Who Are You Writing for — Your Prospects or Google?

The problem with SEO copywriting is that the mandate to use keywords according to various rules set forth by SEO experts can result in awkward, ineffective, suboptimal copy.

“It is essential to attempt to optimize online copy for relevant keywords to achieve a better search engine placement,” writes Don Libey, a multi-channel marketing expert.

“However,” LIbey continues, “keywords aren’t necessarily the most important part of copywriting.”

He warns against keyword stuffing, the practice of cramming too many keywords into a web page.

“Your customers are the readers,” says Libey. “Never place the search engine’s needs about theirs.”

My guess is that those of you who are copywriters — even SEO copywriters — will agree with Libey, while those of you who are SEO consultants might not.

Am I right or am I wrong? What say you?

Source: Libey Multichannel Advisor, May 2009, page 8.


95 thoughts on “Who Are You Writing for — Your Prospects or Google?

  • I always go with content that uses the keywords throughout. If your keywords are proper for your niche, it’s not that difficult to use them.

    I was told 3-5 times for top three keywords throughout the copy is best. Also, that your content amount should be sufficient to carry that. A hundred words isn’t enough.

    And don’t forget to use proper graphics who’s tags can have the keywords also.

    But…I’m a low-level SEO writer. I’m sure someone more advanced can give a better answer – or say I’m wrong.

    Bottom line, I write for the page’s visitor and their needs, and I fit in the keywords where they can naturally do their work.

  • I agree 100% with Diana.

    When I write web copy for my b2b clients, I do the same thing I do when I write print copy, which is do my best to describe the prospect’s problem and my client’s solution in words that prospects might themselves use. That usually requires me to repeat certain words or phrases or several times. Whether those are “keywords” is for someone else to decide.

    The point is, my clients only want to attract the customers who are actually looking for what they’re selling, so I don’t think I need to load up my copy on keywords. Just the right words.


  • I always keep keywords and SEO in mind when I write blog posts and web content. That said, I still write as naturally as possible and focus on clear and concise communication.

  • People. Definitely wite for people.

    First, because it makes sense. Search engines won’t buy your products or become your customers. You’re not writing to help search engines have a better job or business or life. So, we must write for people.

    Second, as search engines get smarter, they’ll respond more and more like people. At some point writing for people will be the same as writing for search engines.

  • I write for readers. The human breathing kind that banks give credit cards to.

    As Kevin said above, they are the ones who experience your writing, feel your words and then put their hand in their pocket and pull out their money.

    SEO is an optimisation technique, it is meant to increase your ranking based on exisitng content, not force the creation of new or alternative content just to please the search engines.

    There are other ways to get visitors to your page without a high search engine ranking.

  • I agree, most of the copy written specifically for the search engines sounds and reads awkwardly, I write for the readers first, then insert keywords and meta tags where appropriate.

  • It is a very thin tightrope between writing for readers and writing for Google. Like many of the other copywriters I write for the readers through the early drafts.

    And once the flow and the words are optimal, I then go back and look at where the keywords and keyphrases can be inserted into body copy, headlines and subheadlines – without losing major punch.

    That said … a 5% keyword density on web copy is just pie in the sky dreaming in terms of compelling copywriting. At times 3% is possible with the right content and the right keywords.

    The bottom line is there is no point attracting customers to your client’s site through great search engine rankings if once they get there they have no idea what is being sold, or you lose the sale through clunky language.

    After all – if it doesn’t make the cash register ring for the client – you have failed.

  • I think the best policy is to just write clearly and well for readers, not search engines. That way writing is still a joy. If you’re constantly thinking too much about SEO it becomes a bit of a chore.

    Also, search engines are becoming so sophisticated that they’ll eventually be like human readers. So they’ll appreciate good clear pieces over key-word stuffed articles anyway!

  • I think this is spot on. Too many people focus on PageRank, SERPs, and generally pleasing the SE spiders. They often forget that the visitors it brings are real people. The pages must appeal to real people. This is the philosophy I use in my SEO article writing business. Many of my clients seem both surprised and happy to find article writers that write content interesting to human beings. Remember, customer provide the money, not Google.

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