Write for users or write for search engines? Write for both!

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Write for search engines and humans, users

It is equally important to attract people and to convert them into customers

You have probably stumbled onto a website where the text seems somewhat stilted. The same string of three or four or five words is repeated over and over, even where it looks and sounds awkward. That’s because the website owner is trying to rank higher in Google for that exact search.

Meanwhile, there are many amazing pages you haven’t stumbled on – great pages with great ideas and great writing. Many of those pages get no visitors because they don’t have any of those awkward strings of words, so Google doesn’t rank them higher for any particular search.

As a website owner, you have a choice. You can write for search engines, or you can write for people.

Writing for search engines

You can write for search engines by using the “exact match” text of what people type into Google.

For example, some people find this website by searching for “small business marketing consultant Toronto”. To attract more clients searching with these words, I should add “small business marketing consultant Toronto” to more pages and more places on those pages. This tells Google what my pages are really about, so that they become more relevant when people search.

Not only that, but if you know a little bit about search engine optimization (SEO), you know that the keyword string should be placed in very specific places on the page.

Where to place keywords on your page for best SEO value

  • In the page “title tag”
  • In the body of the text, several times
  • In the H1 heading (title of the article)
  • In the subheadings
  • In bold
  • In italics
  • In an image file name
  • In an image alt text
  • In an outbound link
  • In the page URL
  • In the meta description tag

What about humans?

Writing just for search engines makes the page look unprofessional. If it is successful in drawing great human traffic from search engines, what happens when those humans land on the page and read such awkward writing? Chances are that you will lose them.

Writing just for the search engines will increase your traffic and decrease your conversions. That is poor marketing and poor business planning.

How can you use the keywords you need to attract your target market from the search engines without losing them when they land on your page? Here are four tactics to also write for users.

Give up perfection

Maybe you don’t have to place your exact match keyword string everywhere on the page. For instance, if you use it in the heading and a subheading, you can skip the other subheadings on the page.

If you bold one mention of the string, don’t bold the other two mentions. The other two, not the other 22. Just a few times in your text is enough.

It’s easy to place the keyword in the page URL and an image filename without looking stilted, and even in the page title tag, but you have to be more careful with the actual text on the page.

Place the keyword string where it makes sense, but give up on perfection if it doesn’t. The top goal of your website is to sell to customers, so don’t place words where they would drive people away.

Be less awkward

Some keywords fit more easily into your text than others. My example above certainly does not fit easily into a sentence. But it can fit nicely if you’re willing to play with it to make it less awkward.

For instance, “small business marketing consultant in Toronto” fits nicely. All I did was add the non-substantial filler word “in”.

Without adding a word, I could also tweak the string by changing the word order. “Toronto small business marketing consultant” uses the same words, but I’ve moved the location to the front.

Keyword variations could include:

  • Changing the order of the words
  • Adding non-substantial filler words (such as “an”, “in” or “of”)
  • Removing non-substantial filler words
  • Switching between singular and plural
  • Switching tenses
  • Adding or removing suffixes or prefixes

How will this affect my SEO? It will make the page more relevant for a slightly different string. But the two strings are materially the same, so it should not devalue the main search phrase I would be targeting, even while it helps to support other searches my target market would make. If anything, this strengthens the SEO value of the page.

How will this affect my conversions? The text reads better. There is more variation in language, while still speaking to the customer’s own search. It’s a win!

Mix keywords

In the example above, I mixed variations of the same keyword string. But I could also mix keywords by using a slightly different, but similar, string of words.

In some instances, I might use “small business marketing services in Toronto” or “small business marketing consultant in Ontario” on the page. These similar, related keywords all support each other. Different terms help confirm what the page is about beyond just the specific words. This could be very important when elements of your keyword mean two very different things, such as apple, kiwi or headhunter. Synonyms, such as computer, fruit or cannibal, help search engines understand which meaning of apple, kiwi or headhunter you intend.

Work off-page, as well

One of the best ways to signal what your page is about with exact match keywords is in the link text pointing to your website from other pages.

That is often out of your control, but sometimes you might be asked how you would like to be linked. In those instances, you can offer up an exact match keyword that might otherwise look awkward on the page itself.

This is one of the attractions of “guest posting”, whereby you supply free content to another website – typically a blog – and the owner, in turn, allows you to offer a profile link for readers to follow back to your website. You can usually configure that profile link for maximum SEO benefit, such as using an exact match keyword link text.

But beware – don’t get carried away with exact match keyword links. That hardly looks natural. And contrived link-building is a no-no that search engines frown upon.

Both search engines and readers are important

You need to write for search engines to bring people to your pages. And you need to write for humans to convert them when they get there. You can’t afford to write for just one or the other.

Make the compromises you require to make sure you do both. These four tactics will help you build a sustainable marketing plan that brings your target market to you from the search engines.

Next steps

Need help writing for both people and search engines? Contact us now for a free consultation

Shutterstock & image graphic design: David Leonhardt

Republished from original post

Maureen McCabe
Proven Team Delivers Results. Do you lack the time, resources, or key marketing knowledge and need a marketing strategy and marketing plan to increase sales leads and generate more profits? Since 2007 many established and new small business owners in the US and Canada have worked with McCabe Marketing. Led by Maureen McCabe, they provide affordable marketing strategies and programs by drawing upon an extensive team of professionals customized for each client situation.

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