I have a confession. It’s a deep, dark secret that I’ve hidden for way too long, and I need to get it off my chest.
I hate SEO.
is a strong word. Maybe too strong. And no, I don’t hate it, but there have been times when the keyword-injector utility has not been my best friend. As a writer, I can’t be alone in that sentiment. Can I?
I think the first time I really understood SEO—what it does and what it means and how to do it
—I felt creatively stunted. What, I can’t use that way-too-clever headline? Or that funny phrase I coined all on my own? It’s pithy, creative writing, so just get off me, SEO experts.
I can’t use that headline because nobody’s searching for it
—and because SEO-infused phrases outperform their SEO-less counterparts every time. Example:
• Clever headline: “From beets to leeks, meatless eats for kiddo treats!”
• SEO headline: “Six easy vegetarian recipes for kids”
Who’s searching for “beets to leeks” or “meatless eats for kiddo treats?” Nobody—other than me (and maybe my mom). Who’s searching for “easy vegetarian recipes for kids”? According to Google’s Keyword Planner
, a bunch of vegetarian parents.
As much as I’ve felt my creative energies have been thwarted in the name of optimizing content, I’ve realized its benefits. For one, SEO gets the content in front of more people than me (and my mom). It also helps me cut the crap (see clever headline example, above).
I’ve learned how to use SEO as a writer, too. For any of my scribbling comrades who have also felt stunted by the red ink of an SEO editor, here are my tips:
1. Work with what you have. When the SEO gods said to infuse content with relevant keywords, they didn’t mean to litter your work with them. Be subtle. Identify places to insert searchable phrases, and skip it where it doesn’t make sense.
2. Post a sticky note. I have a reminder on my computer screen that says exactly this: “Research. Links. Natural.” It may not work for you, but it helps me remember to (1) Research keywords at the beginning of every writing project; (2) embed those keywords in links when possible; and (3) write naturally and don’t kill the copy’s flavor with too much SEO seasoning.
3. Supplement search with creativity. If I had felt so strongly about my “beets to leeks” headline, I could have combined the two: “From Beets to Leeks: Six easy vegetarian recipes for kids.” By doing this, there are ample ways to accomplish search optimization with a wordsmith’s twist.
4. Realize how it helps. Were it not for SEO, much of my stuff might never have seen the light of Google’s day. As a writer, I owe thanks to SEO for publicizing my (and Marketwave’s and my clients’) work, far and wide. That’s worth all the clever words I’ve sacrificed along the way.
SEO skills are a must for budding and experienced writers. I might never master the craft, but I’m sure learning (to love it) as I go. What are your tips?
Bana Jobe is an account manager at Marketwave, a full-service PR and marketing hybrid based in Addison, Texas. A version of this story originally appeared on the agency's blog.