Should you write the web content of your site for the search engines or for your site visitors? The short answer is: Your web content must be written for both search engines and your visitors but the needs of your readers must come first. Search engine visibility makes it easier for your visitors to find your site but when they arrive, if the content isn’t engaging and informative, they will quickly decide to look elsewhere.
So how do you find the right balance?
Writing effectively for visitors and search engines begins with understanding what each are looking for on a web page.
- Search Engines Look for – Links, keywords and phrases in different locations on the page as well as relevant combinations of keywords. But if the content features too many keywords and doesn’t flow well, the search engines will determine that you are spamming the keyword to influence ranking and will penalize the site.
- Site Visitors Look for – Content that gets right to the point, is formatted so that they quickly and easily find what they are looking for, and is written in plain, easy to understand language. Remember that before anyone reads a web page, they quickly scan it first to decide if it is worth their time. Only after they have made that decision will they read it more thoroughly.
Professional SEO copywriters use a variety of techniques that accomplish both of the goals, some of which include:
- Keywords in Titles and Subheadings – This works for both parties because the search engines tend to recognize this as a credible source of information and rank the page accordingly. For readers, titles and subheads make it easier for them to quickly find what they seek on the page.
- Links which Contain the Keywords – It’s a delicate balance because too many links will make the page difficult to read for your reader but these links also add to the relevance of a page from a search engine crawler’s perspective. Readers also like links because it makes it easier to find additional information. However, it’s better to have fewer links which lead to quality content than lots of links that distract and make a page look too ‘busy’ in a visual sense.
- Bolded Text – Using the occasional bolded word or phrase, without overdoing it, makes it easier for your readers to find what they seek on a page. It reinforces the main points that the writer wants to make and stand out for the reader to find.
- Numbered and Bulleted Lists – These are effective because they break the text of a page into smaller pieces that are easier to assimilate quickly. Dense blocks of text are intimidating to a reader and very few will take the time to scan through a page with no breaks.
Bear in mind that these approaches and others are highly situational. It all depends on the intended audience and their sensibilities. But if the content is written for the reader first and foremost, better ranking opportunities will eventually come through quality inbound links and repeat visits by the very people that you want to reach.