This is an age-old question, and it has been asked and answered umpteen times.
It is quite tempting to target search engine robots when writing content because after all we all want to improve search engine rankings. Not just improve, but possibly, get our legs at the first spot.
A FirstPageSage analysis has found that links that rank at the top on Google have an average CTR of 39.6%. Compared to this, the CTR of a link at the fifth position drops to 5.1%.
Therefore, it is tempting that writing for robots takes precedence over writing for humans. The problem is, it can be a pyrrhic victory if all the traffic that you generate does not lead to proportional business.
Whom to write for when you write content for SEO?
This Moz blog post tries to answer that. Although we all know that ultimately it’s the humans find your content on search engines, click the link, and come to your website or blog, to do whatever you want them to do, how to strike a balance?
Is there even a need to strike a balance? Shouldn’t good content automatically rank well on Google?
There are two worlds regarding this: an ideal world and an actual world.
In the ideal world, and even Google sometimes claims that this ideal world exists, you should simply focus on quality and your rankings are taken care of on their own.
It is like the concept of Dharma: you do your deed, and the outcome comes on its own.
But in the real-world things can be quite chaotic. Roughly 70 million new posts are published just on WordPress. Hundreds of billions of web pages are competing on Google to get at the top spot. Therefore, you cannot take the search engine robots for granted no matter how much you simply want to write for your human visitors. You need to strike a balance.
How do you do that?
SEO content writing: how to balance between robots and humans?
I’m writing about my own experience with search engines and humans. When I’m writing SEO content for my clients my first priority are the humans. I believe you write content so that it generates business for you. If it doesn’t generate business for you, no matter how much traffic you get, it is of no use.
On the flipside, no matter how good and relevant your content is if you don’t get targeted search engine traffic, all the effort of writing quality content goes waste.
Here are a few things I follow:
Use the primary search term in the title
This often proves effective. The primary search term must be an expression your visitors are most likely to use when looking for information regarding your topic.
For example, the focus of this blog post would be “Should I write SEO content for robots or humans?” or something like that.
Distribute the primary and secondary keywords throughout the text
But don’t force them. Keep them contextual. These are for search engines as well as human readers.
When you are making a list of primary and secondary keywords make sure your list contains all the words your target audience is likely to use. Be mindful that the way you talk about your business might be totally different from the way people talk about your business.
Use your keywords within the first 100 words.
The reason for this is that the Google crawlers may not crawl your entire web page or blog post. They may leave midway. This way, they will gather all the necessary keywords from the first or the second paragraph.
Use your keywords in headings and subheadings
Just as humans may skim your web page or blog post without reading the fine print, Google crawlers may do the same.
Both robots and humans skim your content by quickly going through headings and subheadings. If you use your target keywords in your headings and subheadings Google crawlers can make out what message you are trying to convey and they will also know what keywords you are using.
Write compelling titles and descriptions
These are meta tag descriptors, and they appear in search results when your link is ranked and displayed. The meta title appears with a hyperlink in the description appears below.
These are your marketing messages. Usually the main headline of your blog post or web page is the same as your meta title but they can also be different. Through your title you are targeting the search engine users.
Even if your link begins to appear in search results, if the title is not inspiring enough, people are not going to click. Use your copywriting skills.
Remember that if your CTR is low the rankings for the same link begin to deteriorate and if your CTR is good, the rankings improve.
Just as your title, your description is important too. Your description gives you further chance to convince search engine users to visit your link and read what you have written.
Use simple language
Writing is a beautiful, expressive medium. As a writer I wouldn’t advise you to curb your writing skills, but remember that people are reading your blog post or web page because they are looking for information and not for great literary work.
Use simple words and expressions. Express just a single idea in a single sentence. Don’t have paragraphs more than two sentences.
You can use a Flesch score analyzer in the beginning if you are not used to writing SEO friendly content. It scores your text between 0 to 100. The higher your score, the easier reading your content is. It can give you statistics such as ease of readability, average sentence length, and average number of syllables per word. According to various scores
- A score between 90-100 is easier to read for a fifth grader.
- A score between 60-70 can be easily understood by eighth and ninth graders.
- Score between 0-30 is easily understood by college students.
Structure your content using the proper HTML tags
Appropriate HTML tags contribute a lot towards your higher search engine rankings.
<h1> is used for the main headline. It should be used just once on a web page or blog post. If you repeat it for every headline, it dilutes its effectiveness.
When you divide your text under various headlines the individual headline can be highlighted using the <h2> tag. They should preferably contain your keywords.
<h3> can be used for smaller subheadings that may come under the bigger headings of <h2> level.
In between you can also have bullet points as the Google algorithm thinks they usually contain useful information.
Be mindful of the length
Longer blog posts and web pages are known to perform better than the smaller ones but the rule is not written in stone.
Even a 300-word blog post can rank well depending on the reputation your domain enjoys and your brand presence on the web.
Nonetheless, write at least 1000 words. This is what I suggest to my clients. Even when I’m writing for my own blog I aim for 1000 words.
I have published more than a thousand posts and I have a decent presence on Google, so sometimes, I can also get away with small blog posts of 300-400 words.
My personal experience is, it is a mixture of frequency, relevancy, and eventually, the number of words you use, that decide your search engine visibility. The more high-quality content you publish (at least one post every day) the faster your content gets indexed by Google.
If you follow these guidelines, you pretty much automatically write for search engine robots as well as humans.