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Google: The Ultimate Web Writer's Style Guide


Indulge me for a moment.

Forget that Google is a search engine. Just for a moment, imagine it is a style guide. A very different kind of style guide.

Instead of this particular style guide being written as a static book by an expert or two, it is written by studying the searching and browsing habits of hundreds of millions of web users.

Get the idea? Not a search engine. A style guide. A constantly evolving style guide that works from its insights into how people use and read web sites.

A style guide that puts the visitor first, puts their needs ahead of the academic opinions of experts.

A style guide that automatically rewards sites that serve their readers the best.

If we study Google not as a search engine, but as a style guide, what does it tell us about how we should write our web pages?

>> 1. Make the subject of each page absolutely clear.

As visitors arrive at your site, regardless of the entry page, the first question in their minds is, "Am I in the right place? Will I find what I want here? Can I achieve what I want to achieve here?"

Fortunately, the web page format gives us a title, headlines, first paragraphs and subheads we can use. So it makes sense to use them to make it abundantly clear to our visitors what the page is about.

We'll do this for our visitors. But, because doing so helps our visitors, Google will reward us.

>> 2. Make your home page short text clear

First-time visitors to your home page are unlikely to be able to achieve their objective through that page alone. So you need to write short text that will quickly and clearly let them know if you have what they want deeper in your site, and how to get there.

This means using the right words in your headings, subheads and short descriptions. It means anticipating the words and phrases most visitors will have in their minds and will scan for. It means understanding which words and phrases best correspond to your visitors' needs.

Write these headings and short descriptions with your readers in mind and, once again, Google will reward you.

>> 3. Make your text links relevant and descriptive

A text link that says, "More..." or "Click here" or "Learn More..." tells the reader nothing about the destination page.

Visitors scan your text links in the same way as they scan headings, subheads and short text. So provide them with clues. If you have an interior page about a weight-loss hypnosis service, write a link that says something like, "More on weight-loss hypnosis".

Do this and you'll be helping your readers a great deal. And yes, Google will reward you for your efforts.

>> Concluding thoughts...

By all means use a traditional style guide. They are great for getting your grammar right and choosing the right words. That said, many of them conflict in their recommendations as to the correct online terms. To some, a web site is a web site, to others it's a website.

But back to Google as a style guide for a moment. This whole exercise, this make-believe about Google being a digital, interactive style guide is all about the importance of writing for your readers.

Yes, what I have been talking about it using the correct keywords and phrases in the appropriate places.

However, too many people write their pages with Google as the primary audience. I think that's the wrong approach. You get a clunky text flow that, intuitively, feels wrong to the reader.

Instead, write with a clear understanding of what your readers need. Do this and you'll find that the best keywords fall into the right places with an appropriate frequency.

And Google will reward you.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author and speaker. You can access all his newsletter articles on writing for the web at his http://www.ExcessVoice.com site. You'll find articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at http://www.FreelanceWritingSuccess.com


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