Thursday, August 7, 2008

Online Writing - Passive Voice May Help SEO And Readability

Readers often read only the first 2 words of a paragraph (Jakob Nielsen's October 22, 2007 Alertbox) so the first two words should carry the meaning of, or abbreviate, the entire paragraph without compromising the writing. The first two words of a paragraph or description must be specific, clear and meaningful to a reader or searcher.

Using the best voice in first sentences and descriptions impacts two things:

  • how often people click on a given search engine result
  • how much of a paragraph the reader reads

Descriptions may be placed in the description meta tag and sometimes accompany non-text items (like video or audio content). They are often used by Google and other search engines as the snippets beneath page titles on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Descriptions benefit from either active voice or passive voice depending on specifics. These are examples of less than ideal use of voice:

  • The Federal Reserve lowered interest rates to stimulate economic growth.
  • Paparazzi attacked by Stary McFamous.

Those don't help users, or search engines, understand the entire sentence; the first two words are not particularly information-carrying words. The first sentence is aimed a people interested in interest rates, not those interested in the broader topic of the Federal Reserve. The second likely interests those who want to know about Stary McFamous more than paparazzi in general.

They are better rewritten like this:

  • Interest rates lowered by the Federal Reserve could stimulate economic growth.
  • Stary McFamous attacked paparazzi.

This is part 2 of Top 6 Online Writing Tips
Read parts 1 2 3 4 5 6

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