Writing for Search Engines or Visitors?

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Since search engines have existed, webmasters have asked themselves the same question.  Should I create content for Search Engines or for Visitors?  If you don’t please the mighty Google, then there are no visitors to worry about, right?  It’s a fair question.  Or at least it was, at one stage.

So, should you write for search engines or write for visitors?  The answer is both.  It sort of always has been but it definitely is now. 

We looked at some top Google ranking factors for 2011 in our last post and this question also touches on the evolution of rankings and SEO.  Back in the 1990s people had figured out that search engine traffic was plentiful, valuable and free.  They had figured out roughly how search engines ranked results for queries.  They decided that they should create pages that the search engines would love and that way they’d get rankings.  You served keyword stuffed gibberish to the search engines and gave the user a different page.  One that was attractively designed and had content that helped convert your traffic into sales.

That practice is known as cloaking.  It’s not something you want the search engines to catch you doing.  They don’t like it and they quickly got pretty serious about catching it and punishing sites that do it.  So writing for search engines had to evolve.

Content exists somewhere on a continuum that you can visualise like this:

On the left you have total gibberish written with only the search engine in mind.  As we move to the right, there is more and more effort put into making the content appealing for users.  To the far right is content so great that people want to share it.

You might start with content ideas that are motivated by SEO aims.  You could try to write the ideal page for Google.  Alternatively, there are any number of services that will knock up a couple of hundred words for you on the keywords of your choice and claim they are helping your SEO by providing content.

What you are really looking to do though is to move your content as far to the right on our scale as possible.  At the very least, you want to create content that not only has a chance to rank but acts as a suitable entry page for your site.  Content that gives the user something interesting or useful.  Something that fulfills the intent of their search. 

The Holy Grail though is to create content that visitors are motivated to share.  Now you have content that goes beyond being keyword rich.  You have content that can generate social mentions and links.  Content that can spread.

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8 Responses to “Writing for Search Engines or Visitors?”

  1. BizSugar.com says:

    Writing for Search Engines or Visitors?…

    Should you write content for search engines or visitors? You need traffic from Google but it’s got to be useful or your site won’t convert, won’t sell. Here’s a quick look at this false dilema and how to make search engine friendly content that use…

  2. Jackie says:


    I think the best content always is written for the value of the reader, not for the value of the writer. Of course you want to augment your work with a little keyword enhancement but to be honest, I’m a little slack on the keyword side of things.

    Maybe its time improve on that score, who knows I might even get a bit more traffic out of it.


  3. I am so glad that the trend of writing content solely for SEO purposes is fading away. For awhile, I encountered so much terrible content online. It is so obvious when articles are written to include as many keywords as possible. They all sound like articles that are written for vocabulary tests.

  4. I think there are several benefits to writing website content for the reader.

    Like you mentioned in the post, when you write great content with the reader mind, readers will share your ideas with others. You are not solely depending on the search engines for advertising.

    By providing valuable content, other websites want to link to you, which is a great rank booster itself (maybe even better than on-site SEO?)

    Also, good content will get the reader to take action – they are more likely to buy something from you, subscribe to your newsletter or bookmark your site. And isn’t that the point anyway?

  5. peso likrem says:

    nice article, i m more tilted towards articles for users

  6. Benny says:

    A great piece of content with high language and information which doesn’t attract visitors has no meaning.

    A page with 100s of visitors which on has Keyword dumps is unacceptable. There should be a balance. if you write content that has SEO in it, but doesn’t compromise on readability is a challenge. But we need to face it and overcome!

  7. SEO Reseller says:

    A good blogger wouldn’t care about trying to force his or her way up the SERPs. With the help of high quality shareable content, it’s going to rise up as fast as when you’re making search engines see your blog by adding in keywords and all that.

    – Man Ray

  8. SiteStream SEO says:

    A good blogger who doesn’t care about “forcing” his way up the SERPs will miss out on a lot of traffic. High quality content is great but it wont do the job on its own unless the blogger is very lucky.