What comes to mind when SEO is mentioned?

While absolutely relevant and a critical part of a successful SEO strategy, a good start on the technical side is certainly keywords, research, metadata, analytics, ranking, & more, but while SEO mandates a data-driven foundation, it also has to be user-facing. What does that mean?

SEO can’t succeed without an end-user on the other side consuming the content, engaging with it, and, ideally, converting into qualified leads.

So, how do we find that place where science and art meet? We focus just as much on the users journey as we do the data.

Here are five ways you can start writing your SEO content for humans.

Do the Work Before the Keyword Research

At Red Thinking, we have an SEO worksheet we send to clients before we dive into keyword research. There are all the usual suspects you’d expect: the top keywords they want to rank for, top locations for business, and top competitors. We look at what they’re currently ranking for and what their competitors are ranking for.

But we also dig deeper. There are key pieces that Google Analytics can’t tell us, and those are the pieces that will help us meet their exact audience, not just users who might fit a data profile. 

We want to know exactly how they speak to their clients, including the words they use or the specific locations. Google might know Washington, DC, but does it know the DMV? Does it know the difference between McLean and Tysons?

Or, for example, we have a client in Charlotte. If we’re doing keyword research, we’ll see various iterations on Charlotte, but we would only know from talking to the client that they would resonate more with someone looking specifically for the LoSo neighborhood rather than the general Charlotte area.

There could also be terms within their industry that are hyper-specific to their business. These are the details that we want to understand. We want to learn their regional and industry-specific lingo, so we understand the terms that people are actually speaking, using online, and looking up. This is the human language element that sets apart research that is driven exclusively by keywords and data versus research that looks at the actual 360-degree view of the target users.

Look at How Users Move Through Your Website

Your website has to be well-designed, and that includes gaining an understanding of how different users work their way through your website. Different users will come to your websites with different goals, and you have to create the user journeys and flows that will best serve them. Someone coming from social, a specific campaign, or organic search will all take different actions. Their engagement or conversion will look different.

That’s where the science comes in, and that’s why you need to understand, based on Google Analytics, what the user journey is once someone lands on your website. Get in the top pages in Analytics and look at where people initially enter and where they go next. Do they go to the home page and then the career page? Are they skipping over the about page altogether? You can use these insights to inform which pages you prioritize. This can help you rearrange and optimize the navigation to work with the user’s natural flow. 

This is the perfect meeting of both art and science, where you’re using hard data to understand people’s actions and create a more user-friendly and search optimized experience. 

Don’t Rely on AI

There’s a lot of AI chatter right now, especially in the SEO world. People are throwing up quick SEO pages written with ChatGPT and thinking they can fool Google’s ranking. They tell ChatGPT, “Write a meta description for me for this page,” but they don’t realize that all of their competitors may be doing the same thing.

And they all end up with variations of the exact same words. 

Here’s why that happens with AI. It can write based on the information that is present on the internet, but it can’t think. It can’t take into account the lingo (like we just talked about!), the area, the buyers, or the tone. It has no lived experience or context. It’s a tool you can use, but it lacks the ability to relate to a human.  

As SEO expert Neil Patel recently wrote in his newsletter:

“As more and more sites are producing AI-assisted content that targets the same keywords, Google will have to differentiate somehow.

We know content quality will play a huge role, as Google puts emphasis on Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).”

Avoid Filler Text

Think back to the last time you wanted to make a new recipe. You googled a few ingredients. Maybe it was for an apple tart. You landed on a recipe blog and…5 minutes later, you’re still trying to find the recipe.

It’s the filler text. It gets you every time. And that’s because these websites are written for SEO, not people. It’s a strategy that some websites choose to use, and it could work for them. But we don’t rely on keyword-packed filler text because, eventually, Google will ding you for it. 

Yes, you should have a certain number of words on a page, but, if those words are not valuable to a reader, you could actually end up ranking lower. The human experience matters, and Google knows it.

Understand that Foot Traffic and Website Traffic are Different

SEO gets people to your front door. Google tells us who is searching for what, and those people will scroll by our website. They’ll see us on page one. They may even pop their heads in on the home page and browse around. These impressions are valuable!

But website traffic is different than foot traffic. For example, if you’re a builder, you want to reach potential home buyers online, even though you know the people who navigate to your website via SEO are never going to convert at the same rate as someone who walks into your office with their own two feet. They’re not going to buy a house from a website that popped up on Google.

Those same people, however, are valuable because those pageviews build awareness. If you recognize each user as a human and continue to target them at the right point in the process, then you can funnel them from website traffic to foot traffic.

That process involves merging the art and science.

You look at the users and views you’re reaching from organic search and what their engagement time is. If it’s ten seconds, these probably aren’t your future buyers and you need to shift your strategy. If it’s a minute or more, then these are the users you want to continue to target.

This becomes an exercise in looking at data, making keyword updates within the site, watching the engagement rate go up or down, and adjusting accordingly. 

Technical SEO is 50% of the puzzle. The human reaction is the other 50%. 

Putting SEO for Humans Into Action

To bring the art and science of SEO together, it takes a team of SEO strategists, UX designers, copywriters, and web designers working in tandem. We all know there’s an overwhelming amount of content out there right now. Rising to the top of Google’s page one isn’t enough. Your content has to rank and it has to be engaging. Together, the right team with the right knowledge can create an experience that’s both designed for Google and for humans.