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Writing for Search Engines: Optimize for Robots or People?



Writing for Search Engines: Optimize for Robots or People?

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Google processes more than 8.5 billion searches every day. That’s more than 100,000 searches per second, thousands of which could lead a user to a purchase.

It’s no wonder, then, that 60% of marketers list SEO as their number one inbound marketing priority.

But generating organic traffic comes with challenges. Google has hundreds of billions of webpages in its index, competing for the top spots on search result pages. Not to mention, when you’re writing for search engines, you technically have two audiences: bots and humans.

Let’s look at how these audiences compare and see who you should be writing for.

Writing content for SEO: who to write for

Bots and humans are the chicken and the egg of search engine optimization. You need humans to make a sale, but you can’t get the humans without the help of bots.

The question is, which one comes first on your priority list? To answer that, let’s define each of these audiences.

Writing for humans

Human readers are the ones that can eventually make a purchase and become a customer. When making purchase decisions, humans need product details and pricing, but that type of information usually isn’t enough.

If you want to create content that resonates with a human audience, your content needs empathy, storytelling, and emotional reasoning. Studies show that storytelling, in particular, releases oxytocin in the brain, a hormone associated with positive feelings such as happiness and trust.

A story framework for marketers, starting at setting the scene to ending at the resolution of the problem.

Storytelling also helps you structure your writing in a way that’s easy for human readers to follow and understand. Ultimately, when you write for people, you want to have a clear message that connects with humans.

Writing for robots

In this case, the robots we refer to are search engine crawlers or spiders. Unlike humans, web crawlers can’t buy a product from you, no matter how great your marketing.

But bots influence your position on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), which impacts whether or not human readers will see your content.

Search engine spiders respond to optimizations around indexing technical SEO. In other words, you want to use your keywords and heading structure to make it easier for bots to figure out the context of your content.

How to pick your audience

An analysis done by FirstPageSage found that the top-ranking article on Google’s SERPs receives an average CTR of 39.6%. And by the time you get to the 5th position, the average CTR drops to 5.1%.

If your goal is organic traffic, you need the help of search bots to get more human eyes on your content. But you never want to sacrifice your human audience. After all, they’re the only ones who can become your customers.

So, the answer to our question of which audience to choose is: Both.

This sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but the good news is they’re not mutually exclusive.

Google has continued to update its search algorithm to better process natural language and measure performance metrics that affect the user experience. These updates have made it easier to create an SEO content marketing strategy that works for both audiences.

How to write SEO content for humans and robots

Writing SEO-optimized content that works for crawlers and people is all about balance. You need to understand which elements impact each target audience the most and include them without ruining the experience for the other group.

Here are some steps to improve your SEO content strategy and drive more organic traffic.

Word choice

Word choice matters most for your human readers, but there are some aspects that apply to search engine bots.

For bots, you want to stay concise and make your content easier for Google to read and establish context. To do so, remove fluff terms, choose strong words over adjectives, and avoid long, multisyllabic words.

Here are some examples of how you can tailor the word choice for Google bots.

  • “Open the app” instead of “simply open the app”

  • “We’re thrilled” instead of “we’re very excited”

  • “Required” instead of “mandatory”

Choosing words for humans requires a little more nuance. First, avoid language that insults your reader’s intelligence, such as the word “clearly”.

Second, opt for specific terms instead of general ones. For instance, “50% of respondents” is clearer than “many respondents”.

Finally, use inclusive language. Words such as “humankind” and “they” encompass more people than “mankind” and “she”.

Reading level

People search Google to find answers, not to read college-level explanations. Lowering your content’s reading level gives humans a more pleasant user experience.

Reading level doesn’t impact SEO rank directly. However, it can affect page experience metrics like dwell time and bounce rate, which impact SEO.

The Flesch Reading Ease score is a tool you can use to analyze the readability of your text. For instance, you can benefit from online tools like the Hemingway Editor that use Flesch score to test your writing.

The Flesch score uses average sentence length (ASL) and average syllables per word (ASW) to get your score, ranging from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the easier your content is to understand. Your score can also be connected to a Flesch-Kincaid reading level, which compares your writing difficulty to a school grade.

Here’s how the scores are divided by grade level:

  • Any score above 70 is easy for 7th grade or lower to understand

  • Scores between 60 and 70 are 8th to 9th-grade reading level

  • Scores between 50 and 60 are 10th to 12th-grade reading level

  • Scores below 50 are at college and professional reading levels

The Flesch-Kincaid reading level means someone at that reading level could easily understand your content. Try to aim for a score of 60 or higher, even if you’re writing for a college-level audience. Remember, your reader came to Google to find a clear answer, not read a dissertation.

