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I always used to say that the best way to expose bad content was with “good SEO.” That’s because stuffing keywords and links into content was accepted by many as the way to tame the Google monster and punch a ticket to the top of search rankings.
I never understood that mindset, and it frustrated me as a copywriter, because if people get to your content and discover that your content is useless drivel, what’s the point?
Deep down, I guess we all would like to think we could beat the system, at least in some small way. Whether that means figuring out a way to get free shipping, discovering a tax loophole, or taking some backdoor approach to the top of search rankings, the inner hacker in all of us loves being able to exclaim, “Ha! Take that! I win!”
Thanks to the recent Panda and Penguin updates from Google that emphasize content quality, that approach isn’t necessary. Actually, that approach will get you in hot water with the search gods.
But science is still involved. And many who are still obsessed with beating the system somehow fail to realize that those who read the content – visitors, readers, users, prospects, whatever you choose to call them – are actually real people.
Instead of writing for search engines and algorithms, write for people.
Less Einstein. More Oprah.
Now you don’t have to give everybody in your reading audience a car. But you don’t have to split the atom either.
The most successful content doesn’t have the most keywords or links. Great content touches people. It speaks their language. It makes an emotional connection by appealing to the wants, needs, problems, frustrations, passions, joys, sorrows and values of real people.
When your write for science, you get e=mc2. When you write for people, you get laughter, tears and maybe even jumping on the couch.
Which do you think is better for your business?
Keywords are still important, but they should be delicately and seamlessly integrated into your content.
The best marketing “fits in” to someone’s lifestyle. When well-targeted and properly executed, marketing is welcomed as part of someone’s routine, a routine in which people value and pay attention to what matters most to them.
The same principle is true for keywords.
A keyword that’s unnaturally forced into content has the effect of a speed bump. It’s jarring. Uncomfortable. Awkward. Distracting. Much like a speed bump disrupts the flow of your ride, forced keywords disrupt your content.
Any disruption to the flow of your content gives the reader an excuse to check email, see who that text is from, read the newest batch of Tweets, or see who just posted pictures of their kids on Facebook.
Keywords forced into content for the sake of fueling a search engine give people a reason to stop reading your content. And it usually sounds ridiculous.
My advice? When you write content – with all due respect to the brilliant Einstein – forget about science and algorithms. Stop trying to the beat the system. Panda and Penguin are proof that the system is always evolving anyway.
After you’ve done your homework and you truly understand your target audience, focus only on how you can enrich the lives of real people. Channel your inner Oprah.
That doesn’t mean your content has to be warm and fuzzy. It just has to make an emotional connection with your target audience, whether that audience is soccer moms or truck drivers.
Read your content out loud. If it doesn’t sound like the way a real person would speak in a real conversation, rewrite it so it does.
Once your content is written, you can always go back and strategically sprinkle in keywords and links if necessary without compromising the quality of your content. If you’re not sure how to do this yourself, invest in someone who can do it for you.
This is the way you develop content that people like, want, use, share and remember. And it’s the real ticket to success, both in search and your bottom line.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve probably watched Oprah about 10 times in my life, although I’ve seen her episode on 30 Rock a few times (“Liz Lemoooooooon!”). But it doesn’t take an avid fan to know Oprah built her empire in large part by making emotional connections with people. And she’s worth about $2.7 billion. I rest my case.