Why You Should Stop Telling Others in SEO to Write for People

Jen Saunders
Reading Time: 6 minutes

“Write for people, not bots”, yeah yeah, we’ve all seen these blogs by now. I just don’t understand (1) why we keep seeing them, and (2) why nobody is calling them out on their crap. Yes, writing for people is important because people are the ones who perform searches. When content entertains, educates, makes an emotional impact, and creates a need to a want, you have great human content that human beings will love. However, by not keeping the bots in mind, nobody will see your content because it probably won’t rank.

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Just Writing for People Makes You half a Superman…Sort Of

Journalism has come a long way from traditional correspondent writing, to informative news with “action words” layered upon threads of emotional hyperbole. If you think you should just write for people, then go be a journalist, or a fiction ghost writer, because as an SEO your content won’t rank if Google can’t determine what it is, who it’s for, and how it is relevant to search queries. Clark Kent was a journalist; it was his cover for something greater. Adding a well-thought keyword strategy to your content, incorporating the right header tags (written for bots and people), and taking mobile search query considerations into your web-writing will take your online visibility from the ground level to sky high.

Google robots crawl SEO content

How do We Know Writing for Bots is as Important as Writing for People?

Let’s consider the Google search engine. Over the past few years, it is clear that technical writing and “writing for humans” have been merging ever close until finally colliding in the form of RankBrain. Prior to this major algorithm update, we saw Hummingbird and with it the demand for content to be well-written, informative, creative, and original. Then we saw the way mobile search exploded, and how the entire search process began shifting towards improving mobile search results with considerations to smartphone voice searches. All of this (and more) has lead to RankBrain–a key component to the algorithm that combines machine learning and artificial intelligence. Okay, so what does that mean? RankBrain tries to comprehend user intent, then results come up that best meet the searcher’s needs. Of course there are other factors to organic ranking, but written content is the largest ranking factor.

So there you have it. Now you know why you should stop telling people to just write for a human audience. The best SEO agencies offering content marketing require their teams to think like a cyborg; something half machine and half human. If all it took was writing for humans, any creative writing graduate could do SEO, but it is much more challenging than just telling a good story. Would you serve guests nachos without chips? When you leave considerations to the bots out of your content that is what you are doing–there may be lots of good stuff on your plate, but it isn’t resting on anything deliverable.

SEO writers should consider bots and people.

I’ll Take SEO Best Practices for 1000, Alex

In 2011 Watson, a computer designed by IBM to answer questions posed in natural language, competed on the game show Jeopardy against all-time winner Ken Jennings and former winner Brad Rutter. Watson dominated his human opponents, despite the fact it had trouble answering questions with clues that only contained a few words. Google RankBrain and Watson are pretty much the same: they both decipher natural, human language and search the right data to provide the most accurate answer. If the content is thin, vague, or lacking in vital keywords, it simply won’t suffice.

SEO content that ranks

How to Write for Bots and People: Consider the Tin Man

Arguably, one of the first memorable half man/half machine creations in popular culture was the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. He was very much a robot, but his ability to empathize with human emotions and understand Dorothy proved he had a heart all along, thus making him part human. Your content marketing strategy should strive to write text made for the Tin Man. In order to appease the bot side, try the following:

  • Access your analytics to see how people are searching for your products and services, and what general search volume is for keyword variations
  • Create a list of appropriate keywords to use on-site
  • Craft long-tail keywords that compliment mobile voice searches
  • Consider turning header titles into commonly asked questions, followed by in-depth answers
  • Structure your content so it flows

Another great way to incorporate strategic, technical writing is to consider Google related searches. These are alternative keywords to the one you enter into Google suggested by the search engine to improve your ranking. In this example, you can see some examples for “PPC agencies Los Angeles”:

SEO google searches

When you can incorporate these as keywords into your content in a way that reads naturally, the bots will love it and your human readers will be none the wiser. To make the content read more organically, take some of the secondary words in these, and incorporate them into your writing. SEO content writing is both an art and a science; find the winning formula.

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Content that Human Readers Will Love

Once you have your bot-friendly strategy all buttoned up, it’s time to add the human touch. In order for a conversion to happen, a consumer or searcher must find your webpage in the SERPs, click on it, and complete the desired action whether that means they buy something, download material, or share an article. In order to do this you have to provide a need to their want, and this means you have to tap into their psychology and emotional fiber. Some ways you can do this include: 

Tell a Story – Your brand has a story, so tell it. Inject the narrative into your content marketing strategy. Choose a central figure that most likely models your typical consumer, demonstrate their pain, tell their journey’s story, and conclude how your product was the knight on the white horse that saved the day.

Be Familiar – You want people to identify with your content. If your customers are local to specific areas, use a certain vernacular native to their area, include local places and landmarks in your narrative,  and make them feel like they are about to do business with a friendly neighbor.

Give Value – Do some research and find out what commonly asked questions are that revolve around your products or services. Inject these into your brand’s story, and offer an in-depth, educational “how to” that people can benefit from. If you sell vacuum cleaners and people are constantly searching for instructions on how to remove the vacuum head and attach the shampooer, include detailed step-by-step instructions.

Be You – People buy from people they like, and the same is true with brands. Let your sense of humor, creativity, and unique voice shine through in your content. People will love the way it reads, and form a better bond with your message.

Be Conversational – Conversational content is ideal because it makes the reader feel like they are sucked right into the story. Do a little research to understand your consumer behavior through Google analytics, and see what people have to say about you in social media. Then create content recognizable to these factors, and make it engaging with a conversational tone.

seo robots matter

Robot Lives Matter

Writing for people is important; if nobody likes your content, you aren’t going to amount to much in your digital market space. Just remember robot lives matter. If you leave out keywords and clusters of content for the bots, then you are basically disregarding Google’s ongoing efforts to improve search results by updating their algorithms. Robots have feelings, and when you don’t include the kind of content they love to crawl, they get sad and some even get angry. Just look at C-3PO; you know good and well if that menopausal robot had nothing good to read, you would never hear the end of it.

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