Best practices to improve readability include adding transitions, writing shorter sentences, and using active verbs.

Content structure

Your content structure affects humans and bots. Headings and subheadings should make your post easier to read. If you include a table of contents at the top, a reader should be able to understand what your post is about and find the information they need.

Furthermore, your section titles are opportunities to capture your reader’s attention. So descriptiveness is not enough; you have to have a hook. For example, “10 Ways to Improve Your Time Management” is more personable and specific than “Time Management Tips.”

As for the search bot, structure helps it figure out the context of your article. To optimize for bots, include primary and supporting keywords in your headings. You can even use GPT-3 AI Tools to help generate outlines once you’ve done the keyword research.

Remember that AI tools are great for pointing you in the right direction when it comes to ideation, but you should ensure your finished text still makes sense to a human reader.


Using images and other media to break up large chunks of text helps improve the user experience. Similar to structure, visual elements matter for both of your audiences.

When it comes to your human audience, you want to choose visuals that help readers understand the text they complement. So ensure you include images near relevant text and avoid generic stock photos.

Instead, try:

  • GIFs

  • Embedded videos

  • Infographics, statistics, and graphs

  • Screenshots with annotations

  • Expert quote images

To optimize images for search bots, Google recommends using high-quality images and compressing the files, so they don’t lower your page speed. Furthermore, you should add descriptive metadata (such as title, caption, and file name) that includes keyword phrases when relevant.

Attachment details page on WordPress where you can add alternate text.

Finally, pay attention to your alternate text (or alt text). The alt text describes images for search engine bots and screen readers for people who can’t see. Writing descriptive alt text is an essential part of accessible content writing.

While bots scan this text, you ultimately want to create a description that helps your human reader picture what’s in the image. In other words, avoid keyword stuffing and opt for a description of what’s going on in the image instead.

For example:

  • Keyword-stuffed alt text: “shoes trainers sneakers fashion shoes footwear women’s shoes accessories athletic shoes”

  • Descriptive alt text: “pair of women’s sneakers in white”

Grammar, spelling, and capitalization

Proper grammar and spelling help you build trust with your readers.

According to Google Search Central, grammar is not a direct factor for search engine rankings. But, if a search bot can’t crawl your website because of errors, that’ll harm your search performance. On the other hand, proper spelling can improve your page’s authority score.

Spelling is especially important when it comes to brand names. As Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, states, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

This might seem like a minor factor, but the brands you write about care if you spell (and capitalize) their names correctly.

Here are a few brands that people commonly misspell:

  • WordPress, not Wordpress

  • HubSpot, not Hubspot

  • Mailchimp, not MailChimp

Some word processors might not have brand names included in their spell check, but you can use Grammarly’s style guide feature to autocorrect for brands you frequently write about across a team of writers and editors.

Content length

Although Google has confirmed that word count is not an SEO ranking factor, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.

Google does prioritize comprehensive answers to search terms, so long-form content may perform better. In other words, content length can indicate how well your writing meets a user’s search intent compared to the competition.

SEO optimization tools like Clearscope provide word count suggestions based on the length of the top-ranking pages. That said, don’t sacrifice quality content to create longer articles. Adding meaningless content to meet a word count goal can hurt the reader experience.

Page titles

You should write your page titles for bots and people. Writing for bots means including the target keyword in your SEO title tag and meta description. Doing so gives search engines more context and improves your chances of ranking for the right keywords.

Page titles for people should include keywords, but they also need to pique the reader’s interest so you can increase your click-through rate. You can make your titles click-worthy by including emotional words, adding urgency, and making them personal.

Screenshot of CoSchedule headline analyzer results.

Here are some examples.

  • Emotional: “5 Proven Ways to Fall Asleep Easily

  • Urgent: “How to Stop Procrastinating Right Now

  • Personal: “Resume Template to Land Your Dream Job”

Titles are one of the main factors affecting how much traffic your page receives, so they’re an excellent place to A/B test.

Writing for search engines: optimize for robots or people?

When it comes to writing SEO-friendly content, it’s not a question of humans vs. robots but rather how to optimize for both. The actionable steps in this article are an excellent place to start if you want to create content that ranks on SERPs and resonates with potential customers. 

To read more about creating consistent brand style guidelines and copywriting for an online audience, check out my book Writing for Humans and Robots: The New Rules of Content Style, available in print and Kindle on July 18, 2022.

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How Does Success of Your Business Depend on Choosing Type of Native Advertising?



How Does Success of Your Business Depend on Choosing Type of Native Advertising?

