Sometimes I come across a post whose headline is so extreme (and purely intended for shock) that I MUST see what it’s about.
A fellow blogger’s recent post on how SEO is allegedly killing blogs started making waves and I didn’t even have to click on it to see how wrong I knew the author was. This is a blogger who has dozens of thousands followers across social media and probably gets hundreds of thousands of views (each month?) online. As a frequent reader of hers, I knew she understood SEO and employed it well.
But I clicked on her post from my feed reader anyways because I wanted to know what she was saying to justify such a lie of a headline.
This post is a rebuttal with reasons on why SEO is NOT killing your blog:
Ellie, as I’ll refer to her in this post, starts out by defining what good (blog) writing should be like:
We are so often told how to blog. It entails taking beautiful pictures, writing great content filled with keyword rich descriptions, and sharing strategically on social media.
She then goes on to comment on the evolution of blogging:
… I think we’re losing a lot of the beautiful prose. Often, we’re left without character and see only bland, step-by-step content, devoid of the point of blogging: storytelling.
Later she seems to allege that blogs are somehow the same as books:
Take any book you love. The book doesn’t open with an instructional paragraph, guiding you through the plot. … But none of your favorite books … are worried about SEO or being found on Google, so they don’t waste time with boring, direct sentences that leave you feeling like shutting the book.
But that’s what’s happened to blogs.
(Ironically, she conveniently forgets that the online descriptions of those books–plus a myriad of other factors–do utilize SEO greatly online to help them get found.)
I’ll soon stop pulling her content for my purposes, but not before I comment on how “big time” she missed the mark by incorrectly writing about only ONE aspect of SEO:
Basically, you write in a certain way to be found online. Google (and other search engines) crawl your site to find what your article is about. They look at: title(s), opening paragraphs, headlines, and keywords to figure out what your post/site is about and how it will show up online.
I get it: To a beginner, SEO can seem daunting. The “vintage blogging” Ellie refers to on her post, by which bloggers would share intimate diary-like snapshots of their lives, is sorely missed these days, not because of the growth of SEO–but because of the growth of sponsored content.
Listicles, recipes, how-tos, and the like only started growing in popularity because they’re easy to craft. Then sponsors began to take note, and suddenly bloggers were required to write about batteries in the context of their summer vacations, or about how meaningful their pets were in the context of pet food, and so on.
Because how else could you connect two disparate subjects than by writing formulaic, personality-free posts meant for bots? “At least they’ll find it,” sponsors thought.
Ellie further alleges that SEO is killing blogs because beginner bloggers started caring about it–and unfortunately not employing it well. She also seems to be separating good writing from SEO–even though they’re NOT mutually exclusive.
In fact, SEO is both about getting your stuff found AND providing value to readers.
SEO is NOT killing your blog.
I recently conducted a workshop at work about this very same thing.
Good writing yields a strong readership. A strong readership that spends a lot of time on your piece tells search engines that your content is valuable and important and deserves to be seen. Search engines, in turn, then rank that particular piece higher in their results.
All this means that if your content appeals to BOTS instead of PEOPLE, it won’t do well online. People will hate reading it, “bounce” out quickly, and ultimately no one is going to see it.
I’d link out to her piece but it seems more misinformed (or at least incomplete) than valuable, so instead I’ll include the comment I shared on it to help dispel her myth:
[“Ellie,”] I’m a big fan of yours, your blog, and your voice, but you seem to have missed the mark by telling people to not care as much about SEO and content marketing. (That may not have been your overall point, but your comments reveal otherwise.)
SEO is only important to those who view it as such (that includes you ;)). I’m in Digital Marketing so I truly value SEO for my day job, blogging, and for my clients. However, I also value good writing–you know, the kind that humans appreciate. After all, many people (beginners?) forget that SEO is mostly about writing for humans: the more people that see a post, the higher it’ll rank. Sure, there are other rules, but that’s a fundamental one: Write for other *people* and the search engines will follow. It USED to be about including a keyword 76 times, but lately it’s about writing more engaging stuff.
With that said, you actually use SEO a lot :). You don’t title a post, “[My Husband] and I had so much fun over two days in X!” That was the old days of blogging, back when we weren’t trying to get our stuff found. Instead, you write, “Two-day itinerary in X.” Clearly, people are looking up the latter more than the former. You saw that need and wrote a post to fulfill it. Moreover, you rarely include “click here” links. Instead, you favor linking phrases such as, “creating a newsletter” or “Hotel XYZ,” and so on. That’s SEO at work.
Lastly, those wanting to get “rich” quickly via blogging (monetarily, readership-wise, fanbase-wise, or all three) don’t appreciate that SEO is for organic searches, which takes a long time to rank on. We’ve been writing for years, so our blogs have more standing in search engines’ eyes than one by Beginner McGee. That’s one factor in our favor. Your itinerary posts, if left alone, may start ranking in a few months. However, now w/tools like IG and Pinterest, you bet you’ll start seeing a lot of visits quicker. Overtime, in fact months and years from now, you’ll see that those posts will still be getting traffic. Why? You guessed it: SEO, which you do well.
SEO is still important to those who care about having our stuff found. Sponsored posts, recipes, itineraries, and reviews are some of the pieces that benefit greatly from GOOD (NOT just bot-friendly) SEO. You employ it as well, so it’s key we help others grow by encouraging them to also care about their SEO. (In fact, your last paragraph was a great additional explanation of SEO and its importance!)
I just wish she hadn’t been so fatalist and click-baity in her title by alleging that SEO is harmful. Sure enough, her comments are all, “Thank you for writing this! SEO is so bad” or “I knew I had to just write pretty” and other similar nonsense.
Bless their hearts for they don’t know any better.
I sometimes feel sorry for beginner bloggers who just jumped in the bandwagon TOO late. Which is fine, because not everyone is an expert overnight, but these bloggers only hear the bad about SEO, and why “a story” matters more than good writing. Or worse yet: Why writing for bots is key–and end up giving blogging a bad name.
Related: SEO doesn’t have to be daunting: Three easy tips for optimizing your posts for search engines
If there’s a piece of information you should retain from this post, it is this: Don’t be afraid of SEO because SEO is not only about getting your stuff found, but also providing value to your readers. Write well, and both readers and bots will follow.
Write well and treat your readers the way you’d like to be treated.
What are other SEO- or blogging-related misconceptions you’ve come across that make you want to roll your eyes?