Marketing Resources

Writing for Both Users and Search Engines

4 minutes

Carrie Tennick, senior digital content specialist, April 15, 2021

Your website serves multiple functions. It presents information about your services, gives clients some background into your field of expertise, provides contact details and aims to convince visitors to take that final step and convert.

This means your site’s content has to be compelling, persuasive and informative. But there’s little point ticking all these boxes if your site doesn’t rank anywhere on the search engines.

So as well as writing for users, you’ll have to make sure you’re offering up what search engines – specifically Google – are looking for.

Writing for search engines

As we discuss in our guide to SEO, there’s a technical element to improving rankings and there’s an element that focuses on content. This latter aspect encompasses keywords and is about providing the right information for users.

Keywords are vital to a strong ranking position. So it can be tempting to shoehorn them in all over to really reinforce to search engines what your page is about. However, although this may have worked once upon a time, things have moved on.

Algorithms are slicker and smarter than ever, letting them deduce what a page is about without having your keyword repeated in every heading and paragraph. According to Google, “Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking”. This makes it clear that stuffing your page with keywords won’t do it any favours.

Search engines are now looking for quality content – the sort that fulfils your users’ intent and means they don’t have to click the back button to find what they were really looking for. This means writing well-constructed and thoughtful content, with keywords included naturally.

Google advises site owners to ensure their content “remains relevant and engaging”, while Bing encourages you to “create content for searchers not search engines”.

The best approach to creating content for search engines is to look at why users are landing on your page – take a look at your Analytics information for search queries. Then craft your content to provide what people are looking for. Comprehensive and thorough pieces that answer users’ questions feature on the most rewarded pages – not those with certain terms included superfluously.

And it’s not just the search engines that appreciate an avoidance of keyword stuffing. Users will struggle to read anything that isn’t written in a natural and conversational style.

Writing for users

One of the most important things to bear in mind when writing for users is that the average UK reading level is not as high as you might expect. The National Literacy Trust has pointed out that 15% of UK adults have a reading age equivalent to that of a nine to 11-year-old.

This highlights how important it is to make readability one of your priorities when producing website copy. Although your services are simple for you to understand, someone with no experience in your sector may struggle when they first come across them.

The Plain English Campaign has produced a guide on legal phrases that could be helpful when explaining your services to the uninitiated.

In addition, the campaign also recommends using short sentences and active verbs. It also advises referring to ‘you’ and ‘we’ and making use of lists. This can all contribute to clear writing, which will get your point across and give you the best chance of converting your leads.

So think carefully about the wording you choose and try to clarify subjects as simply as possible. But remember there’s a fine line between plain English and patronising.

If you’re not sure whether a page or section of copy comes across well, get someone without your level of knowledge to read it. Let them rate its articulacy. Make any necessary amendments based on that.

Appeal to both

When it comes to writing for both users and search engines, you’re relatively fortunate. Both are ultimately looking for the same thing: well-written, informative content that refrains from hammering home keywords.

If you can ensure your content is straightforward to understand, gives users what they’re looking for and has credibility behind it, you’re giving yourself the best chance of the search engines smiling on you.

All you need to remember is that your site exists for users. It exists to help prospective clients find you and learn more about what you can do for them.

Search engines want to provide a positive experience for their users. They need to serve up the most appropriate results for a search query or they risk sending those users to other engines.

You can make things easier for everyone involved by providing what Google wants: quality pages that are "factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.”

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