Forget SEO Content and Write for the Reader

By Vladimir Shvorin

The e-commerce industry took a proverbial wrong turn somewhere.

After years of being force-fed the importance of optimizing content, nary a day passes that you don’t read copy that’s been bloated with keywords. In the best scenarios, it’s barely detectable by an algorithm. In the worst, repulsed readers run the risk of spraining their wrists by jerking the mouse toward the window-closing button too rapidly.

Is this what we’re willing to settle for as an industry? Deft sleight of hand that’s good enough to fool an algorithm — that’s what content success is made of in the minds of many. It’s important to acknowledge that a rift exists between what’s ideal, attainable and actually being realized. I’m not irked by this. What I find puzzling is that the answer to this dilemma has been in plain view all along.

Simply put, reader-focused content is the solution. It’s no coincidence that search engines reward content that’s informative, engaging, enticing and possesses other positive qualities, because visitors respond to it in measurable ways. Whether by click, conversion or length-of-stay, visitors send signals that tend to correspond with the quality of your content. And it’s not just me preaching this gospel; Google has maintained this stance for some time.

Why, then, aren’t more companies abandoning yesteryear’s content gimmicks and opting for a downside-free, wholesome solution that’s entirely attainable? Perhaps the era of manipulating search engines has stained recent conclusions about the ideal makeup of optimized content. That could explain why it’s difficult to imagine a standard that holds sites that reflect its principles in higher regard than those that run afoul of them.

I’m not naïve enough to think that I have a monopoly on these kinds of insights, so it’s important to address another key demographic: sites that recognize the new mandates, but are unable or unwilling to create copy for the betterment of all humankind. I imagine this contingent is rather large, actually. By my count, subsets of this group include:

  • Those that are too stuck in an outdated routine to consider a better way
  • Doubters, naysayers and others that refuse to drink the Kool-Aid
  • Those that think this simple answer is too good to be true
  • Sites that favor a strict, technical approach (yesteryear’s content-optimization tactics) over one that requires some creativity (today’s standards)

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Whatever the cause is, the outcome seems to generally be the same.

In our office, when open-minded clients request campaigns or one-off projects that are aimed squarely at their readers, we go head-over-heels. In the end, you’re left with a feel-good story. The client comes to us with a vision for something to share with readers. We interpret that vision, transforming it into content that’s fit for a range of digital mediums, all of which ultimately lead to the reader. Upon arrival, if we’ve met all of the standards set for and by us, we earn the reader’s trust and, potentially, business.

So, please stop writing copy that nobody — least of all your site’s visitors — wants to read. And if you’re ever in doubt, just remember these words: reader-focused copy is optimized content.