Your Content Should Educate, Engage, Entertain and Entice


I’m an SEO copywriter and I don’t give a rat’s ass about keywords. There, I said it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Or that keywords are all SEO copywriting has to offer.

Over at Science for SEO, Glenn Murray authored an insightful post that argues that copywriters don’t have to worry about keywords anymore. The search engines (unlike most of us) have gotten a lot more perceptive over the past few years and they can now use their intent magic 8 ball to figure out what your page is about all on their own. They don’t need you forcing it down their throat anymore. Glenn even provides some examples of his own work where he paid no attention to optimization and yet the pages still rank for exactly what they’re supposed to. Glenn’s theory is that as long as you theme your site correctly, it doesn’t matter too much how many keywords you put on the page. You just have to write naturally.

I agree with him. One hundred percent. Sort of.

I’ve had to write a lot of SEO’d content for clients over the years. And when I do, I don’t pay a hell of a lot of attention to keywords. I don’t force ‘em, I don’t stuff ‘em, and I don’t count how many times I’ve used the word when the content is finished. I don’t have to. I know the page is good and will rank.

That said, I also know what keywords are supposed to be on the page, even if I’m not going out of my way to insert them. I know because we’ve built out your site so that it’s supporting the content that we’re going to be putting on it. We’ve done the keyword research to discover your important terms. We’ve identified your site themes and landing pages. We’ve built them out and interlinked accordingly. And once all of that is done, the content simply ties together what is already a sound Web site. And when you take care of all that from the very beginning, you don’t need to repeat the phrase [blue widget] 57 times in 500 words of content. You don’t have to beat people over the head with it.

But that doesn’t mean SEO copywriting is dead. That means content spamming is dead. And thank goodness.

If “natural” writing is good enough, why do you need a pair of SEO eyes on your content?

  • Because not everyone naturally writes as eloquent as Glenn suggests. Most people won’t use related terms, synonyms and modifiers in their text because they don’t know how to. And these are the things that increase relevance for a subject.
  • You need well-placed and engaging call-to-actions to entice your customers into a conversion path and to keep them there. You need your content to educate so they don’t get confused halfway down the line and abandon the process. You need someone who can put what you’re trying to say into language other people will understand.
  • You still need to know the site themes that particular pages are being written about so that you can support them. Each page of content you write has a purpose and you need to understand what it is. We’re not just throwing pages there on a whim.
  • You need to know which terms to go after and identify that even though you call it a [mobile device], your customers call it a [cell phone]. Or that what you call a [USB drive], they call a [thumb drive]. I don’t care how great your content is, if you’re basing it around terms no one is searching for…no one is going to find it.
  • Because SEO content isn’t simply about keywords. It’s a strategy that needs to be developed by people who understand your site, the goals of your site, and your customers.
  • A good SEO copywriter makes all that effort look invisible so it doesn’t take away your site or distract customers in the process.

Content may be king but it still gets no respect. I completely agree with Glen that the best way to write content is to naturally focus on terms without making a mental note to use [red umbrellas] seven times before the end of the page. But not everyone can do that on their own and keywords isn’t all SEO copywriting has to offer. Not by a long shot. If you can whip out copy that educates, engages, entertains and entices, then you don’t need to hire an SEO copywriter that does it for you. But if you can’t, there are plenty of fine companies that offer content creation services. See? I didn’t even have to force that. It just fit right in. ;)

[On a somewhat-unrelated side note, if you haven’t read Christina Gleason’s post Google Says Quality Is Dirt Cheap, Don’t Hire Copywriters from earlier this week, do it.]

Your Comments

  • Jami

    Nice article!

    (i think you mean “educates” though)

  • Ted S

    Really fantastic post and insights. I recall having this same conversation many, many years ago when we all started thinking about SEO and were able to use a few alt and meta tags to get it done.

    I’m definitely interested in seeing where we go in the future as the engines get smarter because we can all agree a well worded pages for the user should be the goal over any sort of word placement.

  • Christina Gleason

    Thanks for the shout out at the end of your post there!

    I totally agree with you about the keywords. I cringe a bit when my clients want to talk to me about keyword density. I’ve never once written an article with keyword density in mind, but I’ve got a trail of happy clients. I know you do, too. The obsession with keywords is SO 2004.

  • Kim Krause Berg

    Bravo! Natural has always been the way to go and one of the reasons I’ve respected you from the start is that you intuitively know that. You have one of the best and continue to be so. This article is important reading.

    As an aside, from the usability/accessibility perspective, keyword stuffing has never been an acceptable technique. Keyword research remains vital, if not more so, because search behavior constantly evolves. Landing page content has to meet site visitor search expectations. (I know Outspoken Media knows this.) Just sayin’…

  • Kim Krause Berg

    Correction: “You have been one of the best…” How about, “You ARE one of the best” or heck, “You ARE the best, Lisa.”

    I’ll shut up now.

