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Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first. Wendy Piersall

An age-old SEO debate: writing for people vs. writing for robots.

When it comes to writing content for your website, there are 2 main schools of thought seemingly at odds with one another. Many argue that you should focus on the people reading your content and forget about search engine optimization entirely. They suggest a heavy focus on loading your writing with keywords makes your content too stiff and difficult to understand, resulting in a disconnect from your visitors. But others insist the goal ought to be to focus on search engine robots crawling your site through loading your content with keywords. Their reasoning is that people can’t find your site if search engines don’t, making SEO of utmost importance. In short, the former focuses on human connection; the latter focuses on data alone.

But what if there doesn’t have to be a fight? What if content managed to be good while taking both humans and robots into consideration? What would that look like? What guidelines might inform how you write?

Keep it simple.

SEO Step 1: Keep it Simple.

For humans:

  • Break up your content into headlines and shorter paragraphs. People in general have short attention spans, so structuring your content in a way that’s easy to scan means people are more likely to stay and read.
  • Science says the average American reads at an eighth-grade reading level, so you should aim for that in your writing. Why? To make sure what you’re saying is neither too elementary as to be insulting nor too complicated as to fly over people’s heads.

For robots:

  • Headlines tell search engines important things about the content that follows and why someone might search for your page in the first place, allowing them to place it more accurately in their rankings.
  • Content that’s easy for people to read translates into content that’s easy for robots to crawl, interpret, and categorize. This also means visitors are more likely to stay on your page longer, which will increase search engines’ opinion of you.

But not too simple.

SEO Step 2: But Not TOO Simple.

For humans:

  • Don’t talk down to your audience. Simplifying your content means communicating clearly, not condescending to your audience.
  • Make sure your content gives people the information they need. Keeping things simple doesn’t mean you should sacrifice pertinent data. In the interest of brevity, consider linking to outside articles rather than expanding upon a word, phrase, or practice that’s not directly related to your topic.

For robots:

  • Search engines will punish you for too little content.  If you haven’t written a lot on a particular page or post, search engines will assume what you have to say isn’t important and diminish your rankings.

Stay on topic.

SEO Step 3: Stay on Topic.

For humans:

  • Content that goes off on tangents means people will leave your site unsatisfied. If someone reached your page or post by searching for a specific thing, your page or post should be focused on that specific topic.
  • Respect your audience’s busy schedule. If you find yourself reaching 1,000 words or more, consider breaking your article into a multi-post series addressing multiple factors of the topic you want to cover.

For robots:

  • Focusing on your topic means you’ll naturally include keywords relevant to your page. Search algorithms are getting smarter every day about whether or not keywords are relevant or included to SPAM visitors. Naturally including these words as you stay on topic means search engines will decide your page really is related to the topic you say it is, thereby improving your SEO.

Create value.

SEO Step 4: Create Value.

For humans:

  • Solve a problem for the people who come to your site. Don’t focus on your needs — focus on the needs of your audience. People search to find answers, not brands. What do your specific clients, customers, patients, or users need to know? What do they typically not know? What topics will offer value to the people you want to reach? How can you make their lives easier?
  • Become a resource for those who use your product or service. This will establish your reputation as an expert, building trust with the people who visit your site.

For robots:

  • Valuable information translates into search engines having an easier time finding and ranking you. When you focus on creating value for your audience rather than for yourself, you’ll organically write content search engines will determine is relevant.
  • Inbound links from other sites drastically improve your rankings. When your content is valuable to people, they share it, thereby making search engines think more highly of you.

Be human.

SEO Step 5: Be Human.

For humans:

  • People connect more closely to humans than they do to cold information. Speak like a human, and your audience will stick around to listen.
  • Empathy and respect create a meaningful bond. Taking the time to understand your audience and treat them with dignity will result in fewer instances of inadvertent cruelty.

For robots:

  • The longer people stay on your site, the more search engines will reward you with higher more relevant rankings. When people leave your site quickly (or “bounce,” as the robots say), this reflects badly on the relevancy and worth of your content.
  • Positive human experience means repeat visitors, which increases your rankings.

The verdict? Humans and robots work together.

When you write for humans, everyone wins the SEO battle — not just people and search engines, but your company and your audience.


Looking for advice on optimizing your website for human and robot consumption? Drop us a line — we’d love to help.

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