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Hi, I’m Rosie, Passion Digital’s Content Marketing Manager.
I have always considered myself a ‘creative type’. From the time I could spell I was writing poems, which became stories and finally full-length novels. I became interested in digital marketing because of the incredible capacity for creativity – here’s a career that will allow me to flex my creative muscles, I thought.
And yet I’ve come across many internet-dwelling writers on forums and blogs who bemoan the evils of SEO writing. Why should we pander to the Google algorithm to get our poetry found? they cry self-righteously. How can I possibly maintain the quality and integrity of my writing if I’m optimising it for search engines?
Wait and see, chums.
How to Write for SEO
I like to think of SEO copywriting as an art form rather than a hindrance. In order to write a successful piece of content capable of ranking in Google, you have to work within a set of clear parameters. The rules have changed somewhat over the years – take a look at our introduction to search intent for more on that – but the fundamentals remain.
Search engines work by allowing users to type in a search query and producing a set of results that it thinks will answer that query. If no one is searching for whatever it is you are writing about, your page will not get found – because NO ONE CARES.
OK, that’s a bit harsh. And, of course, there are plenty of other ways to get your content seen by people online other than SEO. For example, you could share it on social media, show it to online communities that are interested in the same subject matter or approach journals or zines with large audiences that take submissions.
A search engine will include your page in the SERPs (search engine results pages) if its algorithm considers your page to be relevant to the search query. If your content gives no indication that it is relevant to the search query, it will not get found.
For example, if your web page is entirely made up of images of cute puppies with no alt text, the search engine crawler will be unable to recognise its relevancy and it will be unlikely to rank for any queries relating to ‘cute puppies’.
An important marker of relevancy is the presence of key phrases related to the search query. If the search engine crawler can find relevant key phrases or search intent indicators on your page, it will rank it more highly than other pages that it deems less relevant.
Algorithms – especially Google’s – have become increasingly sophisticated over the years. You no longer have to ‘key phrase enrich’ your content with multiple instances of the same key phrase to score relevancy points. More on that later.
Search engines know that users value a pleasant reading experience. Quick loading speed, headings and subheadings, easily digestible paragraphs, rich media including images, GIFs and videos, bullet points, numbered lists, etc. – anything that makes the page easier to read and enjoy. Your page will be rewarded if it offers a great user experience (UX) to your reader.
To find out more about user experience, check out this blog post from our resident UX designer, Nathan.
If lots of other people find your content interesting or useful – by staying on the page for a while to read it, by commenting on it or by citing it as a source on their own website – the algorithm will deem it more useful than other results that are just as relevant. The more signals you give out that your content is popular and useful, the better it will rank in search engines.
Google has been saying for years that social shares are not a ranking factor in its algorithm, but it is clear that there is a strong correlation between social signals and ranking position.
Applying SEO to Poetry
So there is the basic theory of SEO (there are many nuances but I did the best I could in 500 words!). When it comes to putting those fundamentals into practice, there are a number of excellent digital tools at our fingertips that we can use to make the process easier.
My personal preference is SEMrush’s suite of tools. It offers some fantastic content-related features that I use every day as a content marketing manager.
Keyword Magic Tool
The first step to creating an SEO-friendly piece of content is to find out what key phrases people are typing in to search engines and deciding whether you would like your page to rank for that phrase.
Keyword research continues to be the vital first stage of any SEO writing project.
I started my keyword search by typing the phrase poetry online into SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool. These were the results I got:
The first column shows the keyword; the second column shows the average number of monthly searches for a given keyword over a 12-month period; the third column shows the interest of searchers in a given keyword during the same 12-month period.
As you can see, the majority of these search queries are not suitable for my poem. I doubt that anybody typing in watch endless poetry online free is going to be interested in reading my SEO poetry. However, there are a few from this list that might be of interest to me:
As I want to write my poem on the topic of SEO, I also carried out another search with SEO-related search queries:
By picking and choosing the search queries that are relevant and have a decent search volume, I can collate a list of key phrases that will form the basis of my search intent modelling.
SEO Content Template
The next step is to paste my selection of keywords into SEMrush’s SEO Content Template tool. This gives me some specific insights into the parameters I need to set for myself when writing my poem:
The tool is suggesting that I enrich my text with a range of semantically related words. As search algorithms have improved, they have become better at identifying sense-based relationships between words in the same way that humans can.
For example, in the past a search engine would not have been able to recognise that the word dog relates to the words canine, pooch, spaniel, chihuahua, etc. Nowadays the Google algorithm is able to understand that these words are all semantically related and will therefore pull up results with relevant search intent indicators as well as those pages that contain the word dog.
Based on the top 10 key phrases I entered, it is suggesting that I write a piece of content that is 1,757 words in length in order to rank above my rivals.
