Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Stop writing for Google. Really. Stop it.

As a passionate advocate for small business owners, I want to make a plea to you: Stop writing your blog posts and web copy primarily for Google.

google

Earlier today, I spoke with a business owner who wanted to know why the ‘traffic’ to her website and blog was not converting into business or sales leads. According to her analytics software, around 400 visitors arrive on her sites each day, then leave again without making a purchase, making an inquiry or subscribing.

She wanted to know what was wrong.

As her problem is extremely common, I thought I would share what I found with you, along with how to avoid falling into the same trap.

Keyword stuffed nonsense doesn’t convert people into customers

Within seconds of seeing the sites concerned, it was clear why they were so ineffective, why they had not attracted a single sales inquiry in 9 months. It’s simply this: They were primarily written for Google and not for people. Her content was keyword stuffed – here’s Google’s definition of keyword stuffing.

Her content was over ‘optimized’ for SEO and not written to appeal to prospective customers. For example, her website had the same 3 word phrase repeated 41 times on the home page alone! The services page on her blog has the name of her service repeated 39 times in just 350 words. It read horribly. It reflected poorly on her and her business. It was toxic and she has been paying the price.

In her eagerness to get ‘traffic’, she forgot about customers, prospective customers and what they would find when they actually arrived on her sites.

Effective SEO should be based around making great content easier for search engines to find and read. It should not be about producing keyword stuffed junk, which people can’t understand or connect with.

Writing for people

It’s hard enough to write compelling content, which will motivate people to buy from you, call you, email you, visit you, link to you or share your work. If your content reads poorly because it’s stuffed with keywords and key-phrases, you stand no chance.

You may get fewer visitors from search engines then those who stuff their content with keywords, but you will engage your readers. That’s what attracts customers, generates sales leads and (ironically) motivates people to link to and share your work – which massively improves your search engine rankings, anyway.

Photo: Danny Sullivan.

About Jim Connolly: I help small business owners grow their business, make more sales and boost their profits. To see how I can help you and your business, read this.

42 Comments

  1. Even Google don’t want you to write for Google and I believe their algorithms are constantly being tweaked to punish those that do.

    It’s painful to read some sites that are obviously forcing an unintelligible phrase into their content, using it just because a keywords tool told them to.

    Keywords tools are useful, it’s always useful to take the guesswork out of what people are searching for. The problem lies with interpretation and application of the results.

    As you say, Jim, it’s hard enough to write effective copy, never mind have it ruined by the careless use and overuse of keywords.

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so disastrous for business.

    • Hi Peter. Yep. You’re right – Google is actively trying to promote good content and penalise content intended to game Google.

      Understandably, it’s in Google’s best interests to deliver the most high quality results.

      Interestingly, sites like my own that focus on people seem to get more targeted traffic, every time there’s a change to the algorythm.

  2. Yes! I am seeing this all the time and it turns me away instantly.

    If someone is unprofessional enough to allow garbage like that on their site, they are not worth doing business with.

    Thank you Jim!!

  3. Well said, Jim.

    Google and the rest have long maintained that ‘writing for your audience’ is the best SEO. However I think the more compelling reason to write for people rather than for search engines is that keyword-stuffed content makes a company comes across as scummy – and who wants to do business with a company like that?

  4. Yes I do agree with you. There is no point in writing to impress the search engines. Write fresh and quality content for the people.

  5. Great post, so bloomin true! I have two blogs one for my job and one for myself and written as your say “for people” It’s mainly just my day to day thoughts etc but recently went from rank 0 – 3 in 3 months,…my guest post blog for work, went from 0-1…goes to show you that as Peter says “google doesn’t even want you to write for google”. Fantastic post as always!

    • Hi Emmarararasputin. Welcome to the blog.

      Yes, it’s not uncommon for natural, interesting content to rank higher, faster than keyword stuffed content. Thanks for the feedback.

  6. Great post Jim..

    One of the benefits to the “new” Google is it is easier to write for Google and for people.

