Kimberly Crossland

The Push and Pull of SEO vs. Human Connection

By: Kimberly Crossland | August 8, 2017 | 

SEO for contentI was having a conversation with a friend the other day about SEO for content.

When I started out as a copywriter five years ago, SEO for content wasn’t on my radar much.

Yes, I knew keywords were important.

Yes, I knew where they had to get integrated on the page to help them rank.

But, I never believed in writing for search engines.

I pay close attention to the message the words are sending far more than what Google wants.


Because I never want the writing to lose its authentic charm.

After starting my business, I began working with a few clients who placed a heavy focus on SEO for content.

Specifically, local SEO.

And even more specifically, local SEO for lawyers and doctors.

As I’d write the 50th page for a personal injury lawyer, having to somehow integrate an awkward keyword, such as “personal injury lawyer Tucson” (who talks like that?) into content without it feeling unnatural, I realized something.

SEO for Content is Ruining Our Humanity

That might sound dramatic, but it’s something I wrestle hard with every day.

On the one hand, I want the sales pages and blog posts to be real.

The goal with every single piece of content we create is for it to make a connection with the person on the other side of the screen.

On the other hand, Google is used daily by humans who need to find something to solve a problem.

If the content we create at Savvy Copywriters isn’t optimized for how the search engine robots need it to be so that they can appropriately categorize it, how will it ever get found?

How will the people who need these solutions ever find the answer to their problems?

Here’s the Bitter Reality of it All

Sometimes, I get frustrated with the whole thing.

I mean, really frustrated with it all.

Sure, my Tucson marketing business offers SEO services based purely on content creation as a primary service offering.

But it still frustrates me.

I’ve caught myself thinking things such as: 

Masterminds like Seth Godin and Ash Ambrige don’t think about SEO (or at least it doesn’t appear they do), so is it really that necessary?

If the content we create is super, spot on human, it’ll get shared and that’ll help it get found, which will eventually help it show up on search engines, right? RIGHT? (Wrong.) 

Will anyone care about what they read if all we ever do is try to appeal to the Google monster?

That’s the frustration I’m feeling now.

Perhaps you’ve felt it too in your own communications journey at one point or another?

The juggle of data finding vs. artistry is real. And yet, I can’t stop.

I can’t stop myself from looking up keywords because I have to know what the people outside of the four walls of my home office are looking up. 

Can’t stop myself from integrating these keywords into posts because I know that’s what Google needs so that my and my client’s content can appear on search engines organically.

I Can’t Stop Because I’ve Been Pushed Back to Square One 

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to move from having my personal name as my domain over to having my agency’s name as the domain.

This is part of the switch from being a freelancer solopreneur to blossoming into a fully functioning communications agency.

There are growing pains associated with any big move like this, and one of those is SEO for content.

More specifically, I’ve lost a few backlinks.

With the switch to a brand new domain, all the backlinks (read: SEO gold) I’ve built up to my old domain don’t matter as much.

To rank higher in search engines again, we need to start from scratch.

We have to rebuild those valuable backlinks to the new URL so we can kick our domain authority up from the bottom of the barrel—and fast.

Another challenge: Going from a one-man show to a small company means new keywords, all new copy, and of course, a completely different marketing message.

That’s a lot of shake-up for a business that’s growing up steadily.

To add fuel to the fire, I’m about to head on maternity leave for all of Q4 this year, leaving the bulk of the work to my team while I’m “out” (in quotes because, let’s face it, entrepreneurs are never really “out”).

And that begs the question…

Was It Worth It to Consciously Take a Few Steps Back in the SEO Game?

The short answer is this: Absolutely.

And I’ve spent plenty of sleepless nights, zoned out on many long drives, and stared out my office window way too many times justifying and reasoning to myself why that is.

My gut has been telling me that this is the right move, but it just felt so daunting.

Here’s what I came up with, which relates back to what nagged me about SEO from the get go:

Despite how important it is to rank high up on search engines, it’s equally important that the signal we’re sending to the person landing on the homepage is strong and clear.

The domain needs to convey the same message as we’re sending in all of the copy and content that fill the pages.

So, we work. We start over.

And from that, we seek new opportunities to connect with people outside of our own digi-walls.

We infuse keywords to show Google how to rank us, so we can get in front of the right group of people.

And in doing so, we’ll soon emerge out of level one and upwards through the page ranks.

And that is that. It’s real. It’s honest. And, it’s still SEO.

How do you reconcile your SEO game with human connection?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who has struggled with this!

About Kimberly Crossland

Kimberly Crossland is the owner of The Savvy Copywriter, a content marketing company in sunny Arizona. Through her experience working in Denmark and the United States, she has developed a unique approach to business communications. When she's not at her desk, you can find her sipping a cup of coffee, indulging in a glass of red wine, riding the mountain bike trails, or snuggling with her dogs.

  • Liz Reusswig

    Kimberly – A terrific post and probably something many worry about (anyone else zone out on those long drives?). Thanks for making it ok to “start over” and looking at it as an opportunity!

    • Kimberly Crossland

      Thanks, Liz! Starting over is always okay in my book, and as long as you do it with a plan, it can usually go relatively smoothly + be quick to rebuild.

  • First of all, congrats for making the switch from solopreneur to agency!

    Starting over is hard when the only thing you do is look back and think, “I am going to lose this or that and I worked so hard for it.”

    The perspective changes when you look at the opportunities ahead. And yes, it involves work and never giving up. But it’s worth it.