The very first commercial advertisement was shown on TV in 1941. It was only 10 seconds long and had an audience of 4,000 people. However, it became a strong trigger for rapid advertising development. The second half of the 20th century is known as the golden age of advertising until the Internet came to the forefront and entirely transformed the advertising landscape. The first commercial banner appeared in the mid-90s, then it was followed by pop-ups, pay-by-placement and paid-pay-click ads. Companies also started advertising their brands and adding their business logo designs, which contributes to consumer trust and trustworthiness.

The rise of social media in the mid-2000s opened a new dimension for advertising content to be integrated. The marketers were forced to make the ads less intrusive and more organic to attract younger users. This is how native advertising was born. This approach remains a perfect medium for goods and services promotion. Let’s see why and how native ads can become a win-win strategy for your business.

What is native advertising?

When it comes to digital marketing, every marketer talks about native advertising. What is the difference between traditional and native ones? You will not miss basic ads as they are typically promotional and gimmicky, while native advertising naturally blends into the content. The primary purpose of native ads is to create content that resonates with audience expectations and encourages users to perceive it seamlessly and harmoniously.

Simply put, native advertising is a paid media ad that organically aligns with the visual and operational features of the media format in which it appears. The concept is quite straightforward: while people just look through banner ads, they genuinely engage with native ads and read them. You may find a lot of native ads on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – they appear in the form of “in-feed” posts that engage users in search for more stories, opinions, goods and services. This unobtrusive approach turns native ads into a powerful booster for any brand.

How does native advertising benefit your business?

An average Internet user comes across around 10,000 ads a day. But even physically, it is impossible to perceive this amount of information in 24 hours. So, most of them use adblockers, nullifying all efforts of markers. Native ads successfully overcome this digital challenge thanks to their authenticity. And this is not the only advantage of native advertising. How else does your business benefit? Here are just a few major benefits that prove the value of native ads:

Better brand awareness. Native ads contribute to the brand’s visibility. They seamlessly blend into educational, emotional, and visual types of content that can easily become viral. While promotional content typically receives limited shares, users readily share valuable or entertaining content. Consequently, while you incur expenses only for the display of native ads, your audience may go the extra mile by sharing your content and organically promoting your brand or SaaS product at no additional cost.

Increased click-through rates. Native ads can generate a thrilling click-through rate (CTR) primarily because they are meticulously content-adaptable. Thus, native ads become an integral part of the user’s journey without disrupting their browsing experience. Regardless of whether your native advertising campaign is designed to build an audience or drive specific actions, compelling content will always entice users to click through.

Cost-efficient campaign performance. Native advertising proves to be cheaper compared to a traditional ad format. It mainly stems from a higher CTR. Thanks to precise targeting and less customer resistance, native ads allow to bring down cost-per-click.

Native ads are continuously evolving, enabling marketers to experiment with different formats and use them for successful multi-channel campaigns and global reach.

Types of native advertising

Any content can become native advertising as there are no strict format restrictions. For example, it can be an article rating the best fitness applications, an equipment review, or a post by an influencer on a microblog. The same refers to the channels – native ads can be placed on regular websites and social media feeds. Still, some forms tend to be most frequently used.

  • In-feed ads. This type of ad appears within the content feed. You have definitely seen such posts on Facebook and Instagram or such videos on TikTok. They look like regular content but are tagged with an advertising label. The user sees these native ads when scrolling the feed on social media platforms.
  • Paid search ads. These are native ads that are displayed on the top and bottom of the search engine results page. They always match user’s queries and aim to capture their attention at the moment of a particular search and generate leads and conversions. This type of ad is effective for big search platforms with substantial traffic.
  • Recommendation widgets. These come in the form of either texts or images and can be found at the end of the page or on a website’s sidebar. Widgets offer related or intriguing content from either the same publisher or similar sources. This type of native ads is great for retargeting campaigns.
  • Sponsored content. This is one of the most popular types of native advertising. Within this format, an advertiser sponsors the creation of an article or content that aligns with the interests and values of the platform’s audience. They can be marked as “sponsored” or “recommended” to help users differentiate them from organic content.
  • Influencer Advertising. In this case, advertisers partner with popular bloggers or celebrities to gain the attention and trust of the audience. Influencers integrate a product, service, or event into their content or create custom content that matches their style and topic.

Each of these formats can bring stunning results if your native ads are relevant and provide value to users. Use a creative automation platform like Creatopy to design effective ads for your business.

How to create a workable native ad?

