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Just Say No to SEO Articles

Posted November 17th, 2010 by Andrew Goodman

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.

Jill

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO consulting company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen.



5 Responses to “Just Say No to SEO Articles”

  1. Alejandro says:

    Great article ,
    It seems as if people hear a buzz word and a new technology and begin to adapt it into their business, the problem is most people don’t have a clue as to how to use the technology properly.
    I like to think of it this way…give someone a grays anatomy book, medical journals, resources and a surgeons tools and it still doesn’t make them a doctor, same with a SEO.

  2. Tyler West says:

    Thank you Jill. This has been an unexpressed bone of contention for me about the state of the SEO trade.

  3. Jim Shay says:

    Tyler,

    There are scorns of best practices for every search engines available. The results speak in the your efforts. Is there one source for all things SEO? If there is point me in that direction. For all of us in field of creating and following best practices, it comes down to one thing. Value, what value do we provide clients and prospects from our advice. We want to the trusted source when it comes to information. Best practices aren’t based on opinions but strategies that really work. SEO is a process that is conquered over time. Think of a marketing plan as a map for success. We all fail and fail, and fail again. What have we learned? Learning from these mistakes and listening to advice from fellow industry professionals and applying that is how change takes place. Like the previous posts, no one has a PH D in SEO, they may call themselves experts but in the real world they are professors sharing their knowledge with all that listen. Applying what we have learned from our own mistakes makes us experts.

  4. It seems a bit silly to assert that the best way to do SEO is to trick yourself into thinking you’re not doing it.

  5. I enjoyed this article. Writing FOR the site you’re working on should always have the visitor/customer in mind, not Google. Surely if you’re writing your article about the site / product / service for the people who will be reading it, your SEO requirements will be covered anyway? Keywords will naturally appear in the content. Never understood people who don’t get this!


 


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