Write for Humans First, Not Search EnginesNov 30, 2021
Many people make the mistake of writing for Google rather than their human readers when producing content, and it’s hard to blame them. “SEO Content” is bandied around like it’s going out of fashion these days, and content creators and blog writers tend to overemphasise its significance while neglecting the quality of their content from the perspective of their audience. Funnily enough, the debate between high-quality content and SEO-optimised content has been raging for quite some time now. Yet still, many people fail to see the point of what writing SEO-optimised content is all about - getting more targeted organic traffic to your website. However, focusing on SEO as the main priority when creating content can be problematic for several reasons, and in many cases, will have the complete opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve.
The problem with writing for search engines
When writing for a search engine, you’re attempting to predict what Google would consider relevant content for any given search query. The majority of the time, this entails producing articles unconventionally or utilising alternative formatting techniques to catch Google’s attention. Simply put, SEO is not about good writing. Many of today’s SEO techniques could even be considered as attempts to “trick” Google into perceiving your content as better (or more relevant) than it actually is. With that in mind, below are some of the most common problems with writing for search engines rather than humans.
Google is already built to understand good content
The whole purpose of Google’s algorithm is to find and rank the content that provides the most value to the reader. There are literally thousands of boffins over at Google HQ that tirelessly search for new ways of picking out the best content that answers search queries. In other words, search engines don’t need us to write for them, and they are getting better and better at understanding good content by the day.
Google’s algorithm changes
When Google’s algorithms change (which it does roughly nine times every day), it usually changes the search rankings too. Most of the time, these adjustments go unnoticed, but every now and then, they perform a major update that completely transforms the search results. When this happens, you can bet the people who have low-quality, over-optimised content will fall down the rankings, while the cream will eventually rise to the top.
You may alienate your readership
There is nothing worse than reading content that is super structured and overly optimised. First of all, it’s extremely obvious when a website is doing this. Most of the time, it comes off as cheap and shallow. Secondly, it makes it hard for readers to build trust and establish a relationship with the material. After all, optimisation is only for robots, not for humans. Think about it, are you judging the value of an article by counting how many times a particular word is repeated or mentioned while you read it? Would you consider the article’s quality to have improved dramatically if someone added a line with some keywords to it? Probably not.
How to create content that people will love
Instead of worrying about keyword stuffing, hyper-optimisation, and agonising over the word count for each post you create, the best thing you can do is focus on writing high-quality content that a real person would appreciate. With that being said, we are fully aware this is far easier said than done. On that note, here are a few tips to keep you on the right track.
Understand why you are writing the content in the first place
Always begin with the ‘why’ when writing an article. One of the secrets to producing high-quality content is always knowing what the content’s purpose is before you start writing. You should know your objective (to inform, educate, respond, etc.) and who your target audience is. Rather than looking for shortcuts, begin by asking yourself broad questions about your audience and their needs, and then try to keep this in mind while writing. This way, you’ll be able to structure the information and write in the appropriate voice.
Do your research
If you want to produce a well-written, engaging piece of content, research is an absolute must. Even experts in their fields devote time to research before writing an article. Consider what additional information you can gather to help you strengthen your position of knowledge or provide more value. Find relevant statistics, facts, case studies, and examples, and sprinkle them throughout each piece to back up your claims.
Use trusted sources
Using reliable sources in your writing strengthens your voice and whatever point you are trying to make. These days, the truth is slowly becoming a subjective matter, largely due to the internet’s tendency to favour false information and perpetuate misleading claims. As a content creator, it’s essential to do your due diligence to ensure that what you’re saying is correct, and to do this, you need to find and cite trusted sources. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean you need to meticulously vet each and every source you quote. However, watch out for the usual red flags, such as author biases, old and outdated information, and secondary sources with outrageous claims or exaggerated figures.
Edit and do a grammar check
Sorry to break it to you, but grammar and spelling matter. While the occasional typo can be forgiven, any piece of content that is littered with errors will lose credibility very quickly, and it may even damage the reputation of your brand. After all, how are people supposed to believe what you are telling them and trust your opinion (especially if you are trying to sell them a product or a service) if you cant even take the time to check your own work?
Always keep your audience in mind
Last but not least, remember who you’re writing for - “cough”... a human being!. Depending on the topic you’re writing about or the industry you operate in, there are a variety of techniques you can employ to entice your readers and keep them coming back for more. A tiny bit of humour or emotion, for example, will go a long way. People respect you when you express yourself honestly, and the best thing is that it makes your material stand out. Yes, people may copy your content, but they won’t be able to duplicate your voice or first-hand experiences, so don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.
So, does this mean you should neglect SEO and concentrate solely on the quality of your content? Well, no, of course not. There’s no denying that Google is extremely picky about how it ranks material, and its algorithm is far from flawless. This means that when it comes to basic SEO techniques, you must still be sure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. It's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario creating high quality, yet optimised content. SEO should be a supportive element to your brand initiatives and ideally your content becomes an obvious extension of that. Truth be told, the quality of your content is merely one of many factors to consider, but it is unquestionably the most important. SEO acts as an important glue in the marketing mix, BUT let’s make sure it doesn’t get in the way of writing the best possible content for your human readers, not just the search engines.