Is SEO capable of planting an emotional hook? That was the question my friend Phil Buckley (@1918) and I debated last night over great burgers at Chuck's. Phil reiterated a favorite marketing truth, "People buy with emotion and justify with logic." He also asked the right question. Is SEO capable of setting an emotional hook?
Storytelling is key to relevance. Phil shared a story from SEO Moz's MozCon. He attended MozCon Seattle at the end of July (and I was appropriately jealous :). SEO Moz's founder Rand Fishkin asked what makes content great. He showed a heart wrenching video of children battling cancer asking a simple question, "What does SEO have to do with telling an emotionally compelling story?"
I wrestled with this question of SEO value in The Best SEO Is No SEO too. I would never say don't be intelligent about titles, onpage copy and keyword research. Aligning how you think and speak with how customers think and speak is always a good idea. Telling a boring but well optimized SEO story is NOT a good idea anymore.
Google's new stance makes the value of such "over optimization" clear - it will land you in a penalty box. You can't win from optimization alone in a sea of social signals. Optimization without corresponding social support only draws attention to YOU. Any such "over optimized" content screams "we are gaming the system" and will be quickly destroyed according to Rand's read on what Google is up to with Panda and Penguin.
Google's most insightful comment may have come from Matt Cuts. Cuts encouraged webmasters to create great content and let Google worry about sorting it out. Google will decide who go on the first page for a given keyword based on an expanded algorithm, expanded to include social/search. MozCon pointed out the folly of the old ways. Once the system became both means and ends we focused our efforts on SEO optimization instead of creating greatness. Poor sites well optimized could win in the old days. Not so much anymore.
Follow Phil @1918 and visit his 1918.com site to learn about the new SEO.