We have watched the evolution of how Google ranks pages for nearly two decades now. The world’s largest search engine has the task and our website’s appearance in those search engines can be a huge benefit. search Engine Journal recaps the history of Google’s Algorithm updates here.
Ever since then users and webmasters have been scrambling to rank higher. Some have done better than others. Some have used manipulation techniques while others have spent money. All the while, Google has been moving towards rewarding pages for good content.
It is easy to get caught up in the hoopla of writing for robots. I get it. Google uses Artificial Intelligence to determine the rank of articles. Essentially, Google is one big robot. Search Engine Land tells us more about RankBrain,
Move over, Google search algorithm hand-crafted by hard-working Google engineers. RankBrain has moved in, a machine-learning artificial intelligence that Google’s been using to process a “very large fraction” of search results per day.
RankBrain works in tandem with every tool Google has including Hummingbird. RankBrain and Hummingbird work with every piece of software Google has to rank pages.
However, much of the determining factor is by how well the content is liked by, you guessed it, humans. As such we have to continue to write like humans are reading our content.
We knew last year that RankBrain was said by Google to be the third most important ranking factor, but Google refused to say what the first two were. Yesterday, in a Q&A with Google, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said the other two factors were links and content: Search Ending Land
Links and content are things directly affected by user consumption. Sure, there will always be attempts to manipulate rankings, but if the content is good, it will have plenty of links.
So, you see, it is important to write great content that is compelling and makes an impression on readers.
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Today we are going to discuss four ways that writing for humans makes your blog posts more SEO friendly.
Here is the TL;DR version:
- Use a clear structure so it is easier for your reader to follow.
- Write authoritatively by using good, quality resources and examples.
- Follow good formatting so that it is more readable.
- Finally, write compelling content by making use of stories, simple language, and visual language.
Write with a clear structure
To start, you need to make sure your article adheres to a simple structure and is clear with its goal and focus. Simply put, it’s hard to read without a good structure. It’s kind of like your uncle who rambles during Thanksgiving dinner. You have no idea what his point is and you can’t even follow his reasoning. Make your articles clear with a good structure.
Structure has a Search Engine Optimization benefit as well. As Marieke van de Rakt says on the Yoast blog,
Structuring a text well helps your readers to understand your text and, therefore, find the answer to the question they have. When Google notices you provide the right answers to certain queries, they’ll rank you higher.
When it comes to a structure, an outline, many people leave out something crucial. Each article should have an Introduction, the Body, and a Conclusion. The body should contain various points complete with examples and sources.
In order to give authority to your post, that structure must include references. References can come in the form of links to authoritative sources as well as examples.
Dan Shewan reminds us at Wordstream,
If you’re relying on third-party information to write your blog post, choose authoritative sources. Official associations, government websites, heavily cited research papers, and preeminent industry experts are all good examples. Nobody is right all the time, though, so approach every source with a the practiced skepticism of a journalist and question everything until you’re positive your information is solid.
A copyhacker formula
Joanna Wiebe created a formula that includes high standards for utilizing authority on your blog post. Her formula, which she reveals in a Tutorial Tuesday, is “2S plus 5E plus 10O times point of view.” Here’s how she breaks it down.
The 2S stands for two studies. Are there two studies that support your point? It might be something from a data-rich publication such as an academic journal or study. It may also mean a study you may have ran for your own business.
The 5E stands for five examples. She says in the tutorial, “Now, examples are often screenshots or things from a swipe file or whatever it might be, but five examples to support the point that you’re making.”
The 10O stands for ten links going to places off your website. The final part of the formula is the point of view. This is where we form an opinion about the topic, where we make an assessment.
Now, this standard that Wiebe created might not be attainable every time you write a post, but if you make a solid attempt, your post will be more authoritative than most in your industry.
None of that matters much if people can’t read your article very well. This is the very reason we need to practice good formatting.
Follow good formatting
Next, make sure your article follows a good format. Here, I am not talking about your structure. With your format, your article should contain shorter paragraphs, engaging images, and links that are easy to understand and makes it more readable.
Bill Widmer has a fantastic article on formatting your blog posts at Code in WP. One of the things he mentions is,
Formatting adds white space, which makes pages more scannable. Content is easier to consume if it’s in small groups, with important points called out.
He breaks down different ways you can make use of formatting including using headers and subheaders. However, you might find that formatting isn’t enough to make your content more readable by humans.
Write compelling content
Finally, your article should include compelling content, but you should also write like Hemingway. Hemingway was famous for expressing deep thought using regular, everyday language. Don’t use language that will make people have to stop to think about. Write like Hemingway.
But really, who better than Hemingway to emulate? Rather than embracing the flowery prose of the literati, he chose to eschew obfuscation at every turn and write simply and clearly.
Another way to write compelling content is to use stories. You undoubtedly have seen stories in the articles I write. That’s because it helps the audience resonate with the content.
Stories keep readers engaged
Kyle Gray, the author of Story Engine, writes,
It’s no surprise that companies that create compelling content get noticed. It’s in our DNA to be driven to act on stories that resonate with us. Stories change our hearts and minds. It’s the way humankind has passed on wisdom, overthrown tyranny, and sold you that vinyl is better than digital.
Visual language helps us feel
Compelling content can also be found in visual language according to Henneke Duistermaat. Henneke tells the story of how Steve Jobs used one vivid line to sell a new product, the iPod.
Within 11 years, he sold 350 million iPods. Why?
The unparalleled power of visual language:
1,000 songs in your pocket.
Abstract writing fails to connect with readers because you can’t visualize abstract concepts and generalizations.
She explains why visual language works,
In contrast, visual writing engages readers’ senses and allows them to picture your ideas. As readers start to imagine the positive impact your idea could have on their lives, your ideas become inspirational and memorable.
Compelling content, you see, includes visual language, storytelling, and simple language. Make sure that your content seeks to be compelling
Wrapping it up
Writing for humans make your blog posts more SEO friendly. Use these four tips to make your content more engaging for your readers.
Use a clear structure so it is easier for your reader to follow. Write authoritatively by using good, quality resources and examples. Follow good formatting so that it is more readable. Finally, write compelling content by making use of stories, simple language, and visual language.
The more we use these tips the better our writing will be and more useful for our audience.
Do you use any of these elements in your writing? Let us know in the comments below.