A Walk on the Dark Side

A few months back, I was hired to write content for a website. I do an average of one website a week, so this was not in and of itself particularly significant. The client sent a little data about the company (let’s pretend it was a pet shop in Kentucky) and a document from their “SEO expert.” The document said things like “Use the keyword for the page as an H1 header, in the meta description and keywords, in the first sentence of each paragraph, and in the last sentence of the page.” There was a keyword given for each page. The keywords were things like “Greater Kentucky pet shop.” In short, it was the kind of SEO advice being given a decade ago, and which now is only seen in humorous “10 Things Not to Do” articles.

I read these things with amusement and went ahead and did the keyword research and wrote nice, natural, keyword-rich text designed to appeal to human beings as well as to the search engines.

“Didn’t you read the directions?” came the response.

My honest answer would have been something like, “Oh, was that real? Where the heck is greater Kentucky? And listen, I’m not that kind of web content writer.”

However, I had agreed to do the job, so I wrote the stuff they wanted. Stuff like this:

“Greater Kentucky Pet Shop

Milly’s greater Kentucky pet shop specializes in domestic and exotic pets. We also offer pet food, pet toys, and grooming services.

Conveniently located in downtown Louisville for all your greater Kentucky pet shop needs.”

Uncomfortable though it made me, I did it. I figured it would be an interesting experiment. I could look back in a few months and see how they had done, compared with all the properly written sites I’d done in the meantime. If indeed they were showing top rankings for all the reasonable keywords, it would be valuable information.

So, having come to the point at which I’d have anticipated that the site’s rankings would have settled in, I went to look at it.

It isn’t live yet.

Did Milly’s pet shop go out of business? Give up on the design firm they initially chose and go elsewhere? Perhaps to a company that would give them natural, keyword-rich content?

We may never know.






2 responses to “A Walk on the Dark Side”

  1. Joe McCoy Avatar
    Joe McCoy

    That sounds painful. Nothing like ignoring usability & readability for the sake of search engines. The old approach totally ignores most of what search engines focus on now: inbound links, social media, time on page, and other things that are driven by good writing & useful information.

    Good news? Clients like that make you REALLY appreciate your great clients!

  2. Rebecca Haden Avatar
    Rebecca Haden

    Very true!
    I'm fortunate to have great clients in general — and really, this client was a nice guy. Just misled.

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