Are You An SEO Native?

How we can all learn to think about SEO first

Print editors were trained long before SEO, and as digital immigrants, they often find it difficult to incorporate the SEO process into their writing.

Over the years, as an instructor and coach, I have taught hundreds of people how to properly use SEO in their daily writing. During my exposure with teaching SEO, I’ve witnessed a specific emotional progression that takes place. First, the student shows excitement about SEO. After attempting the process, the feeling shifts to “this is harder than I thought.” Then, some get angry and frustrated and begin to resent the process, as they aren’t good from the start. They begin to stress over the new skill as it begins taking more time to get their work done.

For other writers, SEO becomes integrated with their writing skill set. These individuals can’t imagine writing anything without keyword research to see what phrases they should use to guide their journalist endeavors.

For writers who learned SEO in their 20s, they’ve never known anything but the latter part of the experience. These are the people we consider to be SEO natives.

For what it’s worth, nobody was teaching SEO until recently. In fact, there are very few SEO natives out there; even those in their 20s were not originally trained to consider SEO while writing articles.

Those who are SEO natives have learned to write with Google visibility baked into the process. The idea of writing to be found is just as important as how well the article is written. Those who are SEO natives are in high school and college now – just preparing to enter the work force.

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For me, SEO is like sailing…

I was out sailing with my son and his friends on the fourth of July. One of my son’s friends, Suzie, is a recent college graduate and a lifelong sailor. For my family and I, sailing is a new activity.

During the outing, my wife commented on how Suzie was doing a lot of the work, from maintaining the sails and adjusting the jib, to carefully monitoring the wind. She is a native sailor, as she’d been on a boat since she was five years old.

It depressed me a little that I will never be as comfortable sailing as Suzie is because I’m not a native sailor… yet, I will continue to sail. And over time I may be able to simulate her experience, be successful with it and enjoy it just the same.

I think SEO is the same way. Those coming to SEO have to rethink writing articles and practice often.

I’ve been working online since 1995 but didn’t truly understand SEO until 2004. Since then, I’ve written hundreds of articles that were SEO’d, and I’ve stood in front hundreds of classrooms, teaching SEO immigrants this new writing process.

The whole point of writing for online consumption is to make sure someone finds the article and reads it. Thinking about keyword research, keyword competitive indexes, keyword popularity, and how to write headlines that get found may one day be part of the curriculum in every journalism school.

For people whose boating experience started with a powerboat, they may always struggle with sails. They’ll need to look at the process in a different perspective in order to succeed, as sailors think of the sails first and the boat second.  For someone who grew up on powerboats like myself, I’m working on integrating the sails and how they move the boat and effect the speed. For me, the boat comes first and the sails are the afterthought.

Are you an SEO native?

Ninety nine percent of you reading this post are not SEO natives. You were not taught to write with SEO in mind and now you have to relearn how to write while integrating SEO into the process.

In another decade or so, there will be a group of writers who will think of SEO as a total part of the writing process, not something separate. For them, the Google Keyword Tool is as important as a dictionary or thesaurus, because just as words need to be spelled correctly, the best words that people are searching for must be used when writing articles. All three of these tools are needed to succeed with SEO.

As SEO immigrants, we are all in the same boat. Fortunately, the process of optimizing your content for search engines can be learned. It just takes the right teaching, a lot of practice and the determination to learn a new skill.

    John e.

    I’m 53 so by your definition, I’m not an SEO native. But writing is very much a skill and a habit and I argue that unlike a sport, we can learn to be intuitive at SEO writing even if we grew up typing on a manual.

    I started a small online education company 7 years ago and took on the marketing personally. After about three years of focus, I think I started writing with SEO in mind at the intuitive instinctive level after about three years. At this point, I’m always amazed that people can’t write webpages with three audiences in mind:
    – skimmers – looking at pictures and headlines
    – readers – people who read the real text, line by line
    – robotic arachnids (ie search engine spiders programmed to count and categorize all of our writing).
    John, founder,,


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