Is There a Secret SEO Writing Formula?

Want to know one of the things that grinds my gears?

“SEO experts” who claim they have a “secret formula” that’s “100% foolproof.”

Why am I ranting so early in the morning?  Let me explain…

Earlier this week, I received a note from a super-smart SEO writer who ran into a…challenging…prospect.

Why was the prospect challenging? Because he wanted her to write and to structure the content exactly how [fairly well known SEO “expert”] said to do it. 

But, here’s the problem.

The writing formula she was supposed to follow made the content sound weird. The writer was concerned that the content (and the keyphrases) would sound clunky if she followed the SEO writing formula.

And, when she gazed into her client crystal ball, she realized that all the articles she’d create for this guy would sound exactly the same.


As soon as I read her note, I wanted to update this blog post and to add one more client type to avoid. 

Some clients attach themselves to an expert’s writing and believe everything he says. If the expert says, “hey, add 20 additional keyphrases into your content,” the client would say, “great idea” without questioning it.

And this is sad.

Here’s why…

Meet the new “expert.” Same as the old “expert.”

I’ve been in the SEO writing game for over 20 years. If there was a “no-fail” SEO writing formula, don’t you think I would be on a beach somewhere counting my Benjamins and watching the waves?

Of course I would!

The reality is, there IS no sure-fire SEO writing formula.


The “best” approach depends on the keyphrase, the target reader, the query intent, and the current competition. 

What works for your site may not work for mine. Creating content for a smaller business is different than creating content for a competitive industry.

Plus, SEO (and SEO writing) is always in flux. Cookie-cutter approaches don’t work.

The thing is, there are always SEO “experts” who pretend they have all the answers. There are always sexy, well-branded folks touting their way of doing things.

Often times, these folks are immensely popular. They’ve got the branding stuff down. Folks cite them all the time. Their SEO skills…well…they may not be the best. Heck, these folks may not even work with clients.

In short, I’ve seen many “experts” come and go. 

What’s my best advice?

Think critically.

If you read an article that insists there is only one way to do X…run away.

If you try something you learned from an expert and it makes your copy sound weird — don’t upload the copy. Change it until it’s right.

If you’re reading conflicting advice, and you’re not sure what to do — hire someone you trust and ask them.

Just because someone has 15,000 followers on your favorite social network, it doesn’t mean they know their stuff. It means they’re good at branding. 

Don’t let the cult of personality mess up your SEO content. 

Whew. Rant over.

What experience do YOU have with SEO experts? What grinds your gears? Leave a comment and let me know! :)

10 replies
  1. Rachel Kieran says:

    SEO content writing is basically game of keywords and how effectively you can optimize them into your content. Major aspect is to think like your customers and then creating content, a major issue is, most content writers are not trained on SEO principles so they just write content for the sake of writing quality content and not optimized content.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Thanks for your comment, Rachel! It’s nice to see you here!

      I’d argue that quality content and optimized content can be one and the same — if you do it right. Would you say the same thing?


  2. Laura Crest says:

    Great post and great timing, Heather! Where do I start? I have had a requisite SEO copywriting formula pushed on me by an “expert”, which included — get this — a ridiculous, obnoxious keyword density of 20%. Yeah. I know. I really needed the money, so I made a few attempts, and the copy sucked and so did my attitude. I abandoned the position as it was just demoralizing. Felt like I was selling my SEO copywriting soul.
    So I’d urge all SEO copywriters to stick to the best practices outlined in this article. There’s nothing worse than starting to hate what you love to do.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      TWENTY PERCENT?!? Wow…that sounds like a horrible experience. I’m sorry you had to go through that (and yes, I’m totally curious about who the “expert” is who asked you to do it, but I won’t make you spill the beans.

      That’s the highest keyword density ask I’ve heard in a LONG time! OK, can anyone out there beat 20%? Now I’m curious…

      Thanks for posting, doll!

      • Laura Crest says:

        Yup, 20 *#^>%@$* percent. I couldn’t believe it either. And yeah, can’t reveal the “SEO expert”‘s name, but will share it w/you discretely. ;-)

        Now for the second part of the nightmare: envision combining that 20% keyword-stuffing directive w/a Hemingway app requirement. Fun! Weaving long-tail keyphrases into the content was not possible. Painfully short sentences throughout w/no option to break the content up w/longer sentences, and nearly each had to include a keyword. Good times!
        I ended up getting a paycheck out of it, somehow, before bagging that nightmare. Yeah, a horrible experience — but lessons learned quickly! Never wrote another piece of sh*t for this person. Just couldn’t do it.

        It is branding savvy these SEO “experts” can claim. Beyond that, pffffffft!

        • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

          Wow….just….wow. It must have taken hours to make all of that work…and the content must have been terrible. What a waste.

          I wonder if the expert has since changed his/her ways..? :)

  3. Sylwia says:

    I’ll be so glad if content writers created content more useful for… users. I do agree with you, there is no secret SEO writing formula, but I think THERE IS a secret of good writing: to know what you write about and make it clear for those who are reading it. And this is what I try do, when I write :)

  4. Content Marketing says:

    As content marketing universe becomes noisier and more crowded, marketers are looking for ways to stand out and create memorable, impactful experiences. I agree with you, there is no foolproof formula for SEO writing. Being truthful and honest is best way to rank high.

  5. Anthony says:

    I agree with you. Any search engine would prioritize the quality of the content instead of how many keywords you sneak into the content. If I were to create an article I would fit only some keywords and that’s it. I’ll then add more relevant keywords as I add more value to it.

    Because in the end, nothing tops quality. A single article can have 10 different keywords and still rank first page on each if it’s a real gold.

    Just ask yourself “does this content satisfy the search intent?” If not then you have editing to do.

  6. Alicia says:

    This was a great reminder that we cannot cookie-cutter content/copy from one thing to the next. That SEO is always in flux and what worked for that guy may not work for me (or even more humbling, what worked 6 months ago for me, may not work today). Always appreciate your honesty and support as we all sort how to thrive in this season!


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