Write for Humans, and the Search Engines Will Follow
Published on July 1, 2016
We’ve all been around the internet looking for information only to stumble upon a post that looks a little bit like this:
That all-too-real example comes from a writer who was most likely trying to game Google’s algorithm with keyword stuffing, the practice of inflating an article with attractive keywords to bolster search ranking – without actually creating value. Not only is this a “black hat” SEO tactic that will do more harm than good in the long run, but it also makes the post hilariously unreadable to actual human beings.
But it’s 2016. Search algorithms have gotten more sophisticated, just like the people they’ve been designed to serve. And the simple reality is that SEO is not all about keywording anymore.
That last point is particularly valuable, so we’ll say it again: To boost your SEO, a strong, consistent readership is key. Like your audience, search engines now care more about quality, rather than quantity. The single best way to ensure that people read your content, share it, and return to your site for more is to craft truly compelling, quality blog posts and multimedia offerings.
With that in mind, your audience should not be machines, bots, or algorithms; when you write for robots you end up sounding like a robot yourself – and that’s a massive turn-off to the audience you should actually be addressing, the flesh and blood people who will come to you searching for information, answers, or news (or, better still, who are already interested in finding or buying your product or service).
Which means that, for brands across the board, it’s time to step up content production in a big way. Here are a few important ideas to keep in mind:
1.) Write Like an Author
Don’t let your content, as Shakespeare might have put it, sound like “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Instead, write with a strong voice, a strong point of view, and strong imagery. Write with the intent of triggering emotion in mind – appeal to your reader’s sense of awe, wonder, belonging, and urgency, and you’re more likely to see engagement, social sharing, and conversions. Take some time to reflect on the many compelling types of content at your disposal – including list posts, or “listicles” – and explore the art and science behind highly effective headlines.
And remember to write for your reader, rather than above them. Write in easy-to-follow language (making sure to cut out – or make a point of defining – complicated terms or industry jargon). Keep it clean and short. Don’t shy away from thorough editing, and ensure that your punctuation and spelling are up to scratch. Small errors are a quick way to turn off a large section of your readership. While you’re editing, remember that attention spans are shorter than ever, so keep it concise and don’t waste your words.
In order to do this, it helps to…
2.) Know Your Audience
Don’t just churn out content and hope that people find it! Instead, write and produce content with your ideal audience in mind. This means doing a little (OK, a lot) of research, through A/B testing, brainstorming, and, most importantly, “social listening.”
Look into your readership demographically, culturally, geographically, and identify what it is that they’re seeking that will bring them to you. What problems are they facing? What do they enjoy? What do they share on their personal pages? With all of this information at your disposal, you can develop more relevant ideas for posts and generate the style of content that your audience already enjoys.
And how do you guide new readers to your posts?
3.) Hand-craft powerful URLs, Keywords, and Meta-Descriptions
Wait, didn’t we just say keywords were bad? While it’s true that keyword stuffing is a relic of the past, it is still important to research and implement a keyword strategy – specifically, one focused on keyword intent (the specific goal of the searcher) and long-tail keywords (which deal with more specific, targeted keyword combinations) rather than meta-keywords, which can now actually damage SEO more than boost it.
At the same time, it’s important to keep some of the foundational elements of search in mind. Use short, readable URLs that cut out extraneous words and focus on emphasizing a few core, searchable keywords, separated by hyphens.
Similarly, taking the time to craft a meta-description can add a ton of value to your content when it comes to search. Think of these short (160 characters or fewer!) descriptions that pop up on search rankings as a first introduction, a chance to tell your ideal reader why your content is worth clicking and exploring further. It won't improve your standing on the search engine results pages (SERPs) per se, but it will dramatically improve click-through rates.
Ready to start generating high quality blog content optimized for search? Ready to see a huge boost in value for your brand? That’s where we come in! Geek is your home for web development, reputation management, and SEO-focused content marketing in the Chicago area. Drop us a line today to get started!