The Importance of Human-centric Content for an Effective SEO Strategy

The Definite Guide to SEO for a Human-first Helpful Content Strategy

Effectiveness of SEO Strategies and Human-Centric Content with the 3-Step SEO Strategy—audience, distribution, optimization— striking the perfect balance between authentic, human-centric content and powerful SEO strategies.

Oct 2023

The Definite Guide to Understand Search-Engine-Optimization for a Human-first Helpful Content Strategy

Read this if you want to succeed in SEO by placing your audience at the forefront of the content strategy.

We are reframing the perception of SEO from a purely technical endeavor to one that should be integrated into a broader, human-centric content strategy.

We are breaking down the various forms of SEO is thorough and educative. It provides you with a broad understanding of how multifaceted and versatile SEO is.

In our conclusion, we present a 3-step strategy—audience, distribution, optimization—that is actionable and provides clear guidance for readers who are looking to implement a successful content strategy for content that is valuable to your audience and can be found by them as well.

I Need to do SEO, now what? What forms of SEO are there?

Since many SEO people do nothing all day long than trying to game search engines, you'll most likely find answers that gamed the system and tell you about the methods they want to sell to you.

It’s like CRM (Customer-Relationship Management) companies selling you CRM software using their CRM software.

Or like How to get Followers on LinkedIn people selling their courses to their followers.

Or like scientist who play economical games (gaining money) or political games (gaining power) instead of knowledge games (gaining knowledge).

But you have to know what games SEO is playing to understand its value.

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."

Peter Drucker, in: The Essential Drucker

You need to know about the abstraction to that.

You need to know that managing Customer Relationships is providing customer success, in the example of the CRM.

For the example of LinkedIn it is building a personal brand, not maximizing followership.

And for SEO it means understanding that it is an act of optimizing to be found online.

SEO is an Act of Optimization

SEO is always some form of "optimization". To optimze something you have to have something in the first place.

Secondly you have to optimize the right things. You have to do the right things right, or as the famous management expert Drucker would say doing the right things (efficacy/effectiveness) and then doing them efficiently (efficiency)

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

Peter Drucker

SEO is the task of optimizing for good content to be found by your targeted audience.

Therefore, it is fundamentally flawed to put SEO as your overall strategic goal.

But it seems that this debate has been ongoing in the marketing realm for years.

We at Mx Moritz Growth Advisors for Sustainable Growth believe that making SEO the overarching strategic goal is fundamentally flawed.

  1. Content for Machines vs. Humans
    At its core, SEO is about optimizing content to be better understood and indexed by search engines. However, if one prioritizes search engine algorithms over actual human readers, the content can become robotic, keyword-stuffed, and less engaging. Over-optimization can lead to content that loses its natural flow and authenticity.
  2. Changing Algorithms
    Search engine algorithms are ever-evolving. If a strategy is solely based on current SEO trends or algorithm nuances, it can become obsolete with the next update. Relying too heavily on SEO means you're always chasing the algorithm rather than building a lasting brand or content strategy.
  3. Overemphasis on Short-Term Gains
    SEO often focuses on quick wins – getting to the top of search results for specific keywords. But true brand building and audience engagement are long-term endeavors. By prioritizing short-term SEO goals, one might miss out on creating content that has lasting value and builds a loyal audience.
  4. Limitation in Content Topics
    If the primary focus is on targeting specific keywords that are deemed SEO-friendly, there's a risk of limiting the range of topics covered. This can restrict creativity and the ability to discuss broader or emerging topics that the audience might find valuable.
  5. Neglecting User Experience
    In the pursuit of SEO, some might overlook the importance of user experience. Factors like website design, page speed, mobile-friendliness, and easy navigation play a crucial role in retaining visitors and converting them into customers or loyal readers.
  6. Trust and Credibility
    Readers value authenticity. If they sense that content is created primarily for search engines, it can diminish trust. Authentic, well-researched, and user-centric content establishes credibility.

That said, it's essential to understand that SEO isn't inherently bad or counterproductive.

Rather understand SEO as a part of the distribution strategy. When done right, SEO ensures that valuable, human-centric content reaches the intended audience. It bridges the gap between content creators and their audience in an online ecosystem dominated by search engines.

Content should always be created with the end-user in mind, but with an understanding of SEO principles to ensure its discoverability. Think of SEO as a tool in the toolkit.

By integrating SEO seamlessly into a broader content and marketing strategy, you can achieve both “visibility” and genuine engagement.

Different Forms of SEO as Defined by Their Objectives and Primary Goals

The primary difference between the categories f SEO lies in the objectives, strategies, and platforms being targeted.

Let's break down each category to highlight the differences.

Doing a quick google search in Europe usually leaves you with the impression of 2 kinds of SEO. In short, while both categories involve optimization for search engines, they differ in their objectives and strategies. SEO for PR and Wikipedia is more about managing online reputation and building social proof, while traditional SEO focuses on driving organic traffic by ranking higher for specific keywords.

