How to optimize for bots without losing sight of the humans
By Tracey Wallace
Google’s EEAT algorithm update was an attempt to optimize for humans––suggesting that humans prefer experts as the authors of their content. I don’t think that is necessarily true, but it’s a good first move for Google is surfacing content written by people versus AI (though experts will use AI, too).
AI or not, the truth is that we all have been writing for bots for at least the last decade. Bots read our content first, after all. Whether those bots are ones from Google working to understand your new page, Facebook working to track clicks on a new page and tie those back to revenue the social media giant can claim it drove, or any other script you have on your site, running in the background.
Bots see and read our content before our human audience does. But, we aren’t selling to bots. We’re selling to humans. And it is for the humans that we need to optimize, no matter if we are using AI to help create the content or not.
So, in today’s issue of this newsletter, here is how me and my team optimize for bots without losing sight of the humans that we are actually trying to impress and persuade.
Rarely do we publish any piece of content without targeting a specific keyword. A keyword need sparks the need for a brief, which we are working to better optimize the creation of via AI tools before we hop in and add the unique point of view and folks to interview.
How do we know what keywords we want to target? There are three main ways:
- Does a keyword align to our brand offering or pillars? For instance, Klaviyo sells software solutions for email marketing, SMS marketing, CDPs, and marketing automation. These will always be (until the software solutions change or expand) our primary cluster of keywords we want to go after.
- Is there an internal driver? Sometimes sales will need something specific, or your brand team, or your performance team. What is the piece of content they need? What are they trying to solve? Can we back it into a high priority keyword cluster, and target a specific keyword so that we can feed two birds with one scone (get the team what they need, as a service organization, and also grow our digital footprint via SEO, as a strategy organization)?
- Do we already have existing content for this keyword?
- If yes, is it ranking? When was the last time we updated it? How could it be improved / better? For sites with a lot of content already, ideally you publish over an existing piece of content and leverage the age of the older URL to get improved SEO traction faster.
- If no, what is the keyword volume for this term and its difficulty? Can we rank for it based on our domain ranking and site age (this will be harder for earlier stage start-ups), and if not, should we target something longer tail and spin this out into several pieces of content going after lower volume keywords?
For the above, I use Ahrefs as my primary tool.
As I mentioned above, I’m working with the team (and Tommy Walker!) to figure out how to automate brief writing using AI tools like ChatGPT and Jasper. This will get us only the first draft of a brief though. Beyond understanding what questions to answer for a specific keyword, as well as who the competitors are, briefs also need to:
- Layout the company’s point-of-view on this topic, with stats and data to back up that point of view.
- List out potential folks to interview on this topic so that your team isn’t creating content in a vacuum, and can lean on partners and customers as the experts (which also helps with distribution when the time comes).
These two steps AI can’t do.
Interviewing and writing
With the brief in hand, and intros made to the contacts, interviewing can begin. Interviewing should happen before writing starts, but after research on the topic has been done by the writer.
Interviews should guide the overall tone of the article, help add in additional POV, and even add more substantial support for the company’s POV on this topic. You want to add to the conversation being had around this topic on the internet, not regurgitate what is already out there.
Once interviews are done, then writing can begin.
Editing and revising
In next week’s newsletter, we’ll do deep on the 3 types of edits for content, which are:
- Strategy edit: Does this present a strong POV aligned with the company’s POV? Is it better than the competition’s content on this topic? Does it have supporting and convincing proof? Is it enjoyable to read?
- Copyedit: A strong copyedit to maintain brand style, check sources and citations, etc.
- Scan edit: Is the content easily scannable, understanding that most folks on the web scan? What can we do to get it there? Are these pull quotes needed? Design requests that need to be made?
GTM & repurposing
Outline how this content can / should be repurposed across your marketing channels and a GTM flow for it. Consider:
- Social media marketing
- Paid social media advertising
- Email marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Brand marketing
- Your company’s main website
- Sales enablement
- Ebooks / white papers
This step and the one after it can happen at the same time. In this step, you submit your creative brief and request for a hero image, data redesigns, and any needs for PDFs, one-pagers, etc.
I use Clearscope for this step, but have heard great things about Frase and other tools, too. In this step, you either drop your content into Clearscope or use the Clearscope Google Doc add on to do a final optimization of your content for search.
The goal is to get at least an A in Clearscope (extra points for A++, but only go for this if it makes sense in the content itself. Don’t over optimize here. Clearscope, and all of these search optimization tools, look backward at the content that was published that is ranking––and cannot predict what will rank in the future. Optimize for humans here first, and the bots second. The reading experience matters).
Be sure that you’ve named all your images properly before this step too, since you can often hide keywords in there.
Now get it live and kickstart the GTM!
And that’s it! Now get it live, let the folks you interviewed know it is up and to help share it.
- Post on LinkedIn and Twitter, or wherever you are active (both on your own account and your brand account, if you also run that).
- Do this when you launch it, but also over the next 6-12 weeks, too.
- Share it in internal slack channels (with context!), and in external channels to get it in front of folks.
- Use pull quotes from folks featured as hooks, ask folks for their opinion.
- Launch that email marketing campaign.
- Do everything you can to get eyeballs on this piece of content, and feedback about it from the people you created it for: your readers.