Writing For Humans And Search Engines Like Google Is Not Mutually Exclusive

Jun 21, 2023

When I served as Content Marketing Director for a telehealth startup, I learned a lot. Mostly, I discovered it’s possible to write great content for people’s enjoyment, education, and readability, while also writing for search engines like Google. This was during the pandemic, and telehealth was taking off in a big way as a crucial and safe solution for patients to connect with their providers.

At the time, everybody was searching for answers about telehealth – office managers at independent physician practices, IT leaders at the largest health systems in America, and consumers of all ages, from teens to seniors. It was this big telehealth pivot that provided new insights about creating readable-yet-searchable content.

I recognized it’s possible to address human readability while ensuring high-ranking content. In fact, it’s not only doable, but also necessary so that people searching for answers can find helpful, readable content.

Earlier in my career, I was told you couldn’t do both — that writing for humans and Google were mutually exclusive. That’s not true, and content creators can deliver engaging and easy-to-understand content for readers that is optimized for search engines to drive traffic to your website and raise awareness for your brand. The trick is generating high-value information that answers the top-of-mind questions from your target audience and provides easy-to-understand content incorporating relevant keywords in the storytelling. To achieve this content “holy grail,” writers should have a basic understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices, especially for on-page SEO must-dos.

When you balance SEO with the reader experience, you can generate powerful results. All this is truer with thought leadership communications, in which content strategies aim to establish a company or brand as an expert – and “trusted authority.”

Here are some tips to help writers create content for both humans and Google:

  • Survey Your Target Audience:If you can, conduct a quick survey of your target audience to ascertain their most urgent, burning questions. If you can’t, get with those closest to your customer/prospect organizations – such as sales leaders or customer success experts — and interview them to learn what they believe the top-of-mind questions might be.  Answering these questions can drive your content plan.
  • Create a Working Title: Draft a working headline that strategically differentiates your company or brand and succinctly articulates the storyline you believe is essential to tell your target audience. Headlines are powerful as they deliver — in a short bit of copy — the strategic intent of the story. As you write working titles, know they can and usually will improve, especially with feedback from content reviewers and experts included along the way in your collaborative review process.
  • Conduct Keyword Research:Good writers conduct thorough keyword research using tools like MozPro, SEMRush, and others to identify the keywords and phrases readers most frequently use to search for answers online. Doing keyword research for content is different than for paid ads, where you may look at the competition and identify costs for purchasing those keywords. For organic content, SEO research is inspiring because you can see which keywords are popular and used most often for searches, as well as which may hold “white space” and could be ownable.  This should be conducted for each strategic piece of content. This research helps ensure the content you are creating is relevant and of value — optimized for search engines people use every second of every day. It’s essential to limit to 1-2 keywords or phrases that make the most sense per each content piece, given the strategic intent of your storyline and your working title. This research phase also can change your working title and probably should!
  • Naturally, Incorporate Keywords. Use keywords in the content, but use them strategically and sparingly. Keywords should fit naturally in the heading, subheadings, and the first 100 words of the piece. Make sure you incorporate the keywords in a way that helps both the human reader and the search engine. After all, when we are all Googling, we want to be served up the most trusted and easy-to-review content that answers our questions. Remember to use keywords in the file names of images you post with the copy, in the alt text, and the meta tag.
  • Think About the Reader’s Experience. As you pull your content together, focus on creating an engaging, informative, and easy-to-understand story. Use visuals like photos, infographics, and even videos embedded within the content for a superior reader experience. Keep it tight, though, as nobody has time to read 2,500 words. Go for the sweet spot of 800-1200 words, if you can.
  • Optimize for Search. Google rewards those who do this best! Your content should have internal and external links to trusted sites. Ensure that the content is well-structured and easy to navigate.
  • Deliver High Value. Make sure your content is valuable and informative for readers. You will  know when you read it and when you write it. And if you are creating Thought Leadership content, infuse a bold point of view with authenticity. As you read your first draft, ask yourself, is this insightful and useful information? Will a reader enjoy reading this? Does this content make an impact?

As content creators today, we should think about humans and about the search engines like Google that can ultimately deliver your content to a broader readership (of humans). Addressing both forces will result in online content best worthy of answering questions from top searches and telling an engaging story.