Should You Write Content For People Or Search Engines?

The debate of whether your website’s content (both on page and blog) should be written for people or for search engines has been one that’s been around since the dawn of time… or at least since Google became a household name. 

Many people used to try and focus their efforts 50/50, however with Google’s approach to ranking becoming more and more advanced with every update, this attitude is likely to cause more harm than good. Because, if you’re pre-occupied by content length, keyword density and LSI keywords (latent semantic indexing), chances are what you’re writing isn’t going to be of any use to the person reading it.

And even if you are winning the number one spot in SERPS, at the end of the day it’s not Google that will be enquiring about your services or buying your products. It’s people. The content that you write must match with the user’s purpose; if they don’t find what they are looking for they will simply bounce from your site. 

Once you understand that you should be writing for people first and then optimising for Google second, SEO for content becomes a lot easier.


How to rank highly without keyword stuffing

Google determines the relevance of your page by analysing the content of it based on several factors, including how often and where in the text you use certain keywords. It measures the authority of your page by looking at the number of links that point to that page and how trustworthy they are. 

However, a 2017 study by SEMRush looked closely at 600,000 keyword phrases and how they ranked on Google. The results revealed that 18% of sites that ranked in position 20 or higher on Google actually had no keywords in the text at all. What they did have however, was high site traffic, quality backlinks and good user activity, for example social shares. This told Google that people actually seem to like this content because they’re engaging with it. This means that throwing in as many keywords as possible into your content won’t help at all. Instead, you should ensure that keywords read naturally throughout the body of your post and within the headers. When writing content, your priority should always be your user’s intent rather than how many times you can include certain keywords.

Put simply, if you write content that’s great for people, Google will reward you. However the same cannot be said the other way round. People aren’t going to reward you for content that’s keyword heavy or is chock full of local modifiers.


Backed by Google

While some individuals still believe search algorithms should come first, Google’s BERT update backs those who put their primary focus on the audience when writing.

Announced in late October, by Pandu Nayak, Google Fellow and Vice President, Search, the BERT update states that it will understand searches “better than ever before”, meaning people can “search in a way that feels natural”… and still gain the results they are after.

“These improvements are oriented around improving language understanding, particularly for more natural language/conversational queries, as BERT is able to help search better understand the nuance and context of words in searches and better match those queries with helpful results.

“BERT models can consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it – particularly useful for understanding the intent behind search queries”.

This means that the algorithm won’t bode well for sites that are poorly written, as context of the search is at the forefront of the update’s priorities. Advanced software understands the words, phrases and terms that people use when they are searching the internet, so that Google will also be better at finding relevant content that answers a searcher’s question.

Writing for people should always be at the forefront of your mind, with search engines second. Bearing in mind all the factors mentioned previously will allow your content to rank higher. Things such as traffic, engagement rates and social shares all make a massive impact on your search visibility in Google, and all these things can be achieved by creating content that is made for real people to consume and solve a query that they have. 

Need more guidance on creating engaging blog or on page content for your website? Our Content Marketing team are experts in creating content strategies that will increase your business’ visibility, attract customers and get your website to rank. For more information, contact us now.

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