April 10, 2017 Katherine Haas

Writing for SEO vs. Writing Creatively: Finding the Balance

Maintaining a regular blog is not only an ideal way to connect with your prospective customer base and showcase your expertise in your industry, but from an SEO standpoint, it can be critical to getting the results you want for your business in regard to its online presence. From an outside perspective, blog writing may seem simple: just crank out a few paragraphs about a topic, post them to your website, sit back and watch the numbers come rolling in, right? Not necessarily. In fact, writing for SEO is an entirely different ball game from the type of writing you are likely used to.

When writing for SEO, there are several factors you have to take into account that you do not have to worry about when SEO is not your focus. In this blog already, the placement of words, breaks in paragraphs and title have all been strategically selected in order to improve the chances that this post will show up in a Google search. Unfortunately, having to pay such close attention to word choice and placement can stifle creativity to a degree. It is important though that you find a balance between writing for SEO and writing creatively so that while your page does yield good results in a search, your writing doesn’t end up sounding robotic to the point that it bores or turns away readers.

How is writing for SEO different than writing creatively? Here are a few factors that come into play.

  • Keyword frequency. Last week, we talked about SEO keywords, their importance to SEO and how to choose the most effective ones for a web page or blog post. In that blog, we explained that a keyword must appear a certain number of times on a page or in a post in order for it to be deemed searchable. This is where SEO writing may force you to go against your natural writing inclination to use synonyms and not to repeat the same words over and over—because that is exactly what search engines are asking you to do. Instead of substituting the phrase, “fuel costs” for “gas prices,” when you feel that you have used “gas prices” one too many times already, Google would prefer you to use the keyword “gas prices” (considering it is the keyword) over the alternate phrase.
  • The first paragraph. Creative writing teaches you to use a catchy lead into a story, article or other composition—something that will grab the reader’s attention and entice him or her to continue reading. You can still do this when writing for SEO; however, if your goal is to have a short, punchy lead, then that may not always be possible. That’s because your primary keyword has to appear in the first paragraph of the web page or post in order to optimize it for search. For example, we wrote a blog post about the Lee County Fair for one of our local Realtor clients. The original first paragraph read:

“When fall rolls around in Lee County, football isn’t all we have to look forward to.”

It’s a concise, attention-grabbing lead into the blog post that prompts us to wonder, “What else do we have to look forward to? I think I’ll keep reading to find out.” From an SEO standpoint however, this lead should not serve alone as the first paragraph because it does not include the keyword, “Lee County Fair.” To optimize this post, we ended up merging the second paragraph (which included the keyword) with the first, but it takes away a bit of the mystery involved with having that first sentence stand on its own.

“When fall rolls around in Lee County, football isn’t all we have to look forward to. There’s only one place where you can flip upside down, eat a funnel cake, ride the Ferris wheel and win a goldfish all in one night—the Lee County Fair!”

While this may be a minor detail to some people, for other writers the requirement of including the keyword in the first paragraph can be a challenge.

  • In addition to the placement of the keyword in the first paragraph, it also needs to appear in the title of the page or post you are optimizing. So while a blog title like “Warming Your Wallet When It’s Cold” may seem creative and interesting for a blog post about how to save on energy costs in the winter, a more straightforward (and arguably less inventive) title might actually be “How to Save On Energy Costs in the Winter.” That’s because “save on energy costs” would likely be your keyword for that blog post, and that phrase does not appear in the former.

Like we said earlier in this post, the details required when writing for SEO may not present an issue for everyone, but if you are a writer by trade, then it will likely require some adjusting in the way you think about your material. While writing creatively is virtually limitless, optimizing a page or post for the search engine gods does involve a few particulars that may hinder you from choosing and placing the words exactly how you would like. However, keep in mind that even with all of the SEO tricks in the book, your readers will only stick around (and invite their friends to join) for quality content. Don’t sacrifice all of your writing flair in an attempt to climb the page ranks.

If you need help writing for SEO and producing blog content for your business that readers will gravitate toward, contact the McNutt & Partners team today!

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