Content is king.
In 2014, there’s never been a more true statement. When someone comes to your webpage or blog, they’re looking for something in particular, usually a solution to a problem. How long a visitor stays on your website depends on a couple of things. Can they immediately find what they’re looking for? Is the site relevant to them? Are they even interested? All of this can be answered by content. By planning out your content you can answer your customer’s questions and bring relevant visitors to your site.
What is Content?
Content is the text, picture, video, or other digital content loaded onto a website. This is the substance of your website, the reason why people come. For the sake of this post, we’re referring to content as the text on web pages and blogs.
Writing content for the web can be difficult; you want to want to write for your audience, but you also want to show up in search results. So which do you choose? Do you craft beautiful words that would bring tears to your 11th grade English teacher’s eyes, or do you fill your paragraphs with keywords? Well.. you can do both. It’s possible to write great content that humans want to read (or better yet, share) and that gets noticed by the search engine robots. But, we have to walk before we can run. Let’s take a look at how to write for humans and search engines separately, and then we’ll bring it together to talk about bringing the key elements together to create content that works for both.
Writing for Humans
People on the internet have short attention spans; if they don’t find what they’re looking for immediately, they’re hitting the back button and going for the next search result. You want to prevent that. You want to keep people on your page as long as possible. To do this, you want to write engaging content that is relevant to your audience. How do you do this? Read on:
- Make it personal– the internet isn’t a place for a third person, it’s a conversation. Your content should read like you’re talking directly to your readers. You’re writing to build a relationship with your readers.“You” is one of the most powerful words you can use. When you make your content relatable to the reader, they’re more receptive to the message you’re trying to convey.
- Be relevant– Your content should make sense on your site. This doesn’t mean you can only write about your industry and yourself, but your reader should be able to make the connection between your content and the purpose of the site.
- Be Useful-Internet users are looking for solutions to problems. If your website is selling a product, your content should anticipate the problem they’re having and then introduce your product as the solution.
- Know your audience– Who’s coming to your site currently? Who do you want to come to your site? If aiming to sell to businesses, your tone of voice is going to be different than if you’re writing a blog for moms. Focusing on your audience and their needs is an easy way to keep people on your site longer and more engaged.
- Call to action– You got someone to your site, great! Now, what are they supposed to do? People on the Internet are lazy, they aren’t going to go out of their way to do something unless you ask them with calls to action. Depending on your site, this action could be anything from asking them to sign up for a trial, clicking a link to read more about a product, or contacting you for more information. Having content written based on your call to action makes the user more likely to act.
- PROOFREAD– The internet doesn’t forgive spelling errors. I recommend typing your content in a Word Doc first, having someone read over it, and then proofread it again. The more eyes you can have, the better.
Writing For Robots
It doesn’t matter how perfect your content is, if it doesn’t show up in the first page of a search, people won’t find your site. 91.5% of all Google’s traffic occurs on its first page. Here are some tips on how you can improve your search ranking:
Tips for Writing for Search Engines
- Research keywords– What are people currently searching to find your site? Using tools like, Google Analytics Keyword Tool and Google Insights for Search can help determine the volume for a particular keyword. Make sure your keywords are actually relative to your content. If you use keywords that don’t have anything to do with your site, people won’t stick around.
- Word count– When it comes to search engines, the more words the better. The average word count of top-ranked searches is 2,416 words. This is where the fine line between quantity and quality comes into play. Search engines assume pages with more words are of higher quality, with more research and effort. However, use caution with focusing on word counts. Repetitive content will flag search engines which can result in penalties.
- Links– Something else search engines look for is how many quality links point to the site. Link building is essentially building a network of sites that link to your site. In a search engine’s “eyes,” if you have a lot of links pointing to your site or a certain page, it must be because of its quality content. However, search engines are smart enough to detect “spammy” links, so be careful.
- Use tools- After you’ve written your content (and proofread!!!!!!!!) submitting your site to be indexed with Google Webmasters will help it show up in search results faster.
Writing for Both
The best advice is to write for people first and then edit for the search engine robots.
You can format your content to make it easier for people and search engines to read. When people read online, they’re actually skimming through content. They read in an F-Shape pattern; they read the headlines to find what they’re looking for instead of skimming the entire page. But you can use this to your advantage!
By breaking up your content into smaller paragraphs of 3-5 sentences and using keyword-filled headlines, both humans can find the information they’re looking for and search engines can find the keywords you want to them read.
As mentioned before, search engines love pages with high word counts.. but people on the internet don’t. If you can say what you need to in 800 words, that’s perfect! There’s no need to add 700 words of “fluff” just to get noticed by search engines. Both search engines and people are looking for quality writing.
At the end of the day, you want to create content that’s helpful to your audience. But, to get your content in front of your audience, you need to show up in search results. It’s all about finding the balance. You could easily write a piece that earned a spot on the first page of search results, but no one would want to read it.
You don’t have to decide between writing great content and optimizing for search engines. Planning your content, doing your research, and just writing smart can attract both humans and search engine robots to your site.