Would you consider search engine optimization (SEO) more of a left-brained or right-brained activity? True, modern science has cast doubt on our traditional notions of left-brain and right-brain dynamics, but think of it in these terms: is SEO more of a logical, analytical activity? Or more of a creative, artistic one?
If you’re like most people, whether you’re a seasoned SEO veteran or you’re learning SEO for the first time, you’ve probably come to think of SEO as the former—a left-brained, logical, analytical practice. After all, you probably measure your campaign’s success in terms of numerical outcomes, including your rankings for specific keywords, your domain authority, and your organic traffic. Your process is probably fine-tuned and mechanical in some ways. You scan your site for missing features, tweak it to improve its performance, and publish content at regular intervals. Everything works like a factory.
But if you want to be successful in SEO, you also need a splash of right-brained thinking; you need to be creative and artistic. If you’re a traditionalist, you might flinch at the idea. But the truth is, creativity matters in SEO—and you’ll need to learn how to harness its full power if you want to succeed.
The Benefits of Creativity in SEO
Let’s take a look at the ways that creativity can be a boon to your SEO strategy:
- Original content. First, creative thinking allows you to come up with more original ideas for content. You can think of topics that nobody else has considered. You can cover old topics from new perspectives or angles. You can also present your content in new or innovative ways. Even at the ground level, creativity can help you come up with novel phrasing and a unique tone that can set your content apart. If you’re successful, your content will be much more likely to earn shares and links.
- Unique keyword targets. One key to SEO success is finding a way to competitively differentiate yourself—usually by targeting a unique selection of keywords. Creativity can help you find the best possible targets, helping you find words and phrases that are appealing to your target audience while still differentiating themselves from the keyword targets of your competitors.
- New formats and publication opportunities. With creative thinking, you can also discover new formats and new publication opportunities with more regularity. You’ll be more open-minded and more willing to explore formats like podcasting or video streaming for SEO, and you’ll see otherwise unconsidered publishers as valuable opportunities.
- Link building opportunities. Similarly, creative thinking can help you discover link building opportunities that most SEO professionals would miss. For example, if you find broken links on an external site, you can brainstorm a way to fit a link to your site in its place—and come up with a good pitch for the site owner at the same time.
- Creative problem solving. SEO comes with a lot of troubleshooting. When your organic traffic declines, when your site speed suddenly slows, or when your rankings get shaken up, you’ll need to think creatively to figure out the root cause of these issues—and come up with a game plan for how to resolve them.
- Dynamic responses. Google has a long history of regularly updating its search engine algorithm. While today’s updates tend to be smaller and less noticeable, there’s still a chance that a major algorithm change could compromise your strategy or unexpectedly change your rankings. When this happens, creative thinking can help you stay agile; you can respond dynamically, and adjust your strategy as needed.
How to Be More Creative in SEO
Being creative has a clear advantage in the realm of SEO, but what can you do if you’re not a creatively minded person? Or what if you frequently face mental blocks that preclude you from coming up with new, creative ideas?
Here are some strategies that can help you:
- Watch your competitors closely. Keep a close eye on your competitors. What types of content are they writing? What keywords are they targeting? What novel strategies are they using? You might be able to come up with some good ideas this way—just be careful not to copy a competitor’s strategy directly. Use it as a launch point to come up with your own ideas.
- Observe SEO tactics in new industries. Companies in the same industry tend to replicate each other’s work, so if you want to deviate from the norm, consider looking at businesses in other industries. How do other types of businesses approach SEO, and what can you learn from them? Can you bring some of their tactics to your contested industry?
- Brainstorm with a team. When brainstorming new ideas for content, keyword targets, or other elements of your SEO strategy, consider working with a team of other people. Preferably, these people will be from different backgrounds and will think in different ways. Everyone will see the problem through a different lens, which can help you come up with more unique ideas as a group.
- Read and listen to new sources regularly. Make sure you expose yourself to different types of thinkers on a regular basis, both in the SEO community and outside it. Read lots of books and listen to lots of podcasts; they’ll help open your mind.
- Give yourself more breaks (and boredom). We tend to come up with our most creative ideas when we’re bored since our minds get more time and space to generate new concepts. Take more breaks from work, and let your mind wander to come up with bolder ideas.
- Get inspired. Finally, find a way to get inspired to do creative thinking. For some people, this means hanging up abstract artwork. For others, it means listening to your favorite music. Find a strategy that works for you.
With more creative thinking, your SEO campaign can achieve better results. Obviously, that doesn’t mean you can afford to neglect the logical and analytical side of your SEO strategy; instead, it means striking a balance between these sides of the equation.