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Writing for Audience Versus The Search Engines

Writing for Audience Versus The Search Engines

There are major distinctions between tricking a search engine and working with it.

Running a business results in having to make lot of tough choices. There’s only so much time in a day or dollars in a budget. Trade-offs have to be made. Should you hire a new employee or invest that money into a new marketing strategy? Manage your social media in-house or bring in an agency? At every level, there seems to be a balancing act of priorities and opportunity. When it comes to writing content, the apparent tug-of-war is between content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). On the surface, one has a user focus while the other aims to please the search engine robots. But are content marketing and SEO strategies really at odds?

Are Content Marketing and SEO at Odds?

It’s true that these are two separate disciplines. SEO includes technical and behind the scenes considerations not needed in external facing content marketing. Not everything is separate though, as both have the same ultimate goal: to attract the right eyeballs to the brand and its website.

Content marketing accomplishes its task by delivering the information users are looking for. Its created based on a robust strategy that focuses on things like buyer personas and brand discovery. It doesn’t stop at bringing a user onto your site, it directs users through it and encourages action. Good content also earns links as it gets shared across the Internet which can lead directly to higher search engine rankings—which sounds a lot like SEO!

SEO gets users to your website through better optimized rankings on Google, Bing, etc. It accomplishes its goal by making it easy for those search engines to understand what your pages are about and then matching users to the right pages. When it comes to writing content, this can include how keywords are used within copy, title tags, meta descriptions, and more.

The goals are the same, but when tactics conflict, which one should win out: the SEO or the content marketer?

Should We Prioritize for Humans or Algorithms?

What happens when your SEO specialist wants a specific keyword on your page and your content marketer wants something completely different? Which is more important? It’s not an easy question to answer. In my opinion these factors should go into making any of the tough choices:

  • The goal – What’s the reason for this particular piece of content? If you’re creating a blog post to be shared out to a mailing list, let the content marketer take the lead. If you’re trying to rank for a keyword, go with the SEO.
  • User experience – SEO will get users to your page, but you also want to keep them there and drive them to an action. Never sacrifice usability for more clicks. A frustrated user won’t come back.
  • Data – Arguing over something like a headline? Don’t just trust your gut. Back it up with some data and testing. Follow the lead of whomever can justify their position with solid reasoning.
  • Brand – Just because you can rank for a specific term, doesn’t mean you should. Both SEOs and content marketers should be experts in the brand’s target audience. Use that knowledge to help make decisions. Find the right audience, instead of chasing after everyone.

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The User Should Come First and The Search Engines Agree

The best rule of thumb for any business strategy is to give the user what they want. Fortunately SEO and content marketing can work in tandem on this effort. While search engines use bots and algorithms to inform rankings, they’re just trying to get the right information to the right user. Click-through rates, bounce rates, and link-building are all ranking influencers which are directly related to how users interact with content. Quality content marketing will always enhance SEO efforts. The more you serve your users, the more you’ll be rewarded in search.

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