Having used this tool a fair amount, I have been surprised how this number changes depending on the topic of your key phrases. I have seen recommendations from 500 words all the way up to 2000 words. The number in this example is particularly high because the content that ranks for SEO-related key phrases tends to be long-form blog posts by other experts in the industry.
Needless to say, I am not going to write a poem that is 1,757 words long – I don’t think that any readers will have the patience for that (and it’s all about serving their desires, after all!). However, I can easily make up that word count with my commentary, which I will include on the same web page.
NB: I’m going to skip over the other two fields that you can see in this screenshot, purely for reasons of expediency. Gotta hit that 1,757-word quota!
So now that I have a list of words to include in my poem if I want to optimise it, it’s time to start writing.
The process isn’t really so different from writing in a highly structured poetic style such as a sonnet, or any form with rules about rhyme, meter, length or syllable count.
Read My Free Verse Poem
Quit your yammering, I hear you sigh. Just let us read the poem!
Well, here you are:
Hunkering down in its nest
Of glittering binary,
Silken zeroes and silvery ones,
Gossamer sheer but strong as steel.
A tug, setting the search strings bouncing.
The spider raises its head,
Eight eyes blinking, pincers clicking,
Greedy for the query.
This crabbing beast
Scuttles along its web,
Its movement like poetry on lines of search silk,
Intent and aware.
Is a cathedral of code,
A vast metropolitan map of stop signs, crossroads and
Serpentine site structure,
Tangled, twisting, towering, unnavigable?
Not for those who know.
Skyscraping tower blocks of blog posts,
Topped with helipad landing pages,
Neon meta arrows calling “THIS WAY!”
Past the flashing carousels of product pages,
Barely a glance for the stuffed, graffiti-slick slums
And underground forums in the crypts and sewers
Where gaseous vents steam with sex and conspiracy.
Brisk, slick with practice
It runs its skittering limbs over those lucky few,
The best, the brightest,
Luminescent with relevancy.
Just milliseconds later,
All lined up rank and file,
Spit and polish,
As if the chaos of the netherweb never existed at all,
Are the results.
Back to its binary burrow,
A creature of code ready for its next query to
Recreate, content in its feast.
Use of Key Phrases and Search Intent Indicators
Ok, you may have noticed that I didn’t manage to fit in all of the words and phrases that I had on my list – but that’s fine. Enriching has to come across as natural and unforced to the reader; cramming how to learn seo writing into this poem would, in my opinion, be inappropriate. I did, however, manage to include the following:
Can you spot all of these? Some of them (marked red below) are sneakily hiding within other words that convey a different sense when read in the context of the poem:
I’m particularly proud of sneaking SEO into the word ‘gaseous’. If you love to play with language in this way when you write content, I would recommend using a tool like the Word Finder on the Free Dictionary. It will give you a list of all of the words in the dictionary that contain a specific sequence of letters, which is very handy for fitting in difficult keywords:
Use of Imagery
Incorporating many of these phrases became a lot easier when I realised that the language we use to describe SEO is so expressive. It’s common to talk about the Google spider crawling the web – there’s a ready-made poetic motif! We talk of mapping and navigating site structure, which is evocative of topography and construction. Even the term skyscraping is an SEO tactic.
There is beauty in the language that we consider ‘technical’.
A Meta Description Haiku
But I didn’t stop there…
One of the important elements of onsite optimisation is the meta description. This enticing snippet – which should be fewer than 160 characters including spaces and ideally contain a keyword – is your chance to hook search engine users into clicking on your result rather than anyone else’s in the SERPs.
Seeing as the rules for meta descriptions are so prescriptive, I decided to write a classic haiku for mine:
Notice how I got one of those tricky-to-integrate key phrases in there.
NB: If you came to this blog post via a search engine and decided to read it because of its intriguing meta description, let me know in the comments!
So How Did I Do?
Now that I’ve written this blog post, I can engage SEMrush’s SEO Writing Assistant. This is by far my favourite content tool – here at Passion we use it on every one of our online content pieces. It’s a Chrome extension that processes what you write in a Google Doc and gives you SEO recommendations based on what it knows of Google’s algorithm.
Here are my results for this blog post:
(Ok, I admit, I went over the recommended word count – don’t tell Google!)
The result: In theory, this page has all the ingredients it needs to rank in search engines.
Only time will tell if my little SEO poetry experiment works. What I can conclude right now, though, is that optimising content for search intent is not bad news for those who want to get creative online. Challenges such as integrating phrases naturally, hitting a specific word count and working within a specific semantic field offer the kind of writing exercise that creatives should embrace rather than vilify.
Feeling inspired by my efforts? I’d love to see your SEO poetry! Share it with the content team here at Passion Digital.