“Don’t write for robots, write for people”—that’s a phrase you hear a lot in the content marketing world. But, in truth, it isn’t great advice. The truth is that if you want to rank, you have to write content that Google will love too.
Of course, we should all be aiming to create truly valuable content that our readers will enjoy, but if nobody ever reads it because it fails to rank, it’s utterly pointless.
That’s why a much better piece of advice would be this: Write for both robots and people. The goal should be to create well-optimized content that strikes a good balance between the two. Content that ranks well, generates a lot of traffic, provides real value, and converts.
With that in mind, here are some tips on how to write content that both people and Google will love.
Target the Right Keywords
While arguably less important in recent years, keywords are still pretty essential to SEO and content marketing campaigns.
If you want to drive traffic from the SERPs, it’s important to target keywords that people are actually searching for and that you stand a chance of ranking for, which means looking at search volumes and keyword competition.
Get Straight To The Point
Google’s search engine spiders determine what a page of content is about by looking at the first few paragraphs, so it’s important to get straight to the point. Your target keyword should appear in the first 100 words of any article that you post.
You should also try to address the main point or answer the reader’s question early on in the article. If you’re writing a response post that answers a specific question answer it straight away—you can use the rest of the page to elaborate or provide additional details.
The reason this is important is because of something called dwell time, also known as Average Session Duration. It’s a measure of how long visitors spend on a page before clicking away and an important SEO metric. Google likes to rank content pages with higher dwell time over those with lower dwell times.
If your website visitors don’t find the answer to the question they came for straight away, they might immediately click off to look elsewhere for the answer – and that hurts your dwell time.
Write for a 7th-Grader
Readability is another hugely important SEO metric. Nobody likes to read complex pages full of jargon and huge, hard-to-understand blocks of text, especially not web audiences, and Google knows this.
As a search provider, they want to present searchers with the best possible user experience, which is why they like to rank highly readable content. The more readable your content is, the better it will rank.
So how do you write ‘readable’ content? Well, an often-touted rule of thumb is to write for a 7th-grader. That means shorter sentences, simple grammar, and simple vocabulary. The Hemingway app is a great tool that can help with this.
Write Useful, Long-form Content (but avoid fluff)
Recent studies show that long-form content has extra ‘ranking power’. According to one influential study, the average length of content that ranks in the top 10 results on the SERPs is over 2,000 words.
The upshot of this is clear: if you want to write content that Google will love, write more rather than less. However, there is a stipulation to this – you should only write content that is genuinely valuable to your readers.
The reason long content ranks better is that it covers a topic in-depth, but if those extra words are pointless fluff, it can have the opposite effect and hurt your dwell time and your SEO. Write more if you can, but if it isn’t useful, don’t include it.
Use Heading Tags
Subheadings are important for two reasons:
- They help to break up your content into readable chunks
- They help Google to figure out what your content is about.
Google looks at HTML heading tags to put together a picture of your content and decide how it should rank, so you should include your keyword and related keywords in your subheadings and wrap them in the right heading tag.
The title of your article is the most important heading and should be wrapped in an H1 tag. If you’re using WordPress, the post editor does this automatically for text in the ‘title’ box.
All subsequent top-level subheadings should be wrapped in H2 tags. Subheadings within subheadings (heading 3s) should be wrapped in H3 tags, and so on. You can set tags in WordPress by highlighting your text and changing it to the correct type of heading in the post editor.
A good rule of thumb is to break your content up into many sections using subheadings, with no section longer than 300 words.
Use SEO-Friendly URLs and meta-descriptions
Believe it or not, the URL of the page is also important to SEO and it’s a good idea to change your permalink settings to make your URLs short and keyword-rich.
For example, let’s imagine we’re writing a post targeting the keyword ‘best skiing destinations in Australia’.
A good example of a URL might be:
A bad example would be:
These are just a few tips that will help you to write content that Google will love, but this list isn’t exhaustive. In addition to the aforementioned tips, there are many other on-page SEO best practices and, with each update to the Google algorithm, things change.
But there is one thing that will never change: Google will want to show readers genuinely useful content that deserves to rank.
That’s why, above all else, you should aim to write great content that satisfies your reader’s search intent. That’s all there is to it!