Corporate Writer Guide to SEO: Write for Humans, Not Robots

June 20, 2010  |   Posted by :   |   Copywriting,Corporate Writing,Slideshow   |   10 Comments»

What’s wrong with this picture, corporate writing fans:

“A dog is your best friend. I like having a dog, because a dog is loyal and a dog is friendly. A dog shows their love for you by licking you with their dog tongue and rubbing their dog body against your legs. The bad thing about a dog is the dog fur. A dog can shed its dog fur, leaving dog mess and dog fur all over the house. Their dog bed is also full of dog fur.”

Welcome to the world of  high-density keywords (“dog,” in case you missed it). But that would be hard to do, considering “dog” appears 15 times in 79 words. (Can somebody throw this writer a pronoun?)

You might think search engines love it, but keyword stuffing is no way to a spider’s heart. Even more important, the average (human) reader opts for a little more variety in word choice. Not to mention, an actual story.

Our doggy tale comes from our friend Joanne Grey of Spotted Wombat in Brisbane, Australia. And it perfectly illustrates my point: Search engine optimization is critically important, but so is having something to say.  To be an effective storyteller in our online world, you have to understand how the robots think. But, never forget who your true audience is.

Content mills are doing a good enough job these days of devaluing the craft of corporate writing. We don’t have to throw fuel on the fire by letting a SEO obsession obscure the stories we’re trying to tell.

So with that in mind, here are three common sense steps for serving both our SEO and Storytelling masters. These steps come compliments of Bob Bly, a noted Internet marketing strategist and copywriter:

1. List your keywords, based on the most commonly-used words and expressions your customers use about your product or service.

2. Write the best damn copy you can, with total disregard to keywords. Just have an interesting conversation with your audience–as you would in any other medium.

3. Plug in your keywords, where and as often as it makes sense. As Bob sensibly warns, ” If forcing a keyword in disrupts the flow of the copy, then don’t do it.”

Try these three steps and see how quickly they’ll improve the effectiveness of your online copy. The Web needs more good storytellers. And SEO doesn’t have to be the tail wagging the dog.

Related Posts

10 Comments for this entry

  • Andy Bartling

    June 21st, 2010 on 10:45 pm

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: Here’s a comment from Linked In’s group, Business Writers of America:

    “Andy, this is excellent advice and a very common-sense solution to the dilemma of good content vs. search-engine optimization. This sounds like a good way to accomplish both goals. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!”

  • Andy Bartling

    June 21st, 2010 on 10:50 pm

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: Here’s a comment from LinkedEds & Writers group:

    “Thanks Andy – my posts do pretty well, but it’s nice to have a simple, straighforward explanation of how to plug in the keywords without screwing up my flow.”

  • Andy Bartling

    June 21st, 2010 on 10:53 pm

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: And here’s a comment from Linked In’s Copywriters International group:

    “Write on! As Joseph Pulitzer said, ‘put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.'”

  • Andy Bartling

    June 22nd, 2010 on 8:43 am

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: Here’s a comment from Linked In’s UK Marketing and Communications group:

    “Great article, which entirely endorses my feelings on the subject. Many thanks for that Andy!”

  • Andy Bartling

    June 22nd, 2010 on 8:46 am

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: Here’s a comment from Linked In’s Copywriting & Copyediting group:

    “Excellent article. Storytelling selling is the best form of getting your message across. Three common sense steps…perfect. Thank you for sharing this article.”

  • Andy Bartling

    June 23rd, 2010 on 9:51 am

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: Here’s a comment from Linked In’s group: Financial Writing/Marketing Communications:

    “Yes, Andy, someone is boring the heck out of humans as they write for SEO.”

  • Steve Lodge at Oxygen Creative

    June 25th, 2010 on 10:44 am

    This has always interested me since I went on an SEO course back in 2002 and the instructor used the same example – dogs – and showed me how to write meaningless keyword-stuffed nonsense. For a while I became quite good at it!
    The reality among SEO experts is that very few believe that there is such a thing as perfect keyword density. Just the opposite – they think that Google is smart enough to recognise similes and tenses to draw its own conclusion about keyword relevance.
    This is a knell for the copyshops in India, and a clarion call to well-trained and experienced copywriters.

  • Andy Bartling

    June 25th, 2010 on 11:03 am

    Corporate Writer Insider Note: Here’s a new comment from the UK Marketing & Communications group on Linked In:

    “Good article – as Confucius said: “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone… (and) the people will stand about in helpless confusion.”

    Meaning is everything if you want people to actual do something!”

  • Brian Woodward

    July 12th, 2010 on 9:57 pm

    Good post. Something that has helped me legitimately get inside a robot’s diction preference in the past are Google’s semantic search operators. Have fun with this.

    Google: ~coffee. Note how many results there are. Then, search: ~coffee -coffee. Note the results. The results don’t go to zero because you are effectively telling the search engine to first return results that are NEAR coffee, then eliminate the word coffee from the results. Pay attention to the bolded words in the search results. You’ll see cafe, caffeine and eventually starbucks. Translation: these are *kind of* the same words as coffee in the search engine’s mind. Google: ~coffee -coffee -cafe -starbucks

    Long story short. If you want help effectively injecting SEO without stuffing keywords, this trick may help you write more naturally.

  • Joanne Grey

    August 26th, 2010 on 8:14 pm

    What a doggy tale :). I love your post, Andy – thank you.

    Can you believe that people still ask me to write copy with excessive keyword-stuffing? Blogs like yours go a long way in helping guide customers into making the correct choices.