Four ways plain language writing can boost SEO

SEO letters on a diePlain language writing – simple words, shorter sentences, cutting out jargon, using everyday language – is most often associated with business, legal, government and technical documents.

But its value goes much wider. As well as simplifying content for readers, writing in plain language can be useful for bringing in more and better search engine traffic.

We know that plain language is great practice all-round but here we look at how following plain language guidelines can specifically help with your SEO.

What semantic search means for your content

Since 2013, we’ve known that Google has taken a leap forward in deciphering context and can better understand more natural, everyday search queries in order to serve up more relevant answers.

Its Hummingbird update outlined how it has moved on from literal keywords or phrases triggering hundreds of thousands of results, and how it is now better able to refine results accordingly to context – even directly serving up answers and not just pages of listings. A query based around the word ‘apple’, for example, will be more likely to spot if you are looking for information on the computer brand, the fruit, a person’s name or your local Apple store.

Following plain language guidelines, delivering useful information and writing in a more human, natural way– without stuffing content with keywords and synonyms – now more closely matches this more intelligent, semantic search capability.

In short, machines are slowly catching up with the ways human communicate, which allows us to write more for humans and less for machines.

Where plain language meets Google’s content guidelines

Plain language techniques can also boost search traffic in other ways. The Center for Plain Language posted more fully on this back in January, so check out director Jeff Greer’s post on What Google’s content guidelines mean for plain language content creators. It’s a great bookmark.

Greer’s post shows Google’s new content guidelines echoing some of the basic tenets of plain language. So, for digital communication professionals to amplify their online content and optimise for search engines, he outlines four takeaways:

1. Don’t make your users work to find key information
Have a clear purpose for your web page, and make sure the information on that page is clearly written and delivers on what your readers want to find out.

2. Focus
Clearly targeted content that talks directly to your audience and answers their specific information needs will also connect better with long-tail search queries, and bring better quality traffic as a result.

3. Quality matters
Writing clearly and with expertise, authority and trustworthiness – E-A-T, as Google calls it – will tick boxes both for users and for Google’s quality raters.

4. Make sure your website works in mobile devices
Even if your content is not yet responsive across different devices, concise and to-the-point writing will help keep the word count down and make your content more likely to be read on mobile.

Further help and information

You can read the full Google content guidelines and how it rates the quality of your content here. In short, meet your customers’ content needs in the above ways and you can expect a higher ranking for your content and, as a result, more potential new customers being sent your way.

Please note, Firehead works with plain language experts so do get in touch if you have any requirements in this area. You can contact us here or read more about our client solutions and candidate services.

Image (CC): SEO Planter/Flickr

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