Ed’s note: Every so often we publish a guest column (reprint) of our favorite candid SEO experts out there, Jill Whalen. This latest rant/sensible-advice appeared in this week’s High Rankings Advisor. Enjoy!
Last week I was speaking with a potential client in need of SEO consulting who told me that they had been working on their product part e-commerce website over the past few months by adding “SEO articles” to it on a regular basis. “SEO articles?” I thought. “Why would an e-commerce site that sells product parts need articles about SEO?”
Of course, I knew they weren’t talking about writing articles about SEO, but writing articles for SEO. Which is often just as silly. Unfortunately, I hear this on a regular basis because so many believe that writing keyword-stuffed articles is somehow an SEO requirement. They don’t know why they might need these articles — only that, for whatever reason, the Google Gods want them. And so they write articles that nobody would be interested in reading, but which are stuffed chock-full of the keywords for which they would like Google to show their site.
And then they wonder why it’s not happening for them.
“Did we not provide Google with the SEO articles they require?” they ask incredulously.
“Why does Google not show our ‘History of Product Part A’ article when someone is searching to buy one of them?”
“Let me explain,” I say, and ask them to put themselves in the shoes of the potential buyer.
“If you were looking to buy Product Part A, which page would you rather find in Google? The one with the product part information, the price, choice of color/size, information on how to purchase it, and an ‘add to shopping cart’ button? Or the one that tells you the history of said product part?”
The choice, of course, is easy when presented that way. And suddenly BAM! It all starts to make sense.
“That was exactly MY thought before we embarked on this crazy SEO scheme!” they reply. “It just didn’t make any sense to me, but I figured that Google was just weird and had its own reasons for liking stuff like that. So why do so many SEOs recommend this?” is their next logical question.
I wanted to tell them that most SEOs don’t have the slightest clue what Google really wants. But instead I told them that it’s usually because many SEO consultants don’t have a good grasp of why they do what they do. Once upon a time, some of them probably stumbled upon some websites that provided a lot of valuable industry information via a blog or resource center, and noticed that the site also did well in Google. So they put 2 and 2 together and came up with the not-so-brilliant idea of writing articles created solely for SEO purposes — and then they spread the information to the many places online where SEO myths are propagated.
And the SEO article creation industry was spawned.
Let’s step back for a moment and look at the difference between “SEO articles” and information provided on a site that is there without regard to SEO.
When your goal is to create SEO articles, you’ll almost always make the wrong decision on what to write about or how to write it because you’ll be thinking about search engines rather than your target audience. Anything and everything you write or post to your website needs to have a reason for being there.
And that reason is not SEO.
What you add to your site should always enhance it in the eyes of your target audience. If an article about the history of Product Part A is truly something your target audience would be interested in — that is, it helps those people who might buy the product make their decision — then by all means, write that article. But don’t lie to yourself. Your gut will let you know if you really do believe it will be helpful, or if you are just looking for an easy way out!
Your goal is to get into the mind of your potential buyers and figure out what their pain points might be. What might hinder them from buying a particular product? What might prevent them from buying it from you? Maybe they’re not sure if the part will fit the gizmo that they were buying it for. Maybe they don’t understand why the latest version of Product Part A (rev.2.56) is worth so much more than the previous version (rev.2.0). So write an article pointing out the differences, and why the manufacturer decided to rev it up, and how the extra money it costs will be well worth paying because it will likely last twice as long.
That is useful information for your target audience.
It’s also an article that others interested in Product Part A might link to. And it sets you up as an expert on those types of products. You don’t need to think about SEO when you write such an article, because that’s not why you’re writing it. And yet, by the very act of *not* thinking about SEO, you’ll have created a potential SEO boon for your site.
The article itself will likely show up for long-tail searches relating to Product Part A (perhaps when people are seeking out the differences between the two revs). And if it naturally garners links, that link juice will spread to the rest of your site, providing your sales pages with a better chance at ranking for your money terms — i.e., pages that bring in people who are ready to buy now.
So banish the notion of “SEO articles” from your vocabulary. Optimize the actual pages of your site that are there to do business, and provide as much additional information as you can that will set your business apart from the others. Get into the head of your potential customers and give them exactly what they need to become informed buyers who want to buy only from you.