Dear Copy Bitch: How do you balance SEO needs with good writing?
–Laura M., Rome
A: The answer is going to seem overly simple, but here it is: write for humans first, search engines second. Honestly, the most important thing you can do for your website or blog is provide great content. Great content trumps every SEO trick. How do we know this? Think about things that go viral in a matter of days or even hours. Great content won’t be denied.
The best business websites and blogs go above and beyond the typical and expected descriptions of products and services. They go above and beyond showing benefits. I’m not suggesting you lose your service list, your product descriptions, or the benefits you provide customers. And I’m not suggesting you ignore good SEO practices, like having keyword-rich and relevant-to-the-page title tags. But your site needs to do more. It needs personality. Make it human. Make it real. Tell stories. Be bold. Be honest. Be blunt. Is this easy to do? No, not even for us professionals. But your site needs to be as human as you are. So the question is, how human is yours?
[Update: I wrote this post in 2009 or so. As I reviewed it today, August 2017 as I write this, nothing has changed–if anything, you need to be even bolder and more human, if that’s possible.]