An SEO Dilemma: Should You Write Content For People Or Google?

If you read a lot of copywriting blogs you’ll undoubtedly find the debate surrounding whether you should write your content for people or for search engines…

Let me make one thing clear.

It’s probably the one thing I want you to take away from this blog post…

Search Engines are designed to interpret human behaviour.

Search Engines want to deliver the best content to answer their customer’s (searcher’s) query. In the past few years search engines have got smarter – a lot smarter, at interpreting what makes a piece of content valuable to people.

And that means whilst you should write content that Google loves, you must always remember that it’s the people who read your copy who you need to influence to take action.

And that requires you to ensure your content is valuable, relevant and interesting…

1.  Is your content Interesting?

One of the biggest signals to the search engines, especially Google, of quality content is external factors such as the number and quality of links pointing to a web page. By making sure your content is compelling, whether that be interesting, informative, controversial or entertaining, you increase the likelihood that other website owners will link to it or share on social media.

Remember. People link because there’s something in it for them in some way, and because something about your content compelled them to do so.

2.  Is your content readable?

Search engines can actually decipher the reading level of a piece of content and it pays to avoid common writing mistakes.

It’s important to bear this in mind if you are writing content for a wide reaching audience. Try to avoid jargon, complex words or technical terms if they are things your target market may struggle to understand. Another area where you need to spend time is making sure your content doesn’t have any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes within it.

Most people are lazy readers and will just scan a page looking for the content that they seek. They will only really stop to read if they see something that stands out to them. Keep your sentences short and direct, but don’t skimp on the content, the more content the better! But instead of writing an endless column of text, write short paragraphs and utilise a lot of white space. Remember to use bullet points, bold and/or italics to emphasise the key content. Do this and you’ll make it much easier for the reader to spot the key points you are trying to make.

3.  Is your content specific?

This is really important…

Google has to match up what a page is about with what people are searching for.

And this means your words need to match up with the way searchers most like to talk about it.

Keyword research and the use of keyword phrases within content is the one area where some webmasters fail to invest their time properly. Anyone who’s not interested in understanding the language used by their customers is simply not interested in being effective at marketing their business – search engine or not.

Keyword stuffing is not what Google wants, so get the notion that “keyword density is important for SEO” out of your mind. People don’t enjoy reading overly optimised content and therefore it is in the best interests of the search engines not to show it. I’m not going to lie to you because you can actually underuse your keywords in relation to an article or blog post. However oftentimes the case is that the majority of individuals who are new to SEO copywriting tend to actually overuse their keywords beyond what is really necessary.

SEO is invaluable for driving traffic to your website. But do not lose sight of the importance of keeping people at the centre of your writing and don’t forget your aim is to help the search engine bots understand what your content relates to.

How do you use SEO to attract customers? How do you ensure your write for people and not search engines? What concerns do you have about getting your SEO right? Please tell me in the comments below.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Start with the home page of your website and ask yourself:

  1. Has it been written mainly to score in search results?
  2. Is it interesting, readable and specific?
  3. How could you reword some of the sections to make it appeal more to your target audience?


Chris Dyson

Chris Dyson is a Freelance SEO Consultant and currently blogs about Social Media and SEO at Triple SEO.

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  1. Great post from Chris. I’m a great believer in writing for the people first and Google will follow! Not sure I agree that “most people are lazy readers”, most of us do a quick scan of copy because of time restrictions, so the suggestions here for highlighting key words, using bullet points and so on are very helpful indeed and will make the difference for me between reading the whole article (as I have done here) or moving swiftly on to the next web page.

    • Hi Lorraine, I really liked this post too. I think the term “lazy readers” simply means when reading online you don’t often give something your full attention unless it totally grabs you. Instead you glance over it before scanning and skimming through the text. And that means when writing online you need to make it really easy for a visitor to get your message. Bold and italics work well, as do informative subheads.

      We’re only lazy because website visitors have so much choice nowadays. What’s more, it’s just so easy to click away and find something else. As such it’s our job as online businesses to recognise this and do what we can to persuade people to stick around. Website design and of course written content are your key tools 🙂
      Georgina El Morshdy recently posted..How To Write A Killer Home PageMy Profile

  2. Ah! So leaving out the jargon on my website and blog posts gets me good SEO? Another reason to mention why I don’t do it. Thank you.
    Rosie Slosek recently posted..Do you want 1:1 help to stop your accounts being a procrastinating stress zone?My Profile

    • Google is evolving at ever increasing speeds last year there were over 500 changes to the search algorithm & this year is no different.

      Reading levels are definitely being assessed & I’m not 100% sure they have a lot of weighting right now in the main algorithm but Google is learning more about the types of sites you are visiting & is learning to tailor the search results you see based on your preferences.

  3. The best description I’ve read of how people read online is that they ‘mine for information’.

    That is, they don’t scan in the same way as they do newspapers – to get the main idea. They scan to find the relevant stuff and then read closely. Which means:
    signalling your main points via bullet points
    breaking up the text in terms of ideas
    making the ideas visible
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  4. Gone are the days where you can whip up a 400 word article, that you wrote in 20 mins after rewording the content from the 3-4 other sites on the front page of Google, doing that is essentially adding no value at all.

    If you think of it from an offline perspective it’s like someone deciding to start a new business, let’s say for example in ‘car insurance’. They then set up the company and research what all the other companies are doing and offering and they do exactly the same and offer no point of difference whatsoever! They have the same old stuff that everyone else is peddling. Sure they might have some success, but not as much as they would if they differentiated themselves and had unique benefits.

    Make sure your web copy stands out from the crowd.

  5. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for sharing!

    Great take on the lazy readers, I liked what you had to say. Plus, the blind five year old site you linked to rocked 🙂

    Much appreciated,
    Glenn recently posted..Maybe Your Business Should Stop BloggingMy Profile

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