Search optimisation is critical to the digital marketing industry, but has it reached the point where all craft is lost and we are forgetting how to write content for the user?

Content is king!

The written word is as important as it’s ever been, and the rapidly evolving digital media should be the perfect platform for it.

At the same time, search technology is reforming the way we discover content. Our ‘just Google it’ culture means Google is receiving a colossal 63,000 searches per second. Yet the boom in voice control devices such as Amazon’s Alexa means that by 2020 it is expected that 50% of all searches will be spoken.

The Search Engine Optimisation industry is booming, as brands have to fight to be found amidst all the noise online. ‘SEO first’ has overtaken ‘mobile first’ as the mantra of a digital brand owner. Producing good and valuable content, being a reputable supplier or having the best product is quite simply not enough anymore.

Yes, search rankings are also based on what web users find valuable, so the best content or product should prevail, but that’s far from a guarantee.

(Or is content actually dead?)

It’s not enough to just have good copy. Copywriters are now not only crafting content to connect with their audience, they’re adapting it to suit diverse online platforms in formats that please internet algorithms.

We are in a world where to say ‘just do it’ isn’t enough. If Nike was trying to make waves today we would say ‘Just do it in our high tech customisable trainers / sneakers for men and women’.

We’re not writing for our customers or even for ourselves, we’re writing for Google. And it’s not just getting keywords into our content, we’re actively producing content not because it’s something we want to talk about, but because someone might search for that content.

Voice search will confuse this relationship with what we produce online even further. Voice search employs different patterns, because we don’t speak in the same way we type.

I type ‘Moussaka recipe’; I say ‘Alexa how do I ….’ Or ‘Alexa what is…’.

So soon we will see reams of content produced purely to match these longer tail search terms.

What’s more, the fight for attention will get tougher. Whereas appearing on the first page of results on traditional search might be enough to get you noticed, with voice search there is no choice – the robots decide what is right for you.

Going against the tide

Our recent website re-design was an interesting challenge in light of this. As a mid-sized integrated agency, we in theory have to punch hard in search to compete against the big fish and the specialist agencies who will always rank higher on some terms. They’re not better at digital than my team per se, they just say digital agency 10 times more on their website.

But it just didn’t feel right for us. We didn’t want to produce pages for branding, marketing, strategy, PR, digital, social, PPC/SEO, just to fill our space online. To be frank, we don’t like talking about ourselves that much. So we decided to focus on our work – show the magic, our talent, prove how our integrated offer works for clients.

As digital director, it felt a little uncomfortable to be honest. We were doing what I would not advise any of my clients. But we are a creative agency after all, and we had to have faith in that – the cream will rise to the top.

It may be a slower burn approach, but by putting faith in the value of our work, we would win better clients who value our work, not just those who find us by search.

The reality is not all businesses can operate with this slow-burn, relationship-led approach, so we had the luxury of that choice.

For the majority, there is no choice. Write content that explicitly says what you do / sell / offer.

Produce content that supports this.

Relegate craft and the creativity for the sake of a possibly meaningless click.