  • Heather Lloyd-Martin


    Brilliant, brilliant post. Thank you! I completely agree! :)

  • Snarky Jackass

    The keyword density of this article needs improving. We could also cut this back to 350 words for some real SEOing.

  • Lisa Barone

    Jami: In the title? [confused]

    Ted: I think in the future we’ll just have to think about what we want the page to be about and then Google will take the data off our forehead barcodes and rank accordingly. It’ll be like a lie detector test, only more Google-ized. :p

    Kim Krause Berg: Amen on all of that. Especially the part about me being the best. I completely concur! [cheesy grin]

    Snarky Jackass: Thanks for the recommendation. Since you didn’t leave a real name or email address, I took the liberty of editing your name into something more descriptive. You’re welcome!

  • Yura

    The process you described is exactly what I’ve been doing for a few years, why did your post appear only now? Then again, I am following to few blogs to notice anything.

    SEO is still good to have, though. It gives you knowledge to use long tail phrases (and which ones), which anchor text to use and such (your link is a great example of that) and maybe even not mess up blog post URLs (yours are perfect, too, of course).

    I also second Kim :)

  • jlbraaten

    I’m so jealous. I’m getting better, but still feel like I have split personalities when trying to get my message, seo and direct marketing elements sewn together on the page. I’m in awe.

  • Glenn Murray

    G’day Lisa. Thanks for checking out my post at Science for SEO. I’m honored!

    You’re right. I did assume that whoever’s doing the NON-seo writing would be a good copywriter. A non-writer may have to focus a little bit more on SEO stuff. That said, many non-writers use a lot of synonyms and related terms, etc., because they’re struggling to make their point, or because they just don’t get brevity. These people might do just fine, so far as optimization goes. (Conversion’s another matter, though…)

    Anyway, thanks again. Chat soon.


    PS. I love this: “I agree with him. One hundred percent. Sort of.” :-) Brilliant!

  • Paul

    “SEO copywriting” will probably survive as a label though because how many customers are willing to pay the real rate for just “good copywriting”?

  • Yawn Webmaster!

    Paul, you’re not wrong. A lot of SEO’s only starting learning about copywriting and persuasion recently.

    I can’t help but think that most of the website’s being work and referenced here already have a high trust/link rank, because you’ll know as an SEO that if you don’t have these two elements you can write the best page in the World, and you simply won’t get traffic. Period.

    The modern day answer to generate online visibility, in the absence of being overly analytical with search engine algo’s, is to write and write and write. Does anyone ever wonder whether blubing all this stuff out, actually helps the internet at large? 119million results on link-building in Google and Google showing you just the first 10 pages…methinks not.

    Thank goodness a significant number of SEO’s consider this to be the right way to go, and I do hope that more join soon the spam writing convent – oops sorry, I meant the targeted copy collective.


  • Dianna Kersey

    It’s all about balance and writing for two audiences… it’s that simple. It seems like people are on one side of the coin or another.

    Of course natural wiring for human audiences is ideal, but in order for the page to be returned as a relevant source of information, it needs to tell the search engines what it is about. Construct solid meta data without spamming. Use strong editorial anchor text linking into the page and help them interpret the page naturally.

    If your topic is highly competitive, you will need stronger tactics to rank it on the first page…period. Writing excellent content is the way to go, but so did 20,000,000 other authors on the topic want to achieve this as well.

    There are only 10 slots on the first page of Google. Most folks won’t navigate past the third page before the change their query keyword string to more specific relevant words. That is where you have to write to the search engines… in order for the humans to find the page in the first place.

    It’s all about balance :)

  • Ken at HCG

    The way I understand properly “SEOed Content” is that you should be able to remove ALL of your keywords and still comfortably know what the article is about. So relational concepts should be utilized as opposed to keyword stuffing for better SERPs. I have seen this demonstrated in some of my work where I rank because of the relationship as opposed to actual keyword usage.

  • Siddhesh

    I agree that content spamming is dead. However, even now, on my blog, I keep getting huge spams… Plus these spams are intelligent ones, they aren’t detected by spam filters. Something like – I love what you write, why don’t you write more …

    Loved the 4E part of the post though – brilliant – i d add a 5th E – Encourage – Encourage ppl to comment, criticise and reply to those comments – that increases the WOW factor of your blog.

  • Hannah_Bo_Banna

    Hey Lisa,

    Lovely post :)

    The ‘educations’ that Jami’s referring to is in the final paragraph:

    “Not by a long shot. If you can whip out copy that educations, engages, entertains and entices, then you don’t need to hire an SEO copywriter that does it for you.”

  • Lisa Barone

    Hanna_Bo_Banna: THANK YOU! I did a search for [educate] on the page and had no clue what she was talking about. My sanity thanks you. :)

  • Aaron

    Great post and one that cannot be repeated enough. Write for human beings and provide value through things like education and entertainment and your content will succeed.

    Thank you.

  • David

    I hate copywriters can still write for machines