Posts Tagged ‘rules’

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Why it Helps to Be Human

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

Here’s the good news:

Every organisation or individual can achieve a high rating on Google and the other search engines.

Here’s the other news:

You’ve got to be a good writer and like people, language and communication. You’ve got to work intelligently and consistently.

If the second point sounds like bad news to you, here’s why it is this way:

Whether on the Internet, in magazines and newspapers, in advertising, in literature, and for TV and movies, writing is about communication. Communication is about human beings sharing information with each other in order to understand and share experience. And you can’t understand if you don’t get what’s being communicated.

Though, like Coca-Cola’s and KFC’s secret recipes, Google’s algorithms are a bit mysterious, the secret to writing for the Internet is essentially no secret at all. Just write to communicate.

You would think that this would be advice that everyone would intuitively understand, but we all know that many businesses struggle with the simple concept. Very many organisational and business sites look impressive and slick, yet their copy and information feels cynical, wooden, trite, empty or ingenuine. That means that their audience will read a sentence, or a paragraph if they’re lucky, and leave the site.

Recently, an article in Harvard Business Review, by Kyle Wiens, explains why an understanding of language and good grammar is important for writing computer programming. Wiens says, “…programming should be easily understood by real human beings – not just computers”. Clearly, if an understanding of language matters for computer programming, it matters even more for writing for the Internet.

Human beings require that writing is engaging, authentic, sounds and feels honest, flows well and rings true. While there are different styles of writing and different contexts that call for different approaches, formats and tone, essentially, we read because we want to find out things. If we have to work too hard, we’ll stop and find something else. Good writing starts with engagement, whether its advertising copy, high literature, academic or scientific writing, or your Sunday magazine.

Search engines pick up key words and phrases, but they also pick up organic style. This means that if you work too hard to fit in key words or phrases, at the expense of real communication, you’ll lose both your human and your computer audience. Language and writing is about being and sounding genuine and authentic. Just as we can spot a con-man in real life, we’ll instantly stop reading copy that sounds contrived, cynical and self-serving.

Dale Carnegie taught us years ago in his famous self-help bible How to Win Friends and Influence People that to be effective communicators, we have to think about our audience and stop thinking about ourselves. So just because computer-based writing is a relatively new medium, we have no excuse.

This means don’t lecture, don’t be gratuitous or cynical and don’t think you can bully or brow beat your audience or clients into trying or buying your product or services. They are people like you are. You need to have something to say that’s worth saying, and that they want to hear. (Here’s an example of a recruitment website with simple artwork but effective, honest, straightforward writing). And don’t think it’s just luck or magic: there is a reason why some organisations or people have a high Google profile and some don’t, and it doesn’t just come down to how much money they spend.

There is not as much mystery to Search Engine Optimisation as you might think. Mostly, just learn to be a good writer. And how do you do that? Empathise with your audience, tell them what they want to know, have something worth saying and learn to be genuinely yourself.

Good writing is good writing – in any medium.


Lynette Jensen

Lynette Jensen is a director and co-founder of Genesys Australia and is committed to helping people achieve work-life balance through good job fit. In addition to contributing to this blog, she also writes regularly for HR Daily Community and Dynamic Business Magazine. Her articles have been re-published in India & the United Kingdom.

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* With thanks to Paul for inspiring this post

NB: We are an independent workplace psychology practice. All views expressed here are our own and are the opinions of Stephen Kohl & his associates, which do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and developer of GeneSys assessments, Psytech International.

Murder in the Village: Teamwork & Community

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

This week there was a triple murder in my village. In the little, historic town of Kapunda on the edge of the Barossa Valley in South Australia, three streets away from my house, a family of three was brutally stabbed to death. No one knows at this stage who did it, or why it happened.

My family has had a house in Kapunda for 20 years now, and though we don’t live there permanently any more, it’s where we raised our children and where we go to “get away” from things, to think, and garden and relax.

Even though I no longer live there full-time, I’ve been shocked at how deeply this event has affected my psyche. Given that I neither know the family involved, nor am a permanent resident of the town any more, I almost feel guilty that I’ve been so deeply disturbed.

It’s not so much that I am a bit afraid now (though I am) but that its broken something, that it’s taken away a sense of community and security that I’ve always taken for granted, and now have to rethink and re-integrate.

It makes me ask things of myself : If I’d been there, surely at only three streets away, I would have heard something? Would I have done anything? Could I have helped? Would I have knocked on neighbours’ doors and galavanised some help for the family? Surely I would have rung the police? How can a family of three be brutally murdered and nobody heard anything or went to help? Why do we live in communities if they don’t provide protection and support? What does this mean about human nature or the modern world? I imagine that these are the things we are all asking ourselves.

Our family friend, who was once the local policeman in Kapunda, says that people don’t respond to things anymore because they are too afraid to get involved. This makes me almost as disturbed as the murders have.

What is the point of all the effort, money and time we put in in business and the general workplace building “teams” and developing “ teamwork”, if in our private lives, our sense of community is breaking down? A team is just a small community, with common goals, concerns and values. And a workplace is just a “village”, a reflection of the wider world. It’s a mistake to think that we can separate our public and our private lives. We can’t on the one hand want to work as a team at work (or indeed on the sports field) and on the other totally ignore our place as part of a community when we come home.

In a very real way, the world has become a “Global Village” which we all notice and understand. Nearly every day, I and most people I know, have contact with people all around the country and overseas. Our connections are instant and real. We email, talk, publish, read and write blogs, and generally interconnect in a way that has never been possible before. Most of us are energised by it.

This deep seated human desire and instinct to communicate and connect with each other has always made me feel reassured. It’s made me feel a very real sense of community and empathy for shared experience. It’s made me feel like I was part of something. As a species, our co-existing drive for competition is like icing on the cake, I think, in that it spices our underlying imperative for cooperation.

Without cooperation there is no community, and most certainly there are no teams.

This week, a murder in my village has rocked me deeply. Unlike the fictional and almost genteel murders of Agatha Christie or Midsomer Murders, a real murder in a village cuts at the heart of community, and affects us all.

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company.