SEO vs. HEO: Optimizing for Human Eyes

Keywords tell us far more than how to bait the search engines.

Eric J. Kort MD
4 min readSep 30


Illustration: created by the author using Midjourney.

I recently published a story that I thought would do very well. It was about treatment resistant depression which is an important and urgent topic for a lot of people. Despite getting boosted, it took off like the Wright Flyer — barely clearing the ground.

Then in struck me. The title was “Ketamine and Psilocybin Give Hope For Those Running Out Of It.” It was a nice title. Descriptive. Uplifting even. But completely lacking any of the terms that were at the core of the article: treatment, resistant, and depression. Some people would guess correctly on the topic based on the headline, but I suspected a whole lot of people interested in the topic would just keep scanning when seeing that vague headline.

So I turned to Google’s keyword planner to double check what should go into my title. I entered “Ketamine,” and “Psilocybin.” The related phrases most frequently searched-for suggested by the planner included “ketamine for depression,” “ketamine and depression,” and “ketamine drug for depression.”

Interestingly, searching the keyword planner for “psilocybin” and “depression” did not yield any phrases on the top of the list that included both those terms. But one phrase that was at the top was “treatment resistant depression,” which is exactly what my article was about.

So I changed the title to “Ketamine, Psilocybin, and Depression: Hope For Those Running Out of It” with a subtitle of “Illicit drugs elicit relief for treatment resistant depression.”

And then this happened:

Story views per day. Coincidence? Sure. Probably.

I know, I know. Probably the boost magic was operating or some other factors led to this spike. But it does make one wonder. At least it made me wonder.

A window into people’s brains.

I’m an SEO denier. Well, not so much a denier as just not very knowledgeable about it or skillful at it. My personal SEO strategy is a basic one: (1) create resources that are useful to people, and (2) deliver on any…



Eric J. Kort MD

Midlife unraveling survivor. Mindfulness advocate. Learn more: