For Google News
Writing for SEO Is Writing for Humans
By Steve Marzocchi on September 28, 2018
You want to make a good first impression, stick to a practical budget, and choose the least complicated and most direct path to your goals. Meeting these goals can improve your day-to-day experiences and make the most out of time and resources. The same can hold true for writing SEO-optimized content. It shouldn't surprise you that as search-engine machine algorithms continue to grow more sophisticated in how they learn about and experience the world, their goals start to mirror those of the human reader.
In the past, digital marketers have approached SEO strategy as a separate pillar in their marketing plan-prioritizing factors such as keyword frequency over audience relevancy-in order to rank as high as possible in the search results. However, today's search engines algorithms are much more sophisticated and will prioritize content that lines up with searchers' intent.
In other words, these developments to SEO and automated web tools have actually made our job as marketers easier. No longer do we have to choose between creating strong content for humans or for search engines-we can now reach both audiences at once.
Deliver the Effortless Experience
Image attribution: Bruno Cervera
When you think of the search engine algorithms evaluating your content simply as another member of your brand's larger audience, you are more likely to prioritize user experience over high-traffic jargon. When trying to convey importance for both reader and SEO, keep in mind: first impressions matter. You've taken the time to write an informative and engaging piece. Now how do you convey this to the visitor so they will read the content? And how do you convey this to a search engine like Google so it will allocate the piece to the first page?
Brain and Bot Budget
A budget makes good, fiscally responsible sense in life. In writing SEO-optimized content, have you taken into account the cerebral budget of your readers? And what about a crawl budget of a search engine?
According to the principles in Steve Krug's book Don't Make Me Think, you have a limited amount of time (about two seconds) to capture a person's interest. In this short window of time, you need to convince the reader your content is worth engaging higher-level cerebral interaction. Next, consider how a search engine's Google's crawl budget refers to the maximum amount of time the site crawler will allocate to evaluating the relevance of your content to the information your target audience searches for.
Just as you have a budget of time, often constrained by deadlines and the need to prioritize certain projects above others, search crawlers have a finite amount of time to complete the task of evaluating your content.
SEO Strategy: The Human/Machine Middle Path
The subject of human-machine interactions leading to self-aware computers and robots taking over is a staple of science fiction. Put aside the demise of humanity by machines, and consider the demise of your content abandoned by both humans and machines due to irrelevance and poor layout. Take the integrated human-machine approach of setting up your content to quickly deliver the main message and intent of your content to both search-engine algorithms and the human attention span. Thankfully for marketers, the proper layout of your content can accommodate both. A human confronted with a wall of text may have a more negative visceral reaction than a search engine algorithm, but the consequences are the same: a low ranking and irrelevant article. However, there are useful ways to arrange your content so that won't strain their (real or algorithmic) eyes, but will instead engage, inform, and even refresh your audience attention and appetite to know more.
Tags! You're It
Image attribution: Raw Pixel
Leveraging some SEO fundamentals through meta tags, titles, and descriptions will go a long way to capture audience attention and search engine/keyword alignment. Some of the most important components that go into your content's search ranking include:
This is read by the search engine crawler and, to a limited extent, the audience. Keep it descriptive, keyword rich, but not overly wordy. Remove stop words when you can keep it conversational.
This is your last chance to win their click from the search engine results page (SERP). While not crawled by the search engine, it is often one of the first contact points for your potential audience as they evaluate multiple web page options, so make it relevant, make it concise, and make every word count.
One of the most critical elements for SERP ranking and audience engagement, the title should be concise and keyword rich, while remaining readable and unique to the content.
Header tags help break up the content and maintain the visitor's interest. The headers are also one of the first on-page elements a search engine crawls to evaluate the content subject. Keep these headers relevant to each content section in a way that the crawlers can quickly evaluate, which also refreshes and maintains the visitors' interest. This is also known as the fire brigade technique.
Search engines can't actually "see" the images on the page, so adding in alt attributes and text descriptions to each image in your content body does the work of describing to the bots what the reader is actually looking at. When choosing visual elements for your content, make sure the image itself is relevant to humans and the tagging paints a picture for the machine.
The Critical Cog in the Assembly: UX
Keep in mind that when writing for SEO, there other technical factors, such as text and image layout, as well as the page load time. Since you only have a few seconds of a visitor's attention, a slow load time or a sloppy layout will increase the amount of site abandons. We've previously covered in the Content Standard the importance of formatting and web layout in order to maximize the readability of content for the average site user, most of whom tend to scan for important information and experience digital writing in an F-pattern.
Just like humans, search crawlers also follow a certain flow pattern of titles, tags, and headers in which a slow load time and disorganized layout can waste their crawl budget for your page.
Content That Rules with Authority
Content is king, but what is royalty without loyal subjects? Applying these fundamental SEO and UX principles ensures your content is credible to readers and crawlable for the search algorithms. The moral of the story is to be budget efficient with the message you're offering so you don't wear out your reader's attention span and your search robot's processing patience.
Ensure that your content and layout allocates these budgets efficiently. Additionally, when you write good content for both humans and SEO, you increase the chances of visitor retention, as they have fulfilled the discover phase, engaged with relevant and readable content, and now hopefully are seeking to engage further to see what else your site has to offer. In the language of SEO, this translates to site and page authority. Good content may also be shared through a coveted backlink from other high-authority sites, exposing your content to a potential wider audience of bots and humans alike.
Featured image attribution: Abi Ismail