The Zen of SEO Writing

Updated: October 16, 2009

A Zen ‘Koan' is a short story or sentence that seems paradoxical in nature, but can also prove to enlighten a person. One Koan states: "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

SEO Writing is also a bit of a paradox, due to the fact that all good online articles will inadvertently have an SEO effect, and those written purely for the ‘purpose of SEO' will most likely fail to accomplish their goal. In other words: if you begin with the mindset of writing purely for the search engines, you've failed already. The key to SEO writing is to forget SEO. Kinda Zen huh? Let me explain…

The Art of ‘No Mind‘. Zen Masters used to profess a state of mind called ‘No Mind'. This mindset was attained when a specific art, say archery, was perfected to such a degree that the master did not need to devote a single thought to hitting a bulls eye. In modern athletics, this is often referred to as ‘Muscle Memory'.

I'm not saying an SEO writer needs to punch a board ten thousand times to get their article picked up, but rather an SEO writer should stop thinking about SEO. An SEO writer should think like a REAL writer: What sort of relevant topics are novel and interesting for my audience? What writing style should I utilize? What are the reoccurring themes within my article? Do I have a beginning, middle and end? Concentrate on writing first; forget about the keywords.

Keywords are Only as Good as What Surrounds Them. Now that you've gotten all this keyword nonsense out of your head, lets talk about keywords. Are your target keywords working for you or are you working for them?

IF you are writing SEO articles and stopping to think about throwing in your keywords, you're working for them. This is how SEO articles are born with titles like: ‘5 Ways to Purchase Discount Leather Boots, Leather Gloves and Leather Belts.' And I've definitely written articles just like that. Nobody reads them, I know.

Write about something you would read. Even if you are limited by your target keywords, like ‘Leather Boots,' try to find an angle with some interest. What are the recent trends with Leather Boots: did Lindsay Lohan just puke on a pair? Who wore the first leather boots in history? How fast can a chimp run 200 meters wearing leather boots? Seriously, that last one may seem a bit crazy, but wouldn't' you read it?

The List is a Powerful Tool…If Used Correctly. I'm sure you've heard the hooplah about how lists are great for SEO writing. There is a grain of truth to this, however, just because you are using bullet points instead of paragraphs doesn't mean your list will be a sure thing.

Good List: Top 10 Most Ridiculous Craiglist Posts of All Time

Bad List: Top 10 Promotional Pens and Pencils by Category - Promotional Gifts with a Difference

While the first list may not be for SEO purposes, it should be used as an example of something people might actually be interested in reading. The second article clearly was not meant to be read by a person.

Target Keywords… Finally

So you ask, where's all the ‘basics' about inserting target keywords into your article? What is the proper density of keywords to content? How about anchor tags? And what about story titles?

I'll answer these questions with another famous Zen Koan:

"When you can do nothing, what can you do?"

For more info on SEO writing check out my blog at Insight Forge

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