Writers and Keywords
Storytelling Content Creation

Quality Content: Tricks to Avoid Becoming an SEO Hack

Many authors have turned SEO copywriting into a surgical procedure, assuming that when a client requires brevity, the only way to provide it is through a litany of staccato, rehashed sentences. My question for these authors is “Who in their right mind wants to read this kind of isometric nonsense?” Gaming the system might feel like a winning strategy to optimize an article, but to keep your audience coming back, you must create something worth reading. Developing a high-level content marketing strategy remains the best way to organically cultivate a loyal following.

Fake Rugs and Fake Quality

It’s no secret around the office that my biggest pet peeve as an editor is when an author decides to superimpose keywords on top of an existent, pre-written article that was successful in the past. Even if you are prodigious at this practice, it still fails what I call the toupee test. Andy Rooney, an overrated TV personality and underrated writer, once quipped that the problem with toupees is that, regardless whether it’s a good or bad toupee, everyone can still tell you are wearing one. The same goes for new keywords in old articles. You might think you’re mass-producing quality content, but when you don’t consistently produce original quality content and, instead, recycle your old SEO articles, your readers can tell. And, chances are, they won’t come back for more.

Here’s Sentence 1. Here’s Sentence 2. Here’s Sentence 3.

Have you ever read an article that seems to be nothing more than a repeated sentence, but with a different subject and verb? If this is your special SEO writing technique, please, stop. The fact that some clients have rigid style constraints is certainly understandable, but as a writer, you must use your imagination and find ways to vary your message within these constraints, even if it means nixing your canned sentence structure. This is where being part of a creative community is helpful: If you can’t think your way around what very well might be The World’s Worst SEO Style Guide (Trust me, I’ve been there.), then call up some friends and bounce ideas off each other. Creativity is the foundation of quality content.

Semicolons, Gratuitous Adverbs, and Other Pseudo-Intellectual Nonsense

You want to produce quality content, but where should you start? Focus on your idea. If your underlying message is strong, it can go a long way in covering up whatever deficiencies you have as a precision writer. Part of SEO writing is style, but a larger part is actually ­saying something. Sometimes, an article will cross my desk that has all the hallmarks of English–words, punctuation, paragraphs–but upon closer inspection, says very little. As a bonus, it’s been tricked out in cloying semicolons and fancy-schmancy words, with SEO keywords sprinkled in as an afterthought. Writing quality articles and trying to sound smart are different things. Which of the following is someone more likely to share on a social network? The two men fought until a winner was declared or The two virile specimens of athletic wonder came to what can be considered tragic fisticuffs; haymakers abounded furiously, creating a testosterone-fueled vortex from which one would plangently emerge, victorious, heaving, crying to the heavens in appropriate accordance with the Herculean triumph? Unless you are being snarky and making fun of the latter, the clearer idea will always win in the end.

SEO copywriting is not all that different from all other types of writing. It should be approached less as a science and more as an art to be mastered. You should be optimizing your articles for your client, but if you create something you wouldn’t want even your worst enemy to read, is it worth it? By focusing on quality, not only will you create something you’ll be proud to share, but your readers will keep coming back, excited to learn more.

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Daniel Vela is a die-hard sports fan, a history buff, and a music lover. He works as an editor at Skyword.

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