Search Engines Are Human Too

Sometimes being so entrenched in the search industry, it is easy to forget how skewed people’s thoughts are regarding search engines. Even people who work for Web companies that rely on SEO & word-of-mouth for all their new traffic. Here’s a great example from my work the other day when discussing article titles:

“There is also a difference between writing for a search engine crawler and a real person. What is attractive to the search engine may not be the same thing as what is engaging to a person.”

I have a feeling she is not alone. Some people think of the search engine as literally an engine or a robot or an appliance. They have trouble understanding why we spend so much time worrying about it and probably hate this non-human thing that rules so many decisions.

Here’s what I told her:

  • In my 10+ years of doing SEO, I’ve never written an article for a search crawler.
  • Don’t think of a search engine as an appliance or device. Think of it as real people. For example, if you called me on the phone, I wouldn’t think of that conversation as a conversation with a telephone wire – it was a conversation with you!
  • There’s no better indicator of what people want, then what they search for and the words they use.

It’s true that SEOs will format a page or architect a site a certain way to aid in search crawlability, but when writing an article, good SEO’s think more about the user, the ways users think about and search for the content (keywords), and then various factors that play into ranking algorithms (which includes engagement more and more each day).

People scan headlines or titles. Titles should include the keywords, concisely tell the user what they are about to read and be attractive enough to draw them in. You can sometimes get away with creative headlines (especially when teamed with images), but in order for an article to have legs (last beyond the one-time editorial push) they should be SEO-friendly and click-through friendly.

The title of this post is a bit silly. Search engines aren’t human. But they do represent humans. Hundreds of millions of them. There’s no better indicator of how humans think or what they are looking for then the searches executed on these “engines.”

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