Writing For People Not Robots

The concept of writing your content for people instead of bots, such as Googlebot, has been heavily touted since the very beginning of search engine optimization.  While the concept is absolutely true, there are a few things that people improperly infer from its meaning.  Most importantly, people assume that content no longer needs to be optimized for search.

As of this exact moment, search engines haven’t reached the point where they can establish “aboutness” completely on context.  In fact, I don’t think anyone would find a piece of content about a subject that never mentions the subject to be all that helpful.  Point being, keywords are still important.  However, how keywords are observed is constantly evolving.

Establishing Aboutness Of Content

What the search engines have is a giant mass of data.  It’s through this giant mass of text and code they are able to infer meanings and context.  Based on a few different patents we have learned that Google looks at several instances of a topic to try determine what concepts and contextual clues are most relevant to them, also known as Co-Occurrence.  That way search engines have a means of establishing aboutness contextually.

To be able to relate to these contextual clues, however, the search engines need to be able to understand what the page suggests that it is about.  To do that we need to use keywords on the page.  This establishes the benchmark for establishing aboutness from which search engines can algorithmically evaluate.

Even More Aboutness Than Before

In a recent paper titled “How Google Attempts to Understand What a Query or Page is About Based Upon Word Relationships,” by Bill Swalkski of SEO by the Sea, the concept is brought one step further about search engines inference of aboutness based on established aboutness on a group of topics.

For example, if you were to refer to something as “Bell” without some contextual clues the search engines would not be able to understand who you are talking about.  You could be talking about a person, a company, an instrument or countless other things.  However, if you combine “Bell” with “race cars” then search engines could establish that you are most likely talking about Bell Sports in Illinois.  The search engines would need for context to reinforce that point, but this establishes a connection between words that can let them take the next step.

Diminishing Aboutness Through Context

Of course, context giveth meaning, and context taketh away meaning.  By the same principle, you can also decrease your aboutness by using contextual clues that reinforce the idea that your context is about something completely different.

This would be like a Jaguar Dealership mentioning the animal Jaguar at great detail.  The search engines have to start making guesses at which one you are more relevant for.  More importantly, it makes you seem less relevant to your targeted phrases.

Putting Aboutness All Together

While this idea may have been muddied throughout this, the idea still remains the same.  The ultimate goal of your content should be your real visitors on your website.  You will want to make sure that your content is compelling, and informative.

However, you will also want to make sure that you establish what your content is about with the use of keywords and contextual reinforcement.  You will also want to check to make sure your content is not contradicting itself, and suggesting that you may be relevant to a different topic.  You also want to avoid having multiple pages about the same exact topic to avoid Keyword Cannibalization.

Our strategy for writing content that makes both people and robots happy is to write the content for the person first, robot second and make sure that it is still excellent for your human visitors.  That way you meet your ultimate goal of conversions, but you are also satisfying the robots.  In the cases of having to choose optimization over quality, though, always choose the side of quality.

By Cody Jerry