shocking headline, it reinforces our best practices: 1) Write for people the “right” way. 2) Make sure everyone (and machine) knows exactly what you’re writing about. 3) Break up your content.

A big part of effectively writing for Internet users and search engines alike is to understand the human user's psyche while also feeding the search engines the relevancy they need to consider ranking the page for a given topic. As the author AJ Kohn states in comparing telemarketing to Web copywriting, the need for speedy delivery of the "so what" is paramount to success with Web copy.

One particularly interesting take in the comments at the blog post comes from Aaron Bradley:

Blasphemer! At least, that would be the stock take on your post. The “prevailing wisdom” is that if you write “content” (whatever that means) for users, the search engines will somehow ingest your noble intentions by osmosis, and reward you with high rankings.

Which is why this is a refreshingly blasphemous post. Yes, there is value in writing for users – but, as you so convincingly argue, writing for users with an understanding of how web content is actually consumed online.

Aaron goes on to suggest that content "machines" used to develop content primarily for search engines in an automated manner could learn from basic copywriting best practices to actually make their content user-friendly and helpful. (Ok that's a bit scary as I really hope that machines don't end up getting the upper hand in search results for important topics such as what to do if your daughter has a rash.)

Everyone performing content optimization (don't forget optimizing digital assets counts too) should remember speaking to audiences ranging from machine to human to human-in-a-hurry requires serious thinking and a combined effort, along with some compromises.

Please join the discussion at Sphinn or share your thoughts below.

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Outrank Com

01/19/2011 05:46 pm

Great post. I think it is helpful to note that "writing for search engines" is actually simultaneously writing for users. If we can make information easier for the engines to crawl and find -- it will, by default, deliver information users are looking for.


01/19/2011 06:00 pm

Today the most important texts are optimized for search than for men.


01/19/2011 06:06 pm

Writing content for visitors is very important. Imagine you have a site which ranks in top positions for most of keywords that u have optimized, visitors from SE's might come in but ur content only filled with keywords/keyword variations and if ur content is not portraying why someone should opt for ur service, benefits of working with u, ur experience, etc. Most of them would simply leave the website... just adding to the high Bounce rate. So always have a content for the users and make it machoine friendly

AJ Kohn

01/20/2011 01:04 am

I'm glad folks are getting something out of the post. My goal was to demonstrate that writing for the web is very different from other forms of writing. Just like haiku is different from grant writing. There are nuances, but in general I think most will write better content for people if they write with search engines in mind. Thanks for sharing the post and comments. I really appreciate it.

Chris Boggs

01/20/2011 04:07 am

you're welcome AJ! I like your reply to another commenter later in the thread when you restate the idea of an intersection that can exist between seo and ux. Based on some of the tweets I think a few may have focused in on the idea of making content generators smarter by trying to program better UX. what are your thoughts on that?


01/20/2011 09:10 am

I couldn't have put it better. I completely agree... Whilst I accept that content has to be adapted to incorporate search terms for internal optimisation, we shouldnt lose site of the fact a site should be easy and enjoyable to use. I also am very aware of the fact that the client/business owner who the site was developed for needs to be happy with it. He will be looking at it from the point of view of his customers.


01/20/2011 05:52 pm

Unfortunately - Optimized content with style is on its way...think about that Machine WATSON is wiping the floor with KEN JENNINGS on long do you think that the same machine will be able to write optimized & human friendly content. Searchengineman

AJ Kohn

01/20/2011 09:36 pm

The intersection of SEO and UX is interesting. Satisfying user experiences should translate into positive SEO benefit. Google's certainly trying to measure user satisfaction and I'd also argue that the better the experience the better the chance you'll get a social mention, a link or create an evangelist. These are all things that are shaping the current algorithm in one way or another. And it's just plain good marketing too boot. It WOULD be interesting to create some programatic UX filters for content generators. You might be able to apply font hierarchy analysis (checks for appropriate use of subheads), paragraph size limits (no eyestrain blocks of content) and grammatical insight (number of pronouns) to help grade content from a general UX perspective. That could be a nifty little WP Plug-In.


01/21/2011 09:11 am

I think the content should focus on the user. It is not enough to draw eyeballs to your site, the purpose is to facilitate the user's need/want for information.

Daniel Chavez Moran

02/01/2011 06:02 pm

What the search engines like is constantly changing to reflect user experience. What the user likes is easily digestible text that addresses the topic. I lean toward the latter for posterity's sake.

Dominik Bjegovic

02/14/2011 11:12 am

I am a copy writer. And I wanted to find the best to help me out. This site has provided me with the best one to help me. By taking the help of this site I am now a good copywriter. Dominik Bjegovic

Marcos Lima

04/07/2011 12:28 pm

SEO copywriting is a challenge and I really enjoy it. I see it like a puzzle. I make a keyword research to colletct some pieces of this puzzle and I use the creativity to show to the people the picture in this puzzle. Nice post!

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