Friday, January 30, 2009

In blogging, clear over clever works best

Be clear, not clever.

That should be a rule for just about anything online. Maybe it should have been a rule in all those headlines we've written of the years for our print editions, too. But online, there's no substitute for saying exactly what you mean.

Why? Well the most obvious reason is that one of the ways people are going to find what you write on line is by searching for it. And search engines still don't work as well as the human mind for making connections. If you're writing about the Seattle Seahawks, don't call them the Hawks. People might not think to search for that term. And if that's the only thing you've called them in print, a search engine might not point anyone to your post. You think it's obvious that the Hawks and the Seahawks are the same team. But a machine won't.

So what words should you use? Use the words you'd use if you were searching for your own post. If you're writing about New Media in Seattle, use those words. (Smart for my blog title, eh? And you thought it was just boring.) If you're writing about traffic on I-5, make sure you use those words.

Simple clarity is important in headlines, the body of your post and even in the name you choose for your blog.

Poynter's Bill Mitchell writes about the choice of clear over clever today. Click here for his bits of wisdom.

And Rachael Money on adds interesting perspective about how the clarity that this sort of optimization for search brings to writing may actually help journalists write better. Click here for her post on CyberJournalist. Rachael, by the way, writes a lot about online journalism for WordTracker. Click here for more from her on the topic.

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