Writing with keywords - nightmare, necessity or both?

by Tiggered

Can a keyword-free website be visible in today's Internet world? Do keywords destroy quality of writing?

Once upon a time being an online writer sounded like a wonderful idea - you write your heart off, you publish your creations for free and the readers simply come. Guess what - crowds and crowds of people judged the idea just as brilliant. With this multitude, it is increasingly hard to get your stuff seen on the Web. SEO and keyword research can help you in this task but - and this is an important question - does writing with keywords influence the quality of your writing? Is it possible that keywords, while making content visible, turn it into something not worth looking at? If so, what can we do about it? Join the discussion.

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Writing with keywords - what it's all about?

keyword ladybirdMost online writers are already familiar with this term. 

To put it simply - you use keywords to tell search engines what your website is about. 

Few Internet users search further than the first-second-third page of search results.  If you want your content to be visible, you have to write about something that is popular with readers, but not already written extensively about by other online writers.  If you find the right phrase, your page is likely to come up on top of the search results and this translates to traffic. 

It's not enough to use your key phrase once or twice in a 1000 word article.  Search engines are not very bright, they get the message by repetition.  Your keywords need to be scattered all over your page.  SEO gurus will be quick to prescribe the specific level of keyword saturation necessary for the best results, but as I don't claim to be one, I'll leave this subject to the 'experts'.  I know one thing - if you're writing a page about seven-spotted ladybirds, you have to repeat the phrase 'seven-spotted ladybird' as often as you can.  'Red and black patterned insect' won't do.  Search engines are not really good at grasping metaphors or non-obvious similes.  Once you have picked your keyword, you have to stay focused on this particular phrase and repeat, repeat, repeat, or else the Almighty Search Engine won't get the message. 

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Writing with keywords and quality of writing

writing toolWhen I was at school, repeating one word or phrase too often was considered a stylistic error.  We were trained to avoid repetition by any means possible - to use synonyms or metaphors, to enrich our vocabulary in order not to use the same words again and again.  I find that habit hard to shake off.  I have serious doubts if I should try. 

Rich, beautiful language is not based on keywords.  Those two concepts just exclude each other.  There's not much I can add to this basic fact. 

I've come across many people who disagree with this claim, saying that keywords simply help them stay focused on their topic.  I respect their opinion, but the truth is I still prefer a piece written by a talented writer to an article created by a master of SEO.  Beauty of language is not something that search engines understand and reward.  Unfortunately.

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Do you believe writing with keywords has negative influence on the quality of writing?

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Oh yes.
sheilamarie on 07/30/2014

I believe it does become obvious when you repeat a phrase over and over that you're doing it for search engines, not for real people. Current practice frowns on a too-often repeated keyword these days anyway.

BarbRad on 12/14/2012

It seems to me that the search engines are inconsistent in their guidelines. First they make it important to use keywords to be found, and then they tell you to write for people, not search engines. I prefer to write for people, but to be found I often have to use a rather dull title instead of something catchy to hook a reader. That's because the search engine wants everything to be obvious -- very obvious.

I was also taught that the topic sentence might sometimes be better at the end of a paragraph rather than at the beginning. Seems online writers better make sure that first sentence of an introductory paragraph has all the keyboards in it. I'm sure a number of our classic authors would not be read today if they had to depend on Google finding them before they were famous.

katiem2 on 09/13/2012

I agree with 2uesday. So many people go crazy over keyword research when the main priority is quality. I write first about topics I'm well informed, do so naturally creating the most interesting readable article I can then I take a look at the keywords and LSI content of the article. I often change words making certain I use all the variations without repetition. I don't like writing for the keywords but writing then dribbling them in where appropriate.

Not really.
MHeart on 07/09/2012

Keywords are a good way to research the information people are looking for and giving it to them.

lobobrandon on 06/23/2012

Yes, keywords are necessary, but you should never over do it. Say you're writing about ladybirds (Your example), then definitely you're going to repeat ladybird somewhere or the other all through the article right? As long as you write naturally and everything flows well. Plus if you offer readers exactly what they want, they'll read through your article. I'm not an expert, not even a novice; but, this is what I feel.

