Write for people, not for Google algorithms

We’ve all heard numerous guidelines on how to come up with successful blog headlines that will be crawled by Google spiders and magically present themselves as top search results. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it doesn’t work this way. Quite the opposite. If you think you’re smarter than Google algorithms, think again. You have to create content for people, not for robots. Even if you outsmart Google for a moment, even if you figure out how to get a leg up, your triumph will be short-lived because Google will catch up. Fast. The whole point of having relevant marketing material is that it will last. It will work for you 24/7 without you having to pay its salary. Great blog posts will work for at least 1 to 2 years. People will keep sharing it. Your target personas will engage with it.

HOW TO WRITE GREAT CONTENT.

1. Stop trying to outsmart Google.

Outsmarting Google algorithms is not a smart thing to do. You have to retrain yourself. Stop thinking, “What headline will work great for Google?” and start thinking, “What headline will work great for people?” Optimize for the searcher, not for the search engine. HubSpot talks about this a lot, by the way, so read up on their blog posts, if you haven’t already.

2. Focus on your customer persona.

Your persona is your starting point. Built your personas correctly. Before you start tweeting or writing blog posts or making ebooks, make sure you know those people very well. Get intimate with them. Understand what articles or blog posts they will share, what tweets they will retweet, what they'll want to discuss with their friends and family and professional peers. Only after this can you create content that’s relevant for them. Content that they’ll be willing to pay for. Content that they will be interested in and will think about on a regular basis. If you do all this, then the Google algorithm will help you, because Google is trying to reward this behavior.

3. Don’t write garbage.

Write for people you’re interested in, and the rest will take care of itself. It doesn’t mean you can write bad copy. You need to learn how to write interesting stuff, not by optimizing for Google, but by learning how to write well. Here are four excellent books for you to read that will teach you how to write great stories, because even a blog post is a story. Even a tweet is a story. Everything is a story. The sooner you grasp this reality, the better content you will produce (and it helps with writing christmas cards as well).

  1. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. You must have this book in your office and use it. It will give you the basics of good English that are surprisingly omitted from many copywriting books you'd ordinarily pick up at a bookstore. 
  2. Meatier Marketing Copy: Insights on Copywriting That Generates Leads and Sparks Sales, by Marcia Yudkin. Standard field guide for every modern inbound marketer.
  3. On Writing by Stephen King. This is a must-read book for any writer. Even if you don’t think of yourself as one, you have to become one. As David Packard said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
  4. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenswriting by Robert McKee. Don’t be discouraged by the fact that this book seems to be for screenwriters. It will teach you story structure. Because even a tweet has a structure: beginning, middle, and end.
  5. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This book will enlighten you on the stickiness of stories and on how to come up with your own unforgettable ideas. And it will make you chuckle as an added bonus.

Your to-do list:

  • Come up with topics that will be relevant to your personas.
  • Read the books I have listed and try your hand at writing your own content. It's fun to create and learn!
  • If you find it difficult to write your own copy, hire a writer. Draft your ideas and ask your writer to clean them up and fashion them into compelling stories.
  • Collect your written pieces, hire an editor, and work together on publishing your content bundled into a book.
  • Have fun! Great stories are fun to write and fun to read. If they’re boring, rethink your content topics and shift direction. Better yet, ask your readers and customers what they want you to write about.