February 2nd, 2017

Content Creation is for People (not search engines).

happy millennials on laptops, cell phones, and computers sitting next to each other

Focus on creating content for humans rather than for SEO.

It’s easy to get so carried away with SEO that you forget you’re creating content for people—not for search engines. This isn’t to knock SEO in any way. SEO is an important and valuable tool, but it only works if you’re using it correctly. Ask anyone who knows what they’re doing, and they’ll tell you that focusing on the end user is the only sustainable and future-proof approach to SEO.

SEO is about helping search engines help their clients. Because search engines are only useful if they deliver helpful results, they are constantly updating their algorithms to do just that. They have no vested interest in who they put at the top of their results page, they only care about which page will deliver the best answer to a searcher query. So if you want Google to rank your page at the top of its search results, you have to prove to Google that your page provides the best results.

In other words: you make Google happy by making Google’s searchers happy. So stop thinking about Google, and start thinking about the people who use it. So, how you make sure your content creating is user-centric? Let me count the ways…

1. Make sure it answers the right question.

It’s one thing to attract visitors to your page, and another thing to retain them. For instance, let’s say you spot a trending topic that seems relevant to your business. You write up a headline and some content that includes those keywords, hoping to ride the wave of a popular subject with some timely content. This is a great idea, so long as you’ve actually addressed the right subject.

When you create content, particularly topic content, think critically about how well it answers a searcher query. Consider what someone might have been looking for when they clicked on your page, and make sure your answer is complete.

Whatever you do, don’t intentionally write click-bait material in order to trick someone into visiting your site if your content doesn’t actually match what you advertised it as. Don’t bait and switch your visitors. Make sure your content delivers what it promised.

2. Make it readable.

A lot of factors influence the overall readability of your content. For instance, legibility is a subset of overall readability: if your font is overly complicated, or doesn’t contrast well with the environment around it, your visitors will strain to read it. Headers and sub-headers also increase readability by making your content more scannable: your visitors can easily scroll through your content to get an overall sense of your subject, or they can skip down to find the most relevant portion. Either way, headers help present your content in a more logical, orderly fashion, making it easier to follow.

Finally, writing can be more or less readable based on things like sentence length, passive voice, and transition words. It’s tempting, particularly with complex subjects, to fall into a wordy, pedantic tone of voice. However, this often results in writing that is needlessly complex and hard to follow. Focus on clear, understandable writing. It’s more pleasant to read, and no less informative for its simplicity.

3. Make it helpful.

The more detailed and rich your content is, the more engagement it receives. Usually, this is because that detail enhances your topic, making it more useful and helpful to the searcher. They came to you because they wanted a how-to guide to repairing a leaky pipe, and now they’ve found a detailed walk-through, complete with video, illustrations, and links to related plumbing issues. Good job, you! Way to be helpful.

All that said, don’t go overboard. Sometimes a simple question only requires a simple answer, and in that case, you serve your users best by getting straight to the point. Ever land on a page that’s like “hey, you asked this question, and we have the answer, we swear we do, but before we give you that answer, we’re going to make you click through 30000 slides of lead-up content, each slide hinting that your answer is only one more slide away, until eventually you despair of ever finding what you wanted!”

Yeah, don’t do that. It’s annoying. Make it stop.

4. Make it accessible.

You know all those funny alt tags and image descriptions you skip because aint nobody got time for that? Well, it turns out they’re super important for screen readers, meaning that when you don’t take time to do them properly, you’re excluding those with visual impairments from accessing your content. The same is true for video and audio content if you don’t include transcripts. There are dozens of ways your website could be cutting out segments of your market base, which is bad for you, bad for them, and bad for the world.

Good SEO is user-centric.

None of this is to say that SEO isn’t important, or that this is all there is to it. There’s more to SEO that goes on behind the scenes, mostly to do with making sure your content is optimized so that Google understands what it’s looking at. But when it comes to the client-facing aspect of content creation, good SEO is all about matching your content with the people who need it most.

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