It’s no secret that writing marketing content for SEO has dramatically changed over the past several years. In the prehistoric days of SEO, you can get web pages to rank by simply using the right keywords and peppering them across your copy as many times as possible.
Those days are gone. Keyword density is no longer at the forefront of blog post SEO best practices.
Google’s algorithms have evolved dramatically enough to recognise the search intent behind the keywords. As a result, search engine optimisation has become more refined yet complex.
If it’s Not Good for the User, it’s not Good for Google
User experience has become a significant ranking factor ever since Google introduced RankBrain. Meaning that if your content is not appealing to humans, it will neither be appealing to Google.
RankBrain is Google’s artificial intelligence system that uses machine learning to determine the most relevant results to specific topic queries. And by relevant, the algorithm looks at these signals:
- Click-Through Rate: Your CTR is the percentage of users who click the link to your content after showing up in search results. It will help if your URL, page title, and meta description need to be appealing to humans from the get-go. Stuffing titles and descriptions with keywords at the expense of clarity is a definite turn-off for most people searching for information.
- Bounce Rate: The percentage of people who quickly leave your page after clicking on your link. Why do they leave? Perhaps a lack of visual appeal. Your title and description did not reflect the actual content. Or your landing page might be overcluttered with text elements where you do your keyword stuffing. Humans dislike a rambly web page.
- Dwell Time: As the name implies, this is the amount of time visitors stay on your site. If your readers feel that you’ve written primarily for a search engine and not for them, they’ll leave. If you keep your content appealing for humans, they’ll keep reading, and Google will see that as a signal for relevance and authority.
This 2016 Tweet from the co-founder of Moz still holds until today.
Instead of focusing the entirety of your effort on writing for search engines, create content that’s appealing for humans who use search engines.
At the end of the day, it’s a human who’s going to subscribe to your services or buy your products.
6 Ways to Write for Humans who Use Search Engines
1. Know What your Customers are Asking
2. Understand Search Intent
3. Use the Right Format
4. Write Like How You Would Talk to Them
5. Inject your Personality
6. Change your Mindset About SEO Writing
Know What your Customers are Asking
If you want a piece of content to resonate with its intended audience, it needs to serve as a solution to their problems. After all, the foundation of content marketing is to establish human-to-human connections between copies and their readers.
Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas and ask yourself: “What information about this topic would I be interested in?” Your answer to that question should focus on resolving conflict—without conflict, you don’t have a story, just a lengthy sales pitch.
Several tools can help you find out what your potential customers are asking:
- Social Media Listening
- Google Auto Suggestions
Consistently providing your audience with relevant and, of course, accurate resolutions to their problems will set you as an authority in your industry. People are naturally drawn to what they find helpful, and search engines will notice their behaviour.
Understand Search Intent
Knowing what questions your audience is asking will be your content’s foundation. And to build on top of that, you need to understand why they’re asking these questions. This is where the concept of search intent comes into play.
The variety of your content should address search intent coming from different stages of your buyer’s journey. Are they simply looking for more information about your products? Are they ready to purchase and are just needing a little nudge? Are they looking for a guide to help them make an informed decision?
By understanding the underlying intent behind their search, you’ll be able to connect with your readers on a more personal level. Therefore, maintain the entire direction of your content towards addressing one of your long-tail keywords. Don’t try to box together content that addresses different stages of your buyer’s journey.
Make your readers feel that your copy was written specifically for them when they need it the most.
Use the Right Format
When creating content, how you present it is much as important as what you’re presenting. The end goal will be to provide helpful information in the most effective, user-friendly way possible. Therefore, your blog post structure should attract, engage, and delight.
Take your time in creating an attractive title. This part alone can make or break your click-through rate. It should make the value of your content clear, lest you increase your bounce rate. The consensus for the ideal title length is around 60 characters.
Catchy titles get the most social shares.
What goes into the body will be entirely up to you. Just stick with the standard guidelines, such as using simple language, avoiding unnecessarily long sentences, and breaking up chunky paragraphs.
Write Like How You Would Talk to Your Audience
Nothing can put off readers quicker than a blog post that’s unmistakably written for SEO purposes. But, of course, you know what that’s like: keywords stuffed everywhere, phrases that sound unnatural, headers that don’t make sense.
To avoid this common content writing pitfall, write like how you would speak to them in person. Not only will this prevent your copy from sounding robotic, but it will help in establishing that human-to-human connection, as well. Writing for online consumption doesn’t mean that you should sound artificial and completely abandon the hallmarks of a good conversation.
Inject Your Personality
This is one of the best practices you can employ to sound as human as possible. Keeping consistent with your (or your brand’s) personality will be a constant reminder for readers that they’re consuming something written by a human. This will establish and strengthen your content’s purpose, making it more effective.
Use Keywords Naturally
Not only will keyword stuffing kill your SEO, but it will also destroy your content’s appeal to readers. Identifying and incorporating keywords seamlessly into your copy is a talent that’s honed over time.
It’s much better to use fewer key phrases that you can naturally include than to use more at the expense of them sticking out like a sore thumb.
The advantage of writing content that answers questions is that the keywords can naturally fall into place.
Change your Mindset About SEO Writing
Writing for humans and writing for search engines no longer need to be dichotomised. That is no longer the case with today’s SEO writing. Instead of sticking with this outdated mindset, adapt to the change that writing for humans and writing for search engines is the same.
This is because the line between the two approaches has become paper-thin with the last few Google algorithm updates. So it’s just a matter of time that search engines will be smart enough to get rid of the distinction altogether.
You are a Human Talking to Humans
Keep this as your mantra whenever you’re writing for online consumption. If you plan your content right, do your diligent keyword research, and put love into your work, you’ll be creating content that people will love—and search engines, as well.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2020, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.