SEO Content Writing, Usability and Findability
Is your content designed to for search engine appeal or to mesmerize human visitors? Do you really need to choose one or the other? Good SEO content writing performs effectively at the intersection of findability and usability.
Well-known usability expert Jakob Nielson brought up an interesting point about the intersection of traditional content usability considerations and search engine performance in “Use Old Words when Writing for Findability.“ Let’s look at what it means for those who are trying to benefit from free search engine traffic.
According to Nielsen, internet users are so search-oriented that writing in a way that will appease the Google gods is of primary importance. As he puts it, "use keywords that match users' search queries."
To Nielsen, this is an extension of the old writing maxim that one should always write for his or her audience. In an era where people rely on Page One of the SERP's to direct their cyber-travels, that means using the same words the target audience is using.
Among other recommendations, Nielsen advocates using recognized and common words instead of euphemisms, poetic reinterpretations, or insider jargon. One should write about a "bottle" instead of a "tubular glass storage device." It's "night," not "the hours of quiet and darkness," etc.
Additionally, he recommends resisting the urge to try to coin a new term. Although the upside of being a vocabulary-creator is tempting, he notes that people are unlikely to adopt your new invented word and that the space might be better used to echo their expectations.
Of course, Nielsen is right. He's not positing a groundbreaking argument. Internet marketers have understood the importance of using keyword-rich content to massage good SERPs for some time now.
However, the article is interesting because it isn't coming from some person trying to peddle a product or to attract potential ad-clickers to an ostensibly "Google-friendly, content-rich site." It's coming from someone whose primary focus is on usability--not bottom line profit considerations.
It would seem as if we are entering an era where writing for the search engines and writing for the end-user is beginning to become the same thing. That could be a byproduct of search engine improvements. It might also be the outgrowth of search engine use having an impact on user habits. Either way, if you believe Nielsen, making it usable means making it Google-friendly.
My fear is that too many people will embrace the comments too tightly. The need for appropriate keyword use (especially in critical areas) does not have to trade off with quality writing. It is possible to use necessary keywords in adequate quantities while simultaneously offering a good (and non-redundant) reading experience. I worry that many webmasters will read the Nielsen piece and begin to worry about the use of synonyms, clever turns of phrase, etc. when that really isn't necessary.
What is necessary is to use SEO content writing that laces text with appropriate keywords at optimal intervals while still creating a readable, attractive, entertaining, and informative piece of writing.
Many have said that before. Often the argument is made while bemoaning horrible examples of "SEO writing" or while promoting one‘s own SEO content writing talents.
Now I'm saying it again, but for a different reason. With usability and SEO merging in the eyes of many as a result of Nielsen's argument, it's important to remind ourselves that usability, search engine optimization and quality writing can peacefully co-exist.
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