1. SEO for Content

SEO for Content involves everything from Titles to Thumbnails, Keywords to Meta Descriptions, and Alt Texts to Internal Links.

Objective: The primary goal here is to rank a website or its pages higher in search results for specific user intent. This is to drive organic traffic, generate leads, and increase conversions.

Key Aspects:

  • Keyword Research: Identifying the terms and phrases potential customers are using to find products, services, or information related to a business.
  • On-page SEO: Optimizing individual pages of a website to target specific keywords. This involves tweaking the title, meta description, content, URL structure, and more.
  • Content Creation: Producing high-quality, relevant, and useful content that meets the needs of searchers.
  • Technical SEO: Ensuring that a website's technical aspects, such as site speed, mobile optimization, and structured data, are optimized for search engines.
  • Link Building: Acquiring high-quality backlinks to improve a website's authority and its rankings in search results.

Platforms Targeted: Primarily search engines like Google, Bing, etc., but also includes any platform where content can be shared, such as blogs, forums, social media, etc.

2. SEO for Public Relations and Image

SEO for PR is about status games, like getting articles placed into well known publications or even Wikipedia articles, etc.

Objective: The primary goal here is reputation management, brand presence “as seen on TV”, and building social authority. When people search for a brand or a prominent individual, you want them to see positive news, informative Wikipedia articles, and other “socially authoritative” sources that paint a good image.

Think of crisis management after an oil spill, or hosting the FIFA world championship in an authoritarian regime.

Key Aspects:

  • Reputation Management: Ensuring that the top search results for a brand or individual are positive or neutral, rather than negative.
  • Wikipedia Optimization: Making sure Wikipedia articles are accurate, well-referenced, and up-to-date. This is crucial as Wikipedia has often ranked highly in search results – at least in the past.
  • Brand Mentions: Securing mentions on reputable news sites, blogs, and other online platforms to ensure that a brand or individual has a positive image.
  • Link Building: Getting high-quality backlinks from authoritative sites to boost the ranking of positive content.

Platforms Targeted: Wikipedia, news websites, “authoritative” blogs, press release distribution platforms, and other such platforms where you can buy a good image.

But SEO is a multifaceted discipline with various objectives, depending on the specific needs and goals of a business or individual. Therefore, beyond these 2 main categories are some other forms of SEO.

3. Local SEO

Objective: To optimize a business for local search results, ensuring it appears when users search for relevant products or services near them.

Key Aspects:

  • Google My Business Optimization:** Ensuring the listing is accurate, complete, and regularly updated.
  • Local Citations: Consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) listings across various directories.
  • Reviews and Ratings: Encouraging and managing customer reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, etc.
  • Local Link Building: Acquiring backlinks from local websites, newspapers, and organizations.

4. Mobile SEO

Objective: To ensure a website provides an optimal experience for mobile users and performs well in mobile search results.

Key Aspects:

  • Responsive Design: Ensuring the website looks and functions well on various device sizes.
  • Page Speed: Faster loading times for mobile users.
  • Mobile Usability: Making sure buttons, forms, and menus are user-friendly on mobile devices.

5. International SEO i18n

Objective: To optimize a website for search results in different countries and languages.

Key Aspects:

  • Hreflang Tags: Indicating to search engines which language and country a particular page is targeting.
  • Country-Specific Domains: Using country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) like .uk or .ca for country-specific content.
  • Content Localization: Adapting content to suit local languages, cultures, and search behaviors.

6. E-commerce SEO

Objective: To optimize online stores for search engines to drive sales and revenue.

Key Aspects:

  • Product Page Optimization: Ensuring product titles, descriptions, and images are optimized for relevant keywords.
  • Structured Data: Using schema markup to provide search engines with detailed product information.
  • User Experience: Providing an easy-to-navigate site structure, secure checkout process, and fast page load times.

7. Video SEO

Objective: To optimize video content for search engine visibility, especially on platforms like YouTube.

Key Aspects:

  • Video Titles and Descriptions: Using relevant keywords to describe the video content accurately.
  • Transcriptions: Providing text versions of video content for better indexing.
  • Engagement Metrics: Encouraging likes, shares, comments, and subscriptions to boost video rankings.

8. Voice Search SEO

Objective: To optimize for voice-activated searches, especially with the rise of smart speakers and virtual assistants.

Key Aspects:

  • Conversational Keywords: Targeting natural, spoken language rather than typed queries.
  • FAQs: Incorporating frequently asked questions that people might voice to their devices.
  • Fast Page Speed: Voice search users expect quick answers.

9. Technical SEO

Objective: To optimize the technical infrastructure of a website to improve its visibility in search engines.

