This week’s guest post comes from the founders of Clarion Copy, LLC, a Boise-based company that offers writing services for business owners and individuals. Thanks for being here, Tasha and Lindsey!
“Do you do SEO?”
This question is the bane of our existence.
Many times, the people asking this question don’t really know what they’re asking. But SEO is the latest buzzword being thrown around the business world—inboxes are full of promises from SEO experts of increased traffic and sales—so they feel compelled to ask about it. They feel that if they are hiring out content, they should hire someone “doing” Search Engine Optimization.
When we launched Clarion Copy, we had this idea that writing for businesses would be similar to what we already knew—journalism. We thought we’d find out what our client’s audience wanted to read about, research it, do some interviews, add a bit of adorable wit (where applicable), write a killer lead (lede for you industry folks), nail a headline, and there you have it: content marketing.
However, as this SEO question kept coming up, and while we were reading about it everywhere we turned, we had to honestly ask ourselves, “Are we just lazy? Is it that we don’t want to learn and invest time in becoming experts in the field?”
Nope. That couldn’t be it. We are born researchers. The problem was two-fold. First, we find SEO articles mind-numbingly boring. Second, and more importantly, we just don’t believe the hype. We don’t really believe in SEO. We know; we’ve blasphemed The Web. But hear us out.
Just the word makes us feel as if we need a shower. What was the point of all these “black-hat” SEO tricks—which were already out of vogue when we entered the scene? Everyone wants to rank on Google, and we understand the importance of being relevant in the virtual eyes of the search engines. But what about the actual eyes and brains of intelligent humans? Tricks might have bumped a site to the coveted number one position, but there’s really no point if the searcher finds gibberish, grammatical errors and nonsense content. They click once and never return. Is that what businesses are going for?
We believe if businesses provide genuinely valuable content and engage with readers, they will get return visitors. That loyalty should mean more in search engine rankings. We dream of a world where good content is rewarded with high rankings, and we’re getting closer.
Pandas and Penguins and Algorithms. Oh, my!
Google caught on and started penalizing sites using trickery to drive traffic. You’d think that would put an end to the banality that was SEO tip articles. Not so much. Enter fear. SEO tips began to morph into “What Not to Do” and step-by-step guides on how to appear natural to Google Panda. Are we missing something? What could possibly look more natural than being natural? If business owners are using their websites and social media to reach customers in order to educate, engage, and become a resource to them, not only will they end up with decent rankings, they might even get bookmarked.
Keyword, Key Word, Key-Word
Here’s the other thing: If a business named “The Boise Bulb” becomes known for its helpful lighting website, brilliant articles, and for engaging with its customers, the business can worry less about showing up in generic searches such as “Boise light bulbs,” or “light bulb Boise,” or “light-bulb-Boise” because people will be searching for “The Boise Bulb.” Guess what shows up in the number one spot for that search?
This leads us to one more beef we have with SEO. Maybe we’re grammar geeks, but it’s extremely bothersome to see that kind of inconsistency. We can deal with the fact that different industries follow different guidelines for style and spelling (AP, MLA, APA). You can use a style we aren’t used to, but for Merriam-Webster’s sake, stick with it.
Best of Both Worlds?
No doubt, creating content for business takes time. But rather than spending hours researching different ways to say the same thing, spend your time digging up information the end user will find fascinating, then make sure keywords for the industry are included where they fit naturally. If you are “doing” SEO, you are doing it wrong. If you are writing valuable content, and looking into keyword searches as an afterthought, you are probably on the right track.
Here are some articles about SEO that don’t make our eyes immediately glass over:
What do you think? SEO or great content? What other tips do you have for driving quality traffic to a site?
Lindsey Hileman and Tasha Adams are living the grammarlous life. Together, they own Clarion Copy, LLC, a Boise-based copywriting and ghostwriting company. They each have degrees from Boise State University in English and communication, which have been handy in explaining to people what a copywriter is. That, and “Mad Men.”