The #1 rule for blog content SEO: Write for your readers

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By Alexandra Reid

Blogs are widely known for their SEO-driving potential because they are comprised of content, which is what search engines use to locate and index results. With Google’s Panda update, content has taken centre stage and businesses that post quality material frequently have the best chances of being noticed when their audiences search for relevant terms.

In fact, as reported by Brafton via Search Engine Land, 92 percent of marketers say that content creation is either “very effective” or “somewhat effective” for SEO, and 57 percent of marketers have said that they have acquired new customers from their blogs. On the flip side, 60 percent of business decision-makers say branded content helps them make better purchasing decisions.

I’ve read a ton of information on how to optimize content for search engines, and the vast majority of it can be boiled down into one fundamental rule: write content for your readers, not search engines.

To faithfully obey this rule, you must frequently produce quality content that your readers care about. If they care about your content, they will click on it, link to it and share it through social media, which are the top drivers that boost search engine ranking. Most importantly, if you write content your readers care about, they will be able to find you. If you address their needs, they will come to regard you as a thought leader in your space and could ultimately become a customer, and recommend you to others. Attracting the right readers, the ones that will bring ROI for your efforts, is the criterion of a successful business blog.

Writing for people first and foremost means …

1) Knowing what your readers care about

As explained by Lee Odden on TopRank, writing SEO-friendly content “starts with understanding customer segments, behaviours and preferences for information discovery, consumption and sharing. Knowing what customers care about and how those concerns and interests manifest as search keywords and social topics folds very well into the keyword research practiced by professional SEOs.”

Our Francis Moran wrote a great piece on customer segmentation, which I suggest you read for an overview of what this requires.

2) Using keywords effectively

Branching off our first point, using relevant keywords and terms in your content is an effective strategy for getting noticed by search engines. However, search engines have evolved and continue to get smarter in the ways in which they find and index content that meets their searchers’ queries. Search engines are programmed to know that keyword stuffing is congruent with poorly developed content and favour articles that use keywords naturally. Not only do search engines know when you’re trying to trick them, your readers will be put off by redundant and repetitive keywords peppered into your posts. If you use keywords modestly and effectively, the quality of your content will improve, attract readership and boost your page ranking. There are a number of keyword tools out there that can help you plan relevant content that is optimized for your target readership.

3) Writing relevant content

Search engines know when a page isn’t about what it seems to be about, and you readers will find out just as quickly, resulting in a high bounce rate and a low search engine ranking. The benefits for delivering content that meets your readers expectations are numerous, including higher page rankings, more repeat and unique visitors, link backs and social media mentions. In fact, one in five social media messages include a link to content, and 60 percent of content-sharing messages specific to an industry mention a brand or product by name. Furthermore, Google is now using its +1 feature to improve the relevancy of its search results. So, writing relevant content that is likely to be shared is well worth your while.

4) Writing unique content

Search engines also favour unique content, because that’s what your readers are most interested in. If you’re spitting out the same old drab as everyone else, readers are less likely to read it and share it, reducing your search ranking. Writing about the same stuff as everyone else in your industry also pits you up against your competitors, which could be more established than you, using the same keywords.

5) Writing content that is easily digestible

With such an abundance of content on the Internet today, your readers need to be able to identify content they are interested in and consume it quickly. Use lists and subheadings in your posts to help your readers know immediately if your post provides the information they are looking for, and include links to additional helpful information. Apart from helping your readers, links inform other bloggers that you have used their content and direct them to your site. If they like what they see, you might receive a link back in return.

What do you think? Are you writing SEO-friendly content?

Image: Publishers Press


  • Lee Odden

    February 14, 2012 1:35 pm

    Great post Alexandra! Thank you for mentioning our post and a customer centric focus on blogging too. Optimize for people, then search engines :)

  • Alexandra Reid

    February 14, 2012 2:07 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Lee. I’m a big fan of your blog and glad I represented your expertise well here.

    Do you think I missed anything that might be helpful to our readers?


  • Nick Stamoulis

    February 21, 2012 9:44 am

    Ultimately it’s your readers that are going to decide to work with you or purchase from you or not, not the search engines. It’s important to consider SEO and optimize posts naturally, but including too many keywords results in a poor reader experience and is mostly just a turn off.

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