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AAMR> Library> Internet Writing Tips


SEO Mercilessly Murdered by Copywriters!

by Mike Banks Valentine

 

As someone that reads voraciously and devours search engine
industry news and information on a daily basis, I also enjoy
writing on the subject. My articles are often begun when I
see a particularly strong post in a discussion list and
immediately leap to my keyboard to quickly respond (albeit
more with passion than great writing skill).

This week I read a comment from Nick Usborne, the moderator
of the I-Copywriting discussion list

http://www.marketingwonk.com/lists/icopywriting

and author of "Net Words, Creating High-Impact Online Copy"
I've read, enjoyed and reviewed his book here,
http://www.website101.com/arch/archive138.html

The gist of what he said in that post was that professional
writers were being segmented into categories based on whether
they offer additional skills to their clients. One particular
comment swerved closely toward my specialty of search engine
optimization (SEO), when he said,

"In addition, there is a whole new skillset required for
writers who choose to specialize in search engine writing.
SEO is a complex skill and an area in which writers are
finding a profitable niche. My only concern there is not
that writers acquire SEO skills, but that some SEO experts
tout themselves as professional writers, when they are not."

My response to that post follows:

Your comments in "One Day We'll Just Be Writers" could be
shared by any professional doing business in any capacity.
One day we'll just be attorneys. One day we'll just be doctors.
One day we'll just be auto mechanics. Each profession requires
skillsets from other specialties, each without complete mastery
of a career built upon those separate skills, but with
contributions, drawn of necessity, from that specialization.

You, as a skilled professional writer, are lamenting that even
lowly SEO's (Search Engine Optimizers) are claiming to be
writers when we're not. I don't claim to be a writer, but
I end up doing writing for clients because Search Engine
Optimization necessarily involves words, text and arrangement
of keyword phrases on a page within a requisite web page
structure.

Today I saw an article by an investment advisor (!) discussing
high search engine rankings and was ready to be incensed by his
words treading on my expertise. Then I went to read Ulli
Niemann's article and found that he "gets it" in a way that
most people don't. He's ranked number one for important finance
industry keyword phrases and was sought out by CNN as an expert
because he was top ranked in a Google search done by CNN staff
seeking an expert for an interview.

Remember that writing isn't the issue here, SEO is the topic.
Take a moment and review his words at the following link.
Notice his comments regarding writing skills, or lack of them.
He's an investment advisor writing articles about investments,
not a professional writer penning masterpieces on investments.

http://www.sitepronews.com/archives/2003/oct/27prt.html

Most often, SEO's are RE-writing - not writing. Our work is
NOT concerned with grammar, punctuation, sentence structure,
reading level of the audience, sales letter length or any
other "writer centric" issues.

SEO's take existing web copy and massage it to make the text
and page structure "crawler friendly" so that search engine
spiders will recognize what a given page is "about". The goal
is to gain top rankings in the search engines for competitive
keyword phrases targeted by our clients.

Those clients could often benefit from a seasoned professional
writer RE-writing their web pages as well, but only if they
were willing to FOREGO high search engine rankings. That's
correct, you heard me well! Although it is possible to craft
a well written and polished web page with skillful writing,
those pages will score far lower in the search engines than
will a page properly placing keyword phrases in randomly
generated text. As a matter of fact, there is software
available to do just that. While I'm opposed to the use of
that software, which is used in conjunction with cloaking
software by unethical webmasters, it does prove my point.

I've been called by clients after a web site re-write due
to drastic drops in search engine ranking following the work
of skilled copywriters on that client web site. It's not due
to the pristine clarity or sizzling sales copy, it's because
the writers don't understand search engines!

What would a writer do that hurts search engine ranking?

Here are a few writers' Search Engine Optimization killers.

Professional writers would not want to see a keyword phrase
repeated the optimal six or seven times on a page of just 600
words. They most often recommend reducing that 600 word page
to 250 words or less to gain clarity and focus, they'd vary
words to avoid repetition, re-write headlines to emphasize
the sizzle rather than the steak, and opt for simple metaphor
rather than industry buzzword.

BUT every one of those moves would destroy search engine
position for that client, who now has a beautifully written
page that nobody will ever find by doing a search at Google.
Congratulations on your stellar written work - which is now
invisible to the search engines!

I don't know that there is a happy solution to our conflict
until search engines appreciate the skill of great writers
above the skill of search engine geeks. We manipulate words
toward different ends. SEO's will eventually adapt to the
search algorithms as the search engineers adjust their
algorithms to recognize great writing, but not until then.


About the Author
Mike Banks Valentine is a Search Engine Optimization
Specialist practicing ethical SEO for Online businesses
http://SEOptimism.com

Take our Search Engine Quiz to test your Skills Level
http://SearchEngineOptimism.com/search_engine_quiz.html
email link:
http://privacynotes.com/cgi-bin/M/msb.cgi?2


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