Balancing SEO and copywriting best practices: a true story

Guest Author, Nick Stamoulis

I was working with one of my social SEO clients on their blog. My SEO company, Brick Marketing, was responsible for writing two blog posts each week, which we would then promote through the client’s various social networks as they went live.

We were specifically instructed to make sure the blog posts were “SEO friendly” and would do well in the search engines. However, before we even scheduled the blog posts I would send the new posts over to my client for their approval. If they had any changes or comments about the post, they just had to email me back and I would have my writing staff change the post as directed.

One day, they sent back a blog post with so many edits, changes and corrections that you could hardly discern the original article. When I asked them what they didn’t like about the original post, my client responded “Oh no, we really liked the post. We just didn’t understand why you had put those links in there. The blue text is really weird looking. And we thought we should only focus on the same keyword through the whole post, so we removed the variations so as to not confuse our readers.”

They essentially threw the SEO component of the blog post out the window!

I’ll be the first to say that any content, whether it is a blog post, article or webpage, should be written for the reader first and the search engines second. But even great content needs a little help getting found and read by your target audience. That’s where SEO and content optimization come into play.

Here are 4 ways to balance content optimization and traditional copywriting:

1. Don’t dumb it down.

Have a little faith in your readers. Writing generic and generalized content so you can target broad keywords won’t do anyone (you or your readers) any good. Don’t be afraid to target long-tail keywords that someone further along in their research process might be using to find related information. The most specific audience you can write your content for is the best chance you’ll have of earning their business.

2. Incorporate keyword variations.

Speaking of specific keywords, there is no rule that says you have to target the exact same keyword throughout the entire blog post. Obviously you want to stick with keywords that accurately reflect the theme and messaging of the content, but don’t be afraid to throw some variations in there. This not only makes your content much more natural sounding, it also helps your content appeal to more searches. Not everyone searches for the same thing in the same way, so variations help ensure you aren’t accidentally alienating a segment of your target audience.

3. Use anchor text to get the link.

Interlinking your blog posts is a great way to keep your readers engaged, educate them further on related topics and show off your industry savvy. No blog post is an island! Obviously you don’t want to pepper your blog posts with dozens of links (it can get a little distracting for your reader) but incorporating 2-3 links via anchor text is a great way to beef up your blog’s SEO! By using anchor text instead of the full URL to direct readers to another blog post (or even a page on your site) you are keeping the flow of your content intact and spreading the link juice from more popular posts across your blog, lending more value to other posts.

4. Write first, optimize second.

Getting the words down on paper is probably the hardest part about writing a blog post. Yet some site owners seem like gluttons for punishment and think that every word has be to perfect for SEO before they can move onto the next. You don’t have to sacrifice great content in order to make a blog “SEO friendly!” In fact, site owners should write the post first and THEN go back in and see how you can tweak it for SEO. If you can’t make a keyword fit, then don’t force it in. If you can’t find a reason to link, don’t bother. Trying to stuff SEO into a blog post is only going to ruin the integrity of the post.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is an SEO consultant and President of Brick Marketing. With over 12 years of B2B SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 160,000 opt-in subscribers.

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