A lot of writing gurus will dole out advice along the lines of “always write for the reader first and everyone else second.” Whether “everyone else” is a client, company, or Google’s crawler bots. Now that advice isn’t wrong, but it does make things surprisingly difficult for writers, who absolutely have to take SEO into account. It’s not even up for debate. A great piece of content is worthless if no one sees it, and on-page SEO is the thing that makes that happen.
So the puzzle is: how to write persuasive and entertaining content for people that’s also optimized for Google? Here are some good guidelines to follow.
1. Think About the Reader’s Goals
A big part of writing for the reader involves thinking about why they would want to read the content. What goals did they set out to accomplish or what information were they looking for? There are a couple of things that go into determining this:
– The demographics of the audience segment the blog is targeting. Naturally, this will be determined by the company/client that owns the blog. Without this clarification, knowing what type of person to write for (along with their motivations) will be much harder.
– The keywords they use. Keywords don’t just determine SEO, they also inform the reader’s intentions. That said, keywords alone can’t always properly convey intent as they can have multiple meanings in different contexts.
2. Write the Title Tag and Headline For SEO
The body copy might be for the reader, but the title should be almost entirely reserved for SEO. Since Google doesn’t release official information on what, exactly, they rank for or how much weight they give any individual thing, it’s a guessing game. But some things are pretty clear given the amount of data individual agencies have been able to gather.
So it’s widely accepted that titles and headlines are crucial for SEO. They are some of the main factors determining Google’s ranking algorithm, along with on-page keyword usage. It’s tricky to create useful and compelling content that also targets specific keywords, but it isn’t impossible.
When writing a title or headline, make sure that the main target keyword (or keyword phrase) for that content is always included. Then figure out a way to make the title useful and specific for the reader so they know exactly what the content is about. Don’t forget the second part because a headline that ranks well but has a low click-through rate isn’t good either.
3. Keep it Simple
Most readers take a quick look at a piece of content before deciding if they’re going to read it or not. According to the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes users less than a second to form an impression.
And let’s be honest here, even then they’re probably only going to scan through it to see if they find what they want. In fact, around half of people only read an article for 15 seconds before moving on. It may feel disheartening to think of it this way at first, but it just means that writers need to adjust their strategies in an already content-saturated world.
That means when it comes to writing for the reader, make it easy for them to quickly read through the article instead of going off on long tangents. It doesn’t matter how well-written and witty it is if they aren’t going to even look at it. Take their intent and form quick bites of information that can fulfill that goal or need.
4. Use the Meta Description
Like title tags and headlines, meta descriptions count a lot towards determining a piece of content’s SEO score and ranking on the search engine results page (SERP). This part is used to explain what the content is about in as few words as possible. Also keep in mind that the meta description will appear on the search page and may be the thing that convinces a reader to click.
This means that the meta description should contain the main keyword (or keyword phrases) as well. In addition to that, it has to be made up of ultra-specific and persuasive language.
5. Add Links in a Thoughtful Way
For users, links are a way to provide additional information through other sources. When it comes to SEO, they’re even more important. The websites that the hyperlinks link back to are crucial since Google gives more weight to authoritative and trusted pages. The anchor text – which is the clickable text in a link – is just as crucial. So give particular attention to links as they’re an easy way to satisfy the reader and score important Google SEO points.
It shouldn’t be necessary to choose between people and search engine rankings. Both are extremely important for different reasons. Great writers can leverage both in their content to captive readers while keeping the Google SERP overlords happy.