Last Monday I was reading the excellent email discussion newsletter I-Copywriting, and was surprised to see a post by Mike Banks Valentine that I heartily disagreed with. I usually agree with Mike, and in fact he has written a few guest articles for me. (See Press Release SEO - Media Kit Linking Campaigns.)

Of course, I quickly dashed off a rebuttal to the list, and have decided to share it with you since I feel so strongly about this. You can also participate in a discussion of this subject over at the High Rankings Forum, where moderator Karon Thackston (who also rebutted the original post) started an interesting thread.

Enjoy! - Jill

Mike Banks Valentine wrote (in part):

"SEO's take existing web copy and massage it to make the text and page structure "crawler friendly" so that those search engine spiders will recognize what a given page is 'about.' The goal is to gain top rankings in the search engines for competitive keyword phrases targeted by our clients.

"Those clients could often benefit from a seasoned professional writer RE-writing their web pages as well, but only if they were willing to FOREGO high search engine rankings."

Sorry, Mike, but you've got to be kidding? There's an entire new field created just for this purpose called SEO Copywriting (which I just might have had a little hand in creating!). The whole idea is to write for the search engines AND the site visitors. There's absolutely no reason to forego high rankings in exchange for professional copywriting. The thought of that is simply ludicrous to me.

Yes, it's true that the typical SEO's job is to edit existing copy so that it utilizes the keyword phrases. In fact, that's my specialty, and it's what my Nitty-gritty report is based on. BUT...and this is a huge's not always possible to edit existing copy in a way that will make sense for the search engines and the site's users.

In those cases, it's imperative that the SEO put away their ego to step down and let the professional copywriters take over. I firmly believe that any good professional copywriter worth their salt can easily be trained in SEO copywriting. In fact, it takes them generally about 2 or 3 pages to understand what they need to do, as long as they have the benefit of a decent SEO teaching them.

SEOs should stay away from trying to write copy, just as copywriters should stay away from thinking they are SEOs just because they know how to write for the search engines. Both need to work together, not separately.

In my opinion, any SEO who does not have a professional copywriter on staff or contracted out is doing a huge disservice to their clients, because there's no sense in getting high rankings if your site's copy sounds like it was written by an SEO. It will be a million times harder to make a sale under those circumstances. Let's face it, the best SEOs are somewhat technically inclined, and the best copywriters are generally creatively inclined. Together, they make a killer optimization team.

For all you professional copywriters on this list, the world of SEO copywriting is wide open right now. There are only a few really good people in the field, although it's growing by leaps and bounds. SEO is hot, very hot. If you're having trouble finding good writing jobs, I would strongly suggest that you learn the art of SEO copywriting and then find some SEOs to partner with. You will benefit, the SEO will benefit and most of all, the clients looking for high rankings, sales and a site that totally rocks will benefit from it!

November 13, 2003

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ,, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > SEO at the Expense of Good Copy -- No Way!