Who are you trying to please when you write the words for your website?
“Potential clients, obvs,” I hear you say – but it’s not quite as “obvs” to some people, judging by some of the appalling web content that’s still out there doing a disservice to the website owners, 24-7, 365 days a year.
That’s because there’s a lot of old wives’ tales still circulating about SEO (search engine optimisation), keywords, and how to ingratiate yourself with Google’s algorithm.
Rumour used to have it that the only way to get to the top of Google’s search results was to stuff your web copy full of keywords that people might be using in their search terms.
There’s a logic to that, of course, as your site really will be found more easily if it contains words and phrases that people are searching for.
But it’s how you do it that counts.
An old Chief Sub-Editor I used to work for held up a dictionary and said: “All the words you need are in here. Just put them in the right order and you’ll make your fortune.”
Great advice – but about as useful as the instruction to would-be sculptors to start with a block of marble and chip off the bits you don’t want; it sounds easy, but you need to know what you’re doing.
Which is why there are so many websites still online that are almost unreadable for humans.
Yes, they may contain all the words and phrases someone might type into Google’s search page, but they’re unintelligible at worst and mind-numbingly boring at best.
What’s the point of impressing an algorithm and coming top of the search results if the humans you hope will be your clients or customers are so irritated or turned-off that they click straight off your website and never come back?
As a copywriter in my pre-Chantry days, I’ve been presented occasionally with a long list of words and phrases that had to be included in a web page or article I was being paid to write.
The client didn’t care much about the result, so long as they were all in there – and he’d go through my work afterwards, ticking them all off.
It’s called keyword-stuffing, and is a surefire way of showing that you don’t give a stuff about the people you expect to read your website or your blog.
Incorporating a long list of words and phrases is possible, if not desirable, but has to be done so expertly that the final content reads fluently, engagingly and compellingly.
Few achieve that.
And these days, according to my new colleague, the SEO expert Rob Rowlands, Google’s algorithm deliberately penalises websites for keyword stuffing, having been trained to look for natural wording that people will actually want to read.
So websites that include the same poorly-expressed thoughts, repeated half a dozen times on the same page in non-or-barely-sensical sentences stuffed full of keywords and stilted phrases, will be harder to find, not easier.
Which seems only fair.
So the moral of the story is: write for humans, not for algorithms, and people will want to read what you write.