The Lost Art of Writing Well

Content Apr 7, 2007

Writing copy all over the Internet is getting mangled in the name of search engine optimization. HitTail aims to bring back the lost art of writing well, by excusing you from targeting the most competitive terms. These are the terms that make you jump through hoops and do backflips in order to move up by one page, tweaking keyword densities, moving words around on the page, and otherwise doing things a good writer shouldn’t.

Back in the days of print, this criteria was known as “word count”, and The New York Times joke was “All the news that fits, we print.” A play on their motto “All the news that’s fit to print.”

Well, today’s online world has the equivalent. If you’re not being found through Google, it wasn’t worth writing in the first place. That might be an overstatement, as running things on the homepage of massively popular sites is a viable alternative to a Google search. But who gets their stuff run on the homepage of the NYT or MSN websites? That’s why Digg has become so massively popular so quickly. It gives the little guy a fighting chance, without being beholden to Google or other big media.

Even the old-school big-media guys are giving up their beloved double entendre headlines, in favor of matter-of-fact headline. Every few months, big media runs a story about how headlines have to just get to the facts, because it’s generally the headlines that show in Google. And if it’s not DIRECTLY about what you’re looking for, it’s not going to get the click.

So, how does HitTail remedy this?

First, you must understand that there are 2 types of matter-of-fact headlines…

1. Those that will get the (pre-existing) search engine traffic easily.
2. Those that will never get the (pre-existing) search engine traffic.

That’s right. It’s all a grab for pre-existing traffic patterns. No one is going to search on what you wrote about BECAUSE you wrote about it. The cause/effect relationship is exactly the reverse off what most people think.

People will find you because what you wrote about GETS IN THEIR PATH.

Being a cat-owner, never was this as clearly demonstrated to me as the outbreak of poison cat-food. It was a massive pattern of traffic that never existed before. But when the story broke, everyone started searching on it. Then more and more pages popped up getting into the path of those surfers. An entrepreneurial cat food manufacturer would have had dozens of pages out there explaining how their cat food is guaranteed safe, complete with an online ordering form. They could have had a windfall, but probably missed their window by now. I know there’s not pages like that out there, because I didn’t find them. They’re targeting the wrong–or too small–of a list of keywords and phrases.

Once you construct a headline that you KNOW will tap into pre-existing traffic (thanks to HitTail keyword tool), it frees you up to write well on the rest of the page. Imagine the burden of knowing that all that SEO criteria for getting the search hit simply goes away. Writers can do what they do best: write. And because writers write to be read, they can have peace of mind, because they know they will be read, simply by virtue of selecting an effective headline.

So don’t simply write your headlines in a matter-of-fact style to appease search. Write your headlines KNOWING you’re tapping into pre-existing traffic corridors. Or as a speculative alternative, write about topics that you KNOW WILL have the traffic patterns. Can you say, Election 2007? That reminds me, political bloggers should really be using HitTail to raise their voice above the fray of the noisy blogosphere. But that’s another story.

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