Life as a writer may often be marked by late nights, deadlines, word counts, and an endless amount of coffee (I like mine with a hint of cream and sugar).
As an online writer, we easily toss around terms like “search engine”, ‘keywords”, and “relevant content” in casual conversation, and, if we aren’t careful, our focus may turn toward SEO as if we have no audience.
Key term of today’s post…
These are the people, the live humans, the readers who are searching for answers that you may have but may not often give in the way of quality content.
Neil Patel said: “One of the biggest challenges that bloggers and content marketers face is writing content that’s optimized for search engines, yet will also appeal to people.”
The challenge, even in late 2016, presents itself as writers seek to create content that is appealing to customers and clients, providing a solution to a problem, while optimizing it for keywords and Google.
While black hat SEO and keyword stuffing are things of the past, there is still the temptation to provide “cheap, backlink-stuffed online content,” if you’re not careful. If you’re ready to learn best practices that will appeal to your readers, put on a pot of coffee (half and half and sugar on standby, please) and get ready to dive in.
Writing for SEO: A 101 on SEO Writing & Why It’s Still Important, Within Reason
“Stop writing for SEO”…does that sound arbitrary, or what? Especially coming from a content writer? Keep reading. I promise, it’ll be good. 😉
First… let’s delve into the good of SEO writing.
If you were super tired, maybe you woke up this morning needing Google to help you figure out “how to make a perfect cup of coffee”. Like most of us, you would turn to your smartphone, pull up Google, and type in the phrase. Along with the featured snippet box, this is what you would see:
This is not a random list or a paid ad; it is brought to you courtesy of organic SEO, or the result of “search engine optimization.”
In other words, a marketer’s non-paid efforts to optimize content organically for Google.
This is the good of SEO writing: when you can organically rank, and then earn organic traffic from those rankings, because of the SEO writing you’ve successfully put together.
Nowadays, quality is a heavy factor in Google’s organic rankings: when people are looking for something on the web, the list that appears on Google is based on the relevance and authority of those particular pages.
Relevancy is determined by content analyzation—how often and where certain words are used in the content–and the use of authoritative links.
In the case of SEO, it’s about quality (of content) over quantity (of clicks and keywords).
This doesn’t mean that writers should be afraid of writing content inspired by keywords. On the contrary, it remains key to understand the words your potential customers and clients would use to describe your products and services. There are a few key useful tools that can help with background research and point you in the right direction of keywords. My two top favorites:
For more on how to use tools to find great keywords, check out my guide on optimizing your content for keywords.
Writing for SEO Vs. Using SEO to Connect
Here’s the absolute truth (…sit down and sip that coffee while I break it to y’all):
All the keywords and catchy titles that may get you to the top of the page results will do absolutely no good if no one wants to hang around and absorb your content.
Writing for SEO only will come out like content that is uninteresting, irrelevant, run-of-the-mill. You don’t want that: there’s no real ROI there today. People are smart.
In contrast, using SEO to connect with your audience will deliver a people-first, high-quality answer to the questions they have.
Mention the phrase “card catalog” to anyone under the age of 30 today and you might get a confused look in response. Those days of trying to find a library book by flipping through mini-index cards is synonymous with the Dewey Decimal system, which organizes books according to subject matter and makes it easier to find them on the shelf.
In the same way that the system organizes books on a shelf, search engines organize and deliver content.
You don’t write content just to get onto a search engine any more than you would write a book to get into Dewey’s system, which is why it remains key to deliver quality content and see SEO as a medium to connect it to people. While it used to be that we wrote only for SEO purposes, that does not remain true today, not by a long shot. Helping people is the key to creating great content; optimizing comes next.
How to Focus on The Human Reading Your Crap: 5 Tips to Stop Writing for SEO
1. People First
Simple, but really. Behind each smartphone, laptop, and tablet is a real person with a real need. No one searches “how to make a perfect cup of coffee” unless they are seeking to find a solution beyond their average cup-o-joe. Putting people first also means you must understand your audience. Tools like BuzzSumo can help with that.
2. Relevant Writing
This ties into #1, people first. Engaging content that is well-written, attractive, and not created simply for the purpose of claiming links will lean more toward a successful reach than fluff that has no intended audience. This means that you, as the writer, must commit to thorough research so you can secure useful statistics that others will share and benefit from in their search for answers.
3. Interesting Content
It’s okay to be funny, stir emotion, and use quality illustrations in your content. We are a culture of posts, tweets, and pins, so go ahead and take a light tone if the setting allows—the visually stimulated members of your audience will thank you. (Want some inspiration here? Check out 6 brands that are doing an amazing job with audience-related copy, by our social media manager Rachel.)
4. High-Quality Links
As a search engine, Google takes into account the links pointing at your domain and the words others use in linking to you as a sign of legitimacy and relevance. People will not link to your content just because they’re nice or feel a sense of obligation; they link because something is in it for them and because they see your content as important for their need.
We use Alexa to discover high rankings. It’s easy: any site nearing the 100,000 mark is, quite literally, the 100,000th most popular in the world and thus, a very reputable domain. (Perspective: Forbes is 214, Twitter is 10, Facebook is 1.)
5. Engaging Headlines
Headlines that grab attention can take the form of questions, how-tos, and numbers.
People like to know exactly what they are getting into, and by providing readers with a numbered list, you are packaging all the information into a concise “3 easy steps” or “5 ways to.”
And have you heard the research that headlines with odd numbers have a 20% higher click-through rate than those with even numbers?
Stop Writing for SEO: The Top 4 Common SEO Mistakes
SEO methods are ever-evolving, and content developers are wise to stay on top of successful optimization techniques so that they know how to deliver the most relevant information for their audience.
There are some common mistakes that are easy to make if we are not careful. Putting time and resources into the strategy side of your content marketing is sometimes all it takes to fine tune this process.
1. Choosing the wrong keywords.
2. Publishing non-original content.
3. A lack of quality external links.
4. Using irrelevant internal links.
Read more about 10 common SEO mistakes here.
Alt Text: Build for Users, Not for Search Engines
Your “alt tag” (key) takeaway should be this, as Moz so succinctly puts it: build for users, not for search engines.
Remember that there are three types of searches that people typically make:
- I want to do something (start a garden, listen to music, go skydiving)
- I need to know information (find a song lyric, eat Chinese, find a babysitter)
- I want to go somewhere (my bank’s website, social media, relevant blog)
Ask yourself: is your content delivering the answers to these searches?
How about an expert writer in your niche to help with that? At Express Writers, we provide expert copy services to help accomplish your reader-friendly content goals. Get in touch today for a free strategy call.