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Musings from Mike Atkinson on Internet strategy, usability, and more...

Search behavior may be bigger than you think

More simple wisdom from Gerry McGovern … this time from his recent article “The two fundamental skills of web writing”:

[Organization-centric] content is not nearly as effective on the Web because people don’t search using organization catchphrases, buzzwords, and acronyms. People scan-read your webpages, and scan-reading is actually another type of search, where people are searching on the page for the words that they care about.

I just had this situation with a customer who wanted to use the org’s acronym as the title of one of the main navigation areas. Once the above wisdom was presented, he saw the logic and we came up with a better option.

So, the need to understand search behavior is much wider than simply understanding search-engine search behavior. It has deeper implications that affect the very writing process itself. Before you write web content, you should always find out the words that your readers search for. You should then use these words prominently in your content. [emphasis mine]

Use your site’s stats and some informal interviews (in person and email) to find out how your constituents search for organizations or resources like yours. That is pure gold.

I encourage you to read the rest of the column to grasp his insights on writing link text as well. Great stuff…

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