You’ve done your research, you know all those SEO best practices, and you’ve got your keyword ready. With all of this information in your arsenal, it’s easy to treat a blog post like a project in data implementation, acting as if your content is nothing more than a template to drop some keywords into. While this might read alright for Google if you do it carefully, it will almost never read well for the actual human beings you want to find your content.
This is what can easily happen when you focus on writing exclusively for Google, and it often ends up alienating your users. This will actually take a toll on your SEO potential in turn, even risking a lowering of your ranking when Google sees all those bounce rates.
And at the same time, you can’t neglect SEO all together; it’s an essential part of content distribution and finding new clients.
It’s a tricky balance, and in this post, we’re going to look at exactly how to write blogs that are user-friendly and Google-friendly at the same time.
What We Mean By “Write for Google”
SEO best practices require that we place the right keywords in the right places, amongst a few other things. Brands may also be trying to write in a way that has a chance of appearing in Featured Snippets.
Sometimes, there are keywords that are easy to drop in place; this is most common for short-tail keywords. In other cases, long-tail keywords like “SEO best practices for dental offices” can be a nightmare to work organically into content, especially more than once. You might see something like this:
“Are you trying to figure out the best SEO best practices for dental offices to get more results? SEO Best practices for dental offices are important to rank well. In this post we’ll look at best practices for SEO for dental offices.”
If you spend too much time prioritizing keywords for focusing exclusively on writing for Google, the content can become clunky and unpleasant to read. It’s essential to remember that the whole point of ranking high in the SERPs isn’t for bragging rights but to give you a better chance to connect with your audience, and if you aren’t writing for them, that won’t happen.
The Secret: Write for Users and Then Optimize for Google
There’s one thing I’ve seen clearly over the years: if the content isn’t user-friendly, then it definitely won’t be Google-friendly, either.
They look for signs of low-quality content, which is why they’re on the lookout for practices like harmful link building or even keyword stuffing, and they look at page performance to see if users are liking what they find. If they see that people are fleeing your page as soon as they get to it because the writing has taken on an SEO dialect, it will hurt your performance.
So the methodology I use is simple: write for users, and then find ways to tweak the writing for SEO. I always start with a keyword and a topic, and I incorporate that keyword in a few places where they fit naturally, and then I write before I do anything else.
Here are a few specific ways you can create great content for users and Google alike.
Write in a Casual Voice
First and foremost, you should always write in a way that’s enjoyable for your audience to read. While this should be defined by your brand and specific audience, I’ve found that a conversational approach has worked in the 24 different industries I’ve written for. Skip out on the esoteric, industry-specific language your audience might know whenever possible, and if you absolutely have to use it, add in definitions to explain it.
Use Clear Organization
Break your content down into formatted H2 and H3 headings as needed, ideally having no more than about 300 words in each section. A certain percentage of users who come to your blogs will inevitably be looking for answers to a specific question, and they’ll want to find the answer they need as quickly as possible.
Using multiple headers also gives you a chance to drop in a few more keywords (including secondary keywords), optimizing your post both for your primary and secondary keyphrases.
Opt for Short Paragraphs & Sentences
People want content that they can easily read and scan, and using shorter sentences and concise paragraphs is a good move.
Separate different ideas into different paragraphs and use simple sentence structures for the majority of the post. While this sounds like a simple tip, it’s a game changer in terms of creating easy-to-read, digestible content.
Remember that we’re all reading on screens now, and especially on mobile devices, big blocks of text aren’t so enjoyable to try to get through.
Know that Google Understands User Search Intent
Google’s algorithms are exceptional and always being developed, and it’s almost like Google has a mind of its own. The algorithm understands things like user behavior and search intent, and that means that they can often help out marketers by interpreting the keywords they’ve targeted to match them up with the right audience.
In the example below, Google has taken the search term “should I contribute to a 401k” and offered diverse search results that answer some of these questions in different ways.
Google can interpret keywords, and as long as you’re adding enough context within the post, you’ll be good to go. Since they look for content that matches what the user needs, sometimes even having those well-optimized subheads can help you rank well, too.
Prioritize “Hidden” SEO Opportunities
You want to avoid keyword stuffing and writing weird, clunky sentences while still getting the keywords you’re targeting in every post. Take advantage of “hidden” opportunities to do this, which are crawlable by Google but typically either invisible or rarely noticed by the user. This includes:
- Meta descriptions, which users still read but gives you a chance to add in that keyword without it seeming repetitive.
- Post URL
- Post slug
- Alt image tags
There’s no point in ranking on the first page of the SERPs if users will hate the content they find, and it’s a damn near tragedy to write a masterpiece of a post that never gets seen because it has no search visibility. Content marketing major focuses often involve driving traffic to your site and establishing relationships with your target audience, so it’s essential to find a healthy balance of appealing to both Google and readers. This might take a little more effort, but it’s decidedly worth it.
Want a little assistance creating user-friendly and Google-friendly content? Shoot us a message to learn more about what we can do for you.
What do you think? How do you create content that strikes a balance in appealing to both users and search engines? Do you use any of our best practices? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!