Buzzfeed and Upworthy-style websites seemingly break all the normal rules of SEO—they don't use the right amount of keywords, the written content is sparse and hardly original and oftentimes far too short, yet for some reason these articles are some most shared and easily-accessible content on the web. What gives?
Content is King
The "secret" of SEO writing has been out for years. Well-written, useful content is the linchpin of modern SEO, and that's something that is unlikely to change in the near future. Yet, it seems that violating SEO rules might make sense occasionally. SEO writing is, at its core, an exercise in communicating with both individuals and with search engines. It's about finding that happy medium—just enough keyword dropping and semantic clues to keep the search engines happy, but not too much to alienate the reader and make him realize he's reading something for a robot. Ultimately, SEO writing has to nail that difficult task of appealing to a real person, to communicate ideas and thoughts, and to present a comprehensive idea to the reader.
Buzzfeed-style articles can be categorized as "clickbait," because the material that the articles contain has wide appeal. These articles are written because the authors know that this is what readers want to digest. It is clear that Buzzfeed-style articles work because they appeal to that basic, underlying focus of all SEO writing -- content that is useful, in some way or another, to users. For a search engine, understanding that an article is enjoyed and shared by thousands of people across the world is evidence enough to give it weight. While Google's trademark silence on its more complex inner-workings continues to taunt SEOs the world over, it's becoming more and more clear that items shared on social media are looked upon favorably by search engines. So here's the question: Should content writers embrace this clickbait-style of production? Absolutely not. Buzzfeed-style articles work because they use engaging, alluring headlines that appeal to people's desire to share humorous content with one another. It works because people want to click it, share it, and laugh at it. In the end, however, Buzzfeed-content relies far too heavily on social media traction. A business, especially one that uses the online market as a significant source of revenue, cannot rely on such a risky method for a long-term SEO strategy.
Content is (still) King
A content writer exists to produce content, and that content must be applicable to its target market. A Buzzfeed-style article is designed for a social media audience; what good does this approach do for a niche business? Not much. A content writer must be cognizant of the needs of his client. Producing content that is not applicable to your target market not only won't work, but it risks associating the brand name of a company with clickbait-style content that may not reflect well on the corporate persona. Content writers be warned: Buzzfeed-style content may seem like a game changer in the world of SEO, but it's really just a one-trick pony.