Producing content that appeals to and engages readers is more effective than focusing an effort solely on search crawlers.

It’s been happening for a while. We’ve become hung up on trying to second guess the search engines in the pursuit of quality content. Google puts out a new update, and we scramble to decode its significance. Think of the Cold War practice of Kremlinology just transposed on Silicon Valley. We pore over every small comment and detail for a glimpse behind the curtain of what the algorithmic secret sauce to SEO might be.

Why avoid long-winded content? Because a quick goodbye is only a click away.

But our approach is wrong-headed. Search engines are not the ultimate arbiters of quality, nor do they claim to be. Readers are. Sometimes, we in the industry forget this simple truth. Even Google, to be fair, suggests we give it a break. Write for your reader not for the crawlers, its chief evangelists say.

It’s not exactly rocket science. Why devise engaging headlines? Because a well-crafted headline naturally catches a reader’s eye. Why make your openings sharp and appealing? To engage your reader and encourage him or her to read more. Why avoid long-windedness? Because a quick goodbye is only a click away.

With “the cesspool” of content online … it’s no surprise that Google would eventually identify the risk to its revenue stream, seeking to improve the user experience through Panda and Penguin.

Long-time Google executive Eric Schmidt was right when he referred several years back to “the cesspool” of content online. Using search engines can be a peculiarly random and dispiriting exercise. That’s why people have increasingly flocked to social media sites for a more edited and personalized web. It’s no surprise that Google would eventually identify the risk to its revenue stream, seeking to improve the user experience through its Panda and Penguin updates.

Google and the other search engines will continue to refine their algorithms in an attempt to better identify the kind of things we want to see. Yet, in spite of the digital revolutions of recent decades, the measure of editorial quality has hardly changed. Keep your copy clear and reader-friendly. That’s good editorial practice for any age. Make your writing targeted and engaging. Scroll back across the centuries and that was always the case. Do your research. Don’t cut corners. And don’t overthink the search engines. Otherwise they’ll overthink you.

Richard Pattinson

Richard ​is responsible for Brafton’s accelerated growth that has earned its place on Inc.’s fastest growing U.S. companies list for three consecutive years. ​He has been at the helm of Brafton’s market development since his days as the editor in chief, when he implemented cutting edge content products and services to encompass text, video, graphics and website optimization solutions.