When you are writing content, one of the golden rules is remembering your audience. While it’s important to craft and fine-tune your words to satisfy Google and other search engines, your piece becomes worthless if it’s not friendly or engaging to the human eye.
Any SEO specialist will tell you the primary focus of your writing should always be to connect with people, not machines or robots. The more you can connect with your readership, the more effective and compelling your content will be.
But how do you go about writing web content that directly appeals to humans? We’ll share some tips so you (the writer) can build a connection with your audience by providing reliable content that is entertaining, informative, understandable, and most importantly – human.
What is human content?
Human content, or human-centred content, is about making your content accessible to every reader. From the words to any accompanying images, video, audio or metadata, it should welcome the reader with open arms, regardless of their physical and cognitive abilities.
Being “human” isn’t some magical marketing ploy. It’s “writing like you talk” so your readers see you in a human light. It’s involving your reader by writing like they are an integral part of the conversation and not just a fleeting passer-by. It’s creating something completely understandable and entirely relatable that doesn’t alienate the reader.
Remember that every word counts. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to your research, and endeavour to produce content of the highest quality. You wouldn’t hesitate to dot the I’s and cross the t’s if you were putting pen to paper, so why should it be any different on the web? Both Google and your readers are ravenous for content that has a beneficial purpose which aligns with the search query.
What does Google define as quality content?
Before we go into what Google interprets as ‘quality content’, it’s important to reiterate that this search engine powerhouse heavily favours content written for people.
Even though there are multiple search engines in the world, Google is where the party is when it comes to directing most of your search traffic. This is why it matters what Google defines and acknowledges as quality content, which then determines how your content is ranked in the SERP. So, what can you do to gain the approval of Google as a purveyor of quality content?
Write content for your audience, not solely for search engines
When you are writing, you need to put the idea of keywords firmly on the backburner. Long gone are the days when you can get away with stuffing your copy with keywords at the expense of well-written content.
Some brands still adopt this tactic to try and boost their search visibility, but all it does is create a poor reading experience for users and increase bounce rates, not to mention receiving a big thumbs down from Google.
Since the Hummingbird algorithm change in 2013, greater emphasis has been placed on natural writing rather than forced keywords. Only add keywords and keyword variants where they make sense to retain a human element to your writing, and avert any disruption to its ebb and flow.
Use your keyword research to understand the needs of visitors to your site, the type of content they crave, and the language used in their queries – try to bring a flavour of this into your copy. That way, they will be able to relate to your content and find it both engaging and meaningful. Checking out public forums or simply having a quick phone call with a customer are fantastic ways to see the type of language they’re using.
Black hat tactics like keyword stuffing concentrate on beating the search engine algorithm rather than delivering a memorable user experience. Prioritise the latter objective in your writing as your website content should aim to educate, serve, and engage your readers.
If Google is unable to locate quality content (no matter how it identifies it), people will move over to other search avenues. If you ever needed an indication of Google’s thirst for quality content, they’ve created a guide on how you can create quality, purposeful content.
Don’t overcomplicate your content
It can be tempting to think an overdose of flair and flamboyance is the best path to take. The art of writing great copy is actually in its simplicity. This makes it both easy to read and understand.
Tailor your content to the reading age/education level of your target audience, but be wary that complicated language can quickly abandon large segments of the general population. Try to use words you voice in everyday conversation – “add” or “gain” instead of “accrue”, “end” or “stop” over “terminate”, etc.
Go in with the mindset that none of your readership are experts. Another bad habit to avoid is filling your content with technical terms and jargon when writing for a general audience. Imagine you’re having laptop issues and you turn to Google for a tutorial in the hope of a quick fix. If the copy is littered with industry lingo, you (the average user) will quickly become disheartened as you will have no idea what terms like UI (user interface) mean.
Your writing needs to serve the purpose of keeping the reader happy by providing value. No matter how colourful or glitzy your writing is, if your readers are unable to interact with it, it offers zero benefit. Write clearly and simply, otherwise your users will signal to Google that the post is not meeting their needs.