    Before a post written for Google had to be keyword rich which made it not great for readers.

    But today, Google wants less keys, less optimized content making it easier to write great content for your readers AND still be great for Google.

    • You’re absolutely right, John Paul. Google is finally working out how to reward great content over keyword stuffed garbage.

      Thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog.

  7. Hi Jim,
    being a newbie to blogging, don’t you think new sites like mine should concentrate on using proper keywords ? I agree that over-doing is bad but is it really bad to do some keyword research and use them wisely in your post ?

    Any reputed site with good PR posts random stuff with some catchy title(which is not optimized) but still ranks well and my post which has relevant content might not be on page 1 of serps.

    Thanks

    • Hi Sangram. Great question. So long as your blog is based around your area of interest (mine is marketing), your content will automatically include lots of keywords and key phrases. Yes, it is certainly a good idea to make sure you use keywords and phrases, but I recommend you should do this naturally. If you just stuff pages with the same words over and over again, it doesn’t matter how much search traffic you get – people will leave your blog as quickly as they arrived, like in the example I gave in this post.

      Thanks for a great question and welcome to the blog, sir.

  8. Hi Jim,

    I couldn’t agree more. I have very much been there and done that. When I read posts that I overly optimized now… I physically cringe. A search engine can’t make a purchase.

    You can do what I have done since though… I’ve gone back and rewritten those post for a human being. Who knows you might even keep a little of your traffic and convert.

    Thanks again Jim
    Geoff

    • Hi there, Geoff. One of the nice things about blogging, is that you can go back and rework old posts. This is one way that blogging beats email marketing. Once an email is sent, it’s sent. You can change a blog post at any time.

      Thanks as always for your feedback, sir.

  9. Just when you think you are targeting a keyword, you find that Google thinks different…you may as well just write for your peeps and let the chips fall where they may.

    • Hi Jill. I decided to write for people exclusively, from day one. As a result, this blog has always been commercially successful, because people read it and connect with it. I always work hard to engage my readers and build a community here – rather than work hard on SEO.

      Over the past year and a half, it seems Google in particular has become better able to spot good content. With each improvement Google makes, it ranks this site higher and higher. Although I do no deliberate on-site SEO, my traffic from Google has increased by 40% since last summer.

      The challenge with playing the SEO game is that when the latest tricks stop working, your traffic dries up – leaving you with the double problem of pages that read like crap AND very little targeted search traffic. I also love to write for people and will never compromise on that. I’ve written a couple of thousand posts over the years and would never have been able to, had I needed to screw about with on page SEO.

      Thanks for the comment, Jill and welcome to the blog.

  10. Hi Jim,

    I have been guilty in the past of trying to fit some ridiculous key word in my blog just to ‘please’ the search engines.

    I like to think that as I have got more experienced, I have learned to find a balance between quality content and getting my stuff high enough in the rankings.

    • Hi Luke. Indeed. With the recent changes to Google’s algorythm, it has never been easier to rank well, for great content.

      Thanks for the feedback and welcome to the blog, sir.

  11. Loved this! Sometimes I enjoy just sitting down and writing my blog and not thinking one bit about links, keywords, phrases – just getting my thoughts down on paper and speaking to my audience. Blogging shouldn’t be “work”. One should speak or write from their heart and education, inform, and entertain at the same time. If you truly know your target market, your blog will be read and people will come back for more.

    • Hi Laurie. I see it very much the same way as you. I have written around 2,000 blog posts and could never have achieved that, if it seemed like ‘work’.

      I don’t know what you think, but maybe the best kept secret to a successful blog, is to LOVE what you do?

      Thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog.

  12. Some great points have been made in your article and by you readers.

    As a noob it’s really handy to get some common sense advice.

    Thanks Jim and thanks to your readers also.

  13. Traffic generation is a confusing thing and some people just do not get it. It all depends on what you want from your blog and how you think you can get the results you want. Doing Search Engine Optimization badly can decreased ranking results and when/if people actually find the site, it looks unprofessional to those who can see the keyword stuffing.

