Eat healthy and exercise. That’s the bland, boring “secret” behind achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. We all know it, even as we regularly hear about (and maybe even place hope in) new diet trends and quick weight-loss fixes.
The secret behind writing optimized content that sounds natural is pretty bland and boring, too. It basically boils down to this: know your audience and write for that audience. Don’t write for the search engines—write for the people. You’ve probably heard this advice before. You might not want this to be the solution. Seriously, there has to be something else, right? That CAN’T be it! But nope. That’s basically it.
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Great content is audience-centric. It doesn’t revolve around a company-centric message or what you might want. It revolves around what the audience wants or needs. The audience has to value your content, or the search engines never will (and if they do, what does that matter if the audience just leaves, unimpressed?).
The audience has to value your content, or the search engines never will.
Yes, search engines look at keywords, but they serve as just one factor among hundreds that determine if your website content will rank. If you’re worried about targeting a specific keyword, a single reference in the page’s content will suffice.
And guess what?
If you’re writing about a specific topic or trying to answer a specific question for your audience, it will naturally show up in the content at least once, if not more times. I can’t write about “how to win an auction on eBay” without mentioning “eBay” or “auction” or even “how to.” Those words will naturally flow into and optimize the content as I try to answer the question.…just like they should naturally appear in the title that describes the page, as well.
In short, your topic will guide you.
Don’t believe me? Don’t believe that just one mention of the keyword should be enough? Then believe Rand (because he’s Rand). He starts talking about this issue around 1:47 in the video, but feel free to watch the whole thing…because he’s Rand and he’s just that good at what he does.
Creating value for your reader should supersede anything else.
If the goal of a blog post is to sell your product or services, that’s fine. But you should be digging to the bottom of the topic, putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and asking yourself “So what?” about what you’re trying to do. Check out the below visual (pulled from Ann Handley’s infographic) to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.
I’ll leave you with what I think are the two most important tips to rock the content on your website.
Know Your Audience
Know what they want and what they’re searching for. Then tailor your content to them. You can use tools like AnswerthePublic and Google’s Keyword Planner to find out what topics people are researching or what questions they’re asking. But keywords shouldn’t be your focus. The people—your prospective readers—should be. Get to know who they are and what they want. Do research to find out what websites and content currently resonate with them. Ask yourself what you want the audience to gain from reading your content, then go from there.
Find Your Tone
Search engines may not pick up on your tone—whether you’re warm, sarcastic, funny, or trustworthy. But readers will. Combined with the great advice you’re offering, it’s the thing that will keep them coming back for more and will encourage them to share your content with others.
If you cover these two things, the search engines will follow. They will follow the fact that visitors don’t bounce off your website. They will follow the fact that your articles get shared on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social platforms. Even if your messages don’t go crazy viral, with the passage of time, the search engines will start connecting the dots.
In the end, just write for the people. If you write for them, you’ll be writing for the search engines, as well.