In this day and age, content writing or copywriting without bearing SEO, or search engine optimisation, in mind is like putting together an elaborate play and forgetting to sell the tickets. Without SEO the audience will be sparse. At least online. But I’ve noticed that the interest of the reader starts to wither when SEO becomes the primary focus of the content development process.

But… keywords are king!

In a way, yes, they are. A headline with keywords, or a cleverly crafted string of keywords (that scores precious backlinks), might generate traffic to one’s website and draw your reader in. And granted, according to Forbes, only 59% of readers read beyond the headline. So, the power of attention-grabbing search engine optimized headlines is undeniable. However, writing primarily with SEO and not the end-user in mind can sometimes lead to some very baffling content that stops the reader in their tracks. Particularly in the development sector. Let me explain why.

Off the bat, let me repeat that these observations are for the development sector – for organisations working on goals like empowering people, protecting the planet and other similar missions.

Audiences differ

After working in the sector for over a decade and performing many surveys and analyses on the content consumption in the sector, I’ve learned two key things about the sector’s readers/audience.

Firstly, the intention with which a person will click on your headline is very different from the motivation behind them clicking on a headline saying, for e.g. ‘three places on everyone’s bucket list’. Their motivation is often a genuine desire to learn or make a change for the betterment of themselves or others.

Secondly, people who would click on your headline are often keen to engage (positively) in some way or another. Whether it is to re-tweet the article, donate, or leave a comment. If the content is hollow and mechanical, they may not return. No matter how many riveting keywords the next headline might have.

Click and stay

Of course, there are a few who merely respond to the clickbait in the headline. But, in my experience, a majority of the people who do click on content pertaining to topics like protecting human rights or the environment are genuinely interested in knowing more. With the growing urgency surrounding climate change, this number is increasing – fast.

I find it vital to keep these readers/end-users engaged with accurate and informative content – it doesn’t just stop at the keywords. I use all the tools at my disposal even SEO to draw them in, and keep them interested, so organisations like yours can share their whole story. Because what’s the point of selling the tickets to a play when no-one stays to watch the whole show?


“Readers are not sheep and not every pen tempts them”

–  Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov

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