Sometimes when I’m working with clients, I’ll write similar articles with topics that overlap in one or two ways. They cover nearly the same topic. Or they use some of the same keywords. Or they cover two different solutions that solve the same problem. Or two different problems that can be fixed with the same solution.
The clients will often want to scrub the similar articles, worried about the overlap.
“It’s fine,” I tell them. “It doesn’t matter if we have overlap. In fact, we want them to overlap, and here’s why.”
And then I lay out concise, logical reasons about why you should write similar articles for content marketing purposes.
Your readers are not reading every article.
People come to your website because they’re looking for a particular solution, or because they came in on a single Google search. When they come, they’ll read the article they need and then they’ll leave again. They don’t poke around looking for similar articles, and even if they find them, they won’t suddenly abandon their quest for your product.
“Oh, crap! I was all set to spend six figures on this solution, but these jerks wrote two somewhat similar articles!”
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? That’s because it doesn’t happen. And if people do find two similar articles, they may read them both, which is what will ultimately drive them down your sales funnel.
People are using different keywords or phrases to find you
Your website should rank for different keywords; those keywords will bring different people to different blog articles and landing pages. They search for different keywords because they have different questions or different problems. You can’t just write one blog article or one landing page and expect it to do everything for everyone.
Years ago, I had a client that manufactured different attachments for skid steer loaders (e.g. Bobcat). Among their 200+ attachments, they made snow plows, snow pushers, and snow blowers.
And so we wrote different articles about why they needed plows over pushers, pushers over blowers, blowers over plows. And then we wrote the reverse articles: pushers over plows, blowers over pushers, plows over blowers.
Because different people came to the site for different reasons; we had to write the articles that would tell them what they needed to know. They came in looking for a particular keyword in relation to a particular question — “Do I need a snow plow or a snow pusher?” “Do I need a snow pusher or a snow blower?” People didn’t have identical questions, so we couldn’t give them a single, one-size-fits-all answer.
Our job was to answer that particular question, no matter what they were looking for. So we created slightly similar articles to do just that. The end result is the client saw a significant increase in sales because everyone could find the infomration they needed.
People come to you via different paths.
Sometimes people find you because of social media, not SEO. That means you should be tweeting and sharing your articles several times in one week. When I publish my humor columns, I tweet the link three times on Friday, three on Saturday (including 3 AM), and once on Sunday and Monday. I also publish it on Facebook and LinkedIn (when appropriate). I do it because all my followers aren’t eagerly awaiting my next column, racing to read it by 9 AM on Friday morning.
My readers are on social media at different times of day — morning Twitter readers are not necessarily afternoon Twitter readers. And the 3 AM readers are probably in the UK and Europe, or they have severe insomnia.
More so, most people don’t see any article I post, which means I can’t count on my audience to see every single thing I’m posting. Still, I need to give them several opportunities to find it, so I need to share it more than a few times.
That may happen with your readers as well. A reader who catches your latest tweet about your latest article may have missed the hundreds of tweets you’ve sent over the past several months. And it’s the only one they’re going to see. But another reader saw your article from three months ago and they missed this new one completely.
Both articles may have been slightly similar, but each reader only saw one article, so they each may need to cover some of the same material. There are a few major points you need to stress over and over, not because you want to beat people over the head with them, but because everyone is arriving at different times to different landing pages.
People don’t remember what you said three weeks ago.
You’ve heard that people need 6 – 8 marketing touches before they make a buying decision. Which means it probably doesn’t hurt that they hear some of that information 6 – 8 times just to remember it.
And we don’t retain the information we’ve read very well, especially when we read on our mobile phones and laptops. (We retain information gleaned from paper reading better.)
That means people aren’t going to remember what you wrote in your blog article three weeks ago, so it’s OK to remind them of it once in a while. In fact, the more you remind them, the more likely they’re going to remember it as they make their buyer’s journey.
IT’S FOR SEO. NOT EVERYTHING IS FOR YOU!
Given everything else I’ve said up to this point, the most important thing is that you’re writing articles for Google.
Now, before all the content marketers start jumping up and down on me with hob-nailed boots, I am NOT saying that you should write for bots over people. I want you to do the opposite of that at all times.
But what I am saying is that you cannot ignore the bots. People will come and people will go, but these bots will be around forever. They’ve been crawling my first blog since 2003, they’ve been crawling this blog since 2009. But my readers? I doubt very much that I have any readers from 2009, let alone 2003. But Google has certainly been around since then, and they’ve been tracking my SEO for the last 19 and 13 years.
That means I need to keep the bots happy and give them plenty of rich content with the right keywords, images, videos, and so on.
And yes, I absolutely need to write for my human readers. They take top priority in all the work I do. I need to write well, I need to be interesting, I need to be relevant, and I need to be entertaining.
But I can do that and still incorporate the right SEO tricks to keep Google happy. I can walk and chew gum at the same time.
One of those tricks is to write multiple articles with topics that may overlap from time to time. It doesn’t mean to write identical articles, or to even write articles that are 50% different from the previous article. (A common SEO cheat is to rewrite articles so they’re at least 25% different and post them in different places to make Google think they’re two different articles.)
It means knowing that different people will read different articles at different times. It means publishing interesting, well-written pieces that provide some sort of value — education, information, entertainment, etc.
But the bottom line is that while you’re writing for those people, you must write for the bots as well. You can do that and still sound human when you do it.
If you can’t, then hire a professional who can. We’re the ones who know how to write for the bots in such a way that the humans will never know.
And vice versa.
If you’d like to learn more about writing for search while writing for people, let us know. We’d be happy to tell you more.
Photo credit: Bob Adams from George, South Africa (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)