Key Aspects:

  • Site Speed: Ensuring the website loads quickly.
  • XML Sitemaps: Providing search engines with a map of all the pages on the site.
  • Robots.txt: Directing search engine crawlers on which pages to index or ignore.
  • Secure and Accessible Website: Using HTTPS and ensuring the site is accessible to crawlers.

These are just some of the many forms of SEO, and the landscape continues to evolve with changing technology and user behaviors. The key is to determine which forms of SEO align with a particular business or individual's goals and then to tailor strategies accordingly.

SEO is both a Distribution and an Optimization Strategy

Viewing SEO as both a distribution and an optimization strategy provides a holistic approach that balances the technical aspects of search visibility with the human-centric goals of content creation.

Here's why that dual perspective is super helpful.

SEO as a Distribution Strategy

  1. Visibility in Search Engines: The primary role of SEO in distribution is ensuring that your content is discoverable. If people can't find your content when they search for relevant topics, then even the best content has limited value.
  2. Reaching the Right Audience: SEO helps target specific segments of your audience based on their search queries. By understanding and targeting specific keywords and phrases, you can ensure your content reaches those actively seeking that information.
  3. Sustainable Traffic: Unlike paid advertising, which stops bringing traffic once the budget runs out, organic traffic from SEO can provide a consistent and sustainable source of visitors over time.
  4. Credibility and Authority: Ranking well in search engines can position your brand as an authority in your field. Users often associate top search results with credibility and expertise.

SEO as an Optimization Strategy

  1. Improving User Experience: Many SEO best practices, such as improving page load times, ensuring mobile-friendliness, and creating a logical site structure, directly benefit the user experience.
  2. Content Enhancement: SEO encourages the creation of high-quality, relevant content. By researching what users are searching for, you can tailor your content to answer their questions and meet their needs.
  3. Technical Excellence: SEO requires a well-functioning website where pages load correctly, dead links are minimal, and site architecture is logical. This technical excellence not only helps with search engine rankings but also ensures users have a positive experience on the site.
  4. Adapting to Changes: The world of search is always evolving. Regularly optimizing your strategy means you're staying updated with the latest trends, algorithm changes, and user behaviors.

SEO as Optimization and Distribution of Helpful Content

By viewing SEO as both a distribution and optimization strategy, you strike a balance:

  • You ensure your content reaches its intended audience (distribution).
  • You make sure the content and the platform hosting it are of high quality, relevant, and user-friendly (optimization).

Considering both aspects ensures you're not just creating content for content's sake (or for search engines alone). Instead, you're ensuring that valuable, human-centric content is easily discoverable and accessible to those who will find it most beneficial. This dual perspective places the audience at the center while leveraging technical best practices to enhance visibility and engagement.

Audience-first Content

Just like i.e., Netflix you should think about the audience in mind first

Any content strategy—whether it's for a blog, e-commerce site, or any other platform—should always put the audience at the forefront.

This means prioritizing your audience by producing and curating content based on your readers or viewer preferences and behaviors.

Here's why thinking about the audience first like Netflix is paramount:

  1. Understanding Needs and Preferences: By understanding what your audience wants, you can tailor your content to address their specific needs, questions, and interests. This ensures your content is relevant and valuable to them.
  2. Building Trust and Loyalty: Content that resonates with the audience establishes trust. When users feel that you understand and cater to their needs, they are more likely to return to your platform and become loyal followers or customers.
  3. Driving Genuine Engagement: Audience-centric content is more likely to be shared, discussed, and engaged with. This kind of organic engagement can amplify your content's reach and impact.
  4. Long-term Success: While chasing SEO trends or algorithm changes might yield short-term gains, focusing on the audience ensures long-term success. Audience needs are relatively consistent compared to the ever-evolving landscape of SEO.
  5. Feedback and Improvement: Engaging with your audience and listening to their feedback provides valuable insights. This allows for continuous improvement and refinement of your content strategy.

Netflix, for instance, uses vast amounts of user data to understand viewer preferences. They look at what shows are popular, which episodes get re-watched, what content viewers skip, and more. Based on this data, they make decisions about which shows to produce, which movies to purchase rights for, and how to personalize the viewing experience for each subscriber. This audience-first approach has been a significant factor in their success.

Similarly, in the realm of digital content, whether you're writing a blog post, creating a product page, or producing a video, always ask: "Who is this for? What value does it provide to them? How does it address their needs or interests?" By doing so, you ensure that your content strategy is not just about ticking boxes or chasing metrics, but genuinely serving and engaging your target audience.

The 3 Steps to Success of Your SEO Content Strategy

We can now answer how a Human-first Helpful Content Strategy exactly looks like

Think about Audience first,

then think about distribution,

and then think about optimization of distribution (of which SEO is a part of)

Following these steps your approach will also be spot-on and align with a holistic content strategy.

