So here’s the thing, I was idly flicking through a web designers’ magazine and I read an article that was, frankly, a red rag to a bull. So, in keeping with my self-imposed two sentences rule (yes, still going with the theme) here’s what it was about – and why it made me a teensy bit cross. OK, a lot cross, but I’ll explain.
1. There are people out there who know they can’t write – but they think they can hire someone in for £20 per 500 words (yes, you read that right) and that’s fine and dandy.
2. If you follow Plan A (above) you’re not crediting your site’s visitors with much intelligence. And that’s an understatement.
Sorry about that third sentence, it just sneaked in. Because I’m hyperventilating.
So, to paraphrase the magazine (I’m not naming names, I’ve been on a law for journalists course or two, you know) the article said this: “Hey, web designers, at some point you’re going to need some words for your gorgeous pages – don’t sweat it, get someone in who’ll do it for you. They’ll make sure it’s stuffed with key words – great for SEO! – and they’ll hardly cost you a bean.”
Um, deep breath, argh! The article then went on to recommend hiring some of the cheap-as-chips words gang (I’ve looked them up, they’re really out there).
If you’re tempted to cut corners do you think the public can’t spot the painting-by-numbers approach to web writing from 10,000 paces?
I know I’m biased (see biog) but you wouldn’t hire someone to design your logo, or your company brochure, who’d never worked in graphic design. Would you hire someone to fix the central heating who turned up with all the right pipe-bending gear and a Haynes manual (no offence Haynes, I think your manuals are fab, particularly the home plumbing one) but who’d never qualified as a plumber? If you would, stop reading now.
So why would you hire someone who’d learned the ‘science’ of stuffing keywords into copy over someone who’d had experience of writing for publications that people will actually pay money for – presumably because they want to read them.
Just because the web is ‘free’ it doesn’t mean people want to read drivel. Formulaic drivel. Or marketing-speak.
I know that search engine optimisation matters (yes, I did actually learn something from the aforementioned magazine!). And you need keywords in your copy and your meta descriptions and title tags must be tip top, but really…£20 for 500 words to churn it out? Am I obsessing?
As the web becomes an ever-more crowded space, what makes a website stand out is not just great design, social media, video and SEO. It’s also words that ring true because they’re written by someone who can, well, write.
Even Google seems to agree – it’s now crawling the web and ranking sites based on relevant and interesting content. You hear that people? You can’t go with a ‘make-do-and-mend’ option using the words from your company brochure, no sir. Bland, technical blurb or keyword-crammed copy will not cut the mustard now. At least that’s the theory.
So, perhaps, slowly we’ll crawl out of the dark ages (pay peanuts for copywriters = bad!) and into a sunny web wonderland in which people with real writing experience write words people want to read (paying for writing expertise = good). Happy days.
- The SEO versus Content tension: a dialogue (onemanandhisblog.com)