Without a doubt one of the biggest hesitations my clients and other copywriters have when it comes to SEO copywriting is: how do I write for both humans AND Google?
Today I’m here to tell you that it’s the same thing.
Yes, writing for Google will actually help you become a better writer and evidently, write for humans. By the end of this article, you’ll understand why.
- Why Is It Important to Write for Humans And Google?
- 5 Ways to Write for Google and Humans
- Final Thoughts on Writing for Humans and Google
Why Is It Important to Write for Humans And Google?
Writing for humans means that your content will actually serve its purpose which is usually to build trust with your audience, drive people to sign up for your email list and sell your offers. However, if you don’t also write for Google/SEO, then you are dramatically decreasing the likelihood of perfect-fit customers finding your content in the first place.
One copywriter I chatted with over zoom put it perfectly: you can’t write content for the web and ignore SEO. What she means here is that the two are so intertwined and that they can’t really be separated anymore if you want to stand a chance of getting any ROI on your content marketing efforts.
But there’s this huge debate over how much SEO concerns should ‘intrude’ on your writing. Personally, I think this debate comes from a lack of understanding of what SEO copywriting actually means, as people assume that writing for Google is stuffing keywords into content haphazardly.
Let’s break that stereotype by diving into my top 5 tips for writing great content that Google understands and that humans love.
5 Ways to Write for Google and Humans
Tip #1: Don’t Keyword Stuff
It’s very tempting to just plug your keyword into your content and hope that’ll show Google that you’re really talking about your topic, but it won’t actually contribute much to your content or your ranking.
Since the BERT algorithim update, Google has become much more sophisticated in understanding search queries and what content is actually about. It’s able to now process all the words in a sentence and their relationship to one another leading to more accurate search results for searchers and a higher understanding of what a piece of content is about.
This breakthrough was the result of Google research on transformers: models that process words in relation to all the other words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order. BERT models can therefore consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it—particularly useful for understanding the intent behind search queries.
This means that nowadays it’s much more important to be including lots of topical and related terms in your piece of content so that Google can really understand what you’re writing about.
Let me give you an example.
If you’re writing about making a pizza, it’s only natural that you’ll mention things like dough, cheese, mozzarella, base, wood-oven, fire, pepperoni, parlour, restaurant, homemade….and a bunch of other related terms.
Google interprets your piece of content as whole and doesn’t just rely on the occurrence of one or two keywords repeatedly to understand a piece of content.
So stuffing your keyword into every other sentence is no longer an easy way to get Google to rank your content for that keyword, not to mention it makes a horrible reading experience for people coming to your site and is unlikely to convert them.
Keywords are still important for your content, but simply repeating them over and over again won’t help you rank or get humans to enjoy your content. Make sure you’re covering a topic in enough depth to be including a lot of related terms. One way I make sure that I’m doing this is by using a tool called Frase.io which pulls out all of these terms for me for any given keyword. Then it shows me if my content has used any of those terms to give me an overall “topic score”.
This topic score is then measured against the top ranking posts on the search engine results page to help me see if my content has covered the topic as in-depth as them.
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Tip #2: Write clear, Simple Sentences
Google and humans alike hate long and needlessly complicated sentences. When you’re writing for the web, especially with SEO in mind, making sure your content is readable and scannable will help both Google and people understand your content.
If you find yourself writing “and” a lot see if you can cut it out and start a new sentence instead. It’s also important to remember to keep things relatively conversational. Writing for the internet is very different from writing a high school English lit report.
While I don’t want to give any super hard-and-fast rules about what type of reading level your copy should be at, typically you should be aiming for grade 5-6 on a readability scale.
You can use a tool like the Hemmingway App to make your writing more clear, concise and understandable (for Google and humans alike).
Tip #3: Don’t Bury the Lead
This is an old journalism saying and it basically means don’t make your reader waddle through a lot of fluff before you get to the point.
When it comes to SEO copywriting it’s super important that when you ask a question you answer it immediately. Doing this will increase your chances of showing up in the FAQ section of the search engine results page (AND save your readers from working too hard to get the answer they’re looking for).
Here’s a great example of someone immediately providing a helpful answer to the question being asked. What they didn’t do is start the sentence with something like; “well it depends because I remember one time my puppy Scoot cried a lot during the night, but we didn’t take him out and then the next day….” They get right to the point and earned this featured FAQ as a result.
Tip #4: Clearly Structure your Writing
Structuring your writing involves a few different elements like dividing your writing up into headings and subheadings, bullet lists and proper paragraphs.
Google likes this because they know that HUMANS like this – it makes your writing easier to follow and understand. People hate super long paragraphs and content that isn’t easily scannable, especially in the age of the internet.
But in order to show Google that you are properly dividing up your content you need to make sure you’re using the right html heading tags.
If you just bold/change the font size of your headings, but are still writing them within <p> </p> tags, they may LOOK different to the human reading them, but Google only sees that everything is regular body text and isn’t properly divided.
Make sure you’re breaking up your content with actual heading tags (<h1> <h2> <h3> etc). If you aren’t sure which ones to use I’ll share an analogy from my podcast interview with Wes McDowell on the Profitable Website Podcast. Wes says to think of it these headings like those Russian dolls that all fit into each other.
Here’s an example from my own post on case studies on how to “nest” your heading tags.
Tip #5: Make your Posts a Multimedia Experience
I know this post is about writing for humans and Google, but there’s a lot to be said for creating a multimedia experience in your content too.
Adding media like images, podcasts or YouTube videos will help keep people on your site for longer and the longer the session time, the more good signals you’re sending to Google about the quality of your content.
Here are some ways to make your posts more engaging
- Turn the post into a podcast and embed the episode at the top of your post
- Add images, especially infographics, to help break down information in a clear, informative way
- Embed YouTube videos, either your own or other people’s that can help give further clarity to your content
- Add a Typeform poll and collect data (then turn that data into a post!)
- Add a videoask which is a cool tool that works almost like a chatbot, but in video form – great for engagement
- Add GIFs to your posts (who doesn’t love a good GIF?)
- Embed an Instagram post
- Embed a tweet in your post
- Create a “Click-to-Tweet” and pre-populate a tweet for readers to share (I use Ultimate Blocks to do this)
Just a heads up: embedding things like this into your post may slow down your page a bit, but if you don’t go overboard and have great hosting etc I don’t think it’s a big deal.
Final Thoughts on Writing for Humans and Google
To be honest I think at this stage it’s a false dichotomy.
The way I look at it is that the data and SEO content briefs are the skeleton of my writing. They’re there to provide support and structure to my words for a specific purpose. Then the actual writing part is just well… good writing skills in general.
Your reader shouldn’t have to work hard to understand what you really mean and by simply being clear, direct and structuring your writing properly you’re doing a lot to help Google also understand your content.
The only thing that I would mention that affects my writing is making sure I’m using enough “semantic entities” in my posts to ensure that Google can understand what topic I’m writing about.
(Think of semantic entities like the related terms to your main keyword that I mentioned earlier – this is just their fancy name).
I need to make sure I’m using enough related terms and topics to help Google decide if I’m covering a topic in-depth or not. I do go through my writing and swap out terms for different semantic entities that I pull up using tools like Frase.io, and if I wasn’t writing with SEO in mind then I probably wouldn’t bother. But honestly, it doesn’t affect the quality of my writing at all because any replacements I make still make sense.
Got questions about any of this? Hit me up in the comments section.
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Kerry Campion is an SEO copywriter for course and membership creators. Her gig is writing SEO copy that sounds nothing like SEO copy so her clients get the organic traffic they want, WITHOUT sacrificing their brand voice and badassery.