SEO Insight: keyword rich or quality of content?

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SEO. Search engine optimisation. Utter those three words to many small business people and their eyes will quickly glaze over. I know mine did for a long time.

Yes, we’ve heard the term. Yes, we know it’s important if you want your business to be found on the web (or more specifically, to rank high in organic search, particularly on Google). But what does SEO mean when it comes to delivering content?

Understand the basics

According to Wikipedia, SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website or web page in search engines’ natural, or unpaid (‘organic’), search results.

However, given we’re on the cusp of a content marketing revolution, and more and more companies are starting to use original online content as a means to attract potential customers to their blogs and websites, it’s absolutely vital that businesses get a handle on the basics of SEO — and in particular, the use of keywords and key phrases.

Wherever possible, the copy on your blog, videos, podcasts, online newsroom, etc. — even on social networks such as LinkedIn — should be optimised for search engines. In other words, your keyword-infused content should form the core of your SEO efforts.

But before you go down that path, it’s worth asking the question: Are you pro-SEO at any cost, or are you more propelled to deliver content that’s valuable and well-written?

SEO first, or compelling copy?

There are two camps when it comes to the use of keywords in content:

  • Quantity folks—Those that say SEO is the number one priority, so stuff as many keywords and key phrases into your web copy as possible;
  • Quality folks—The purists who believe quality of copy should outweigh SEO considerations and that keywords must come in second to word-smithing.

Many SEO experts will say you need to determine the keywords and key phrases prospective customers are likely to use when searching for the products and services offered by your business, and then start strategically inserting them into your web copy. And they’re right.

However, too often the temptation will be to go overboard and stuff excessive keywords into your content, to the point where the copy is less than compelling.

I’m a big believer that when there are two extreme schools of thought regarding an issue, the answer will often lie in the middle. So, too, in this case.

Personally, I have half a foot in the SEO-only camp. My other one-and-a-half feet are firmly ensconced in the quality school of thought. That’s because I’m a writing purist, so I try and write copy that’s (hopefully) compelling to the reader. But I’m also becoming keyword conscious. I’m aware of the need to include certain keywords in my copy (particularly headings), but I’m not a slave to it. Others will disagree, but I think it’s a happy medium.

I recommend you become aware of the keywords and key phrases your potential customers use when searching for your products and services on the web.

If it helps, use tools like Google AdWords or Google Insights to try and identify which words and phrases are the most popular with Google users, and equally important, which ones are starting to gain steam.

Make a list of appropriate keywords and prioritise them. Include them in blog posts and other web copy wherever possible, but don’t become overly focused on them.  In other words, don’t sacrifice a great headline for one so jam-packed with keywords it’s rendered useless and won’t get noticed. Effective content, after all, should be interesting and compelling to the reader.