    • Debbie Johnson

      It’s also inspiring

    • Kimberly Crossland

      Ab. So. Lutely. Corina! It’s easy to get inside our own head about it all (*guilty*) but if we don’t look ahead at what’s happening with both our business and with the digital ecosystem (@disqus_1ZwAiCE1qU:disqus just brought up some fantastic points about this), we’ll miss out on so many opportunities.

  • Howie Goldfarb

    The problem with SEO is when people try to game it….the results aren’t the BEST results for the user. If we don’t get best results Google’s business tanks. Every change they make it to improve results and force companies to pay for adwords. And adwords blows away SEO and Content Marketing for ROI and Speed for results.

    BUT THIS IS ALL CHANGING! So you are in a good spot to a degree. Alexa etc is going to destroy search really fast. I shared with @ginidietrich a commercial for Alexa. Someone ordered flowers without search or web/mobile interface. A cat ordered Sushi the same way. But here is the kicker. The results are coming only from businesses who pay Amazon to be part of their network. As the AI/Assistant game gets going we are going to see a buffer between us and the web doing the work we used to do manually.

    Just absorb that. And these assistants are going to be US and Them. Meaning Google and Amazon want us in their eco system. But there will be stand alones working for us vs them. But soon brands are going to be forced to contract with various assistants to be in those networks. It will be more pay to play and SEO will probably go away and the web is going to be WAY different.

    • Kimberly Crossland

      AI is probably the biggest game changer when it comes to SEO, for sure (also slightly terrifying for us humans on so many levels because we have a smaller buffer of protection between ourselves, our bank accounts, and what happens online). It’ll be fascinating to watch how it all plays out.

      100% AGREE that if you try to game it, you’re going to bust every time (eventually). Especially as SEO starts to fade away.

      FASCINATING stuff on the horizon!

      • Howie Goldfarb

        Things are changing fast and I agree a lot of this technology is meant to exploit consumers vs benefit. IoT is a big one. They are pushing things like energy efficiency just as we enter a new era of unlimited free power without an electrical grid. While I am ok with me controling my home from my phone I would prefer a VPN Intranet that is not connected to the web. No one needs to know if my lights are on but me…and soon we can leave every light on (single family homes will be the first to unplug from the grid with solar advances). Cars wont be using oil. And our external web interface is going to change fast.

        But I see huge openings for independent AI companies that focus on the consumer vs exploiting them for money to be our buffer with everything from the web to social media. With Chatbots replacing humans for brands for many interactions soon we will have our own personal bots to protect us.

        The evil side of Advertising/Social Media/Marketing/PR is the fact those are based on exploiting us (and brands) for profit vs benefiting us (and brands).

        Hold on to your seat and buckle up!

    • Did I tell you that the Small Child adds stuff to my grocery list through Alexa all the time?

      • Kimberly Crossland

        That was one of my first thoughts when reading Howe’s response. I can see the day coming very soon when my toddler does the same.

  • I go through the exact same frustration, and here is how I reconcile it: If Monet, or Picasso, or daVinci, or any of the well-know artistic masterminds we know today, painted the same pieces, and then left them in a closet in the back of their homes, no one would be able to enjoy their art. Likewise, if they painted crap and promoted it all over the place, they wouldn’t be known as the painters they are.

    They needed both, and as a writer so do I.

    • Kimberly Crossland

      Great comparison!

  • Debbie Johnson

    You are not the only one who struggles with this, and I appreciate you sharing your story and the steps you’re taking to reconcile it.

    • Kimberly Crossland

      Thank you, Debbie. Solidarity! *Fist bump*

      • Debbie Johnson

        We have to stick together!

  • You make me laugh! This is really great insight and it’s true—we have to write for humans first, robots second. I really love, what I’ll call, back-end SEO for the non-human speak. You can add that to the SEO title and meta descriptions and write the actual content for humans. #winning

    • Kimberly Crossland

      Yes! And #balance

  • turnerchris

    Hi Kimberly, I have some really good news for you. Recent comment by Google states that content is by far the single most important ranking factor as far as Google is concerned, and that content should be written as naturally as possible to engage and inform the reader. Keyword stuffing, the tactic you are broadly describing, is something Google wants to discourage. They claim to be able to recognise content stuffed with keywords and will penalise sites who do this. So actually your decision to write for humans is not only something you feel comfortable with, it is also the latest best advice for SEO too.

    • Marcus Hill

      Hi, should the use of adwords reflect your content’s word economy? Or visa versa? We use adwords here, but I’m not sure we’re maximizing the potential of the paid service. It’s interesting that Google promotes content as such, but heavily pushes the “keyword” game.

  • Marcus Hill

    Hi! New follower/reader/consumer of your work here!

    First off, WOW. What an insightful post.

    Many of your thoughts got me pondering my own approach to SEO at work.

    Currently, our organization uses google adwords to “remedy” the SEO difficulties we’re having…yeah. However, when it comes to published content itself, I’m not sure how to approach it all the time. Specifically balancing content geared toward brand and message exposure vs competing with similar brands while not compromising our message. Like you have shared, I don’t want to sound ro-bot-ic with our messages, but I also don’t want us have smaller limit on who we can reach.

    My brain hurts from the banging, though I believe my desk would tell you I have no right to complain…

    Is there a way around these pitfalls since we’re using Adwords? What would you recommend?

  • Paul P – OverwatchDesigns

    It is completely frustrating that I have to focus on a “computer sentence,” rather than a human connection. I see my products, from another page, ranking higher in Google than my own page. Extremely frustrating.