Let's break down this sequence:

1. Step Think About the Audience First:

  • Content Creation: Produce content that addresses the needs, preferences, and pain points of your target audience. This ensures relevance and value.
  • Engagement: Audience-centric content is more likely to foster genuine engagement, leading to shares, comments, and a deeper connection with your brand.

2. Step Think About Distribution:

  • Platform Selection: Where does your audience spend their time? Whether it's social media, email newsletters, podcasts, or other channels, choose platforms that align with your audience's habits.
  • Content Promotion: Use paid advertising, influencer partnerships, or other promotional tactics to boost your content's reach.
  • Cross-Promotion: Leverage different platforms to promote your content. For instance, use social media to drive traffic to your blog or website.

3. Step Think About Optimization of Distribution:

  • SEO: As a key component, SEO ensures your content is discoverable in search engines. This involves optimization for search intent and technical SEO practices. Tradiational backlinking strategies seem to have been overtaken in many parts by other quality measures like EEAT and the Helpful Content Update.
    Traditional keyword optimization seems to have been overtaken in many parts by semantical search.
  • Data Analysis: Use analytics tools to monitor how your content is performing. Which distribution channels are most effective? What times of day get the most engagement? Use this data to refine your distribution strategy.
  • A/B Testing: Test different headlines, images, or promotion strategies to see what resonates most with your audience and drives the best results.
  • Feedback Loop: Continuously gather feedback from your audience and use it to improve both your content and distribution strategies.

By following this sequence—audience, distribution, optimization—you ensure that your content strategy is both user-focused and effective.

It starts with creating valuable content for your audience, then ensuring it reaches them, and finally refining the process for maximum impact. This holistic approach maximizes the chances of your content being seen, appreciated, and acted upon by your target audience.

Conclusion SEO for a Human-first Content Strategy

In digital marketing, SEO stands out as one of the cornerstones of organic growth. Its strength lies not just in numbers or rankings but in building genuine, lasting connections between content and its intended audience. While paid strategies may offer quicker results, the organic reach achieved through effective SEO fosters trust, credibility, and long-term engagement.

Understanding SEO as an organic growth strategy emphasizes the importance of patience, consistency, and authenticity. It's a commitment to understanding and evolving with your audience, ensuring that your content remains relevant, valuable, and easily accessible. This organic approach, rooted in genuine audience connection rather than fleeting metrics, is what sets sustainable brands apart in the digital age.

As we navigate the complexities of algorithms and technical optimizations, let's not lose sight of the bigger picture: Organic growth through SEO isn't just about visibility—it's about creating lasting relationships with our audience, built on trust and value. By embracing SEO as a strategic pillar of organic growth, we pave the way for enduring digital success.

You mention that SEO shouldn't be the primary strategic goal, but isn't visibility on search engines crucial for online success?

Being “visible” on search engines is vital for driving organic traffic to your website. However, the point being made is that content should be created with the audience in mind first and foremost.
Once you have high-quality, audience-centric content, SEO can then be effectively applied to ensure that this content is easily discoverable. Prioritizing SEO above the content itself can lead to less engaging and less valuable content for the end user.

More than ever before search engines are focused to serve helpful content for their users. And thanks to LLMs this will become even more prelevant in the future.

How do you suggest businesses strike a balance between creating content for humans and optimizing it for search engines?

The ideal approach is to start with thorough audience and keyword research. Understand what your target audience is looking for and create content that addresses those needs and questions.

Once the content is created, optimize it for the search journeys your ideal users are on, by incorporating relevant keywords, ensuring fast page load times, adding meta descriptions, and other SEO best practices. Essentially, the content's core should always be human-centric, with SEO practices layered over it.

Does a business need to focus on all forms of SEO, or can they prioritize based on their specific needs?

A business doesn't need to focus on all forms simultaneously. The forms of SEO a business should prioritize largely depend on its goals, audience, and industry. For instance, a local brick-and-mortar shop might prioritize Local SEO, while an international e-commerce platform might emphasize E-commerce SEO and International SEO. It's about determining which forms align most closely with the business's specific objectives.

Search algorithms are continually evolving. How often should a content strategy be revisited and adjusted for SEO?

SEO is a dynamic field, and while the core principles remain consistent, there are frequent updates and shifts in best practices. It's advisable to conduct an SEO audit and revisit your content strategy at least annually. However, staying updated with major search engine algorithm updates and adjusting strategies in real-time is crucial to maintain or improve rankings.

If SEO is just a part of the distribution strategy, what are other components of a comprehensive distribution strategy?

Apart from SEO,the findability of your content, a comprehensive distribution strategy might include social media marketing, email marketing, paid advertising (like PPC), influencer partnerships, content syndication, and even offline methods such as events or print media.

The key is to understand where your target audience spends their time and how they prefer to consume content, and then distribute your content accordingly.

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