On SEO writing (a 2021 revisit to copywriter Henneke Duistermaat)

During a recent virtual networking conversation, a great marketing consultant mentioned that many Saskatchewan start-ups, across all fields, have naively paid (and then lost) thousands of their budgets to flashy, large marketing companies. These companies promise to get start-ups on “page one of Google” search results, without knowing the marketing that local clients genuinely need and that will work to secure real sales.

I write for humans, not primarily for bots. Having my copy appear on page one of Google’s search results, whether for myself, or my clients, would not secure sales. And yet the intrusive noise over high SEO rankings persists, even in 2021. On the issue of SEO, I sometimes worry about creative integrity and always refer my clients to the UK-based copywriter, Henneke Duistermaat.

In a recent blog posting on SEO (https://www.enchantingmarketing.com/seo-writing/), Henneke reminds us that the history of SEO writing began when writing for Google was supposed to be a copywriter’s strict aim. Online writing in those days (90’s, early 2000’s) was stuffed with keywords that made copy “almost unfit for human consumption.” In the 2010s, since Google “becomes smarter every year,” overlap developed between pleasing readers and meeting Google’s demands—but the overlap was still limited.

Nowadays, Henneke asserts, pleasing our readers “makes Google (mostly) happy, too.” Google “doesn’t want [copywriters] to try to beat its algorithm. It wants you to share your expertise, to create trustworthy, authoritative, helpful content—content that delivers what visitors are looking for.” She cites marketer Andy Crestodina who says, “To write for SEO, write the best page on the internet on your topic. If you make the best page on the web for your topic, there are 2000 math PhDs at Google trying to help you rank and get more traffic. If you don’t do that but try to take shortcuts, there are 2000 math PhDs at Google trying to stop you.”

Nowadays, then, Henneke says, if your “blog strategy is clear and reader-focused, you’ll fulfill the basic requirements for SEO, too.”

She shares five steps to write for SEO in 2021:

(1) Have a clear blog purpose, aiming for a topic that “fires you up,” so that you’ll “share your expertise with more enthusiasm.” Here your creativity can shine through.

(2) Use your audience as primary keyword research tool, writing about topics that matter to your readers (their aims, questions, problems, assets they seek), not to bots or to beat algorithms.

(3) Focus on tiny topics, instead of big questions, because the latter tend to be “vague and superficial or unwieldly and boring.” Narrower topics also provide more helpful content to readers. For a blog to be “valuable,” it should mix “a couple of articles about big topics and a lot of articles about tiny topics.”

(4) Write about each topic just once, since more than one post on the same topic compete and Google can’t tell which one to send traffic to.

(5) Write to help your readers “achieve a tiny aim, solve a tiny problem, answer a tiny question, or . . . present an inspirational collection of [resources]” and “optimize (a little) for Google” (www.moz.com/explorer is a free and useful tool to search keywords). Once you’ve identified a good keyphrase, include it in your headline, opening paragraph, in the main body of the post and in its conclusion.  Also, try to add some images in which, as in your URL, you can again insert the keyphrase.

Henneke writes: “the better Google becomes, the more important it becomes to focus on your readers and to deliver what they’re looking for. So use keyword research as a complement to, not a replacement of, understanding your audience and knowing how you want to help them.”

If you fear that SEO threatens to dominate your blogging, follow your curiosity and that of your readers to address their pain points or struggles, “so you know how you can help them.” By doing so, you’ll create valuable, interesting content that “Google’s house of math PhDs” will happily rank well.

Writing here, in Saskatchewan, means your blog posting should not aim to appear on Google’s first page, but instead to be noticed by your readers. Your posting will compel them to read your content closely and to identify you as a resource they urgently need.

And that’s an engaged client (and a likely sale) for you.

And now it’s your turn: Have you lost too much money and time chasing the elusive first page of Google’s search rankings? How might a revised method of SEO, based on original, focused copywriting, work to secure clients for you and your biz?