Readers Before Feeders: What is the REAL Priority in Content Writing?

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Dave Kelly
December 01, 2022
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In the many years that has been in existence we have evaluated the content from literally thousands of web pages in nearly every conceivable niche.

And based on that experience, we can tell you that the hands-down issue when it comes to content is that people are still not focusing on humans.

In the past, website content was thought to be little more than grist for search engine feeders - something for them to digest. The game was to find a trick, rule or formula that would get your content ranked higher in the SERP's than someone else's page.

Hitting a "keyword density" threshold was one such rule (now largely fallen by the wayside as a major ranking factor, if it ever was) and there were others, like filling a navigation sidebar or header/footer with keywords, hitting a "target length" and other such foolishness.

Google: It's Really No Big Secret

In reality you don't have to be concerned about some "secret sauce" when it comes to getting search engines to value your content - because Google has been telling us exactly what they are looking for, for years:

"Google's automated ranking systems are designed to present helpful, reliable information that's primarily created to benefit people, not to gain search engine rankings, in the top Search results. This page is designed to help creators evaluate if they're producing such content."

That, friends is a direct quote from Google itself over at Google Search Central (emphasis in the above quote is ours).

So, the cat is finally out of the bag - the need is for you to write (or have written) content for your site that has a value for people - site visitors (readers) rather than search engines (feeders).

Do-It-Yourself Content Audit Checklist

You don't have to pay big bucks to do an evaluation of your existing - or proposed - webpage content - again Google is our teacher.

Here are some of their guideline questions (taken from the same GSC document):

  • "Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?"

This is the uniqueness component of your content.

  • "Does the content provide a substantial, complete, or comprehensive description of the topic?"

This is the completeness component. Humans want a complete and comprehensive treatment of a subject, not summary presentations.

  • "Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond the obvious?"

This is the helpfulness component. People don't search the web for information they already know, but for information they don't - and for an analysis or insights that is the product of deep reflection and/or extensive experience.

  • "Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site's About page?"
  • "If someone researched the site producing the content, would they come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?"
  • "Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?"

This is the masterliness component - a demonstrable expertise should shine through your content at all times.

Reader-Based vs. Feeder-Based Content: Questions to Ask

Here are a pair of 4 questions for you to consider. From each pair, pick the one that best describes your current situation:

1-"Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?"
2-"Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you'd get search traffic?"

1-"Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?"
2-"Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you'd write about them otherwise for your existing audience?"

1-"Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?"
2-"Are you producing lots of content on many different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?"

1-"After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal? Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience?"
2-"Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value? Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you'd write about them otherwise for your existing audience?"

Now look over your choices and note how many you have selected that are the first question in each pair - Google says answering yes to the first question of each pair "means you are probably on the right track with a people-first approach." Congratulations!

But if you have chosen any of the second questions in each pair, Google tells us that "is a warning sign that you should reevaluate how you're creating content." (Emphasis ours.)

Get In Line with Google

The final paragraph of Google's guidelines ends with this paragraph:

"Reading the guidelines may help you self-assess how your content is doing from an E-A-T perspective, improvements to consider, and help align it conceptually with the different signals that our automated systems use to rank content."

Did you notice the critical phrase: "…align it conceptually with the different signals that our automated systems use to rank content."

Google is looking for "alignment" - your content should send the "signals" that tell their systems that this is content worth ranking highly.

How do you do that? Write for readers, not feeders.

Feeling overwhelmed? Let us take the load off your plate and eliminate the confusion for you. Book a free discovery call with us to learn how we can consistently deliver Google optimized content to you at any scale.

Written By Dave Kelly
Dave was one of the pioneers of the SEO industry, long before Google even existed, and before "SEO" was a meaningful acronym. Dave brings extensive & long-running experience to the PosiRank team.
Dave has also been behind some of the most well-known & cutting edge tools in the SEO space for the past decade, and PosiRank is no exception.
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