This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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03 October 2011

Plain English optimisation for top search rankings

As Google's algorithms become more and more sophisticated, journalist and web editor Robert Niles suggests that it's time to forget about keywords and search engine optimisation.
...and time to focus instead on PEO [Plain English Optimisation].
Too many writers think of SEO as writing for computers, when their real focus should be writing to meet the needs of a human audience. Ask yourself these questions whenever you write:
  • Are you writing about something that people have personal experience with or personal interest in? Can you express that audience "need" in 10 words or less? Have you done that in the story?
  • Does your article do anything to provide a practical take-away that helps readers address this need, whether it be a to-do-list (even a short one) or at least relevant, previously unknown information about the topic? Can you describe that take-away in 10 words or less? Have you done that in the story?
  • Are you writing using the words and phrases that normal readers - people who aren't your sources and co-workers - use when they talk about this topic? Are you using the vocabulary of a 10th grader, or a 10-year professional in the field?
  • Describe your piece in three words. Do those three words appear in the headline, the title tag or at least within the opening paragraph? How long does the reader have to read your piece before he or she will know what you're writing about?
  • Are you drowning your reporting under too many words?

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