    Another thing I do not like are the so-called SEO specialists who charge lots of money for being able to help business increase traffic. It is such a scam to take people’s money like that.

    • Hey David. I was thinking about this after writing the post and I believe one of the challenges, is that ill-informed people SEE keyword stuffed content and think THAT’S what SEO is.

      Just a thought.

      Thanks as always for the comment, sir.

  14. I agree with your statement Sir. Google also does not encourage keyword stuffing and penalizes the sites which has repeating keywords or have EMDs

    • Absolutely, Naser. Google has always tried to discourage keyword stuffing and now, finally, it seems to be able to recognise and ignore it.

  15. Hey, i really appreciate your nice advice but if you don’t write for google then for whom you will write. Google has no competition in world of search engines. It needs a lot of courage and risk if you decided not to write for google.

    • Hi Vikram. I think the general belief now, and this is 100% supported by my own results from Google, is that you don;t ‘need’ to write for Google.

      Google itself has said it wants us to write great content, which it is able to read easily.

      That’s the content it seems to be ranking highest today.

      Thanks for the comment sir.

    • Write for visitors n readers

      before writing think ‘what if there was no search engine in this world’

      That’s the key.. :)

      • I agree, Sangram. Once you have a blog or website, which is build using clean code, which search engines can read – just write the most useful content you can.

        That attracts the links and shares, which most SEO’s agree are the most important SEO factors.

  16. Well, all I can say is “Ouch”! I know I’ve fallen into the keyword stuffing trap and this make perfect since. thank you for writing it so clearly.

    • Hi Dayna. The great thing about blogs and websites in general, is that we can go back and improve our content at any time. This is really useful, as new ideas come to light and old ideas seem to be less effective.

      We can test new types of copy and measure it, to consistently improve it’s effectiveness. Thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog.

  17. The new Google algorithms and general trend in SEO should now be providing content that is relevant. Problems like this won’t occur if this is done properly.

  18. Hi Jim
    Thanks for great post i am new to blogging as well rad you inspiring article loved it,
    as an seo we have many clients they are in field or business where its really hard to use so much quality content as its not affordable for clients and there is not much activity in those fields where we can keep writing quality contents

  19. This article is so true. I am currently starting up my own business. For nearly a decade I have been writing copy for websites, small and large businesses. It is shocking to see how poorly constructed sentences and over use of SEO and google ad words can destroy a good company’s reputation.

    I always say to clients, “Write good, persuasive copy first and then make small SEO changes without watering down the message.”

    Thank you very much for this article, it is encouraging to see that I am not the only one struggling to convince others that the quality of writing can convince people to buy into your business and not the amount of traffic driven to your site.

    You must find a balance between attracting visitors and delivering your message. Atrracting more people and driving them away with bad copy can be much more detrimental to the success of an enterprise.

  20. If your only focus is getting found in search engines to say build up your blog site then that’s not good. Readers will come and go and that will be that. But if you just stuck with writing for people then people would talk about your post and spread it via word of mouth.

    It’s better to have Quality readers than Quantity.

    Quality readers who engage in the conversation and actually have a voice and are interested in what’s going on is who you want. Not someone who just happened to search what keyword you’re targeting. If they do that they can come to the page, skim a few words and then move on. Your bounce rate for a particular post would be through the roof. If you want to keep readers the readers themselves need to be referred via word of mouth.

    Say you wrote a post on fishing rods. Someone could merely be doing research on fishing rods for some fishing class they’re taking and then once they’re done with that they never come back to your site.

    Now if your content spread via people and word of mouth, that’s building trust. When people trust you and build a relationship with you through all of your readings they’ll probably go and tell someone else about it. Now you not only have 1 but 2 quality readers, then they tell so and so and so on.

  21. Exactly! and well said. SEO stuffed alone does not bring you , Customers and Clients. Any website should impress people. Appearing on the top does not fulfill all requirements needed by customers and clients.

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