A writer's dilemma: Should website content be written for readers or search engines?


Writing takes on two forms in this modern world. Unless the purpose of writing is to provide an immersive experience within a novel created to be enjoyed while sat by the log fire on a cold dark winters evening or while laid on a sun lounger in the south of France with a nice glass of red wine, then concise and simple language is the way to provide information to busy people. It is the way people think and process information in this day and age. Bullet point or infographic thinking.

Typing on a laptop - creating web content

The Writers Challenge

Tom Kuegler, writing on Medium, recently wrote in one of his articles...

“This idea that longer blog posts are inherently better just because they’re long needs to be retired.”
- How To Write Faster: My Secret To Publish 1 Blog Post Per Day

But there is a challenge that comes along with this idea.

This all sounds great until the writer who is working on a blog or website content realises that, in reality, they are not writing just for the person reading but also for machines i.e. search engines. This is a real challenge for writers who are balancing the need for brevity when creating content that a machine can understand. This dilemma exists because search engines are looking for enough content to fully understand if it matches a search. We can summarise a point in a few or even in just one word because we as humans understand the context or subject of the website, in contrast the search engines have the need for a complete sentence to “comprehend” the meaning of that text and to determine if it is relevant to the search being made.

Finding The Balance

As a website designer this always presents a difficult balance. Many of my client’s will simplify everything and this is perfect to match the way their busy customers minds work. The content they provide for their website is often a condensed form and even as a bullet point list. For a user of the website this can be great. Relevant information in few words. With this approach, often all the important information can be presented in the small area of a web page that is “above the fold” or without the need to scroll. The challenge is to then transform that information into content that a machine, aka a search engine, can also properly understand without losing the brevity and ultimately the customer who wants to find the information they are looking for very quickly.

The audience always comes first when writing. Why? Because if they cannot find the information that they are looking for quickly then they will click away. That means a missed customer and lost revenue. By building good content which is valued by people for being clear and understandable then it will be shared naturally. This is important for search engines to see that the content is popular and relevant.

That said, the content of the web page or blog still needs to be written in way can be understood by search engines directly for effective indexing. So, as Tom Kuegler wrote “This idea that longer blog posts are inherently better just because they’re long needs to be retired” is true. So, always write using simple language and keep the information concise while always using full grammatical sentences. By doing this, website content creators and bloggers can strike a balance between writing primarily for the reader but also for search engines to be able properly index the content.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

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Articles, notes and general musings about all the things that make us buzz here at ZeroBlue DESIGN topics such as graphic design, web stuff, printing, search engine optimisation as well design inspiration.