As an ex-SEO hater, it almost pains me to say this: SEO taught me to be a better writer. I didn’t think of it this way until I read a 2018 article by Jill Kurtz, called “Ditch Your SEO Baggage and Focus on What Matters.” Suddenly, as I read Jill’s perspective on SEO, I saw how much it matched my own. But I also realized what SEO has done for me.
Outdated SEO Concepts
One of the best parts of Jill’s article is how she calls out the pros and cons of SEO itself. For example, she reminds us the words matter, and that content needs to be structured.
To rank well in search, you need to offer content that people are looking for and use the words and phrases they use when they search. The concept of keyword optimization has evolved to the larger understanding that website content needs to match the words and phrases used by the target audience.Jill Kurtz, Ditch Your SEO Baggage and Focus on What Matters
In theory, every writer wants to write for their audience. They want to use content that matches the words and phrases the audience would use. But in practice that’s easier said than done. Enter SEO tools.
SEO Taught me to be a Better Writer
So how exactly did SEO teach me to be a better writer? Perhaps it’s better to say that SEO tools taught me to be a better writer! Tools like Yoast systematically remind the writer to use SEO strategies – and thus to writer better.
Here are a few examples:
Not only does Yoast remind you to add a metadata description for every page, it improves your “score” based on whether you use your keyword in the metadata.
When I wrote the metadata title and description for this article, Yoast reminded me to note the length of the title and description, as well as including the keyword in both.
Text Length and Keyword Use
As Jill notes in her article:
You [don’t] need a lot of pages. The quality of your content is more important than the number of pages. Search algorithms no longer assume that page volume is an indicator of a site ’s authority on a topic. Quality of content is far more important than page count.Jill Kurtz, Ditch Your SEO Baggage and Focus on What Matters
One way that SEO tools identify if a page or article is information rich is by length. With that in mind, SEO Yoast encourages writers to write more than 300 words, and to use key words in headers.
While some people might think that this is an excuse to overuse keywords, the SEO tools are great at stopping that as well. Personally, I wouldn’t know how many or how few keywords to use. But after several months with Yoast I’m getting a much better sense for it.
More than anything else, what SEO Yoast does well is the “SEO Analysis” – a tool to help evaluate SEO. The analysis identifies three categories: problems, improvements, and good results.
This helps me to know exactly what I need to do to improve my content. It’s clear, and it’s a good set of reminders to practice.
Performers vs Artists
In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a character is called a performer, rather than an artist, because he plays for an audience and not just himself. I wasn’t a poor writer before I found SEO. SEO taught me to be a better writer because I wasn’t used to writing for an audience.
But writing for myself is different from writing for an audience. I always know what I’m thinking. An audience needs a clearer structure. And while that makes sense to me abstractly, tools like SEO Yoast helped me to practice it.