Do you blog for the reader or the search engine? | RAW Digital Training
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Should I be writing my blog content for the reader or for the search engine?

So we know blogs are an amazing way of getting content to readers, we also know that search engines ‘love them some blog content’, so who should we be thinking about when we write our content?  The reader, or the search engine?

Man sat in a chair reading a book

What’s the difference?

The reader is your human.  An individual who may happen upon your content and want to absorb your wordy goodness.  For the most part, we operate under the assumption that the reader has one or two eyes (though notably this isn’t always the case, but I’ll come back to that), and a brain with which to process said wordy goodness.

The search engine (we’ll use Google as an example) uses software to scan text, follow links (assuming they’re follow links) and build a proverbial picture of what the content is talking about.

So, it sounds like search engines operate at a disadvantage, I should focus on them?

Nope.  The process of content crawling is hideously complicated, but that’s what Google does really well.  The way in which they collect, index and serve up information to users constantly evolves, and they’re getting better at it every day.  Better at it, than say…humans.

Google can interpret a massive amount of information, but it can also cross reference it against lots of other databases too.  It can understand context, relationship and authority.  So when our human example comes along to Google and types “How do I solve my problem?”, the Google Gophers can not only understand what our human is asking, but where the most relevant results are.

Gopher chewing on the Google logo

 

This is what makes the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) such a golden place to be, it’s not just a random list of websites, it’s the result of a calculation, performed inconceivably fast, to bring you ten results that answer your question (sure, there are more than ten results, but the second page of Google is like a fire extinguisher; we know it’s there, but we hope we don’t have to use it).

Ok, Google’s SERP is genius technology, so I should focus on my reader?

Heck yeah!  Google has always been developing technology to humanise it, at least to understand things that can be related to a human.  The way this works is a closely guarded secret, but the nice folks at Google have always been very open, frank and honest, when they tell you this one important piece of advice.

Stop worrying about the search engines, and just write great content

There are of course some methods you can (and indeed should) use to make it easier for search engines (check out 6 things you need to know if doing your own SEO), but be under no illusions, you should write for your audience, not search engines.

What about software that helps people, like screen readers etc?

Screen readers are awesome pieces of software that reads content aloud for those who may be visual impaired.  Reading text content is relatively simple.  You type it, it reads it.  What they struggle with though, is images.  It’s the same problem with the software that crawls your pages for search engines; they’re not great at things like images.

You have a couple of different options when working with images to make sure that software is better able to understand what image you’ve added.

Best practises for image naming –

Filename: Could you tell me what DSC123823.jpg is?  No, well neither can search engines or screen readers.  Rename your images to something-that-is-easy-to-understand.jpg

Alt: This is text that’s displayed/read in place of the image.  If the image can’t be loaded for any reason, the text is used as an alternative.

Title: Often served up in the tooltip reveal over an image (the text you see when you hover your mouse’s cursor over an image).  Many dispute this field really helps search engines, assuming you’ve completed the alt field), but equally, it doesn’t seem to have a downside, so I like to include it.

It’s really all about the reader then?

Absolutely.  Your content, whether it’s an informative blog, a diary of your innermost thoughts (assuming that you want to make that public) or whether you’re chronicling an event, should be just…great.  That is what’s going to make people want to read it, share it, engage and interact with it.

If you start looking for ways to manipulate the tools search engines use to figure out your content, you’re just trying to game the system.  That’s what we call black hat SEO and it’s not a way you want to go (Use the force, Luke – fight the dark side).

So, aside from giving search engines a helping hand with stuff they may struggle with (e.g. images), please just write for your audience and community.  You’ll not only have a lot more fun doing it, but the result will be much better for the reader.

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