Your Online Audience: Human and Machine

By Reputation X on 2/28/17 5:23 AM



Great writing online isn’t just about catering to your audience (though it is the main reason by far). It’s also about writing for search engines - structuring links, formatting, syntax, and grammar in a way that is attractive to both the people you target as well as search engines. Your content might be the best written, well-informed, most interesting out there, but if you haven’t made an effort to appeal to search engines and what people are searching for your content may not garner much attention. The best SEO content is created with a search term in mind as well as imagining the needs and desires of the person consuming it.

Content is a broad term, and one commonly associated with copywriting or marketing, so keep in mind that “content” doesn’t just apply to writing. Any material, including:

  • Infographics
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Slideshows
  • News
  • Maps

The same rules apply across the board on different types of content. In this article, the example given most often will be written content.

Content People Are Searching For

Part of what makes content searchable is that people are already searching for it. If you create content with only the goal of turning the best phrases and using the most appropriate keywords, you have overlooked something vital. That is, finding an appropriate term that people are already searching. Keywords are important for your content, but a mess of keywords doesn’t create a searching population from scratch — the searchers already exist, searching away using specific terms.

To ensure that your content will be seen, take a moment before the creation process to do a bit of research. Compare your title and overall content theme to actual search terms. Search engines try to produce results based on relevancy to the the intent of the person doing the query. The search term is merely an indicator of their intent. 

Create Content For People

When you use a specific search term to create your content, you are not bowing to the will of the machine, the search engine. Instead, you are catering to people’s needs and wants. You're using search engine data to give you insights into what people want. It bears repeating: the search term is simply an indicator of someones intent. It’s not a bad thing to pander in the marketing world. You are giving the people what they want, and what they want is content that solves their problem.

A search term is simply an indicator of someones intent

So, what kind of content do people see as “good”? Is it a cat video? A story about Donald Trump? Good content solves problems. The problem might be "I'm bored" or "Can I do surgery on myself?" or anything else. If your content is made for the target persona, answering his or her questions and solving their problems you've completed step one. 

Good Content and Bounce Rate


Good content has a low bounce rate. A high bounce rate is when someone performs a search, looks at a web page, and goes right back to searching. That tells search engines like Bing and Google that the content probably isn't up to snuff for the term it was returned for. A high bounce rate is a strong indicator that content may suck. While you are writing for people, you are also writing for machines that are watching how people interact with content. 

Want to know which content is performing best and worst on your website? Go to your analytics platform (like Google Analytics, Piwik, Clicky, Open Web Analytics, etc.) and look at your bounce rate on a page by page basis. Pages with a high bounce rate probably need some improvement.

SEO Content Writing

It’s true that the term “SEO content writing” is a bit of a misnomer. The fact of it is, writing content should only minimally keep SEO and keywords in mind. The actual process of optimizing content for a search engine, other than the search term relevance matching, mostly happens after the content is written. 

It was said previously that keywords shouldn’t be where you start when creating content. But what role do keywords play?

Keywords in SEO Copywriting

You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about keywords. Most of it's wrong these days. The hype isn’t altogether misplaced, to be certain, only there’s a tendency to go a little keyword-crazy. Search engines are getting pretty smart. They can infer intent even if you don't explicitly provide black and white clues like keywords. But keywords to help guide them along.  As a general rule, place keywords in these places:

Title and Headers

If you look at most search results on the first page you'll notice the search term is often right there in the title of the page (in blue text). This is a strong place for keywords if it’s closely related to the search term. It also helps with page rankings, and helps readers skim content for what they’re looking for.

Meta Description

This is a 160-character HTML element, this is used to summarize the content of a page. Using keywords here makes it more obvious to people searching what your content is about.

Alt Tags

An alt tag is a description of an image element in HTML. Search engines often rank pages higher that have great alt tag descriptions, and keywords will help make them great.

The catch with these types of keywords is that they’re all placed after the content is created. That means that the primary focus of a copywriter shouldn’t be keywords, but the content itself. Of course, keywords should be included in the text, but organically and with purpose.

Good Content Is for People. Good Structure for Search.

At the end of the day, the quality of the content will determine the success of your optimization. Content quality is judged by how well you solve the searchers query. But content must be created for both man and machine for the reasons stated above. Make them both happy and enjoy better click through rates, lower bounce rates, and happier content consumers.


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