Jakob Nielsen, who has been called the king, guru, pope, and czar of web usability, as well as "the smartest person on the web," has an excellent article on "findability"--writing for search engine optimization (SEO)--in his August 28 Alertbox column. His pithy summary:
Familiar words spring to mind when users create their search queries. If your writing favors made-up terms over legacy words, users won't find your site.
Nielsen uses one of my favorite quotations to make his point, Winston Churchill's "Short words are best, and the old words when short are best of all." Even better than short words, says Nielsen, are precise and familiar words--the words real people are likely to use when they search.
More Nielsen tips:
- Supplement made-up words with known words--words your customers use in everyday business practice.
- Play down marketese and internal vocabulary. "Call a spade a spade, not a digging implement. Certainly not an excavation solution."
- Supplement brand names with generic terms. Don't abandon the 95% of prospects who are searching for the problem and don't yet know the name of your solution.
- Avoid politically correct terminology--say "blind" or "limited vision" instead of "visually challenged."
Here's my own two cents:
- Don't compromise the integrity of your web content by including intentionally misspelled terms because you expect some users will misspell their search terms. It's simply not worth the damage to your credibility and professional image.
- Writing clear, simple, "findable" prose is a lot tougher than concocting flowery piffle or jargon soup. To cite another great writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Easy reading is damn hard writing." Do your SEO homework, and then hire an experienced web writer who knows how to seed text with search terms so the result seems natural and graceful.