Good business is built on good communication.
It is simple and wonderfully vague, but without a doubt an absolute truth. Before you can sell something you have to tell people it exists and at the same time why they need to buy it. How to communicate those things successfully is beyond the scope of this article. Today we’re just going to take an overall look at the role of the written word in general when it comes to building websites that can be found by your potential clients and then communicate successfully, regardless of what they sell.
Search Engines Read
Google and other search engines are built on top of complicated algorithms, but essentially they are just good (and intuitive) readers – and even better organizers. If you have your site set up in an intelligent manner that is organized and focused, these search engines will be better able to understand what information it is you have to offer the world and make sure those looking for that information find your website. That means more people arrive on your site and you can sell more subscriptions, goods and services.
Search engines do see more than just words. They see your site’s HTML code and are getting better at “seeing” images and even being able to interpret things written within Flash applications. New technologies and applications are springing up that can even take pictures submitted by end users and spit out information about them like where the picture was taken and even what buildings appear in the picture, but we’re a long way from being able to use anything but words and symbols in our day-to-day search queries.
When we want to find something online, we have to write it out and plug it into a search box. Plain and clearly written text is still the most important medium of communication online.
Write For People
In many ways, search engines don’t seem all that different from human beings when they visit your website, but that isn’t entirely true.
A computer may read the same text as a human being and think it’s about one thing because of the frequency of certain words and the sort of sites that link to that particular domain or web page. A human being will visit that same page and may see nothing but nonsense and gibberish of zero value.
On the other side of the same coin, a person may find a page full of specific and valuable information, but a search engine may visit and think it’s too vague or unfocused to be worth sharing. This happens a lot with web pages that address multiple topics and issues rather than focusing on one specific topic per page.
Webmasters no doubt have had success gaming search engines. You can post dense texts that really say nothing at all but manage to repeat keywords often and you very well may get traffic. At least in the short term. Google and other search engines are constantly looking to prevent that sort of site from ranking well. It makes sense: their business is delivering the right information and doing so quickly. If they serve up spammy pages with no valuable information, they’re not providing much of a service.
Even if you manage to get a visitor with your spam page, if your site has no value, it will probably be rather obvious. If it provides value but a visitor cannot recognize that immediately, they’ll leave all the same. Nowadays surfers are savvier than ever when it comes to recognizing a spam site from a value providing website. Part of looking ‘legit’ will have to do with design, and part with the written words on the page.
Your first priority with any text should be communicating to human readers, especially if you’re interested in long term success. Writing text for a web page is really no different from writing an article for an academic journal, a story for a newspaper or a guide to a program or machine. You want to be clear, focused and keep things simple and accessible. With online writing we could add to that list being brief and formatting your text so that it is easy to scan*, since most visitors will only look over your page quickly to pick out the bits of data that they actually need. In most cases, they don’t care if you’re funny, if you’re smart or if you’re a cool person. They want information, and the faster the better.
When we focus on writing for a real audience a lot of the things that make sites rank well will occur naturally, like keyword density for example. If you provide real value, your visitors will also be more likely to stick around your site longer, trust some of your recommendations and links and maybe even promote your site somewhere else online with a recommendation or link.
But It’s A Porn Site!
Systems need to be tweaked to work with your business model, whatever it may be. At Adult Copywriters we do a lot of work with porn review sites, for which the information laid out above is particularly relevant, but even if you’re running a simple blog you’ll still want to think about how you’re using text on your web pages.
Just because you’re promoting and selling porn doesn’t mean that the text is meaningless. Though your visitors, depending on your site’s model, may be unlikely to spend much time reading when there are much more interesting photos to look at, that text is still going to be what can rope them in from search engine queries.
If It Doesn’t Have To Be Stylized or Fancy, Why Hire a Professional?
This is an easy one: because they can write better than you. If they can’t, and you have the time to do it yourself, by all means I encourage you to get to work!
Professional writers are very good at doing all the things this article has discussed so far. They know how to write simple text that communicates what it needs to quickly and accurately. I would recommend you work with copywriters that also have some knowledge of basic HTML and Search Engine Optimization, since how they structure their writing and as well as their word choices will have consequences for the development of both.
Webmasters have many options that range from very cheap to very expensive. As in all things in life, you get what you pay for. For some business models low quality text will work fine, for others it will cripple the project. Know what you need to be successful, then seek the best cost solution to make it a reality.