The Art and Science of Content Engagement: Writing for People AND SEO

We’ve all done Google searches and come across articles that seem like they’re all keywords and no substance, leaving us wondering who they were written for – robots, perhaps?

When it comes to digital marketing, content creation is both an art and a science. It’s a constant challenge to produce copy that resonates with human readers while also appeasing the formidable algorithms that dictate search engine rankings.

The aim of authentic content marketing is to make real connections with real people. They’re the ones buying your product or using your services, after all. The ultimate goal is to convert these human readers into customers, subscribers, or engaged followers.

However, there’s a significant caveat. Before you can engage your audience, they have to find your content – and to do that, you have to make it to the top of the search engine results list. To reach readers and earn organic leads, you must pay close attention to search engine optimization (SEO).

Like it or not, ranking high with search engines makes a huge difference in reaching readers. Achieving the #1 spot on Google results in a click-through rate of 27.6% and is 10 times more likely to get a click than a page in the #10 spot. A post with ineffective SEO simply won’t get seen at all.

This isn’t to say we need to cater to the SEO algorithm at the expense of our human readers. Quite the opposite. Striking the right balance of writing for people and SEO leads to effective, engaging content that peaks on search results and piques readers’ interest.

Writing for People: The Art of Creating Human-Centered Content

Even as AI is actively changing our relationship with technology and creativity, you should still employ a human-centered mindset when designing and selling products. To capture and engage your human audience effectively, you need to focus on creating fluent, genuine, and engaging copy. Your content should resonate with your target readers, addressing their needs, interests, and pain points.

  • Understand Their Needs: To connect with your audience, you must find what resonates with them. What are their challenges, questions, and desires? Tailor your content to provide solutions and insights that effectively address those requirements.
  • Earn Their Trust: Authority is the cornerstone of successful content. Human readers are more likely to engage with content that demonstrates expertise, reliability, and authenticity. Be transparent, cite credible sources, and offer valuable insights.
  • Engage Their Interest: Your content should drive home the unique value of your brand to your readers. Share customer stories and present use cases to illustrate the tangible benefits of your products or services. Real-life, relatable examples allow readers to truly envision how they can benefit as a customer.

Writing for SEO: The Science of the Algorithm

While we’d love to imagine our content magically appears in our target audience’s browser, the reality is we have to engage with the digital gatekeepers first. To get our words in front of our target (human) audience, we have to, as Ken Jennings put it, welcome our new computer overlords.

Content writers must keep the principles of search engine optimization top of mind. These rules serve as valuable guidelines when planning a piece. At the same time, overstuffing a blog post with every search phrase results in copy that’s robotic, often not very useful to the reader, and is certain to be penalized by the search engines.

Instead, think of keywords as just that – keys to open the doors to the front page of search results. Here are some best-practice tips for striking the right balance of human- and SEO-friendly copy:

  1. Choose the top two or three keywords that naturally fit your topic, so it doesn’t feel like you’re forcing it. Or, start with your keywords and develop your piece around them.
  2. Search engines scan headers, subheads, and meta. Incorporate your keywords into these elements for maximum impact.
  3. Don’t overuse keywords. Employ some semantic variation (terms related to your keywords) to enhance relevance without making your copy feel stilted and repetitive.

Working a few strategically chosen keywords and other metrics into informative, insightful, and reader-friendly copy engages your audience while earning a top spot on the results page.

A Balancing Act: Writing Engaging Content for Both People and SEO

While it may seem like writing for people and writing for SEO require distinctly different approaches, they actually have more in common than one might think. Striking the perfect balance between the two gets your content in front of readers – and keeps them engaged.

Readers, human and computer alike, respond best to content that is:

  • Readable: Ensuring your content is easy to read and understand is a shared goal. Both people and search engines appreciate content that is well-structured, clear, and scannable.
  • Unique: To engage your human audience, focus on delivering unique and valuable content. Offer fresh perspectives, original ideas, and innovative solutions. Search engines also value unique content as it stands out in search results.
  • Relevant and Timely: Address current and relevant topics that pique human interest. Be in tune with the latest trends and developments in your field. Search engines favor content that aligns with what people are searching for.
  • Well-researched: Incorporate research into your content. Cite authoritative sources and use internal and external links. People appreciate informative content, and search engines reward linked content because it demonstrates depth and connectedness.

In the quest to strike the perfect balance, keep in mind that while search engines might be the first readers of your content, the ultimate goal is to engage and convert human audiences. Your content should be a bridge between these two realms, effectively addressing the technical requirements of SEO while offering valuable and engaging content to real people.

Achieving equilibrium between writing for people and search engines is possible. By understanding the unique needs of both, you can create human-centered content that not only ranks well but also resonates with your target audience. It’s in this delicate balance that the art and science of content marketing come together.

The Art and Science of Content Engagement: Writing for People AND SEO
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Anna O'Neill

As a writer at Version A, I spend my days crafting all sorts of content for our clients. From blogs to white papers to customer stories - you name it, I’ve probably written it! My background in science and the arts means that I approach each project through a double lens of research and creativity. Whatever the topic, I look at every piece as an opportunity to teach myself something new, and hopefully help readers learn something too. My constant writing companion is my little mutt, Scout.
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