As content strategists, developers and writers, we know it’s easy to get stuck in a mindset of “rank for search”. We also know that the search mindset can make it easy to “de-humanize” your content.
We recently had a client that wanted us to use specific keywords and wanted us to use a tool as an indicator of our success. That turned into a conversation with one of our writers, who is somewhat of a purist (any kind of tool is keyword stuffing), and that is now turning into this blog post.
The purpose of this post isn’t really to debate the use of this tool or that, or whether any kind of content development tool that uses keywords is keyword stuffing. That’s just the jumping off point. Our content developer brings up a good point that we’d like to share with you, our readers.
Writing just to please search engines is not only useless, but it de-humanizes the content in a way that is very noticeable. It’s easy to see when you, the reader, is not the target market – especially when the target market is a bot.
Successful Search Content Has to Be Quality Human Content
Content needs to be humanized in order to be successful. It has to resonate with the reader, eliciting some kind of emotion. That emotion can by humor, or curiosity, or even anger (rants are big business), but it has to do something.
Not only that, but you have to be really careful when writing keyword-focused content rather than topic-focused. Search terms are often unusually worded; how can you write those keywords in a way that seems natural? -And why, if you’re ranking with your artificially stuffed content, does it really matter?
Here are a few reasons it’s important to write for humans, even when trying to rank for search engines:
Content builds trust: The more often a reader comes to your blog or site for answers about a specific issue in your niche, the higher your authority in their mind. If, however, a reader comes to your site and sees keyword stuffed, obviously spammy content, you’ve given trust no foundation to build on.
Quality, informative content gets shared: The better the content, the higher the likelihood that people – either peers in your niche or potential customers in your target market – will share it. You want your content to be passed around like cheap booze.
Quality content gets links: The more who read your content, the higher your perceived authority. The higher your perceived authority, the more likely others are to take that extra step and link to your content. – And no matter how often some people try to ignore it and say it isn’t so, links still make rank. True, it’s one of many signals, but it’s a big one.
However, all of the above benefits go by the wayside when you start to put up keyword-stuffed, low quality content.
How to Be a Human (and Write Like One)
You, too, can be a human. (Well, most of us can. There’s no helping some people.) You can step away from the singular idea of ranking with content and reach both goals of higher ranking + positive reception. All it takes is a little bit of thoughtfulness. Here are five ways to effectively humanize your content:
1. Write in the first person.
First-person experiences can help humanize your content while also making it more personal for the reader. The benefits of first person content are many:
- it’s more engaging: if we wrote “I”, you’d feel much more that you knew the person behind the mask. Which is why we often have singular members of the Level343 team write their own articles.
- it allows for better stories: imagine – “as we were walking down the street the other day, we had an idea…”
- it makes your content more relatable: you can focus on personal experience rather than making generalizations
There is a certain personalization that goes into first-person writing that can be beneficial to anyone who is looking to write something with greater impact. Choosing to write in first person instead of third gives your reader a sense that you are standing right next to them, sharing your thoughts with them, and they feel like they’re getting an inside view into your mind.
First-person writing allows for a greater sense of intimacy with the reader because it places you in the direct focus of their attention. In essence, then, writing in the first person will make your voice more personal and relatable and help readers get to know you better as a person rather than just another author. (Although, the Level343 team is never “just” another author… we have writing swag)
2. Write from the perspective of your reader.
To humanize your content, you need to write it from the perspective of a human. Not just any human, but your potential reader. Ideally, think of a real person whose traits match your buyer persona.
Why would Sally, business owner of XYZ company, want to read this post? What problems is she having? How can we help her with those problems in a few short thousand words or so?
Some great benefits of writing from a reader’s perspective include:
- Becoming more personable with your readers, as you can really understand them on a personal level.
- Being creative and coming up with new ideas, as you can explore topics that you would have otherwise never thought of.
- Building a stronger relationship with your readers by sharing your story and letting them delve into it as well.
- Expressing your own personal voice gives you an opportunity to be creative and unique.
- Creating content that is more compelling and likely to be shared.
However, you have to be careful about making your witticism too personal, as it could alienate some readers. Deploying wit is a delicate balance that requires considerable skill (even if we do say so ourselves).
3. Don’t use a writing bot or article spinner.
AI writers are just getting smarter and more advanced, but they still cannot write personal or human content. This is because they don’t understand the meaning of the words that they string together and can go off on tangents because some words have multiple meanings based on their context.
So, if you want your content to be personal, then don’t use AI writers—write it yourself, find an intern, or hire content marketing services like Level343.
Writing bots allow you to create content at scale, producing a large body of work through automation. But it’s a mistake to create content at scale. Writing, choosing images, and organizing ideas is a craft. Mass production of generic content dehumanizes your content.
And, of course, never use an article spinner. It will take hours to edit out the gibberish—time that you could have spent writing an original article.
As an aside, the above specifically leaves out content marketing tools such as SEMRush, that help you stay topically focused. One of the many issues with writing content is that prolific writers can easily go off topic. Content marketing tools can help you pare down the parts that have nothing to do with your topic, leaving you with a cleaner, more pointed article. In this way, you don’t waste the readers’ time with rabbit trails.
4. Understand your audience.
The importance of understanding your audience can’t be emphasized enough. If you don’t understand them, you can’t target your marketing to a message that resonates with them. You can’t create content that brings a positive reaction. Or – if you do, it’s a fluke that you can’t repeat.
Ultimately, you want to create content that resonates every time. No, not everyone is going to click on that buy button just because you wrote a kick ass post. However, buy isn’t the only (or shouldn’t be) CTA on your site. If they share the post, or talk about it, or remember that your content helped them one time, your content resonated.
The surest way to understanding your audience is by getting to know them. Learn who they are and what they want, which will help you create beneficial content. One way to do this is by interacting with your audience on social media. You’ll not only start getting feedback from them but also observing what topics they like.
5. Write in different genres.
Depending on your message, you should write in a way that is informational, promotional, persuasive, or entertaining. -And, you can switch that up occasionally. There’s nothing wrong with tooting your horn once in awhile; for example, posting a press post when you’ve achieved some great honor. There’s nothing wrong with stepping out of informational to post a rant, or post a short blurb about something when you normally provide long content.
Writing is an art, not a science. Don’t be afraid to use your creativity to stay on top of the ever-changing marketing. Ignore the little voice that tells you you can’t write that poem about SKIL saws that you’ve always wanted to write on your home improvement blog. So what, if you share your love for cookies in playdoh characters for your food blog. And yes, it’s okay to talk about how much you like macaroni pasta for crafting on your craft blog.
Be yourself. Be passionate about what you write about. Should you think about search engines? Yes. Of course – ranking is an important consideration in a Google world. But should it be your most important consideration? Absolutely not.
So, humanize your writing. You are, after all, a human, marketing to humans..