After Sunday's Nuts & Blogbolts show, Mike Sansone asked if we would individually respond on our blogs to this question: "Writing for the visitor is more important than writing for the search engines. Can both requirements be met without sacrificing quality?"
My answer: No. Both objectives can't be met without sacrificing somewhere along the way.
Writing sales copy is tough enough when your only objective is to elicit a certain response. Imagine how much more difficult it would be if you not only had to elicit a response... but also had to write in such a way as to appease search engines!
Now, can you write an informational article that reads well and ranks well at the same time? Yes. I believe you can. In fact, I've done it many times, though mostly by accident.
You see, I decided long ago I would not be a full-time student of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Still, when I was getting started, I spent a lot of time studying it. I learned a few things I apply even today.
The result: I often write compelling articles that rank well and draw a lot of traffic. But please understand that I write what I want to write. I only seek to optimize within the framework of my subject matter. I do not decide what keywords will rank well and then write articles around them.
A quick story... Back when I was getting my start on the Internet, I discovered it was quite difficult to get a new site indexed in Google. This was before blogging. Basically, the only way to get in was to get a link from another web site that already had a PageRank of 4 or higher.
Here's what I did. I built an acronym and abbreviation resource web site. After the site was a sufficient size, I applied to Directory Mozilla for inclusion. It took a while, but I eventually got in. (This was before all the scandals broke out about bribery and corruption inside DMOZ.)
Long story short, my acronym web site is what I use whenever I want to get a new web site indexed quickly. That's the whole reason I built the site in the first place. As a bonus, the site also produces between $50 and $100 a month from Google Adsense. I hardly do anything with the site anymore, yet it still continues to produce.
If you'd like to see the site I built (by hand, I might add), you can go to Top: Reference: Dictionaries: Acronyms. You'll see Acronym Guide listed in the sixth position.
I guess to bring this article to a close, you always have to write with primary and secondary objectives. Either your primary objective is to write for readers or write for search engines. You can't have two primary objectives. Decide beforehand what your goal is, then write to achieve that goal.
P.S. Michel Fortin has now posted his response here. I especially like what he says about "Funneling." Also worth repeating is what he says about long-copy sales letters:
"However, in the case of a strictly long-copy salesletter, I agree that your aim is to elicit a response and not satiate the search engines. If you were to optimize your sales copy for the search engines, the quality of your copy may suffer at some point. As the saying goes, you can’t be all things to all people."
P.P.S. Roberta Rosenberg has also replied. Rather than address the sales copy side, she has tackled the content writing side. Read her tips and advice here.