Keywords don’t have to kill creative content – but they do still have an important role to play. Clever, flexible use of these words will mean that your writing remains natural and organic, but is still seen.

At Wordbank, our content team sits next to our SEO team. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that there are many heated discussions around which is more important:

Creativity or keywords?

It’s a debate that has raged since the early days of content marketing. SEOers argue that without keywords, even the best content will be consigned to obscurity, whereas content champions reject keywords as a nuisance that cramps their style and dilutes interesting content.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.


Long gone are the days of “keyword stuffing”, where web pages were packed with keywords to the point where they didn’t make any sense. In fact, Google has introduced several updates to punish such practices because they simply aren’t helpful for searchers looking for solutions to their problems.

Plus, voice-search technology, has, and still is, changing the way people interact with search engines. More people are speaking their queries into their phones, resulting in more conversational search terms.

Google recognized this trend and created their “Hummingbird” update. This was one of the biggest engine changes in many years and a necessary answer to user’s needs. Released in August 2013, the new algorithm focuses on quality (measured by many subtle signals) to rank your content.

Should we therefore stop using keywords entirely? The short, and long answer, is no. Keyword research is important in identifying the theme of what people are looking for. Syed Irfan Ajmal managed to increase his client’s revenue by 23.85% in six months by researching and using keywords effectively (source; Syed Irfan Ajmal). Clearly, they still have an important role to play.


So, how do we resolve the conflict between content and keywords? Well, it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. The truth is, we know the most important element: the audience.
We still optimize content, (and so should you), and we use keywords to enhance a searchers’ experience and increase engagement. Searched terms not only are bolded in search engines but they anchor a reader’s mind to what they’re looking for.

However, an important thing to remember is, we (the writer, the brand) are not the audience.

There is no point in having well-optimized content that ranks well if your audience finds your content, and therefore your brand, boring and uninspiring. So write your content for the audience and put SEO and keywords to the back of your mind (initially).

Then, once you’ve got the focus of your content sorted, go back over it and add a few finishing touches to make it SEO-friendly. If you’ve got your topic right, the keywords will have naturally written themselves in. This approach gives you the best of both worlds.

If you’re struggling to connect quality content and killer keywords, here are a few things you can do to make sure your page ranks well, both on search engines and in the audience’s opinion.


Be Smart

Keyword stuffing should be avoided at all costs. While it can be tempting to use as many keywords as possible, in reality, any web page should only focus on two or three at most, and they should only make up 1-2% of the content. You’ll still be ranked well on search engines, but the content will be more interesting, and it means you’ll be directing the audience to something you can be proud of.

Placing keywords in titles is a particularly good idea. If you want to flex your creative muscles, try fitting in a short and long keyword phrase into the title, while still making it appealing enough to grab attention. For example, rather than just using “SEO” or “tips and tricks”, combine them in your title for maximum impact.

Be Creative

If you want to write engaging content, you’ll need to think outside the box. Don’t start by coming up with a list of keywords; start with what your audience wants to hear.
Let’s say you run a bakery. Terms like “bakery” or “cake” are going to be hugely competitive, and aren’t particularly interesting. But if you think about specific things your customers might search for, such as “where can I find gluten-free carrot cake?” then you suddenly have a specific focus to work with.

With less competition around these keywords, more people will visit your site. But with more flexibility for your content, you can make sure that when they arrive, they have plenty of reasons to stay. For example, you could post a recipe for gluten-free carrot cake, or even offer some unusual twists on a tried-and-tested formula.

If you’re feeling uninspired, there are plenty of sources to help you come up with these niche topics. Forums used by your target audience can be a great place for research, as well as Google’s related searches or Wikipedia. Here, you can find related topics you might not even have thought about, which could give you a unique angle and a compelling reason to visit your site.

Be Flexible

Work your keywords around your content, not your content around your keywords. If you prioritize writing interesting content, which just happens to have a couple of keywords, readers are more likely to stick around.

Also, you don’t have to stick religiously to the keyword’s word order. For example, if the keyword is “beach holiday Spain”, writing “fancy a beach holiday in Spain?” will still do the trick, and sounds much more enticing.

At Wordbank, our SEO and content teams work together quite happily, safe in the knowledge that with a bit of thinking outside the box, and by putting ourselves in our audience’s shoes, there’s absolutely no reason for keywords to kill creativity.


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ABOUT Zoey Cooper

I’m a global content and brand strategist, with more than 15 years' experience researching, planning, delivering and testing content and brand solutions across multiple regions, languages and platforms. I love words. And I love culture. And I believe that the right combination of these two essential ingredients will deliver content that is not only on brand, but will engage customers and drive sales.

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