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Google’s latest algorithm update is expected to hit many websites where it hurts, in their search rankings. This is the latest in a series of updates designed to reward sites that are ‘by people for people’ and penalise those written for search engines. In other words, where a fixation on cramming in keywords has made sites frustrating for humans.
But publishers are the good guys, right? We’ve never keyword stuffed, so we should be OK.
Sadly not so, because algorithms’ attempts to interpret a web page as a human sees it will always be flawed.
If you’re a specialist publisher then your copy will necessarily be full of technical words and phrases, and that’s how it should be. But that can look suspicious to an algorithm looking for clarity. If you’re not to fall foul of the Helpful Content update you need to be strict about eliminating unnecessary repetition (which could be misinterpreted as keyword stuffing), and at simplifying the words and phrases around the technical vocabulary. A much better experience for your readers, and you should have the new algorithm on side too.
Writing for SEO remains critical, but it should never be at the expense of the humans we want to engage. I have always put the case for ‘human optimisation’ to remind us not to get too distracted by SEO. Should I trademark the phrase before Google uses it?
Wordtracker has published a useful guide to the Helpful Content update which also includes a link to Google’s own guidance. Highly recommended.
Our Copywriting Workshop is designed to help make difficult decisions about style, tone and vocabulary – and balancing writing for humans and search engines – just a little bit easier.
If you’re a journals publisher, how good are the author resources on your website?
Many of these areas were set up to support online manuscript submission, as a result of which they can be relentlessly policy-focused. Sure, this needs to be there, but it can backfire if researchers resent being fed a series of rules seemingly there to make a publisher’s life easier. The written guidance from which this content has often been taken can also give it a more formal and distant tone than we should use if we want to genuinely resonate with new academic authors.
If we are to succeed in persuading authors that we are the perfect partner to publish their work, we need to make the benefits clear. Two examples:
There are probably NO academics out there in 2022 who don’t already feel crushed by their workload. There remains a simmering level of resentment about publishers being out of touch and making unfair profit out of academia. Whether this is ‘fair’ is really not the point. To mitigate it we need to position our author-facing content carefully, so that our understanding of their issues, and the benefits of working with us, are genuinely compelling.
If you’d like a fresh perspective on your company’s website, do get in touch. We can offer a quick objective assessment, or help with more significant reviews.
Our Academic Marketing Workshop focuses squarely on how to get the tone and messaging right for both authors and their readers.
Last month my tip suggested responding to non-essential mandatory fields online with the most outrageous option offered. It’s what I do when forced to offer a title (Mr, Mrs, Ms).
Judging from the emails I got, it seems I’m not alone.
One started ‘Dear Reverend, Colonel or Whatever’.
Another said: ‘Totally agree with you about title fields. I did once go to London Online with a badge reading ‘Lady Charlie Rapple’ in protest!’ (Thanks, Charlie, love it!)
But this was my favourite, shared by Sarah from the US. Her sister chose Lady as her title when buying an airplane ticket, and then heard her name (with title) announced at the airport. She was asked to change seats and her neighbour was ‘totally in awe to be seated next to a Lady’. Thank you so much, Sarah, this really made me laugh!
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I bought a pack of chocolate muffins on Saturday. Completely gratuitously they were marked ‘Ready to eat’. Well of course they were, what else would I do with them? If copy should be as short as possible and not waste time telling people what they already know, how on earth can this be justified?
It’s simple. That little phrase was there to make me salivate. Every time you write: ‘To order simply call this number or email …’ you’re hoping to tip the balance, to carry your reader along to the point where they act because you’ve reminded them that they can. It’s a hugely powerful device and we should ensure that we use it in all the copy we write.
Our (ready to eat) Copywriting Workshop has plenty more like this.