Consider these 5 steps for creating a successful native advertising campaign:

  • Define your target audienceUsers will always ignore all ads that are not relevant to them. Unwanted ads are frustrating and can even harm your brand. If you run a store for pets, make sure your ads show content that will be interesting for pet owners. Otherwise, the whole campaign will be undermined. Regular market research and data analysis will help you refine your audience and its demographics.
  • Set your goals. Each advertising campaign should have a clear-cut objective. Without well-defined goals, it is a waste of money. It is a must to know what you want to achieve – introduce your brand, boost sales or increase your audience.
  • Select the proper channels. Now, you need to determine how you will reach out to your customers. Consider displaying ads on social media platforms, targeting search engine result pages (SERPs), distributing paid articles, or utilizing in-ad units on different websites. You may even be able to get creative and use email or SMS in a less salesy and more “native”-feeling way—you can find samples of texts online to help give you ideas. Exploring demand side platforms (DSP) can also bring good results.
  • Offer compelling content. Do not underestimate the quality of the content for your native ads. Besides being expertly written, it must ideally match the style and language of the chosen channel,whether you’re promoting professional headshots, pet products, or anything else. The main distinctive feature of native advertising is that it should fit naturally within the natural content.
  • Track your campaign. After the launch of native ads, it is crucial to monitor the progress, evaluating the costs spent and results. Use tools that help you gain insights beyond standard KPIs like CTR and CPC. You should get engagement metrics, customer data, campaign data, and third-party activity data for further campaign management.

Key takeaway

Summing up the above, it is time to embrace native advertising if you haven’t done it yet. Native ads seamlessly blend with organic content across various platforms, yielding superior engagement and conversion rates compared to traditional display ads. Marketers are allocating higher budgets to native ads because this format proves to be more and more effective – content that adds value can successfully deal with ad fatigue. Native advertising is experiencing a surge in popularity, and it is to reach its peak. So, do not miss a chance to grow your business with the power of native ads.or you can do digital marketing course from Digital Vidya.

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OpenAI’s Drama Should Teach Marketers These 2 Lessons



OpenAI’s Drama Should Teach Marketers These 2 Lessons

A week or so ago, the extraordinary drama happening at OpenAI filled news feeds.

No need to get into all the saga’s details, as every publication seems to have covered it. We’re just waiting for someone to put together a video montage scored to the Game of Thrones music.

But as Sam Altman takes back the reigns of the company he helped to found, the existing board begins to disintegrate before your very eyes, and everyone agrees something spooked everybody, a question arises: Should you care?

Does OpenAI’s drama have any demonstrable implications for marketers integrating generative AI into their marketing strategies?

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain (and give a shoutout to Sutton’s pants rage on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), or keep reading his thoughts:

For those who spent last week figuring out what to put on your holiday table and missed every AI headline, here’s a brief version of what happened. OpenAI – the huge startup and creator of ChatGPT – went through dramatic events. Its board fired the mercurial CEO Sam Altman. Then, the 38-year-old entrepreneur accepted a job at Microsoft but returned to OpenAI a day later.

We won’t give a hot take on what it means for the startup world, board governance, or the tension between AI safety and Silicon Valley capitalism. Rather, we see some interesting things for marketers to put into perspective about how AI should fit into your overall content and marketing plans in the new year.

Robert highlights two takeaways from the OpenAI debacle – a drama that has yet to reach its final chapter: 1. The right structure and governance matters, and 2. Big platforms don’t become antifragile just because they’re big.

Let’s have Robert explain.

The right structure and governance matters

OpenAI’s structure may be key to the drama. OpenAI has a bizarre corporate governance framework. The board of directors controls a nonprofit called OpenAI. That nonprofit created a capped for-profit subsidiary – OpenAI GP LLC. The majority owner of that for-profit is OpenAI Global LLC, another for-profit company. The nonprofit works for the benefit of the world with a for-profit arm.

That seems like an earnest approach, given AI tech’s big and disruptive power. But it provides so many weird governance issues, including that the nonprofit board, which controls everything, has no duty to maximize profit. What could go wrong?

That’s why marketers should know more about the organizations behind the generative AI tools they use or are considering.

First, know your providers of generative AI software and services are all exploring the topics of governance and safety. Microsoft, Google, Anthropic, and others won’t have their internal debates erupt in public fireworks. Still, governance and management of safety over profits remains a big topic for them. You should be aware of how they approach those topics as you license solutions from them.

Second, recognize the productive use of generative AI is a content strategy and governance challenge, not a technology challenge. If you don’t solve the governance and cross-functional uses of the generative AI platforms you buy, you will run into big problems with its cross-functional, cross-siloed use. 

