Why You Shouldn’t Write For Search Engines

It’s a common piece of advice, but it frustrates me.

Lots of people will tell you to write content for search engines. Don’t.

Allow me to elaborate. I obviously believe in search engine optimization. It’s a big part of what I do, and it’s important to a business. Search engines need to be able to find you so that people can find you online. It’s that simple. I agree completely. I just don’t agree with writing for them.

Optimized content can reach an unfortunate extreme if you focus only on search engines. There’s a big difference between comfortably incorporating keywords and cramming so many in that the content becomes robotic and repetitive. The main problem is that reading too many keywords strung together can be an awkward procedure. There’s nothing natural about reading a list of similar words and phrases, all slapped together to (sort of) form sentences. Your readers will miss some of the really important parts of your business, because it’s muddled in the midst of the keywords. There’s an easy way around this, though:

When you’re working on your content, always focus on people first.


There will be room for keywords, don’t you worry. It’s still entirely possible for you to optimize your content for search engines. But, for now, we’ll focus on people. People are the most important part.

There are easy ways to keep your content focused and specific. If you deliver a clear, effective message, you’ll get a good response from people. All they’re asking for is open communication. And it’s pretty easy to accomplish that. When I’m writing anything, be it blog posts, creative nonfiction, etc., I often ask myself these questions:

  • What do I want people to think about? Your content will make people think, one way or another. If you consciously consider what thoughts your content might inspire, then you’re better able to encourage specific outcomes. It’s simple cause-and-effect. The words you choose will impact what people think.
  • What do I want people to feel? Emotions will influence a reader’s choice, just as thoughts do. Again, it’s important to consider the potential outcomes and direct your words accordingly.
  • What concept is central to what I’m writing? This is SO important. If you aren’t sure what your main point is, your audience won’t either. Make sure your stick to your central idea. Let it guide the rest of what you’re writing.
  • What words and phrases will best convey what I’m trying to say? Part of the joy (and frustration) of writing is finding just the right word. Depending on the direction of your content, certain words will fit better. As you align your words to the tone and pace of your content, you create a more dynamic piece. People like dynamics – they guide them through the content without overwhelming or boring them.

When you write for people’s sake, you attract people to your content. And, ultimately, that’s the goal. So, please, don’t write for the sake of search engines. Focus on your audience first. They’ll thank you for it!