Ralf Schulz
By Ralf Schulz | Content Writing, SEO | August 25, 2014

Avoiding “Leftover Parfait:” a Primer on Quality SEO Content Writing

It’s an old joke in the business, but it’s worth retelling: “An SEO content writer walks into a bar, tavern, pub, liquor, drinks, beer, wine, late nights, open weekends.” Every joke has its truth, and in the past, keyword-stuffing was the name of the game for SEO agencies with content writing. But humans don’t normally read or write in such a convoluted way. People who use search engines aren’t robots, and, before long, the robots who run search engines figured this out!  Thus SEO content writing has evolved and good content writing keeps its readers’ expectations in mind first. If writing is colorful, informative, and persuasive it doesn’t matter how many times it repeats the name of your newest product—web traffic will come. Here are a few major SEO content writing guidelines to work by:

  •  Size matters, but not in the way that you may think.

In the past, SEO content writing aimed to be quick and to the point, and the ideal article consisted of somewhere between 499 and 501 words. Anything shorter would surely fall short of Google robots’ standards, and anything 502 words or longer was an egregious waste of company time. However, data suggests that the best-performing SEO content is much longer than this. A QuickSprout study on content length found that articles over 2,000 words in length rule Google’s rankings:

content

2,000 words may seem like a large step forward for many content writers, but even if you feel you don’t have time to stretch your articles that far, keep the principle in mind: in SEO content writing, think big!

  • Do not sacrifice quality for quantity.

An experiment to try at home: think of any topic a writer (any writer!) might want to write about. Search for it on Google or Bing. What do the articles on the first page of results have in common? They are interesting! Their goal is to satisfy the reader’s curiosity rather than quote Wikipedia and tell the reader to buy things.

  • Creativity is king.

The best writing goes beyond the call of duty whether it be SEO content writing, a dissertation, or surrealist poetry. Every chance you get, try to do something new in an article—the farther you get from the middle school five-paragraph-essay, inverted-triangle format, the better! The first sentences of any piece of writing set the tone, so if you want to get your reader in the mood to press the “Back” button, go for a general-to-specific introduction along these lines:

“Things have properties. Our company sells things. Our company’s products thus have properties.”

  • Originality over all.

Many of us who grew up in the 90s and 2000s remember the show “Malcolm in the Middle.” One of my favorite moments is when Lois, the domineering matriarch of Malcolm’s family, makes her weekly “Leftover Parfait,” a casserole made exclusively from the previous week’s leftovers. The children realize with horror, “It finally happened! The bottom layer is last week’s Leftover Parfait!”

parfait

Much content writing on the Internet resembles a “Leftover Parfait,” whereby writers grab material from so many secondary sources that they sometimes cannibalize not only the content writing of others, but even their own! If you take a moment to imagine the taste of a Leftover Parfait containing last week’s Leftover Parfait, you will have a good idea of how readers feel when reading unoriginal content writing.

Content writing, much like a casserole, is best when freshly made and tastefully done. Don’t serve your readers a leftover parfait – think big, place quality over quantity, show creativity, and be original!

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