What’s your SEO strategy when you write your copy? Tempting as it may be to stuff your content with keywords for the Google robots to pick up, long-term, it is better to write for humans and optimise for robots.
For those who prefer to watch than read – knock yourself out.
Who reads your copy?
What’s the point of writing anything unless it gets read? Two things will determine that outcome.
Firstly, your writing has to get found, obviously – that’s the SEO part.
Your reader will then give you a measly two seconds, if you’re lucky, for you to get your hooks into them, to grab their attention.
What’s more important, to perform spectacularly with SEO and then be digitally cold-shouldered?
Or be the life and soul of a party where nobody turns up?
Yeah well, like everything, there’s a balance. So how do you go about juggling that hot copy potato and get your SEO strategy right?
How to write for robots
The theory is to match a user’s search query to your content.
Put the right keywords into your post and the search algorithm puts two and two together and marries the user with the most complete answer to their search.
The best answers to the search question should appear at the top of the SERP (search engine results page).
The trouble with that is text stuffed with keyword after keyword becomes turgid. Dull and lifeless words that may sweet-talk an algorithm but send people to sleep.
But that is not all.
Writing for a robot is difficult because we don’t know how it thinks, we don’t know the algorithm but we can make a good guess.
People like Neil Patel can offer great advice on SEO. Take a look at his blog to find an answer to just about any question about writing for SEO.
I couldn’t give better advice, so I am not going to try but if you look at his writing, you can tell he is pretty good at writing for humans as well.
His posts are written with a human need in mind. His copy doesn’t feel stilted and forced.
My biggest SEO pal is Yoast. I don’t rely on it for style tips but it is a great help when it comes to making my copy algorithm friendly.
Their plug-in quickly scans your copy and offers optimisation suggestions. Piece of cake.
The algorithm robots are happy. They can find good answers for real queries.
But wait, we’re not finished yet. The robots have another question. Can I believe you? Is this stuff you are writing any good? Okay, that’s two questions.
Who’s to say you’re not full it? That’s why robots look for voices of authority. They judge that by how many backlinks you have.
That’s how many times have people found your post, thought “Gee, that’s interesting” and shared a link to it.
The master of that is Brain Dean. His content is highly detailed, SEO optimised and very thorough – making it a resource to be shared. But I think it is his writing that is exceptional.
He writes for humans and optimises for robots.
I will always read his emails. One, they get to the point quickly, no fluff, just substance. Two, they have personality, a human voice.
SEO will help your article get found but you will get linked because of the quality of your content.
You can please all of the robots some of the time. And you can please some of the robots all the time. But you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
How to write for humans
When I started out as a copywriter, the best advice I got was – “Picture a real person and write to them.”
I always pictured my mum. I remember one of the first jobs I had was to write about microwaves.
Now I was very young, I knew very little about microwaves – I used them to re-heat cold cups of tea and to make popcorn. That hardly made me an expert.
Of course, I had product specs, brochures and a knowledgeable client, so I had facts. If I started to write then, I would have been the robot, spewing out information that would never get read.
It made it much easier to write believable and persuasive copy when I imagined myself sitting across the kitchen table, explaining to my mum why she’d like to have this microwave in her kitchen.
It made it real, and it gave the copy a voice that the reader could relate to. It had personality. It also sold a lot of microwaves.
People want to listen to people. Admit it, those computer-generated voices on the end of the telephone drive you crazy. And they are getting really good now, the text to speech programs are brilliant but extremely DULL.
Don’t give your brand that kind of voice.
Personality is key, every piece of written copy needs it to be memorable.
People like Neil Patel and Brian Dean know that. They write in a style that is easy to read, they put their personalities down on paper. They are the brand.
The difference for a copywriter is that you have to shift your tone of voice for every brand you work on. The brand will tell you what personality it has, it is up to you to project it.
Just those two things will vastly improve your copywriting. Talk with a voice your audience can relate to and with a personality that brings it alive. Give your algorithm some heart.
How to write for cyborgs
Part machine, part human – it’s the sweet spot you are aiming for.
Start with your search terms, the real words people are using to find content. That will give you clues to who you’re talking to. Anxious, curious, frustrated, happy – what’s driving their query?
Then, when you have a picture in your mind, start a conversation.
If people want to read it they will want to share it.
Your cyborgs are happy because they can tick a few boxes. The keywords are in there so your content can be discovered. Best of all, it’s engaging so they can share it with their mum.
What’s a good long-term SEO strategy for your content marketing?
SEO will help your article get found.
Your headline will determine whether you get read.
You will get linked (backlinks) because of the quality of your content.
How does it read – is it engaging?
Does it answer the search query?
Robots are not calling all the shots just yet. It’s a balance. They’ll like you if you answer the right questions, they’ll love you if you make your reader happy.