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5 Reasons Why Good Writing is Still Good SEO
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Once upon a time, in a flack's realm (or his mother's garage), a not-so-long time ago, there was this Panda. He lived in...well, let's call it Googleland. Now, this Panda was forced to eat meat. Not just any meat...it was a pleathery, almost fuzzy meat. We'll call it SPAM. He hated SPAM and anything that looked like it. He refused to eat it so much that his owner finally caught on and began to hate SPAM as well. In fact, he began to loathe SPAM and anything that resembled it (e.g., uber-advertising, PPC, overtagging, scrapping). Then, as fate would have it, the Panda began eating good food called content, but it seemed to make him fat. His owner in Googleland decided the panda needed a friend to work off the extra pounds. So he bought him...you guessed it, a Penguin

The penguin loved his panda buddy. They wrestled, played tag, and even did Kung Fu (see what I did there). Nonetheless, the panda was still portly because of his appetite. He was cramming much content down his gullet. In fact, the penguin called it "stuffing." Together, the animals worked like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers hooked up in the back of a cheap Buick. They ate better content and didn't allow stuffing. Both were skinny. Both enjoyed good content. And lived snarkily ever after (they are hipsters, after all). The End. 

Isn't that a sweet story? Only grammarians, linguaphiles, copywriters, and other forms of nerddom (like moi) would appreciate that night-night tale. However, there is a moral to this story. Suddenly, it became feng shui to just write well. No more keyword stuffing. No more black-hat and surreptitious cloaking. No more blatant PPC campaigns. Simple diagrammed sentences will suffice in Googleland, thanks. And, in case you skimmed through that story, here's the lede: Five reasons why good writing still matters for SEO: 

1. Research Keywords. Do you tell clients that you write for organic SEO but honestly have no clue what your client's keywords are? Well, good on ya. Liar. Now, pass that wireless keyboard to someone who cares to research keyword phrases. For instance, that person would know that according Google's Keyword Analyzer, one third of all search engine queries use a two-word phrase. What's next in popularity? Three-word phrases make up 26 percent of the searches. Know this. Use this. And write for this. 

2. Stop Worrying about PageRank. Yes way. Content is about reaching readers and creating an emotional response. Every time I pen some Web copy, the last thing I'm thinking is "Will this get me a six or a seven on PageRank?" Those crafty SEO companies can try to fool the client and Google with its smarmy tricks to increase PageRank, but eventually, SEO will spell M-E-H. Don't optimize for search engines; optimize for users. It shows.

3. Write Three Titles. Again, yes way. This works. I started doing this when I became a serious twit. Of course, you want a sweet headline — one that is catchy but summarizes the story. Next, make a title tag. This is an abbreviated version of your headline that makes users want to click on the story. Some blogs don't use it, and if yours does not, then don't sweat it. Finally, write a headline in less than 140 characters. This obviously serves a different purpose than your headline but it forces you to consider your content — and the user as well. 

4. Learn Content Strategy. There is much more to good writing for the Web than intelligence, a propensity to visit a thesaurus, and watching Jeopardy. Content strategy is often forgotten as a tool in the box of a PR professional or copywriter. Creating great content is good but understanding content is connected to a brand is great. What's the topic? Is it connected to the purpose of what you are writing? And will your target audience give two craps about what you are writing? If you know the answer to those questions, congratulations. You are becoming a content strategist. 

5. Read! I strongly recommend for any writer — or anyone who yearns to be a writer — to buy one book and make it a permanent mainstay in your library. Stephen King's (yes, that Stephen King) "A Memoir of the Craft." In that book, he wrote something I offer as advice at least once a month. He penned, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." Agreed. Enough said. 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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