Writing for Search Engines vs. Writing for People

Writing a blogThere are several different ways you can write content. One common distinction is the difference between writing for search engines and writing for human readers. Another common distinction is the difference between timely articles that will likely die out quickly and core forever-content that will apply years down the line.

Knowing who you’re writing for changes both your strategy and writing significantly.

Writing for Search Engines vs. Writing for People Writing for Search Engines vs. Writing for People

When you’re writing for search engines, there are a few things you tend to pay attention to. First of all, you want to make sure your exact keyword phrase is in your title tag. You want to make sure you mention the keyword a few times in the article, preferably near the beginning and end and at least once in a subhead.

You might also want to try and tie in a sub-keyword or a related keyword. You can get these related search terms by typing your main keyword into Google and scrolling down to the “related searches” area.

On the other hand, if you’re writing for human beings your goal is to create the absolute best content you possibly can. You won’t create a title with a keyword in it unless it sounded natural. Likewise, you wouldn’t insert keywords into the text unless it sounded natural.

The mentality behind creating a site with a search engine focus versus a content quality focus goes deeper than just keywords. It changes the way you manage your website and it changes how people perceive your site.

In reality, in order for a site to succeed, you need both search engine knowhow as well as a commitment to quality. A lack of either one can cause your site to fail. However, more of a focus on quality is often better in the long run for a website. Sites that try to game the search engines without high quality content will eventually get penalized.

Timely Information vs. Core “Forever True” Content

Real Time InformationThere are two different kinds of information on the internet: Information that’s mainly relevant for just a few days or weeks, or information that’s relevant forever.

A lot of sites do very well with just the timely information approach. For example, news portals like the Wall Street Journal provide just timely information and nothing else. Tech blogs like Gizmodo provide previews and reviews of products which in a few months will be old news.

The upside of creating newsy content is that there’s a lot of hot interest in the present moment. You can easily attract a lot of instant visitors. The downside is that in a few months, the effort you put into creating that content will have almost no effect.

The article won’t be getting much traffic, it won’t be ranked for significant terms and chances are you won’t want it on your home page. In other words, the value of the content piece has a limited time window.

On the other hand, “forever true” content doesn’t have the same kind of takeoff power as newsy content. However, instead of weakening over time, they tend to get stronger.

You’ll get more backlinks as more people discover your content. More people will comment on the piece, which will lend it more credibility. You’ll continually get traffic from search engines to your site. You might put it on your homepage as a core part of your user experience design. Content

In other words, though it doesn’t take off as quickly, “forever true” content can really help the long term longevity of your website.

So which strategy is right for you?

The newsy approach can work, if and only if you can take yourself out of the equation. Sites like Gawker, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, etc that have massive audiences based on newsy content all have one thing in common: They outsource the content to knowledgeable writers.

Trying to keep up a newsy-type site with just yourself is quite unrealistic. If you get sick, if you take a vacation, if you miss a beat, you jeopardize your whole business.

Most people running small to medium sized blogs are best off aiming for a mix of newsy to forever true content. Try to publish mostly content that’s relevant forever, while addressing the most important current topics in your industry.

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One Response to “Writing for Search Engines vs. Writing for People”

  1. Karl Craig-West on February 7th, 2012 8:23 pm

    Have to admit that this is a toughie. I’ve been wrestling with the balance between search engines and reader orientation on my blog.
    So thanks for the insight, you might well save me from much stress when I write.

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