“Write for people, not search engines” has become the new holy mantra of SEO copywriting. It disgusts me. I can only find one article where I ever used the phrase “write for people”. That was in my 2008 “20 More Hard Core SEO Tips” article. In my very first tip I suggested you create a Website using unscannable copy (still a very good SEO tip). Why did I say that? Because …
Create a site with unscannable copy. Why? Because most Web content is not scannable. Because most Web news copy is not scannable. Write for the Web is a non-sensical expression. You write for people, not the Web, and people will read anything that is well-written and engaging. People will stop and read anything that captures their interest. Theyll leave anything that bores them. Making your copy scannable doesnt make it less boring.
You know, there are certain Websites (like CNN) that just absolutely ruin their Web copy by publishing update-after-update in the same article. Talk about making your copy unscannable, having to read these updates in backwards order makes the articles almost incomprehensible. Even on major breaking news I often back out of stories that have a lot of update notices so I can go find more coherent articles, even if they are outdated. I want to understand the issue first and THEN see the updates.
Making Web content scannable is about one of the worst things you can do if that means preserving the original text and then piling out-of-context updates on top of it. At the very least, put the new stuff at the bottom.
But the real problem with injecting scannability into your content is, as I noted in 2008, that making content scannable does not make it interesting or engaging. Either you are writing something that people want to read or not. That is what I meant by “you write for people, not the Web”.
But if you want to be found in Web search (aka “on Bing” or “on Google”) then you must write for the search engines. If I did not make that clear enough, search engine optimization is about writing content that the search engines will ingest and show to their users.
Okay, there was a time a few years ago where everyone seemed to believe that in order to “do SEO” you had to “1) research keywords”, “2) write copy for those keywords”, and “3) point links to those keywords”. So Google decided to protect user privacy by taking away the keyword data (only, it’s still available in Google Webmaster Tools), and then Google punished people who were chasing those keywords with the Panda algorithm (only, people are still doing “keyword research” for SEO), and then Google decided to crush spammy non-editorial links with penalties and automated algorithms (and the links just keep on coming).
Search engine optimization is not about doing things in a formulaic way. It’s about doing whatever makes a Website integrate well into the search process. Spamming it up with thousands of links has always been a short-sighted strategy so that is nothing like search engine optimization. But acquiring thousands of links helps with your integration into the search process.
The message was clear in the beginning: links help. Unfortunately, idiots took control of the message and told everyone to do whatever they could to get those links because “SEO is all about links” (only, it never was).