SEO has got a bad rep when it comes to creators. Very few creators are open to the idea of (over?)using keywords to drive their writing. Trying to force keywords at various strategic places in an article is blasphemous for many writers.
I know this because I have also experienced this while writing in the past 7 years. When I try to keep keywords at the back of my mind while writing, it often hampers creativity and the flow of ideas.
As a creator, you also write to clarify your thinking and ideas. Ideas don’t emerge in the first draft. It requires multiple rewrites and edits to arrive at a decent essay. The thought of adding keywords to this sacred process is a sin few creators are willing to commit.
This is also evident in the quality of writing you find in the top results of Google. Most top-ranking results carry the stamp of on-page SEO aka strategic use of keywords in the content. Popular techniques like the skyscraper technique- the idea to create a better version than the top 10 results for a particular keyword- further contribute to the diluted quality of search engine results.
This is why I also rarely trust the top results of Google when it comes to seeking original insights or information. In fact, I have found the best insights on SEO from creators on Twitter/Reddit or niche expert blogs that don’t rank on Google.
Having said that, on-page SEO is just one part of SEO. There are two more critical components- technical SEO (is your website even indexed/crawlable?) and off-page SEO (aka backlinks- an indicator of authority for Google).
Most modern website platforms like WordPress and Webflow are robust enough to support the best technical SEO practices. When it comes to backlinks for a creator website, it is a strategic choice and depends on how competitive the niche is on Google. For most creators building a super-specific niche personal brand on Twitter, it is unlikely they’d need to compete on Google.
So, the question becomes:
What could be the upside of focusing on SEO if you are a creator?
Firstly, in the long term, SEO could become a potentially free source of the traffic to your evergreen posts and deep-dive content. The half-life of posts on Twitter and LinkedIn is barely a day. On the other hand, you can reap the benefits of SEO daily if you start ranking on relevant keywords.
Secondly, SEO is a medium to reach common people who are actively searching for something that your content solves. These people might not be pro-internet users who are hyperactive on social media platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn.
Thirdly, by analyzing your content from the lens of SEO and using tools like Google Search Console, you can get real-time insights into how people are discovering your content. You can find out what queries they type in Google to arrive on your website. This can give you more ideas about your target audience as well as give you more content ideas for the future.
Last but not the least, if your niche explodes in the future, you stand to gain the most when more people start searching about it on Google. For example, if you are someone writing on a niche topic, say DAOs, for 2 years and a breakout event leads the term into the mainstream (beyond the niche community), your website would be in the best position to gain maximum traffic due to the authority you have built over years.
Clearly, there are some upsides to paying attention to SEO if you are playing the long-term online game in the creator economy.
So, is there a middle ground?
Is it possible to incorporate an SEO strategy with your creative exploration of new ideas while writing?
Here are some of my initial thoughts to make the best of both worlds:
- When you are starting out as a creator, you need not pay much attention to it as your primary focus is to build a publishing habit and to find topics you enjoy writing about.
- When you feel stuck and you’ve some idea of topics you want to write about, a basic keyword research process could give you a lot of ideas related to your niche. You need not use these terms as main topics but use them as references to expand upon your unique perspective.
- After you’ve published for a few months and gained enough clarity about your audience and niche, you can analyze your existing content to see how they currently appear in the search engine results. This will start giving you ideas on what is gaining traction in the search results and whether those topics align with your mission and focus as a creator.
- You can only do the above step if you have a website where you can publish your best content. If you have only published on third-party platforms so far, this is the time to invest in your own website which is critical for SEO. You can flesh out your best-performing content in the form of in-depth blogs, preferably after doing basic keyword research.
- You can continue to follow a more creative approach to write about what you want on a daily basis on your preferred platform, say Twitter or LinkedIn.
- Once a month, you can publish a comprehensive post on your blog driven by SEO strategy to establish you as an authority on a topic. This is ideally your best content with your unique insights and feedback from people who have engaged with your ideas on other platforms like Twitter.
To sum up
SEO can give offer you immense leverage in the long term to keep attracting people to your existing content hosted on your own website. This also makes you free from relying on the mercy of a social media platform (or its founder!) to reach out to people who can benefit from your content.
You start with building an audience on a platform like Twitter or LinkedIn where your ideal audience is already present. This is where you test your ideas in public and engage with your audience in real-time to get feedback and refine your ideas.
Once you begin to get clarity on your topic (where you want to become an authority/create a personal monopoly), start publishing your best content on your website driven by an SEO strategy.
Get into the analytics to see what people are searching for related to your main topic. Double down on what is working on either platform and maximize your reach with the best of both worlds.
This is how you can make SEO work for you as a creator.
What do you think of the above ideas?
Do you already use a similar approach to publish content on your website?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.