How SEO Actually Improves Content Quality

Having to factor in SEO while writing content weakens the content I produce. It takes away my artistic license and forces me to insert awkward, keyword-stuffed phrases into otherwise perfect, poetic content. By putting the focus on search engines, and not our users, SEO pollutes the Web and makes everything a little less relevant.

Don’t worry. I’m kidding. But others aren’t.

Perhaps it’s the holiday stress, or maybe SEO is simply an easy target, but it seems like every day there’s a new article bashing SEO and harking how over-focusing on SEO results in negative efforts. Whether it’s “how SEO is killing content” or “why PR has killed SEO” – the reports regarding SEO and content are not very merry. They’re also not very accurate.

If you think SEO is ruining your content, then you’re not a very good writer. Or, a very good SEO. (Sorry.)

To even the score, today I break out the many ways paying attention to SEO will actually improve your content, not hurt it.

SEO Promotes Audience and Keyword Research

As a writer, or at least as a person producing content, it’s easy to think you know best. To assume you know what a person wants to read or even that you know who your audience is. However, through SEO we get to actually find out these things and then use them to better our words.

Through SEO efforts, I use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, Wordtracker or Ubersuggest to guide how I speak about the issues or topics I’m writing about. This leaves me better informed about how the normal Web user refers to my subject. Some argue these tools cloud our writing and force us to clutter our pages with cumbersome terms that do nothing but confuse – but I’d argue it’s the opposite. SEO ensures I’m using the right words – the words my audience uses to search for information. I thought that was the point.

More than just keyword analysis, SEO gives me audience analysis. The Audience reports within Google Analytics provide great insight into my audience, what they’re interested in, what they read, where they go, and what they do immediately after reading my content. This gives me invaluable information about the people who read my website so I can better target my content at my audience. SEO makes me a better writer by making me relevant to the people who read me.

SEO Is About Making Pages Useful for Users

The smack down has been delivered, and Google has made it clear crappy content and thin websites will not fare well in this brave new world of SEO.

Now more than ever SEO is about making pages and websites useful for visitors. But some still want to pretend that’s not the case.

A recent article on CMS Wire argued SEO is diluting the integrity of the Web, killing content quality and forcing content writers to stuff websites with garbage. My word! Upon reading it, I had to look at the date stamp to make sure it was written in 2014, not 2004. Sure, savvy SEOs could once get away with less-than-pure page intentions, but that has changed dramatically. Today’s version of SEO is strongly aligned with the tenets of user-focused marketing and user experience. It’s about making a page as useful for a visitor as possible and being the best answer and the most helpful.

The more user-focused the content, the better the SEO.

SEO Is a Content Organizer

Another benefit SEO brings to the content process is organization. When you’re writing a book, there are chapters and a natural evolution of information that moves the story along. On websites, the same exists. There is page hierarchy and natural progression of how a user makes his or her way through the website. The information being produced for each page should be reflective of that and tell a similar story. Paying mind to SEO as a writer means considering site architecture and how one page will lead into another, guiding the user through that discovery process. It means NOT dumping everything you know about a certain topic onto a single page just because you know it.

In terms of content organization, it also means knowing what content you have and where it’s located. The content audit process can help document the information you have to share, to keep you better organized to help users find what they’re looking for.

SEO Is an Idea-Generator

The bane of a writer’s existence – knowing what to write about all the time. The longer you’re tasked with writing about a topic, the harder it is to generate great ideas. Lucky for us writer folk, SEO serves as the ultimate idea generator.

Writers can use SEO insights from analytics to come up new topics for blog articles, e-books, or what to cover in their next infographic. They can use related searches in Google, Bing, and Yahoo. They can tap into Google’s Auto Correct. They can use any one of these modern idea generators to spark an idea or get their creative juices following. Thanks to SEO there are ways to solve the “what am I going to write about” problem that don’t involve alcohol or spending hours staring at a blinking cursor.

SEO Creates Opportunities for Content

Thanks to all the changes and developments in the world of SEO, it’s become a lot easier to sell content as an agency. Clients come into conversations wanting to hear about how content can be used to help them connect with an audience, and to rank better. They’re interested in many different flavors of content, including blogs, case studies, whitepapers, video, animation, Q&A interviews, webinars, e-books, presentations, etc. They’re the ones asking about content marketing, which has given us a seat (and budget!) at the table.

SEOs themselves are also focusing on putting stronger content on websites because they know that light, keyword-stuff approach doesn’t work anymore. Even they’re making the case to create content that matters, that engages and that moves a reader to do something.

Because of SEO, good writers are more in demand than ever before. And that’s something to celebrate.

SEO Gets Great Content Found

Hey, I hate to point out the obvious, but without SEO, your great content wouldn’t get found. SEO should be a content writer’s best friend because it does all the things mentioned above. It helps you understand your audience, to use the right terms, to organize your content, to know what to write about, etc. Without SEO, we’d all be writing in the dark hoping someone stumbled upon our words.

It’s time to call a spade a spade – SEO doesn’t negatively affect your content, it improves it. It makes your content smarter, gets it found, and helps you connect with the people you’re trying to reach. Without SEO, the content on your website might sound pretty, but it wouldn’t actually do anything.

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