Ever come across copy that’s clearly written for SEO purposes, and not at all for a real human being? You know, it’s the content that’s sprinkled with the same phrases and words over and over again, but doesn’t really say much at all.
Frustrating, isn’t it? You likely came across it because it popped up as a result in Google — but it’s really not all that helpful.
Here’s the thing: Your business should never put an audience member in that position. You want people coming to your website because you’ve written smart, insightful, value-packed content that helps answer their questions. But in order to do that, you need to write for humans instead of for Google.
Moz Founder, Rand Fishkin, said on Twitter:
There's no such thing as 'writing for people vs. search engines.' There's only 'writing for people who also use search engines.'
And he's right. For the past several years, Google and other search engines have strived to evaluate web content more like actual human readers do. That means creating content that's human-centric will help its popularity and search rankings both now and in the future.
Here's how to do it.
Keep Real, Human Queries Top of Mind
Writing copy for humans means writing in a way that addresses real human questions — not writing to rank for a search term. Rather than trying to sneak keyword phrases into unnatural contexts, you should be writing helpful, logical, valuable content that answers common questions and solves problems.
One way to get a feel for what information your audience is looking for is to talk with them. Hold a formal focus group, take a customer out for coffee, or just have a quick phone chat — take note of the language they use and the rationale behind their questions and interests. For a quick and dirty version of this, you can punch your target keyword into Ubersuggest and see other related search queries to help add some color and background to the query.
Always remember that behind every search query is a real, living, breathing human — and you’ll write copy that does everything it’s supposed to. Can you still work in an important keyword phrase in a natural way? Of course. But it shouldn’t be your primary focus.
Use Relevant Language
Popular phrases used for search engine results can be a great starting place to get familiar with the language customers are using when trying to solve a problem or answer a question. Not only do these suggestions help you better understand customer pain points, they also show exactly which words and phrases to use to make their internal light bulbs go off.
For example, if you wanted to improve your Google search ranking for “best sports drink," a quick Google search would show you other searches related to that at the bottom of the page. You’d find that phrases like “best sports drink electrolytes” and “best sports drink for hydration” were also popular queries. With this in mind, you can put together copy that pivots on the importance of sports drinks for electrolyte replacement and overall hydration.
The pitfall here is that it can be easy to put too much focus on those phrases and words — and let storytelling fall by the wayside. Remember to find a balance between targeting your keyword and being helpful for the reader.
Don't Be Repetitive
When you're speaking in a conversation, you don't usually repeat the same word or phrase in every sentence. But when we take a primitive stab at SEO, it's easy to fall into that trap.
The truth is, search engines are advanced enough to understand multiple phrases that relate to the same concept. That means you can (and should!) take a step back and note where synonyms or other words might make more sense than the keyword you're targeting. Stepping out of the box and using more varied language makes for a richer and more natural reading experience.
As a check on this, when you finish writing a piece, use the COMMAND + F function to find everywhere you've used the keyword. Reread the sentence, reread the paragraph — does it sound choppy or unnatural? Is there another word you could use to make the writing flow more?
Personality Over Keywords
The truth of the matter is that trying to rank for an SEO keyword phrase is a lot harder than it sounds—and you’re more likely to attract new website visitors with the quality and personality of your content rather than quickly climbing the competitive ranks of organic search results.
If you’ve got an interesting, personable brand voice that shines through in your copy — highlight it. Don’t put so much focus on how Google will interpret your copy — focus on how your readers will feel when they come across what you’ve written. Is it funny? Ironic? Relatable? These angles can make your copy much more share-worthy (without sacrificing quality).
Remember to focus on something search engines can't yet appreciate — storytelling. Crafting your copy into a story will make it compelling to readers and encourage them to share and engage with your content. With high social shares and killer engagement metrics, organic search rankings will happen automatically.
Optimize for Other Traffic Channels
We put a lot of emphasis on SEO these days, but search engines aren't the only way to draw people into your content.
If you're continuously putting out fresh, quality info, your audience might bookmark your blog — leading to higher direct traffic. Include new and surprising data points, and you'll see social traffic increase. Create comprehensive, in-depth articles, and referral traffic will rise.
All of this other traffic is a signal to Google and other search engines that you're offering quality resources and people like your content. That means your search rankings will naturally increase, as well.
Remember: Your Focus is Humans, Not Google
If you can follow these simple strategies, you’ll be on the path to earning the trust of your audience — and traffic from Google will just be icing on the cake.
It’s that simple: Put your focus on humans instead of Google, and your copy will become more relevant, helpful, and beloved by all who come across it.