Aim for scannable, longer posts
The fear of any lengthy piece of work is its potential to overwhelm the reader. Keep your content easy to follow. Again, it’s important to take familiar conversational behaviours and translate them into your work to create a relatable and logical format for the reader to follow.
When you speak, you take moments to pause for breath or allow the listener to absorb what you’re saying. Embrace line breaks to divide large blocks of text and make it easier for users to digest the information. Turn any long-winded sentence into two, and keep your paragraphs to a maximum of three sentences.
Breaking up your flurry of words with headings and subheadings is effective for presenting your content in an easily scannable way. As well as quickly guiding the reader to a specific point of interest on your page, it makes your copy look neat and aesthetically pleasing.
Don’t forget about bullet points as another brilliant technique to highlight important parts of your copy, in particular on mobile devices. They are especially effective in sales for directing the reader’s attention on key features and benefits of a product or service.
Search engines want to provide the best answers that match the search queries people have, so the secret to success is adopting a lay approach to both thin and thick content.
Measure your content’s readability
There are a number of tools online that can test the readability of your content. You want readers to hang around so they take the next step after reading your content, whether that’s clicking the ‘Buy Now’ button or learning the most effective way to do a task.
One of the most widely used readability barometers is the Flesch-Kincaid reading ease formula. Based on your average word and sentence length, your writing will receive a readability rating from 0 to 100. The higher your score, the easier your writing is to read.
By shunning long words (three or more syllables) and keeping the average length of your sentences down, you will find it easier to match your reader’s expectations and abilities with your writing style.
If you’re speaking in a conversation, you will rarely repeat the same word or phrases in every sentence. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overegging the keyword on your radar, but search engines are intelligent enough to link multiple phrases to the same concept.
Varied language stops your reader from reaching boredom, but it also makes for a richer and more organic reading experience. Taking a step back after you’ve placed the final punctuation mark and reading your work out loud is enough to spot if something sounds clunky, or if there is another synonym that might bear greater fruit.
A little tip here is to use the COMMAND + F function to find all the places where your keyword is sited. Does your content roll off the tongue easily so that the speaker doesn’t become tongue-tied? If not, make the necessary tweaks to ensure it flows better.
Bring your own personality
Unless you’re an impressionist, your own personality should shine through your content, like it does when you are in back-and-forth dialogue. Ignore how Google will construe your copy and think how you can tap into your readers’ emotions. How do you want them to feel when they read your work, and how are you going to achieve this? Is it sad, inspired, full of laughter?
Everyone has some kind of story or narrative that they are a sucker for, so bring your originality to the page. It’s extremely difficult to reinvent the wheel completely given most topics have been covered on the web, but that doesn’t stop you giving your own spin on a particular subject or theme.
Crafting your content into a story and showcasing an attention-grabbing brand voice that appears novel to your audience means your content is more likely to be shared, gain links, and entice traffic.
Write how you talk
All that has gone before in this guide ultimately links back to “writing like you talk”. This doesn’t mean in a literal sense, as this would mean including all those space-filler words like “um” and “like”. What it actually means is sounding natural and conversational, aka Human to Human (H2H).
This is the only way to connect with your reader. Ask questions, use the second-person voice, dust it with personality, throw in snippets of their language. It’s about keeping your content straightforward and relatable so you and your readers can stand on common ground.
Communicate without showboating so your readers don’t have to struggle to understand your message. This doesn’t mean you “dumb down” your content, but present it in a way that screams warm and inviting to prospective eyes. In other words, your copy should be written with the door open so the reader can soak up your energy and ideas.
Does your content sound human?
The moment you stop writing for humans and start shaping your content for search engines will signal the fall of your empire. Your content needs to make sense by being easy to navigate, readable, and helpful so even the most impatient readers don’t click off your page as soon as they’ve landed on it.
Stop trying to sound smart. Clear, concise writing is the hallmark of high-quality content. When it comes to tip-top writing that sings to your fellow participants in the human race, less is always more.