Big platforms do not become antifragile just because they’re big

Nicholas Taleb wrote a wonderful book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. It explores how an antifragile structure doesn’t just withstand a shock; it actually improves because of a disruption or shock. It doesn’t just survive a big disruptive event; it gets stronger because of it.

It’s hard to imagine a company the size and scale of OpenAI could self-correct or even disappear tomorrow. But it can and does happen. And unfortunately, too many businesses build their strategies on that rented land.

In OpenAI’s recent case, the for-profit software won the day. But make no bones about that victory; the event wasn’t good for the company. If it bounces back, it won’t be stronger because of the debacle.

With that win on the for-profit side, hundreds, if not thousands, of generative AI startups breathed an audible sigh of relief. But a few moments later, they screamed “pivot” (in their best imitation of Ross from Friends instructing Chandler and Rachel to move a couch.)

They now realize the fragility of their software because it relies on OpenAI’s existence or willingness to provide the software. Imagine what could have happened if the OpenAI board had won their fight and, in the name of safety, simply killed any paid access to the API or the ability to build business models on top of it.

The last two weeks have done nothing to clear the already muddy waters encountered by companies and their plans to integrate generative AI solutions. Going forward, though, think about the issues when acquiring new generative AI software. Ask about how the vendor’s infrastructure is housed and identify the risks involved. And, if OpenAI expands its enterprise capabilities, consider the implications. What extra features will the off-the-shelf solutions provide? Do you need them? Will OpenAI become the Microsoft Office of your AI infrastructure?

Why you should care

With the voluminous media coverage of Open AI’s drama, you likely will see pushback on generative AI. In my social feeds, many marketers say they’re tired of the corporate soap opera that is irrelevant to their work.

They are half right. What Sam said and how Ilya responded, heart emojis, and how much the Twitch guy got for three days of work are fodder for the Netflix series sure to emerge. (Robert’s money is on Michael Cera starring.)

They’re wrong about its relevance to marketing. They must be experiencing attentional bias – paying more attention to some elements of the big event and ignoring others. OpenAI’s struggle is entertaining, no doubt. You’re glued to the drama. But understanding what happened with the events directly relates to your ability to manage similar ones successfully. That’s the part you need to get right.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.


Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader



The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

Introduce your processes: If you’ve streamlined a particular process, share it. It could be the solution someone else is looking for.

Jump on trends and news: If there’s a hot topic or emerging trend, offer your unique perspective.

Share industry insights: Attended a webinar or podcast that offered valuable insights. Summarize the key takeaways and how they can be applied.

Share your successes: Write about strategies that have worked exceptionally well for you. Your audience will appreciate the proven advice. For example, I shared the process I used to help a former client rank for a keyword with over 2.2 million monthly searches.

Question outdated strategies: If you see a strategy that’s losing steam, suggest alternatives based on your experience and data.

5. Establish communication channels (How)

Once you know who your audience is and what they want to hear, the next step is figuring out how to reach them. Here’s how:

Choose the right platforms: You don’t need to have a presence on every social media platform. Pick two platforms where your audience hangs out and create content for that platform. For example, I’m active on LinkedIn and X because my target audience (SEOs, B2B SaaS, and marketers) is active on these platforms.

Repurpose content: Don’t limit yourself to just one type of content. Consider repurposing your content on Quora, Reddit, or even in webinars and podcasts. This increases your reach and reinforces your message.

Follow Your audience: Go where your audience goes. If they’re active on X, that’s where you should be posting. If they frequent industry webinars, consider becoming a guest on these webinars.

Daily vs. In-depth content: Balance is key. Use social media for daily tips and insights, and reserve your blog for more comprehensive guides and articles.

Network with influencers: Your audience is likely following other experts in the field. Engaging with these influencers puts your content in front of a like-minded audience. I try to spend 30 minutes to an hour daily engaging with content on X and LinkedIn. This is the best way to build a relationship so you’re not a complete stranger when you DM privately.

6. Think of thought leadership as part of your content marketing efforts

As with other content efforts, thought leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It thrives when woven into a cohesive content marketing strategy. By aligning individual authority with your brand, you amplify the credibility of both.

Think of it as top-of-the-funnel content to:

  • Build awareness about your brand

  • Highlight the problems you solve

  • Demonstrate expertise by platforming experts within the company who deliver solutions

Consider the user journey. An individual enters at the top through a social media post, podcast, or blog post. Intrigued, they want to learn more about you and either search your name on Google or social media. If they like what they see, they might visit your website, and if the information fits their needs, they move from passive readers to active prospects in your sales pipeline.

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