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How to Write Content for People Not Search Engines

Content is dead. Long live content. 2019 has signalled a tectonic shift from the content creation strategies that once worked – with keyword research a central theme, to a more dynamic and sophisticated content model. Readers want the answer to the problems they didn’t even know they had. And your SEO rankings depend on giving it to them. Forget everything you knew about SEO. The future of content is now.

Should you create your content with your human readers in mind, or Google?

It’s a debate that’s been raging for years.

But with Google becoming more nuanced in the way it understands and ranks content, it’s no longer possible to split your attention 50/50.

In fact, writing with Google’s ranking algorithm in mind will end up doing more harm than good.

If you’re pre-occupied by content length, keyword density, and LSI keywords then you’re writing for Google and that’s not good.

The simple truth is, creating content that speaks to humans is the most effective way to rank content.


In fact, you should forget about Google and SEO completely.


That isn’t to say that on-page SEO is dead.

Far from it.

But while content was once an opportunity to leverage keywords to try and improve your rankings on Google, times have changed.

Content has evolved to become an authentic channel allowing you to connect with your human visitors and compel shares, traffic and engagement. And you no longer achieve this through matching singular keyword intent.

In fact, keywords are no longer the beating heart of content in 2019.

According to a recent study which looked at 600,000 keywords and how they rank on Google, 18% of ranking domains ranking in position #20 or higher had zero keywords in the text at all.

Despite this, those 18 % of websites still had substantial traffic, quality backlinks, and organic social shares.


So, what can this teach us about content creation?


Here’s the takeaway - If you’re knowledgeable and providing a high level of value within your content, your keywords will appear naturally.

So forget about adding keywords and start adding value.

In 2019, you should focus on optimising your content to match search intent. Not what people are searching for, but why they are searching for it.

According to Vytautus Palovis, SEO Team Leader at Oberlo, “Gone are the days when backlinks and keyword density were the only things you needed to focus on. SEO has evolved and search engines are more sophisticated, which means that SEO is becoming more interesting and dynamic.”

This may seem confronting after years and years of hearing that keywords were central to rankings. However, this change has even the playing field. It is no longer about the largest budgets or the most creative loopholes.

Instead of looking for shortcuts, you should start asking yourself broad questions about your audience and their needs.

What does your audience want to know? What do they need to know?

Once you’ve figured this out your job as a content creator is to start adding layers of value on top of what your audience will be looking for.

What can you add that your readers may not have even thought of, but will want answers to when they dive into your content?

Content that is built to solve every possible problem, address every possible concern, and provide information from every conceivable angle is the new gold standard.

It is all about the user experience.

By the time you finish reading this article you should have a burning passion to create content that people want to share. Content that increases engagement. And content that drives traffic.

And these are all business building outcomes that are driven through content written for people, not search engines.

Why You Should Write for People Instead of Search Engines

Before we get into the how of creating content for people over Google, we need to understand the why.

In 2019, Google’s algorithms have evolved beyond simple keyword metrics.

What would have improved your rankings 5 years ago would see you buried in the SERPs today.

Inserting keywords with calculated precision and failing to write clear, easy to understand, and people-first content will have two negative effects on your ranking goals:


a). The impact of keyword backed content has been reduced as Google has embraced machine learning and personalisation, so creating content with keyword intent will fail to move the needle.

b). Your keyword backed content will not be user-friendly as it will be clunky and over optimised, so your user signals will suffer and fail to move the needle.


What’s become increasingly clear is that content written for Google over people won’t just see your rankings stagnate, but actively hurt them.

In other words, content that ticks every technical box, possible but fails to educate or inspire, will do nothing for your organic rankings.

Instead, people will fail to engage with your content, fail to share your content, and fail to interact with your website.

All of which will send your rankings plummeting.


Struggling to adapt to the new, highly fluid demands of keywords?


Since Google’s 2011 Panda Update, the importance of keyword usage has steadily diminished.

Now, the quality of content has become the most important factor. As a result, your content should contain a range of ancillary keywords that show Google you have covered a topic in depth.

To simplify the process, using keywords to rank is now measured as a result of their contextual weight, rather than their exact usage or density.

Using a TD*IDF logarithm enables you to see which particular keywords should be included to add contextual weight to your content and help you rank for more valuable search terms.

For example, if you wanted to create content around ‘Small Business Loans’ you could use the TD*IDF formula to find out which complementary terms will help you rank for ‘Small Business Loans’.

Using this innovative formula you’re able to identify which words you’re overusing, and which could be inserted to boost your ranking efforts.

Interested in creating more relevant content to help you rank on Google?

Try the TD*IDF feature for free.

5 Ways to Create Content People Will Love

  1. Have a clear objective

The key to delivering value for people is to understand the goal of your content before you start writing. You should have a single objective and single audience in mind to help you structure your content and tone of voice. 60% of people struggle to produce content, so by setting out your goals early you’ll be best placed to turn your ideas into something practical.

  1. Take time to research

Even experts in their field take the time to research an article before writing it. What additional information can you find to strengthen your position, or deliver more value? Your research phase should also help you create the skeleton of your article. Knowing your intro, middle and conclusion will make writing the content much simpler.

A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute showed that only 42% of B2B marketers have conversations with customers as part of their audience research. So take the time to speak to your audience and understand what type of content will most resonate with them.

  1. Cite your sources

Adding relevant statistics and quotes can add depth and add value to your content. But sources without citation are useless. Show you have taken the time to build your content by quoting all original sources where possible.

  1. Edit (then edit again)

It’s easy to spend so much time focusing on your objective that you forget to stay on top of the little things - punctuation, spelling, grammar. Your audience will be brutal with their judgment of spelling errors.

