Is this “good copy”?
From an actual Phoenix area blog post (I’ve changed the city and redacted the agent/brokerage to “protect the innocent” (?):
When it is time for you to purchase Phoenix luxury homes, turn to a professional Phoenix, Arizona real estate agent at [redacted] to handle the transaction in a skillful manner. With recent economic trends affecting real estate prices, it is a buyer’s market in Phoenix, and your Phoenix, Arizona real estate agent will make sure that you are getting the best deal on Phoenix, Arizona real estate. You need a REALTOR® with the knowledge of local realty markets who is ready to represent you and procure quality Phoenix luxury homes.
That little snippet contains 89 words, 21 of which are Phoenix this and Phoenix that. That would be a whopping 24% “keyword density”. The remainder of the article was just as keyword laden.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find this excruciating to read, and it comes off as being written for one thing and one thing only — search engines.
I’m not writing this to pick on one individual (hence the lack of a link and the altered text). The reason for writing this is twofold: 1) Selfishly, I find the practice of writing for search engines incredibly annoying and this helps me vent my frustration; and 2) I see this practice occurring with greater frequency — a trend I find most disturbing.
Google is smart
The folks that work at Google are a very bright bunch of people. Trust me, you don’t need to make 24% of what you write a key word for Google to figure out what your post is all about. In actuality, the title is probably enough (and yes, this post had “Phoenix Luxury Homes” as the title lead). If you really feel compelled to shove “CITY REAL ESTATE” down your reader’s throat, toss it in a few more times. But 24% of the time? Puhlease.
Ask ten SEO experts what an optimal keyword density is, and you’ll probably get twelve different answers. But I challenge anyone to find an expert that feels 24% of your copy should be keywords. The general consensus seems to range from 2 – 5%, depending on the search engine (here is a good article on keyword density). At a 2 – 5% rate, our little example would need the keyword used 2 to 4 times. 21 blows it out of the water and is far more likely to do harm than good.
I’m no Faulkner or Hemingway
Occasionally I’ll write something and sit back and say, “Hey, that’s pretty damn good!” Then a Kris Berg / Jonathan Dalton / Jeff Corbett type will come along and write something and I’ll say, “Wow, apparently I can’t write worth a crap”. Such is life. The simple truth is, you don’t need to compose prose like Hemingway, Faulkner or Berg/Dalton/Corbett to have an effective blog post and engage your readers. Sure, it helps if your grammar is decent and you can string together a coherent thought or two. But highly skilled writing is not a prerequisite for effective blogging.
There has always been much discussion within the real estate blogging community about “your voice”. The advice I give to those that will listen is to write for your readers, not the search engines. Write like you speak. Write like your reader is sitting next to you and you’re talking with them.
Do you think whoever wrote the above talks like that in real life? I seriously doubt it. Odds are they are a nice, warm and friendly person. Why not write that way? Write to and for your readers, not the search engines. The search engines will find you, they are good at what they do, they really don’t need incessant prompting.
I leave you with this little nugget from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Think about it…
Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” (my emphasis)
Hat tip to Steve Belt