SEO copywriting has changed dramatically over the past two or three years. Then, it was all meta tags and keyword density. Now, SEO copywriting is more about quality inbound links and useful content that reads smoothly.
Google's 2010 Mayday algorithm update also emphasises quality content at the expense of 'long-tail keywords' whose demise is spelt in a single, simple term: 'irrelevance'.
The Google Mayday Update of 2010 — and all the other regular changes to the search engine's algorithms — are focused on delivering optimal search results. The problem for SEO is that these kaleidoscopic changes throw the existing body of optimisation knowledge into turmoil — for the short term at least.
Google's attack on 'long-tail keywords' is part of a broader offensive to root out too-clever-by-half ways of beating the system. The thinking is that the aggregate of low-number search results arising from more obscure keywords was large enough to devalue the overall search experience.
Creating vast amounts of poor quality content simply to catch on to the coat tails of long-tail keyword groups should now be seen as almost another version of spamming. In other words, the landing pages searchers were arriving at provided content of little usefulness or relevance to the original search.
For some SEO exponents, this has come as a massive blow. Content (of any quality) was deemed acceptable so long as it ticked all the right keyword boxes. What Google have now done is ratchet up the quality criteria in their Mayday Update to make doubly sure that quality website content is once again the undisputed king of search.
SEO copywriting can now revert back to the emerging trend of providing user-friendly content that isn't targeted primarily at search engines. SEO professionals have also seen once again the dangers in optimising websites using a limited set of tools that could — and will — become hopelessly out of date and ineffective almost overnight.
The linguistic analysis techniques at Google's disposal are awesome compared to what they were a few years ago. How far a search engine robot can understand the 'meaning' of a web page is perhaps less important, however, than how words relate together on a page.
After all, themes and patterns are what define speech and the written word. If it seems a little 'cold' to apply what amounts to mathematical formulae to something as gloriously decadent as the English language, we should remember that words and ideas have always been passed around and refined, but always within finite parameters.
Identifying these rhythms is not necessarily mysterious or sinister. In themselves, they cannot influence other people or change the world in the way that poetry, literature or political rhetoric can.
What the identification of internal linguistic patterns does is add another dimension to 'keywords' in the quest for taking language and matching it with the mathematically finite questions that form the basis of all online search.
The more refined these responses become, the nearer Google gets to another form of virtual intelligence. As if its algorithms are not already frightening enough in their X-ray intensity, what we're seeing is a new dimension in taking language dissection to its ultimate and foolproof conclusion which is at once 'granular' and 'organic'.
The only sensible response for an SEO copywriter is to write solely for the end user - and not to try to trick the search engines. It simply won't work any more.
There will always be, of course, keyword 'pointers' that indicate the essence of a written piece. This was always the case. No-one knows of course just how many keywords will be too few or too many in this totally transparent new world.
Nor will there be any guarantees about content quality or relevance. For the search engines, these are challenges for another day. For SEO copywriters, they provide a measure of poetic licence that will leave the value of their skills intact.