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Search and Style

Imagine yourself, a website I’ve been working on enjoins readers, floating lazily through clear blue water at the foot of limestone cliffs. A web designer for whom I’ve just done a site analysis informs his visitors right off that they “rock out with our cockiness out.” A site for a bridal show, owned by an old-school marketing expert, starts with a teaser and never gets around to using any relevant search terms at all.

Each of these sites is an example of a site already written by someone with a strong style. They’re all better than robotic strings of keywords — but only if human visitors manage to find them.

However devoted you are to cocky web designers, the chances of your actually searching for “web designer who rocks out with his cockiness out” are slim. And people planning to float lazily through clear blue water are, if they need to rent a canoe in order to do so, usually typing “canoe rentals” into the search box.

I respect my clients’ writing styles. My background in linguistics allows me to analyze their words and match their style pretty well with optimized, keyword-rich content.

What if you’re doing it yourself? How can you let the search engines in on what you have to offer without sacrificing style?

  • Give yourself a search-friendly title. The web designer could make a nice strong heading saying something like, “Business Name Web Design Studio, Mytown” and then start rocking out. (Naturally, he’ll use his business name and town, not the placeholders.) If  he’ll tuck a few likely keywords into his first paragraph, it’ll help a lot.
  • Give yourself lots of content. The adventure vacation outfitters can give themselves a clear title, like “Buffalo River Canoe Rentals,” and then wax poetic all they like, weaving phrases like “Buffalo River” and “canoe rental” into the text as they go along. With enough words, they’ll provide the information that search engines need. The web designer can have his edgy look above the fold and then add a solid 480 words about web design underneath for the sake of the search engines.
  • Start with optimized text. Write for the search engines first, or let your copywriter do it. Then go back and add your own touches — carefully, without removing anything. Leave the header, first paragraph, and bulleted lists alone if you can stand it. You’ll still have plenty of scope to share your own voice with your visitors — and you’ll have far better chances of actually having some visitors. This is what the marketing pro is going to do.

You can do whatever you like on pages that don’t serve as primary landing pages, such as your “About Us” and “Contact” pages.

If you’re working with a professional and these ideas don’t work — if, that is, your copywriter won’t work with you to preserve your style while optimizing the page — then you should consider working with someone who will do so.


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One response to “Search and Style”

  1. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Such important yet overlooked advice! I can't imagine why people wouldn't do these things…

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