The Problem with Blogging for SEO

At what point does creating well-written, helpful, personalized blog posts for an audience become less important than writing posts that people are more likely to find through a Google search?


This is not a technical writing blog, for many reasons. But everything I do cover here revolves around writing, creativity and writing stuff primarily for the internet. That is what I know best; therefore, these are the kinds of things I am able to help you, my readers, with as a blogger.

The deeper I descend into professional writing, the more I aspire to help writers find a balance between writing good content and having the confidence to create whatever they want.

In my professional life, something I have always struggled with as an online media professional is search engine optimization. I’ve studied it, I’ve practiced it, I’ve attempted to keep an online magazine afloat by succumbing to it. But when it comes to my ‘personal’ blog, I stay away from it, full disclosure, other than some words in a title or tags. I will never, if I have the choice, create a framework for a blog post using SEO. Because the way I construct this blog is meant to reflect how I believe writers should create their own work: as freely as they see fit, with a little structure, following some rules and completely disregarding others.

But I am a freelance writer. Sometimes that means I have clients who want everything to be written strictly for SEO. And sometimes, that really bothers me. Not enough to stomp my feet and fight it – trust me, as a newer, less experienced freelancer, you don’t do that – but in my own head, I’ve struggled to shake the feeling that often, what website owners are asking for just doesn’t make sense.

The purpose of SEO, in a nutshell, is just to create content that gets picked up by search engines. In some ways, it isn’t as complex as it might sound; in other ways, it is. There are thousands upon thousands of websites and blogs out there. Using SEO, websites try to make their posts and pages show up on results pages, preferably on the first or second page.

Great concept. Everyone wants their hard work to be noticed. But recently, I have really felt like some are starting to take it way too far. This is partially the creative writer in me talking, but I’ve been writing on the more technical side long enough to be able to store that away in my brain until I need it. I just don’t think everyone understands the consequences worshipping SEO can have.

If done right, SEO posts and pages aren’t that noticeable (unless you’re trained to spot them, as I am). This is fine, and I think many sites are getting better at this. But here’s the problem I foresee: at what point does creating well-written, helpful, personalized blog posts for an audience become less important than writing posts that people are more likely to find through a Google search?

I pay little to no attention to SEO when writing posts for you because it interrupts my thinking. When I’m writing for you, I don’t think about which search engines these ideas might end up on. I think about what people need to hear, what problems they are having, what’s relevant in my own life and experience as a creator. Sure, this does involve a little thinking about what people might search for, but again, that’s mostly for tagging. This is a small blog that does not get very many views. I don’t care about that. There would be a lot less of you, I’m sure, if all my content was crippled by SEO and I never gave any actual advice or encouraging words for you. That’s not what I want my content to focus on. I want to show you, my readers, that I’m a real person. Not someone who knows how to use keywords.

More and more I have clients asking me to adhere to SEO, and while that’s fine for them, it will never be fine for me. It will always make me uneasy. What would be the point of blogging if all that mattered was whether or not people found EXACTLY what they were looking for every time? That’s fine for websites, but my favorite thing about exploring blogs is stumbling upon things I never expected to find. Maybe to you I just sound like a cranky 80-year-old who doesn’t want to change the way she does things. Maybe I just don’t get it – I’m no expert. But as much as I want this blog to grow, I would never sacrifice the originality and style of my blog just so more people could find it. It bothers me when it seems like all people care about is SEO, and not the actual important things I might have to say.

Do you pay attention to SEO when you blog? How does it influence the way you write? Have you ever deliberately changed a title, heading or phrasing in hopes of better SEO? How did that make you feel?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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