Effective SEO is not just about keywords – it’s about understanding your audience, empathising with them, and tapping into their needs. Welcome to the world of human-centred SEO.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) involves a combination of technical expertise, link building and content optimisation to put your content at the top of Google’s search engine results.
When I started out as a freelance copywriter one of my first ever paid jobs was to write SEO content for a network of dental surgeries around Australia. I pumped out 15 pages of almost identical content with ‘dentist Perth/Sydney/Brisbane’ shovelled into as many headers as I could manage. It didn’t matter how clunky they sounded (and believe me they were pretty awful), it was all about quantity.
Thankfully times have changed. Today, writing for SEO is more about writing for people than it is about writing for bots.
What is human-centred SEO?
Nobody knows exactly how the Google algorithm works (except Google, presumably!), but we do know it rewards content that is useful and relevant to its users. It makes sense – Google provides a service and to stay competitive, it needs to give users what they want in as few clicks as possible.
The algorithm is always updating and draws on a wide range of different things including online reviews, usability of your site, whether it’s written by a known expert, links to your website and the quality and relevance of your content. It actively discourages and penalises content written to manipulate search engines.
This is where human-focused SEO comes in. It aims to create google-friendly content that does more than hit a keyword quota. Instead, it empathises with your audience so your articles, blogs and copy connect with the questions they’re asking and answers they’re looking for.
3 ways to make your SEO content more human-centred
While SEO involves far more than just the content, there are a few things you can do to approach your content in a way that will appeal to both Google and your customers.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re taking time to understand your audience, producing content with the aim of making their life easier and putting their experience first, you’re already most of the way there.
Here are our top three tips for creating SEO content that focuses on people, not page ranks.
1. Know your audience. Human-centred SEO starts with a deep understanding of your customers’ wants and needs, their behaviour and their intentions when they type a question into the search bar (or ask Siri or Alexa). Once you have this information, you can then create content to be useful, relevant or entertaining. Keyword optimisation is important, but (unlike in my early dental blogs), it shouldn’t take priority over the reader’s experience.
2. Embed keyword research into your content strategy instead of making it an add-on. Rather than creating a list of blog articles then looking for the best keywords to match, try doing it the other way around. Find out what the most commonly searched questions are, then create articles around those specific topics. Tools like Answer the Public and Ahrefs can give you a list of searched terms for different subject areas.
3. Consider user intent for each page and pick keywords accordingly. If you’re doing keyword research, or you have an agency you’re working with, make sure your keywords match the user intent for each page.
In many ways this is common sense. You don’t want traffic for traffic’s sake – you want people to convert. To do this, your content needs to give them what they’re looking for.
For example, if they’re looking for information to solve a problem, use ‘how,’ ‘what’ and ‘why’ phrases in your content. If you’re writing a product page on an e-commerce site, you may want to choose more conversion focused keywords that include ‘buy’ in them.
Does human-centred SEO content have to be written by a human?
For years, Google has been penalising people who try to game the system by using automatically generated content. These days, human centred SEO doesn’t necessarily mean the content has to be written by a human, but Google still stipulates that it should be written for humans rather than search engines. Whether you’ve written it yourself or had some help from ChatGPT is less important than why you’re writing it.
More recently, Google has also started looking at context, relevance and how useful your content is – not just whether it reads well. This is where we see AI’s limitations in action. ChatGPT may be able to produce a reasonably well written piece of content, but it lacks the contextual understanding and empathy to really tap into an audience’s needs and know what’s useful and what isn’t. Oh, and it makes stuff up.
Human-centred SEO is a win-win. By understanding your audience and tapping into their needs, you can create content they will love and find useful – while growing your online visibility and hopefully, your sales.
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