In our last post, we talked about the benefits of writing in simple language. Not only does more of your audience understand simple language, but it’s actually easier to hit your word count goals when you’re using smaller words in smaller sentences. But it’s important to recognize that you can easily go overboard and get so simple that you lose the essence of what you’re saying. For example, you could do what Randall Munroe did in creating the book Thing Explainer, a book that attempts to convey complicated ideas using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language. Thing Explainer is an amazing feat, but it’s clear that you can’t convey any degree of nuance when your vocabulary is so limited.
But since most of you probably don’t own Thing Explainer, I went ahead and used Theo Anderson’s amazing Up-Goer Five Text Editor, which forces you to use Thing Explainer vocabulary, to write a short article describing the most basic aspects of SEO. (Of course, I had to use the word ‘SEO’ twice in order to set the subject properly, but other than that, it’s completely legit.) Check it out:
SEO is the art of getting your on-line computer place high up on the search. To do it, you have to make a relationship between your on-line computer place and the other places like it strong. You also have to make the relationship between it and the search strong, too. There are two groups of ways to make those relationships strong.
The first group is a set of things you can do to your on-line place that the search likes. The search likes your place to be interesting. It likes your on-line place to keep people on it for a long time, which means it has to be fun, or have things that people need to use on it.
The search also likes you to use words that it understands have an important meaning, called key-words. The people who use the search type the key-words into the search, and the search understands the key-words and uses them to decide whether or not to put your on-line place high up on the search. If your on-line place uses lots of key-words and they all go with the idea that your on-line place is all about, the search will understand that your on-line place should be put high up on the search. But if you use too many of the key-words, the search doesn’t like that anymore and will not put your on-line place high up on the search.
There are many more things you can do to your on-line place that make the search happy to put it high up, but using key-words and keeping people on your on-line place for a long time are the two most important.
The second group of ways to make the relationship between your on-line place and the search strong all happen outside your on-line place. The most important one by far is to make lots of other places make key-words that go to your place when someone presses on them. It is most important to have as many different other places make these key-words as possible.
It is also important to have the places be as important as possible. The more important a place with key-words going through to your place is, the better the search thinks your place is and the higher up on the search your place will go.
There are two big ways to get other on-line places to key-word through to your place. The first is to pick on-line places that let you build the key-words yourself. The second is to make friends with the people who make the other on-line places and then ask them to build the key-words for you.
The last important part of getting your on-line place happy with the search is using on-line places like Face-book. When you put up a new place with new words on-line, if places like Face-book talk a lot about your new place, the search really, really likes that. So if you can get places like Face-book talking about your new stuff, you should.
And that is the art of SEO using only the ten hundred most normal words we speak.
As you can see, there is a point at which getting simpler starts to lose meaning — and when you lose meaning, you lose value to your visitor. You have to navigate the space between ‘easy to read’ and ‘complex enough to convey valuable meaning.’ If you can do that, you’re probably already writing better content than half of the content creators out there.