Marketing July 2, 2015 Last updated September 18th, 2018 457 Reads share

Content Writing: Reader First, Then The Spiders

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Spiders? What? Where? Don’t worry – not real ones! A “spider” is simply just a piece of programming search engines use to read your site. These non-creepy crawlies tell Google and the like where to put your page in its search results.

However, it still baffles me that many people sill make the SEO mistake of writing for these spiders first and not their readers. Can I give you a hot tip? Don’t do this!

The biggest mistake people make when writing their online content – especially websites and blogs – is stuff their keywords in wherever they can find a space.

Unfortunately, this creates content that isn’t very reader friendly. It’s poorly written, keyword stuffed, boring content that will cause your ideal customers to turn away. Think about how you read on the web. The words that capture your attention and make you linger a little longer are interesting, informative, education and entertaining, right? Wow words, even.

That’s why it’s important to write for the reader first in every instance. Just remember, reader first, search second. But if you’re really clever – and you are – then you can write for both at the same time.

Here is a round-up of tips and tricks used to appeal to both readers and search engines.

300-500 words to a page 

Search engine spiders need about 200-300 words to understand what your page is about. But readers also don’t really want much more than that, unless you have something really cool and compelling to say. However, I would like to point out that there really is no hard and fast rule about how long content should be. At the moment there’s a trend of shorter blog posts coming through of up to about 200 words, while others say over 1200 words is where it’s all happening. I know this may seem a bit contradictory, which is why I stick to 300-500. It’s a nice round number to really get your message across.

Keep paragraphs short

Short paragraphs are quick and easy to read, and both search engines and your readers will thank you for this. It makes it easier for everyone all round.

Tip: Stick with left-aligned text. Centred and justified text can be hard on your readers’ eyes, and as we’ve discovered, people read very differently online.

Write meaningful, compelling and quality words

Meaningful to a search engine means whacking your keywords into the first few words of your headlines and content, making sure you have a page title and meta description. Meaningful to a reader means text that tells them how to do something or is the answer to their prayers. It gets their attention and compels them to read the next group of words, whether that’s a secondary header or the lead sentence or call to action at the end. It wows them.

Make the content count

The first two paragraphs are the most important for readers, so you want to pack all the good juicy stuff in there. For search, this means your keywords and key phrases. For your readers, it means don’t waffle – just get to the point and give them the info they need to keep reading. This keeps everyone happy.

Tip: Find an interesting piece of information (statistic or tip) to lead in with and hook the reader. Then use the five Ws and the H (who, what, when, where, why, how) to really drive your most important info home. Add in some words about the problems you can solve for them and their eyeballs will widen with excitement!

Break the content up

There are a few ways you can achieve this:

  1. Sub-headers – To kill off any unwanted block text or text-heavy content, use a sub-header. No one likes a big blob of text smacked on the page, not even search engines.
  2.  Bullet points and numbered lists – These work well because who doesn’t love a list? It’s easier on your readers’ eyes and they will consume it more effortlessly. Plus it helps Google (I mean all search engines) work out what is good quality content as bullet points make the text look different in search engine’s “eyes”.
  3. Bold and italics This makes words stand out. It’s used by spiders, which are looking for appealing info. You can highlight the keyword phrases if they are relevant to where you want to draw your readers. But don’t go overboard – it will just look messy and obvious, and will make it hard for the read to focus.
  4. Pictures/infographics/videos/images – The way search engines look at a page takes in pictures and visuals along with headers and your text. That is why we think of the page like an F. A header runs along the top, then some text moves down the page on the left with a graphic on the right, broken up by text or a sub- header that runs part way across the page, with text underneath to the left. If you think of a newspaper page or a magazine article, they are often broken up to make it easier for readers to navigate the page.

Write like you speak

Write like you’re having a conversation with your reader, who you should think of as your bestie. This works for search engines too because they are focusing on conversational keyword phrases like, “How do I cook a chocolate mud cake” and your readers will find you much more human.

In general, your reader must come first. Some may disagree, but if you don’t write for your reader first, who will look at your website? Who will you engage with? And who will you convert and sell to? If you create quality content regularly, your readers will be happy and will keep coming back for more, while your organic search ranking will improve because you have made the search engines happy too.

Images: “Content written on the paper on a wood background/Shutterstock.com

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Elizabeth Campbell

Elizabeth Campbell

Elizabeth Campbell is The Word Stylist. She's loved writing ever since she was 4 years old and penned her first book. A published journalist at 14, Elizabeth had a 13-year marriage to the media as a journalist and editor working with international and independent companies. The creator and founder of EC Writing Services and the author of the book WOW Words on the Web, she now specialises in helping small businesses look good online and teaching people how to write online content that rocks.

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