Don’t make your reader feel like an idiot


As I worked through the review of the iPad Mini 5 my mind wandered. The language was clumsy and repetitive. I was losing track of where I was. Section titles were less about signposting what was to come, more about including the phrase “iPad Mini 5” (again). This wasn’t insightful, helpful content that made me want to sign up for their newsletter or follow their Twitter. It was pure SEO.

The quest to rank high on Google is damaging our ability to write coherent content. We cram keywords and phrases into our copy, hoping we’ll score highly when someone comes to search. A new form of writing has appeared that abandons constructing a crafted narrative in favour of stilted prose, repetition and unusual sentence structures.

This new form of writing is difficult to read. Our language is structured so once we’ve established the subject, we don’t need constant reminders. Yet SEO optimisation almost demands we replace every “it”, “them” and “they” with the subject in full. Not only does this result in copy that clunks along, it also can lead to confusion. We skip the SEO optimised subject, so when the author changes context we miss it. Suddenly the sentence makes no sense and we feel uncomfortable, confused, perhaps foolish.

Making your reader feel like an idiot is rarely a good thing.

SEO optimisation is important to businesses trying to create brands and bring people flocking to their websites. It requires content that’s structured to make the most of complex algorithms that don’t always favour readable content. Yet it will be humans who read it and decide whether they want to buy, sign up or follow. If the content isn’t engaging and well written it’ll fail.

About Ross A Hall

I'm a freelance content manager and editorial designer. I work with small and growing businesses so they get the most out of their content.

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