The traditional view of SEO is that webmasters must walk a fine line between visitor engagement and writing optimized content. This view says that webmasters must build content that targets specific keywords and find ways to keep that content interesting for readers. It’s a delicate balance between writing for visitors and writing for search engines.
I personally disagree with that point of view. The traditional view of SEO makes it out to be a battle between writing for search engines and writing for real people. The truth is that visitor engagement comes first. Search engine optimization should always come second to visitor engagement.
Bear with me. This is not another “content is king” piece. I still plan to explain how you can rank for keywords and build a profitable website. I’m just going to take a different point of view than what you see at most SEO forums.
Writing for the Readers vs. Writing for Search Engines
Let’s start with writing for the readers. If you don’t write for your readers, your website is doomed in the long run. What I mean by “writing for the readers” is writing content that other people actually find useful, entertaining or controversial. This is how you create a long-lasting website.
The other way you can go is to write specifically for search engines. This means you do lots of keyword research, you base new content ideas on keywords that you want to hit and you try to stick your keyword in the content as often as possible without getting dinged by an over optimization penalty.
The problem with writing for search engines is that it places your website at the mercy of search engines. The next time Google changes its algorithm, your website might be knocked off the map forever. And since you never wrote for the visitors, it’s unlikely you will get much return traffic or type-in traffic. As soon as your website disappears from page one, it is forgotten by everyone.
When you write for your readers, you build a search engine-proof website. You can handle the minor ups and downs because you get traffic from a variety of sources. Your visitors have you bookmarked, people recommend your site in forums and people come back to comment on old articles. This is also known as building an authority website.
A Healthy Balance
Write every article with the visitors in mind first. Even on your high converting pages, make the content useful. Give people your honest opinion and explain their options. If your conversion pages come across as salesy, it will turn people off and search engines will rank it poorly.
And speaking of which, not every piece of new content has to be designed to get more sales. Don’t be afraid to write content that serves no purpose other than to serve the reader. That alone is a good purpose. You will build good will among your visitors, Google will see that not every page is riddled with ads and other people will be more willing to link to you.
For example, I run an online storage website (here) whose goal is to earn money by referring visitors to online storage services. If you visit that site, you’ll see that not every page tries to sell storage space. I have written long how-to guides about encrypting files, downloading music and increasing computer security. The purpose of these articles is to give visitors useful information, not to sell storage space.
Read more in Part 2
About the Author: Wes Burns is a full time freelance writer and student of SEO. He values old fashioned, high-quality content over the latest link building gimmicks. His latest project is an online storage website located at OnlineFileStorage.com.