I've got a team of content writers clashing with the SEO guys. The writers are debating that the SEO guys should build their strategy around what they write, and that the SEO guys are giving out keywords that aren't good for their content.

Anyone have a logical solution for this kind of situation? What should be the correct flow of work between content writers and SEO personnel?

My gut says SEO guys should be in the helm seat if we're aiming to rank higher.

  • The current situation is that the SEO guys give the content writers a list of keywords that they're targeting to write about. So are the SEOs not doing enough? Right now both sides are fighting for the decision on what kind of content should be shown/used. Not sure what's the most efficient process we can use to solve this situation between these 2 teams. – Kakenx Sep 20 '17 at 4:23
  • I'm declaring this question too broad because one could make a long story about SEO people and one could make a long story about the writers but there's really no subject here for both parties to go on about which makes this question even a broader based question. I just don't think there's a simple answer here without more information about the writers at the very least. Also, the question suggests an opinion for an answer because it sounds like there's a fight between SEO and the writers and you're effectively asking us to pick a winner. – Mike -- No longer here Sep 20 '17 at 5:54
  • Although this question is a bit broad and opinion-based, I think it qualifies as a constructive subjective question, that could be answered based on experience, and possibly facts and references. Namely the issue appears to be: should content be written around targeted keywords as per SEO advice or more naturally. I'm sure there are others working with different teams or consultants that might find this helpful too. – dan Sep 20 '17 at 7:26


You have a dilemma for sure. How are you to know what is true? Which side is telling you the truth? Well...

Professional writers can generally be spotted easily by the two or three style guides, the huge dictionary, the huge thesaurus, etc. Pocket protectors and black plastic eye glasses are a bonus. Really, good writing can be evaluated.

SEOs in general are not technical people and only parrot what they have been told and have read online. Short of a search engineer, who can really tell you how a search engine works? Well, you are in luck! Search engineers have a trait in common with those research scientists that created the technologies used in search decades ago. They like to discuss and write about technology. Many search engineers have written research papers and books adding to the ontology on the subject.

So this is where I would start.

I like to push back and see if my B.S. meter goes off. You can question both sides and see what you get.

Search is not about keywords or matching keywords. Googles original research paper states:

Automated search engines that rely on keyword matching usually return too many low quality matches.

Search engines, since the introduction of Google, have moved toward using semantic analysis beginning in 1997, then moving more quickly in 2003, 2005, and then again in 2008 through to present day. What was learned in Googles Scholar, has been rolled into the search engine and has grown to staggering complexity. While each technical element is simple to understand, the complexity in the implementation is unfathomable. To simply say that good SEO is about a handful of keywords is completely wrong. Is it like looking at a handful of spots without understanding that you are looking at a leopard or a hyena. Silly.

Be that as it may, search engines evaluate content using linguistic semantic analysis. Remember your writers? Do you think they understand linguistics best? You better believe the writers should! Do your SEOs? Not likely. Linguistic semantic analysis allows a piece of content to be understood. I can have two pieces of content with the same few keywords that have completely different meanings. If search was about keywords, then how could I match a user to the proper page? I can't.

So where is your marketing department?

You must know who your audience is, know how and what they search for, what their concerns are, what problems they need solved, questions they need answered, what motivates them, how to engage them, and so on. Where is the market analysis, the persona analysis, the plan to address search user problems, concerns, questions, etc.? If you do not have a marketing plan, then your SEOs should be answering these questions. Can they?

What the writers should be receiving is a topic, the topic scope, how the topic fits into the plan, how the post is to overlap another topic, what it should address in the way of solutions, concerns, questions, etc. Your writers should know precisely how a work fits into the plan and how to measure if the work is complete. Think of each piece of content as having a business case tied to it. You cannot simply arbitrarily begin writing stuff. What a waste of capitol! Each post should have measurable goals and not just rank for keywords. Content must complement each other and not detract. What is the topic strength of each work and how does it fit the plan?

SEO is about establishing topic strength, linguistics, proper use of punctuation to establish meaning, completeness, flow, form, etc. SEO is about writing precisely and not about keywords. For this, both the SEOs and the writers HAVE TO work together.

With SEO, there is no standard. It is more a matter of whether they understand what is needed and can drive relevant traffic. This is done with extremely tight discipline which requires absolute and complete understanding how content is evaluated.

I would be asking to see a plan. Any plan. Where is the market analysis, the persona analysis, the plan to address search user problems and concerns, etc. Ask your SEOs how search works. Explain it to me. How are pages indexed? How are they analyzed? How is a search query handled? How are queries matched to web pages? Explain ranking. Explain how the knowledge graph works. And so on.

Push back on the SEOs and the writers. Can the writers explain why their expertise is so important? You already know it is, but make them explain it to you anyway.

I bet both writers and SEOs will begin to stutter.

Lastly, if your SEOs are only reading online advice, you are in real trouble! Ask them what sources they have for their information. No research papers? No patents? No books written by Googlers? Stop there. Your SEOs do not know enough.

Search is about understanding what content is about, what the search query is looking for, and how to match the two. It is about whole language. Full stop! Not keywords. It is about topical analysis, linguistics, etc. It is about using AI and machine learning to evaluate search queries and their result sets and how they perform with search users. It is about many many many factors, signals, and metrics. It is a science. Does either side understand this?

So both the writers and SEOs are important. But neither should drive the bus. They both should based upon the application of science, experience, and a little dumb luck every now and again.


Whenever anyone uses "SEO people" to determine content, then it is my opinion (which I consider fact) that the content is not worth distributing because it is publicity based and not based on purpose.

The purpose of publishing anything on the web is to educate, inform or entertain. Anything else is advertising and articles should never be based on advertising except in the clear context of giving information about the product.

Anything else borders on scam and trickery which most, if not all, SEO based articles are.

  • 1
    You run a sunglasses company. The content writer wants to write about how lenses are made. The SEO wants to write about top 10 sunglasses to buy this summer. One of them of the queries people are searching for, makes money and the other doesn't. You run a business. Which one are you going to choose? It's a nice vision and how the web should be but let's not kid ourselves on the reality of the world here. You need to put food on the table. – mat boy Sep 20 '17 at 14:30
  • @matboy It doesn't matter that people don't do what should be done. It's what I pointed out. I also pointed out exactly what you are saying. That's advertising, not article writing. – Rob Sep 20 '17 at 14:33
  • The question is being asked by someone in a business. You're asking is content worth to be distributed. For someone looking for ROI I would say yes. You're talking about a much wider ethical creation of content IMO. – mat boy Sep 20 '17 at 14:37
  • @matboy I'm not asking anything. I'm stating facts. How one does things does not play into what I'm stating. – Rob Sep 20 '17 at 14:40

Writing for search engines and people can cause conflict. Both are important and for successful content, it is all about balance.

SEO should help guide the content writers words.

Content writers are there to make the content resonate with the reader or compel them to take an action.

Having too many keywords on a page is bad for the reader and effects conversion rates. Not optimising for keywords will kill your organic SEO, perhaps even paid search.

It is a balance, and if there is a conflict I would suggest creating a content strategy that adds important keywords in the first paragraph and headings.

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