No one engine should have all that power

OK, I have a question for y’all…

Why do we let Google have so much power over how we produce Web content?

I was reading a Search Engine Watch article where Kevin Gibbons was stressing how Google is never the “only customer.” Still, at every conference (most recently, Search Engine Strategies, San Francisco,) I hear people saying that they’re looking for a writer who can “write for Google.” They don’t care about how the article sounds to their customer – heck, that doesn’t even cross their minds. They’re just focused on 1,000 word articles with a magical keyphrase density.  If they only had that, the rest of their SEO campaign would be smooth sailing.

People, let’s get with the program.  “Writing for Google” without thinking of your customers is like praying to some sort of angry, vengeful god, hoping to appease it with odd rituals and violent sacrifices. Instead of killing people, businesses place their content on the sacrificial block and pull out it’s still-beating heart. Stripped away is writing to inform, entertain, or tempt people into taking the next conversion step. Instead, it’s all about what the Google Gods “want.”

Mind you, Matt Cutts has never said, “Stuff your content with keyphrases.” In fact, he’s stressed quality content – as has Seth Godin and a string of other smart marketers. When conferences do have content sessions, speakers stress customer personas, writing for your audience and yummy, engaging content.

So why do we let one engine have all that power? Why do we sacrifice our conversions and our branding for what we think Google wants? ‘Cause Google has never said, “Go forth and write 1,000 word articles with a 6 percent keyphrase density.”

Here are some of my ideas – and I’d love your thoughts:

  • The SEO industry gives clients a mixed message around content. We get on stage and stress how it’s important, and then some SEO companies outsource the content to India, pay their copywriters $20 a page, or don’t offer content services at all.
  • The search engines purchase “content mill” companies (I’m looking at you, Yahoo,) where writers are paid bottom-dollar…and the quality is questionable at best.
  • SEO conferences don’t have a lot of “how-to” SEO copywriting training sessions. AWAI does…but their market is freelancers, not businesses. Mind you, I’m blessed to be speaking on those SEO copywriting panels…don’t get me wrong. But when a good 70% of all panels stress “good content,” I wish there was more of an emphasis of what good SEO content even *is.* Ten minutes of SEO copywriting talk-time is not enough.
  • Many online SEO copywriting resources are sub par at best. They report “tactics” that are incorrect and/or outdated. This makes it hard for the average business owner to know what’s right – and what’s been written by a clueless individual who touts their “expert” status after working online for two years or less (ahem.)

So what say you? SEO copywriting is the foundation of so much SEO and social media “stuff” – including Tweets, sales pages, white papers and blog posts. What do we have to do as an industry to get folks moving in the right direction…as opposed to the “keyphrase stuffed, it’s all about Google” direction?

‘Cause at the end of the day, Google doesn’t pay your bills. Prospects that convert into customers DO pay them. Why aren’t we focusing on the customer experience instead?