Is writing with keywords necessary to succeed in online writing?

financial successTo answer shortly - I believe it is.

I've been writing content for the Web for more than two years and this is one of the most bitter lessons I've learned so far.  It is often claimed that being passionate about your subject is sufficient to achieve 'success' in online writing.  I guess it all depends on how you define success.  If you think it equals traffic, then passion is not enough (and any exceptions only confirm the rule) - you need solid knowledge of SEO and you need those blasted keywords. 

For a long time, I happily shunned writing with keywords, considering them backward evolution.  Pretty much everything I wrote in those days enjoys an occassional visitor or two (and plenty of praise) but does not suffer from anything even remotely similar to decent traffic.  It is technically possible that I am just extremely unlucky.  It is also technically possible that the Sun will not rise tomorrow.  I'm sure you can see my point.

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Your turn - is writing with keywords necessary in content writing?

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No, you can make it by passion alone
katiem2 on 09/13/2012

I'm a firm believer if you know what you're writing about the appropriate keywords will naturally be included. You write an article such as this one about keywords and all the appropriate keywords fall into place. I do think you really need to think about titles and subtitles. Now this is an area where many content writers confuse me, I wonder what were they thinking or not. The titles and sub-titles are paramount and yet often confusing and misleading. It should tell it like it is. Oh and the introduction. lets not forget that.

Tolovaj on 09/02/2012

It is not necessary, but using the right keywords can really help you. It is like: Can I get to Rome from anywhere in the world? Sure, in some cases you can do that in few days of walking, but in most cases you need a plane (knowing your keywords).

It is, unless you're not motivated by traffic
sheilamarie on 07/30/2014

Good writing can quickly be buried if keywords are ignored.

BarbRad on 12/14/2012

I have to agree that it is a necessary evil. Sometimes what I've been passionate about gets traffic, but not enough to produce any measurable income. I have to agree with 2uesday. I, also, try to do the balancing act.

Writing with keywords and preserving sanity

I absolutely hate writing with keywords.  I am convinced no good piece of writing can be produced with keywords in mind.  Yet, I use them - because they pay.  In the online world, traffic equals profit. 

To preserve sanity, I follow two simple rules:

1. From time to time, I write an article for the pure pleasure of it, disregarding each and every SEO rule.  This reminds me what joy writing can be.

2. I do not defend quality of keyword-stuffed writing only because I am guilty of using them.  It is one thing to produce mediocre things for profit, it is quite another to claim those things are great and/or profit has nothing to do with it.  I find that being clear about this helps, if only because I can aim for something better once the bills are paid.

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Updated: 07/05/2014, Tiggered
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Tiggered on 07/31/2014

I wonder how it changed since I first published the article? I still hate writing with keywords, though :)

sheilamarie on 07/30/2014

Things keep changing in the online writing world, including using keywords properly. It's always a timely topic, though, even when advice varies over time.

Tiggered on 03/24/2013

Not sure... I noticed that keyword stuffing is getting bad name in all sorts of 'how to write online' publications, but I don't think much has changed in the search results. I guess it all depends on how you understand the term 'stuffing' :)

BarbRad on 12/14/2012

A very timely topic. It's something I think about often, and it is a reality I wish weren't. I have heard the way to Internet writing success is to figure out which topics are trending and then get some good keywords for them and write to that topic. I would find it impossible to write something interesting on a topic I have no interest in just because the topic is popular. I try to write about what I know first-hand, if possible. That seems to work best for me.

katiem2 on 09/13/2012

Great article, enjoy participating in the polls. While I don't sell a keyword product I have no investment in my opinion. I don't do much keyword research. I do research and learn about the topics I have a natural interest in. When you truly enjoy the content you study you naturally learn the language of that topic. If you need to run off and simply just do keyword research you might not do the proper research. IMO keyword research is not content research which should always be the utmost interest of the writer. :)K

Tolovaj on 09/02/2012

Since I have learned some things about keywords, my traffic multiplied ten times. I am sure when I learn even more, it will be further multiplied by at least ten!

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