That is a question I get asked all the time, especially because a large majority of my clients are creative and purpose-filled entrepreneurs.
The simple is NO.
The good news is yes you can be CREATIVE and AUTHENTIC and use SEO.
Hooray. (Let’s crack open the champers.)
So creatives stop worrying. I consider myself to be a creative entrepreneur too and I can tell you that you’re not selling your soul to the search engines and you’re definitely not being any less authentic and original to your readers when you focus on doing SEO the right way. In fact, you’re actually being a smart entrepreneur when you decide to implement SEO in your marketing strategy.
And being smart and strategic is going to get you a lot further in your business than being ignorant.
Because ignorance is not bliss if you’re competition is using SEO to their advantage and you’re not.
…”But I don’t have or believe in ‘competition,’” you may say. Well that’s what you might think.
I’m not here to debate that. I’m here to tell you that SEO can help to strengthen your creative tendencies.
Your intention should always be to create content that is relevant and engaging and speaks directly to your ideal clients.
But that does not mean you neglect doing SEO in the process.
Your content can include keywords that Google can (and needs to) pick up on so your pages and posts can rank.
If I use a keyword, aren’t I spamming?
Grrr, it’s statements like these that really gets my goat.
No you’re not. Keywords are words you use in your content that you want Google and other search engines to pick up on so that your site ranks.
They’re simply words you use a bit more often than any other words throughout your content.
But more important, keywords are real words and phrases that people type into Google every day. The key is to identify what words and phrases your ideal clients are using to find you.
When you use organic search as part of your content strategy, you can deliver your solutions at the exact moment your ideal clients are looking for them.
Think of a keyword as the outcome you want your reader to have once they read your content. For example, if you’re going to write a post about how to grow your own vegies from your inner city apartment, the outcome is educating and teaching people how to grow their own vegies or food even though they live in the city. So a keyword might be ‘grow your own vegetables,’ or ‘how to grow your own vegies,’ or ‘grow your own veg,’ or ‘growing vegetables.’
You want to use a keyword in your copy or headline that is relevant to problem or question your content is trying to solve. Then make sure the content delivers on your headline.
Whichever keyword you choose you will need to ensure you mention it throughout your post more so than any other words. But don’t do overdo it. There is such a thing as over-optimization that Google will slap you down for.
Let me illustrate this for you with some potential blog headlines.
Say you decided to use ‘grow your own vegetables’ as your keyphrase, which has 880 monthly global searches. That means in the last 30 days, ‘grow your own vegetables’ has been typed into Google 880 times. It’s not super high search volume but it’s decent and it could be that some of your potential clients are searching for this info.
Now you have to write content that engages your entire audience. But that’s OK – the keyword research we performed earlier tells us that people ARE searching for information and answers on this topic.
The key to balancing what the search engines want and what your clients need is to tell stories that are easy to find.
So you can create the following blog headlines such as:
- How To Grow Your Own Vegetables From Your Inner City Apartment
- 7 Easy Steps To Grow Your Own Vegetables
- Grow Your Own Vegetables Indoors
- How To Grow Your Own Vegetables For Beginners
- Learn How To Grow Your Own Vegetables In 3 Easy Ways
- Grow Your Own Vegetables Your Grandparents Would Be Proud Of
- The Lazy Man’s Guide To Grow Your Own Vegetables
- My Step-By-Step Method To Grow Your Own Vegetables
- 5 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Grow Your Own Vegetables
I’m sure you can come up with plenty more creative headlines.
My point is you can be as creative as you want and still use a key phrase that can potentially send a lot of search engine traffic your way. Notice how I used a specific key phrase while writing creative copy in my headline – copy that is direct and infuses emotion. They’re headlines that meets the need of both search engines and people. You can do the same.
There does not always need to be a compromise.
Why authenticity matters for SEO
Last year Google launched a new algorithm called “Hummingbird.” It was designed to be a more human way to interact with people and provide more direct answers.
