We all want to rank #1 on Google’s first page of our dream keyword search. But that’s easier said than done. For a website to be effective, it must be high quality and findable. For it to be findable, we needed to cater to the robots crawling and ranking the page. Back in the day, search engine optimization (known as SEO) was about manipulating search engine bots to rank your site higher. We could get away with keyword stuffing images and spamming footers with blocks of invisible keyword phrases. But over time, we learned. We improved.
Unfortunately, we need both bots and people when crafting our websites. We need humans to make the sale, but you can’t get those people without the help of bots crawling our sites. So the question is: Should we write for humans or for bots? Our approach: Write for humans, but optimize (lightly) for bots.
Writing for humans
First and foremost, Google rewards readable, quality content that is helpful for actual humans. They are our target audience and we want the website to connect with them to the point of them taking action. If you’re going to create content that resonates with your audience, your site needs to have empathy, storytelling, and emotional reasoning.
We like to structure our landing page stories like so:
- High-level elevator pitch / brand positioning statement – To prevent a high bounce rate, people need to know that they are in the right place). This statement should (very briefly) state: who you help (“that’s me,”), what problem you solve (“that’s my problem,”) and some benefit (“that’s my desired result.”)
- The problem – Create empathy and show your audience that you understand their problem. People aren’t motivated to act unless there is a problem or a pain point that needs to be solved.
- Your solution – How do you solve this problem? You can do this through storytelling, stats, bullets, etc. (Putting a call-to-action here is always helpful.)
- Your authority – What makes you qualified to solve this problem? Authority could be your team’s experience, your expertise, awards, testimonials, reviews, etc.
- Call-to-action – Finally, invite the person to act. What is the next step? If they aren’t ready to purchase, do you have an easier step for them to take (like joining a newsletter list)?
Good storytelling helps structure your value proposition in a way that’s easy for your target audience to understand and act on.
Writing for bots (without sounding like a robot)
The robots (or bots) we are talking about here are search engine crawlers. Search engines crawl pages periodically to determine any updates to the page’s content since the last time it was crawled. If a search engine detects changes to a page after crawling, it will update its index and rerank your page.
But bots don’t care much for stories. Search engine crawlers respond to technical SEO keyword phrases. This is where the keyword abuse as come into play in the past.
Thankfully, Google continues to update its search algorithm to better process natural language and penalize heavy keyword usage. You don’t have to sacrifice one audience for the other. We can create SEO content marketing strategy that works well for both humans and bots.
How to write for both:
- Choose a keyword phrase per page – The choice of words matters. Think like your target audience and research the strongest keyword phrase they use when looking for your industry, service, or product.
- Sprinkle throughout the page – This keyword phrase it should be your H1, your title tag, meta description, one alt image tag, one image file name, used once in another headline, and used a handful times within the content. This shouldn’t be too spammy if you aim for over 1,200 words (or more) per page.
- Then, write whatever prose you want – Since we are focused on people, make the content enjoyable to read. Practice your unique tone of voice. Use humor if that’s your thing.
- Make your call-to-actions clear – We are trying to convert the users on the site into customers or clients, so make sure your call-to-actions are easy to understand. Clarity trumps persuasion. “Click here” is not descriptive or convincing. “Transform your business” may work in the right context, but it’s unclear what kind of action I’m making (am I downloading? Contacting someone? What’s on the other side of that button?”) Using simple, actionable terms like “Get a free trial” or “Download E-book” may not always be the most flashy words, but it’s clear and understandable.
- Track and optimize – As time goes on, see if your keyword phrase is bringing in the write target audience. Are people converting? How can you better improve? Do you need to change phrases or should you continue to refine the active SEO term?
Wrapping it up
When writing SEO-friendly content, it’s not a question of humans vs. robots but rather how to optimize for both. SEO always takes time to nurture results, so continue to improve your bot game and your storytelling to see better results.