As the internet continues its exponential expansion, more businesses realize just how important it is for their websites to be discovered with minimal effort. What few understand is that the secret to getting noticed might be as simple as using everyday conversational language.

I’ll never claim to be a search-engine optimization expert, and I’ve observed that few of them employ the same strategies for being seen by search engines. Of course, the algorithms used by Google and company are in a constant state of flux, and just when someone figures out how to game a search engine, its engineers make adjustments and render that solution ineffective.

Instead of trying to trick search engines (which I’m not nearly smart enough to do), as I’ve written web content for clients, I’ve long focused on writing authentic copy. By that, I mean copy that explains who they are and what their products do in simple, straightforward terms.

That’s important for several reasons. First, no matter how they may find their way to your website, ultimately people are reading what you’ve posted there. Yes, a sentence packed with keywords and repetitive phrases might be attractive to a search engine’s spiders, but it’s going to be odd and off-putting to a human reader. As they read through the site, your company will sound like a deranged robot instead of the top-quality organization it is.

Second, the engineers behind search engines are on a constant quest to fine-tune their algorithms so they target legitimate sites. Packing your site full of tricks might help in the short run, but unless you’re constantly changing those tricks to reflect changes in the algorithms, you’re going to end up left behind or blocked. Real, authentic copy earns consistently better results.

In addition, as more people use virtual assistants such as Alexa and Siri, your copy needs to be optimized for voice search. I’ve seen predictions that more than half of web searches will be made by voice within the next couple of years, so it’s important your pages be set up in ways that work well with voice searches. One of the most important is having copy that sounds normal and conversational. People may type odd phrases into Google, but when they have a question for Siri, they speak conversationally. “Siri, where’s the nearest pharmacy?” “Siri, show me a recipe for roast chicken.” “Siri, where’s the closest Italian restaurant?” Copy that’s conversational is more likely to match the search terms.

The existence of search engines provides a valuable reminder for marketers. By paying attention to (and thinking about) how people search for you, you can adjust your marketing messages to make them infinitely more effective.

For example, if you’re developing a new site or upgrading your current content, one way to make the copy friendlier for search engines is to focus less on what it is you want to say, and more on what your customers and prospects want to know. Sure, you could write the standard “we have a world-class organization that is committed to excellence” language, but if you operate a plumbing business, odds are your prospects will find it by entering terms such as “local plumber” or “clogged drain repair,” or voice searches like “Alexa, who can install my faucet?’

Before you start to develop or revise content, ask yourself what questions your prospective customers are most likely to ask. Then write the content in answer to those questions. Instead of talking about how your plumbing business is family-owned and has been serving your county for 34 years, talk about what you can do for homeowners and businesses and why you do it better than anyone else.

When you imagine those search-engine questions, they probably aren’t going to include technical jargon or the names of proprietary processes. Most likely, they’ll be in that familiar, common language we all use every day.

If you study your website’s analytics (and if you don’t, why aren’t you?), you can gain great insight into how users are coming to your site and where they’re arriving. If people are arriving on secondary pages instead of your home page, maybe you’re saying the wrong things on the home page. Or perhaps you should revise your site so visitors to those secondary pages receive messages that are more tightly targeted to their needs.

The web may have taken technology to new levels, but getting the most marketing value from it may rely just as much on some good-old-fashioned common sense.

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