Free online editing tools like Hemingway Editor and Grammarly can help ensure your content is error-free.

  1. Make it educational

Making sure your content is educational and useful is the most important box to tick when writing for people.

Do your words have meaning? Are you truly solving a problem? And are you explaining your position clearly?

Your readers should be able to walk away from your content feeling like they have learned something new as well as practical steps they can take to implement their new knowledge.

3 Content Ideas That Put Your Readers First

It’s one thing to know you should do something. But another thing to actually implement it. Creating stellar content doesn’t happen overnight. However, by immersing yourself in content and understanding what works and what doesn’t you’ll become your own content writing expert.

Until then, consider the following 3 examples of content that will deliver value to your readers in 2019 and beyond.

How-to Guides

Your content should always provide value to your readers. Not implied value, but actionable, meaningful value that drives tangible outcomes.

Provide a new approach to an age-old problem or a simplified way to achieve the same results, and your audience will devour your content.

Long gone are the days of hoarding knowledge or advice in the hopes that secrecy will compel conversions later in your sales funnel.

In 2019 and beyond the measure of a successful business or marketer is to provide value for free.

According to Michael May, Content Manager at Paperclip Digital, “Value isn’t just a buzzword. It doesn’t appear without undertaking the necessary time and effort to conjure it to life. Be forceful and clear. This starts in your headline and shouldn’t end until you sign off with a powerful conclusion. If your content isn’t thought-provoking, clear, and telling people things they didn’t know they wanted to know, you’ve failed.”

Instead of seeing free value as giving away information, you should view this process as developing your reputation as an industry leader.

Consider the following pieces of content:

What do they all have in common?

They all offer the promise of a simple and actionable guide to achieve a clear and defined goal.

Consider your business.

What do you do that solves the problems of your customers?

By writing down the process of these problem-solving services you will have created content that people will engage with.

It’s easy to think you don’t offer anything of value. But put yourself in the shoes of your audience. They are not experts like you are. What seems commonplace to you may provide a new perspective that your audience had never considered. Turn this into a how-to guide and you’ll be creating people-first content.

New Research

Depending on which source you believe, between 2 and 3 million blog posts are written every day.

While blogging was once hailed as the next big thing in SEO, it has become an echo chamber that offers diminishing returns.

Business owners and marketers have been pumping out blogs with such regularity that they’ve diluted the digital space and made it harder than ever to get noticed.

If you regurgitate the same content topics that everyone else has already covered, would you expect your readers to care?

As part of your content strategy you should seek to add new value to the conversation. This may come in the form of new opinions from industry experts. New findings from the most up-to-date research. Or new data from a recent survey you have conducted.

Successful marketing is rooted in data-driven decisions. So test your own marketing theories and use them as the basis for new content. Not only will this fresh approach assist your content in standing out above the rest, but by delivering new marketing figures you’ll help others who can use your findings to help with their own content goals.

Remember, creating content for the sake of creating content adds no value.

Doing the bare minimum, scraping other information and spinning it to appear original, or churning out 500-word articles because you’ve heard it’s SEO best practice, will not improve your SEO.

If you’re not adding value, you’re not making a difference.

Have an opinion

Marketing has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. What worked yesterday might not work today.

So everyone has an opinion. Use yours. Instead of keeping your strongest opinions to yourself, use them to create content and drive engagement.

Do you disagree that voice search will be the next disruptor in the SEO industry? Tell your readers exactly why. These pieces of content connect with readers.

It’s tempting to try and sit on the fence. After all, why risk enraging anyone?

In reality, your goal should be to elicit an emotional response. Whether people are enthusiastically agreeing with you and sharing your content with others, or aggressively refuting your claims and sharing your content with others, the end result is the same. You’ll be receiving comments, shares, and engaged users.

Forget about trying to please everyone. This approach will leave you pleasing no one.

Google’s algorithm will reward you for driving meaningful interactions, shares, and traffic.

The more social shares and backlinks you can attract, the more Google’s ranking algorithm will reward you with increased rankings.

You can achieve these outcomes by bringing your opinions to your articles. Taking a stand and defending it with relevant sources and data will allow readers to agree, or disagree with you.

Don’t get caught up in which camp they fall. By creating content that stands for something you’ll be driving the conversation and establishing yourself as an industry thought leader.

This will help you to generate traffic and grow your audience.


Content creation can be a challenge, particularly for those time-poor businesses who don’t have the flexibility to devote time exclusively to writing.

I recently spoke to Neil Patel, co-founder of Neil Patel Digital and Crazy Egg, who said that Content Upgrading is set to be the content strategy that most moves the needle on your SEO goals in 2019.


“Everyone is focused on content writing which works out great. But if you take your old content that is ranking well, and you update it, you’ll do better.

You’ll also find that a lot of your old content doesn’t rank as well as it used to. So taking those pieces of content, updating them, releasing them, helps you boost your rankings.

It is one of the simplest strategies that will work well in 2019 that is going to be very effective.”


So if you’re running short on time and have an existing content library, use it to your advantage.

Final thoughts

Content creation is no longer about tricking Google or hacking SEO.

The equation for success in 2019, and for the foreseeable future, is simple. Create content that your audience truly wants to consume and you will see success in the SERPs.

That means no more focusing on keywords.

No more focusing on generating links.

No more focusing on SEO best practice.

All marketing content will need to evolve to meet the high-quality expectations of attention-limited audiences.

So stop creating thin content with keywords in mind.

Start writing content with people in mind, and Google will reward you.

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Published on Apr 10, 2019 by Alexander Porter