In the beginning, search engines were merely a shell of what they resemble today. Previous algorithms placed a heavy focus on keywords within content and other on-page factors (Meta tags, titles, and descriptions). With such a simple ranking process, people began to abuse the system with “black hat SEO techniques” such as keyword stuffing and cloaking.. As the quality of search results began to diminish, the algorithms were updated (and continue to be). Many previous SEO methods are now penalized, and the primary focus has shifted to improving the user’s experience by better understanding the searcher’s intent.
Search engines such as Google and Bing, are a business, just like yours. Their goal is to provide customers (those using search) with the best experience possible by giving them the most satisfying search results. In order to deem what would be “most satisfying,” search engines attempt to match relevancy to the searcher’s intent by evaluating other user’s experience and their personal experience (if applicable). If search engines see that a site has a high bounce rate (when a user views only one page and then leaves the site), or if the time on site and pages per session are relatively low, they will take that as a bad sign and reorder their rankings based upon performance. Other websites that users consistently bounce to and stay on will be seen as providing a better user experience for a specific search term/topic and will improve in the rankings.
So when creating content for your site, know that yes, you should still focus on keywords within the copy and other on-page factors (meta tags, titles, and descriptions), but you also need to place yourself in the user’s shoes. By offering your business’ message in a clear, concise manner that matches the searchers intent, more than likely the user will stay longer, explore more of your site, and possibly perform an action you deem a conversion (contact submission, phone call, direct sale, etc).
Before developing content, most people create an outline and plan that contains main focal points, what the desired actions of the readers are, and when and how the message will be disseminated. Shouldn’t your target audience be taken into consideration during this planning process as well? Businesses need to develop personas that encompass different segments of their target audience’s interests, roles, and concerns. This way they can determine which topics are most relevant, and how to shape their message to be most effective.
To ensure your users will have a satisfying experience, your message must speak to their interests and concerns, all while using their specific terminology. For example, for a B2B company, content around a similar topic would change drastically dependent upon which audience they are writing to. If the message is crafted towards business owners, the content will heavily focus on financial benefits such as ROI. Whereas if the message is directed towards marketing managers, the content should focus more on the process of specific services, and areas of improvement.
The same is true for a B2C business, except instead of focusing on a hierarchy of positions within a business, they target specific traits within a demographic. Their message should speak to a specific audience based upon factors such as geographic location, age, employment, education, etc.
Regardless of the industry you’re in, you need to make sure your content speaks to the message your audience wants to hear. Writing for a persona as compared to blindlessly writing, could be the difference between just a page visit, and a page that leads to a conversion. Also, to guarantee you’ve provided your users with all the information necessary, encourage questions and comments for further discussion/elaboration via comments or email. This way they’ll never need to travel to a competitor’s site to discover answers to the questions you failed to address.
Writing strictly for search engines is a thing of the past. In order for your site to truly perform well, you must put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. Before you create content, develop the personas of your business’ audience. Map out their interests, roles, and possible questions. Then, develop content intended to enhance their user experience.
By: David McDowell