How To Do SEO the Human Way

By Jon MacDonald
4 minute read | Last Updated: April 21, 2016

SEO is finally becoming a friend to human readers. Old practices that rewarded irrelevant (inhuman), keyword stuffed content, must be replaced by helpful, human-friendly content. Is your brand ready to ride the new SEO wave?

The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tide has finally come in for customer friendly content. Out is the rip tide of keyword stuffed, search-bot friendly nonsense and in are huge swells of useful and relevant content. Brands that don’t grab a board and catch a wave now will see their search results dragged out to sea by the undertow.

Artificial intelligence is rapidly becoming reality.

This is because artificial intelligence is rapidly becoming reality, as evidenced by a June 2014 milestone achievement of a supercomputer named Eugene.

In a five minute text conversation, Eugene successfully duped 33% of its interrogators into thinking that it was a 13-year old boy from Odessa, Ukraine, thus passing the landmark Turing Test, developed by scientist Alan Turing over 65 years ago. (Turing’s 1950 paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” introduced the question “Can machines think?” as well as the concept of guessing if it is a machine or person based on text messages alone.)

Computers (including those that power Google’s search results) are only going to get better at recognizing natural language and making predictions based on conversation logic. In fact, one of Google’s recent updates named Hummingbird, was put into place to adapt to the way a consumer searches using natural language.

Computers are only going to get better at recognizing natural language.

Since Google now understands when a webpage contains content that is not natural language it is able to identify and penalize site content that is overtly designed to attract search results through inhuman robot-speak, rather than delivering useful and relevant search results to actual people.

Inhuman vs Human

Before we can discuss how to ride the wave of Google’s new ranking algorithms, we need to understand the difference between robot speak and natural language, or inhuman vs human, in terms of SEO practices.

Inhuman can best be defined as writing for machines instead of humans. Some examples include:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Filling a site or page with links to other only slightly relevant sites
  • Writing for a robot or algorithm rather than the consumer
  • Bad meta-descriptions, full of junk words that when clicked don’t provide what the consumer was looking for
  • Page titles that are unhelpful and unclear

Human is writing content and following search engine optimization tactics that add value for the consumer:

  • Writing useful and relevant content that consumers want
  • Writing and displaying that content in a way the consumer can read naturally
  • Answering common questions the consumer has, through the content
  • Providing the consumer with helpful information
  • Adding relevant links to push the consumer further towards what they are looking for—for instance, geek-out links to more specific information
  • Utilizing canonical URLs so they are human-readable at a glance and when bookmarked


Riding the Useful Content Wave

To write for humans (or in a human way) is all about creating and sharing content that provides the answers that people are seeking. When the goal of creating content is to make it as useful and relevant as possible to searchers, it will inherently include most of the natural language search terms people use.

To write in a human way is to write content that customers are looking for.

To take this to the next level, athletic and outdoor brands should start by identifying intents of their active lifestyle consumers. What are their needs and problems? Why is a consumer visiting your website? What would be most helpful to the consumer in that instant? In short, provide solutions and answers.

Brands who would rather tout their own brand message or story than provide solutions and answers also face search problems. Consumers are not coming to a brand website to have branded content distract them. Instead, they have a very specific task they are trying to accomplish and if they can’t do it, they will bounce out of your site, and go somewhere they can.

In fact, Google takes this into consideration when ranking sites. Officially, Google has no way to know a site’s bounce rate or other experience related metrics. Instead, Google tracks what some call short clicks and long clicks—basically the time from when a user clicks on a search result and returns to the same search result page. A short click is interpreted as a user did not have a good experience, the keyword wasn’t relevant or the content was inappropriate. Long clicks indicate a better experience, or that the consumer was interested in and found content that was relevant to their search goal.

Be the Baywatch of Content

Not sure where to start in rescuing your consumers from a sea of inhuman content? Research what queries are being made on the brand website by looking at search terms, and competitor websites using a tool such as SEMRush. Study those results until you understand what the consumer is saying they want and need through those searches.

Research what customers are already advertising to brands—via the search queries they use.

Giving the people behind the search queries human, relevant, and useful responses to what they want when they want it, will ensure your wave of search results is ready and waiting for them instead of lost at the bottom of the SEO sea.