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 youre 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.