Is SEO Centric Writing the End of Creativity?
Jul 19, 2019
Creative and engaging writing has been the mainstay of effective communication since forever. Expressive writing can achieve the core purpose of convincing way better than dry factual writing (unless it’s an owner’s manual or a scientific paper). However, the search engines use algorithms to pick what’s relevant and what’s not, so effective digital writing has bordered on becoming formula centric. While discoverability is essential, has this formula-centric method hurt the cause of creative writing? Where do you find the balance between the freedom of creative expression and the limitations that comes with the algorithms? Let’s weigh the scales out!
The Case for SEO
When was the last time you searched for something on a search engine, and what was it about?
This is the age of knowing things instantly, and we want answers NOW! What was that actor’s name? What is the lyrics of that song stuck in your head? What is the recipe for a fish taco? The answer is to google it! Point being that most people who stumble across your article were looking for an answer, right? So you better give them one. Nobody cares what happened when you went for that fishing trip. They want the recipe for that fish taco. Period.
Using relevant keywords helps you remain focused on what question you are answering and whether the audience leaves with a solution or just a bunch of useless information they can live without (For the last time, they don’t care about the size of the trout you caught!). Which is why sticking to your keywords and keeping your creativity under firm reigns break might be exactly what is required.
Have a look at this blog enjoying the top position on SERPs which talks about how to encash your stories and posts on Snapchat. This is a good example of SEO focussed writing that connects to the user’s queries. It is direct, on point and the emphasis is not on the writer’s ability to creatively express yet the reader goes back with exactly what he/ she was seeking.
When it comes to SEO centric writing, the purpose of writing is to sell and be seen in the overwhelming crowd that internet is. Why is it that every business from an ice-cream parlour to a retail store is creating content by the bunch and putting it up for the world to see? Sure, they want to have a definite brand narrative, maybe a defined vibe, and they have a story to tell. But more importantly, they want to rank, and the content helps the purpose. As simple as that.
As difficult as it is, it’s important to remember that this is not a platform to exhibit the writer’s creative flair but to get more footprints into the brand’s website. What’s important is the brand’s voice, not yours.
The Case for Creativity
While most brands refrain from using the term keyword-stuffing, they also insist that the content in their digital presence is peppered heavily with a predefined set of keywords. Even though most writers have it down to the ‘T’ on how to use keywords slyly in their write-ups to make the content SEO optimized, sometimes they are rendered helpless, and the usage of keywords end up looking choppy, repetitive and robotic. I mean, is it really necessary to mention ‘red apple’ 58 times while writing about a ‘red apple tree’? It might be an SEO hit, but will it appeal to a reader? Repetitive keyword takes away from the intricacies of the message, which as a result will be lost in the high traffic of keywords.
You don’t believe us? Look at this snippet and figure it out for yourself. ‘Jon Snow’, ‘Kit Harrington’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ come around a million times and the reader is filled with nothing but regret that why on earth he needed to click on the link. This kind of writing only incurs losses to the brand’s reputation even though it may garner appreciation by the machine and end up in the top searches.
We are at the age of instant gratification, and patience is a thing of the past. The beauty of storytelling is in building the anticipation, the textures of words, the slow shimmering of sentences to form meaning. But millennials? No time for that, amidst the tweeting and snapping and vining! They have an attention span that’s less than a GOLDFISH! However, the backbone of good content is the creativity and the writer’s finesse in making it entertaining that captures the reader’s attention at once. It’s the joy of reading concise, well-written, informative and amusing pieces that turns readers into followers, waiting for more from the writer and in turn from the brand.
While every brand has a story to tell, to brew content that is greatly appreciated their needs to be a balance between creativity and SEO constraints. Only the content of this kind can guarantee you a higher rate of conversion, commended by both bots and humans. This further ensures one’s creativity doesn’t die and the written work is more convincing than just choppy sentences framed together appearing to come from an amateur writer.
Is writing making an unavoidable SEO-induced shift from storytelling and sharing a message to numbers, traffic and clickbait titles? That might be a little too harsh. There is no denying the fact that we live in a digital age, and the internet is an endless sea of information-both relevant and utter trash. SEO is our friend who will ensure we bridge the gap between the information seeker and the relevant information by using keywords that eliminates irrelevant search results. It has not curbed the creativity in us but rather established a problem which itself demands a creative solution. You are essentially required to write creatively captivating content in a clear format which gets the nod of approval from the bots. While the content must be engaging enough to be appreciated by a human being looking for a good read.
Most of the SEO optimisation tools are built to help create highly SEO-friendly content, but there is only so much a machine can tell you. There will be articles which are perfectly sound in terms of SEO-friendliness, but are not a pleasure to read, while there are some which can leave you feeling warm and fuzzy with the language but are an absolute SEO horror show!
However, the middle ground between a creative art form and its sellability is a tricky area to cover, it is exactly the rope that we need to walk on until the algorithms find a reliable way to judge creativity. Knowing the sweet spot without compromising on visibility and creativity is something that a modern writer should learn to master. If the content that one is reading fails to strike a chord, communicate to the human in them, and make them feel they are understood, they might as well speak to robots!