I don’t like SEO copywriting. Apart from anything I don’t think it has relevance any more. Comments?

That's what I think anyway. Do you agree? Click image for source.

That's what I think anyway. Do you agree? Click image for source.

This is what I tweeted yesterday. Then I went away and came back an hour later – to lots of them. Comments, that is.

So many in fact that I thought it was worth sharing them.

First, the backstory. I’ve never really used SEO on this blog. That is, I don’t really identify keywords then deploy them strategically, for example in links or headings, or in my first paragraph. I also don’t try and achieve keyword densities, that is, placing keywords a certain number of times in a post. It doesn’t seemed to have harmed my stats.

But I work with a very, very good web developer called Steve Meleka, and together we put together some very cool and unusual sites. So, we do employ SEO and keyword density, simply because it’s best practice.

The only problem is – and Steve won’t mind me saying this – I hate it. It makes me want to cry a little bit, because I want to write nice copy, not copy peppered with keywords. I know I need to, but I don’t like it.

Hence the tweet. It was more a cry of anguish and despair than a genuine request for comments. But the comments were really interesting, so here they are, together with my responses:

@KerryMG (who incidentally is a lovely cuddly Porter Novelli person, totally digitised up): why do you think it doesn’t have relevance?

My response: Because it’s more about who points to you with those words rather than what you say yourself. Communities rule. Plus it’s clunky.

She came back with: yes & no, relevance of content is key and how you brand/describe yourself too, Plus link building needs those optimised words

So, Kerry says it’s both. And, of course, she’s right. Probably.

Four other responses seemed to me to be saying essentially the same thing, that it’s about quality of copy:

  • @PodMatt: surely the best SEO copywriting is just good-ol’ quality copywriting? Today’s web is/should be about quality content
  • @OnlinePRNews: SEO copywriting is relevant as long as it is high quality. Keyword stuffing – absolutely not. Strong, compelling text – yes!
  • @cbingaman: They have their place, but not as imp. as many think. I write for people, not search engines. Search engines aren’t clients.
  • @tonyfelice: re seo copy, thatls what we’re seeing too. makes way more sense to write naturally, and to the customer. density is dead.

My response to @tonyfelice: Now that really is my take on it too. Density kills copy and I think it’s more about community – what other people say about you

I thought these were kind of along the same lines, so I also replied to them all with: Agree with quality – but do we need keywords any more? I’m not sure we do.

@cbingaman replied: They have their place, but not as imp. as many think. I write for people, not search engines. Search engines aren’t clients.

So they broadly agreed: it’s about people, not computers.

@thinkitcreative had a good, comprehensive response, no mean feat in 140 characters or fewer: Know & engage audience, have clear call to action, communicate w/ benefit-rich pro copy. Beats clunky SEOcopy every time.

Then I put something to @thinkitcreative: That’s my take on it – but, just to play the devil’s advocate here, what about ‘the machines’? As in, Google etc?

@thinkitcreative again replied: My take? Bots don’t buy things. People do.

So again, it’s about people. But, just to show balance in all things, @OnlinePRNews had the final say: From a PR perspective, having a keyword in your title helps your release rank higher in Google News for that term. :)

And, again, I guess they’re right (because there’s two of them, according to their profile).

What does this tell us?

  • Keywords are quite important
  • People and communities are more important
  • It’s a right old pain in the arse copying and pasting Twitter threads back together to turn them into meaningful conversations

But wait. The debate isn’t over. My mate Steve has a thing or two to say about this. I called him to chat about it. He agrees that yes, this is what Google say, especially about meta tags, and it’s what a lot of people say. But he’s finding – as someone working on this day in, day out, measuring traffic rates and getting the phone to ring for clients – that keywords do have an effect. So much so that he’s managed to increase a client’s response rates by 300 percent, through using good SEO keywords and meta tags.

Is that the final word on the subject? Given that I was quite taken aback at the number of replies I got on Twitter, I doubt it. But then, as everyone knows, Twitter is the real deal nowadays and blogging is dead. And I only have three readers anyway. So I won’t get any comments to this post.