It’s good news for writers because it means that we can create meaningful content and not crap. Most of all, the real winners are the readers.
It also means that keyword stuffing and thin content on sites does not work anymore. Google does not want you to be anything less than authentic. That’s the whole point of the Google Hummingbird update.
The content you create must be focussed on your reader and it means you must genuinely know your ideal client and write to them with authenticity.
But your content must not only be great – it has to be real. As Ken Krogue explains in Forbes, “…if its sole purpose is to raise the ranking in Google of other content, it’s counterfeit content. Nobody writes real great content only for the sake of backlinks to other content that only the Google bots read and index.”
So how can you create real content? Ken outlines a unique approach to generating real content:
14 approaches to generating real content
- Research important questions.
- List good / bad examples.
- Passionately tell a story.
- Highlight recent trends.
- Survey best practices.
- Compile proven tips.
- Point out a problem.
- Recognize who.
- List what.
- Warn when.
- Show where.
- Debate why.
- Demonstrate how.
- State the so what?
How can you stay creative when writing blog content with SEO in mind?
There are a couple of techniques I teach my clients in my SEO coaching program.
1. Let’s say you’re a kinesiologist. Imagine your reader is a single, living, breathing person. In other words, write to a real person with real problems. Now imagine that you are your ideal client who is awake at 2am because of her adrenal fatigue and decides she finally wants to do something about it. If you were her, what would you type into Google? It’s easier to experience her problems and what she’s going through when you step into her shoes. And voila, she’s just found your blog post titled “7 Ways Kinesiology Can Help You Overcome Adrenal Fatigue.”
2. Write as if the search engines don’t exist and optimize later. Always write your post first without even thinking about the search engines. That’s what world-class SEO copywriters do. Then after you’ve written your post, review what you’ve written and tweak. If you haven’t used your keyword enough you can always add it in the post. Your post needs to be engaging and written for your readers first and foremost. When you’re writing about about a particular topic such as adrenal fatigue, you would have naturally used words and phrases that describe to the search engines what the post is about. This means that there will only be very little, if any, optimization required after you’re written the post.
The power is in your hands…
…to create content that grabs and steer’s your audience’s attention in the right direction of your content.
The last thing you want to do is to create a piece of content that is peppered with keywords solely to game the search engines, which makes it look contrived and inauthentic. But you’re better than that and there’s no reason why you should create any such content in this format. You’re a creative remember?
However, a little optimization is still needed. Although producing good content regularly is the key, there’s no point in creating
great real content if search engines (and thus people) can’t find it.
SEO does not need to stifle your creativity. In fact, it can enhance it and even improve your writing altogether.
When you come to understand what the search engines need to find and rank your content, you’ll appreciate that search engines such as Google need specific signals to understand what your content is about.
Once you become aware of what these signals are, you will be aware of them when you write your blog posts.
The key is specificity. Google needs you to be specific so it can understand and decide if your content is relevant. But your readers need you to be specific to. People get turned off when they read flowery, vague and non-descript content. That will just bore them.
Readers need to know what’s in it for them and to have some idea of what the outcome will be or the benefit to the reader is to have any chance of your content being consumed.
So creatives never fear. You can write the best damn awe-inspiring, original and authentic on the planet and be strategic with using specific signals that will also grab Google’s attention.
Can it happen everytime? Probably not.
I’m not suggesting every blog post you write has to have a keyword you optimize for. In some cases, it might be difficult to use a specific keyword depending on the nature of your topic. Your writing must be natural and engaging as possible because Google wants you to be as natural as possible. But bad flowery, general and vague content doesn’t do anyone any good, especially and most important of all, your readers and potential clients.
I’d love to hear from you
Do you find yourself struggling to create content that embraces your authenticity?
Have you dismissed SEO because you believe that it would be a serious impediment to your creativity and writing?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
About the Author: Shae Baxter
Creator of Get Your Blog Read By Millions SEO Coaching program for creative women entrepreneurs.
Join me on shaebaxter.com