In 2011, AJ Kohn wrote an article supporting the argument to write for search engines, not humans. He described search engines like a blind 5-year old. They are unable to see colour, gorgeous designs and other aesthetics humans consider when visiting a website.
While the goal of a search engine is to emulate human evaluation of a site, this is a difficult task search engine will never be able to complete. Robots are not human. They might try, but they aren’t.
This was all prior to Google Panda, Google Penguin, Hummingbird or RankBrain updates. Would you agree that Google’s ability to interpret the user’s need has improved since RankBrain? Are there gaps humans can exploit to find a way around Google’s demand for high-quality pieces based on user intent?
Whatever answers you’ve agreed on, I like to think Kohn would be more supportive of the need to write for humans instead of search engines today.
Who Should You Write For: Humans or Search Engines?
Some content writers worry about writing for SEO. They focus on search engines instead of people who read content. Things like keyword density, content length, keyword placement, LSI keywords, local modifiers and keyword variations take centre stage over readability.
If you take nothing else away from this piece, remember this. Google wants you to understand a topic and create the best article for it. It should be easy to understand, detailed and easy to find on the web.
Recent updates to the Google algorithm means Google understands good content better than before. It’s not just about traditional search results. There are new search features enhancing accessibility and usability to improve the reader’s experience.
Google’s success and ability to generate billions in profit every quarter hinges on its search accuracy. Over 3.5 billion searches are done on Google every day. Google is synonymous with search because of the quality of results.
Since Google is dedicated to generating accurate results that best answer a search query, focus on creating the best answers for a specific search query. Create relevant content that builds trust and shows your expertise on a particular topic.
Your content Fails when You Write Exclusively for Robots
Notice the word, “exclusively”? Most marketers tell you not to write for SEO but focus on the reader. It’s a misleading statement. There are thousands of web sales pages and articles online negating keywords to their detriment. The key is to find the balance by creating user-friendly content optimised for search.
According to SEO expert Sean Si, search engines are machines that follow a set of codes created by search engineers. They mimic the reasoning and logic of humans. Hence, what is good for humans is good for search engines.
Do not write only to be seen on Google. Sucking up never works. Stuffing your content with keywords and poorly-constructed sentences is a waste of effort. You might be searchable but high bounce rates and a lack of backlinks is a sign of failure.
How Do You Create Good Content that Pleases Google and Humans?
Understand SEO Copywriting
SEO is search. SEO is a technique of optimising your content for search engines with a goal to increase your ranking above other sites targeting the same search terms. You research keywords, choose a keyword and create high-quality content around the keyword. If your audience loves your content, they share it on social media and email.
Google displays the result on search engines based on the relevance of the page and authority. In the sequence of images below. You’ll see the top search result for the query “how to write for both SEO and humans” has an Alexa rank of 1.87million. Surprisingly, sites such as Neil Patel, CoSchedule and Alexa are below this site.
Every blog post has one goal, to sell by educating. While the authority of a web page is important (in terms of links pointing to that page), relevance and quality are higher ranking factors.
Copywriters must create content that benefits the user. An SEO copywriter understands what drives the user to take action. They know the words that appeal to the reader’s desire. SEO copywriters also understand how to use keywords and long tail phrases in a natural way that gets your content at the top of SERP without disturbing the flow of the content.
Incorporate Keywords Naturally in Your Headline
Adding a keyword to your headline is the first step to being visible to Google and humans. Choose keywords you want to rank for and incorporate them naturally. Do not stick the keyword like a sore thumb. It should fit in perfectly. It is pivotal to balance keywords with SEO technique, clarity and good grammar.
Where possible, place the keyword at the beginning of the title. To enhance the overall theme of your site, include a core keyword to each title on your website. There are several tools that identify keywords and their usage. Tools such as Answer the Public and Google Adwords Keyword Planner help you understand keyword volume and search volume.
Optimise for Clarity
Writing for Google and humans means being objective and subjective. Do not negate your personal writing style. It’s a great way to personalise your content and make it unique. Depending on your audience, write in a conversational tone and an active voice. Ensure your message is clear and easy to understand
For clarity, your sentences must be:
- Simple: As a rule of thumb, assume your reader is 10 years old. We understand you are a pro in your niche but nobody cares. Avoid jargon words.
- Short: Use short and concise sentences. Each sentence should not exceed 20 relevant words. The shorter your title, the higher the chances of comprehension. Paragraphs should be 3-4 lines. This makes it easy for Google bots and humans to scan.
Understand On-Page SEO Practice
SEO is the technical side of writing on the web. The problem is when your content is written exclusively for SEO. This article explains important SEO ranking signals you should care about.
Google is always tweaking its search engine algorithms to deliver relevant results to users. Focus your content on the user’s intent. Google takes cues from all the content on the page including related keywords. It reinforces what your content is about.
Add inbound and outbound links to your piece. Rank Brain prioritizes links. Inbound and outbound links give humans access to more information. It also helps search engines understand websites better. Every time you link correctly, both search engines and humans reward you.
Plan and Shape Content
Plan and conduct adequate research before you write. Determine the focus of your content, the question you’ll answer and the problems you’ll solve.
Research gives your content substance and form. It provides insight to outline your content for robots and humans, not copy others. Keyword research is crucial. It helps you choose the right SEO keywords and understand how keywords are used.
While researching, create a content plan. Detail information to appear on the introduction, body of the text and conclusion. You’ll write faster and stick with the theme.
Planning ahead helps you:
- Identify the best word choice
- Find high ranking keywords
- Understand the intent of your audience.
- Study your competition
Make Meta Tags Interesting for Robots and Humans
Meta tags are pointers to humans and Google that you have quality content. However, many writers neglect it. They either leave it empty, don’t include relevant keywords or make it boring.
Meta title tag shows up on search results. Meta descriptions are words that give your audience a snippet into your content. You have to make it visible and stimulating to readers. It allows limited character, so use each word wisely.
Write with Confidence. Challenge Existing Opinions
Over 4 million blog posts are published daily. You’ve got the top sites in every niche hogging the first page results. How do you stand out and carve a loyal following of your own? Have an opinion. People have read the same blog post in 20 different ways.
How about attacking it from a different perspective? I’ve read content from top authors I didn’t agree with. When I write my own piece, with my unique perspective, it’s a refreshing take from what is already out there. Not everyone will love your content but the traffic and shares are worth it.
Create How-to Articles
I created my LinkedIn post because I noticed many LinkedIn users struggled to optimise their LinkedIn for lead generation. It features lots of images detailing the steps I took. The feedback was amazing. Use data to create actionable insights for your audience. Ask your audience about the problems they face in your niche and create good content that solves a problem. How-to articles should be a direct fix for a specific problem. It’s even better when you’ve had firsthand experience with the problem.
Ensure Your Content Is Readable
Don’t write to impress because you might confuse the reader. Why? Shouldn’t you show off your knowledge of industry terms to your readers? How else will you convince them that you’re an expert?
If you want new subscribers, write to achieve the blogging goals listed in your blogging strategy. You can’t convince anyone if you lose em before you have em. CopyBlogger found that 80% of their visitors were beginners. Hence, if you’re writing only for experts, you’re probably losing more traffic than you realise.
Write for humans who use search engines. Search engines and users both want valuable and relevant content based on a specific search query. Write the best piece that targets one keyword and answers one question. If it’s good enough for humans, it’s good enough for Google robots.