— December 3, 2018
See what you think of this book title: What happens when a strong-willed woman and man try to make a relationship work during a time of social upheaval?
I don’t know about you, but I think Margaret Mitchell’s title is better: Gone With the Wind.
But if we were to build the title of Mitchell’s book around keywords, we would probably end up with something like the monstrosity I invented above.
This comes to mind after a conversation I had this morning with a potential client. He needs some editing done. He has a good supply of blogs but feels they need some work. I asked for some samples. He sent two over, I took one and gave it a quick edit with a few rewrites to make it more engaging.
His comment back to me was that he liked what I did, but there weren’t any keywords in the new title or the new lead. It’s an understandable observation. We’ve been focused on keywords for so long, it’s difficult to see beyond them.
However, the fact today is that Google is far smarter than it was just a year or two ago. It’s so smart, in fact, that its algorithm could parse Margaret Mitchell’s tome and realize that it’s a complicated story of love and ambition set in the Civil War South and index it properly and not mistakenly categorize it with articles on meteorology.
The facts ma’am
An SEM Rush study of search rankings and their relationship to page attributes – keywords, backlinks, page/site popularity, video, article length, etc.– found that keywords were by far the least important attributes. Website popularity, time on site, pages per session, bounce rate, and referring domains, were far more important than keywords
As a writer I love this. It means I can be more creative and engaging. I’ve always felt that keyword writing and engaging writing were natural-born enemies.
But let’s take one step back for a moment. The point of virtually all internet writing is to explain something, teach something, or convince someone about something. You cannot achieve any of those goals if you can’t write in a way that entertains and engages.
What’s the value of writing that appeals to the Google algorithm yet leaves readers cold?
Keep the customers satisfied
So, it’s wonderful news that we can now be creative and engaging and not have to worry about being penalized or overlooked by the Google Godhead.
I find this satisfying on a personal level too, and I suspect you might also. Think about the memorable lessons you’ve learned from your friends and family. I suspect that there are stories in your family history that conveyed important messages, but the messages were neatly tucked away inside an engrossing story.
And to complement this, let me point out that for some years now we’ve had a strong emphasis on “storytelling” as the most powerful vehicle for blog writing and other forms of digital communications. However, there’s no natural affinity between keywords and storytelling, and certainly not between storytelling and the rigid rules that told us to use keywords in the title, the lead, and many of the subheads.
It’s time to break out of your shackles, throw the proverbial caution to the wind, and start writing stuff you’d like to read.
I think that’s a great place to be.