Ease in Writing
Writing Tips from Full Circle Communications
April 2008
In This Issue
SEO: Writing for Search Engines
Five Steps to Stronger Strategic Messages
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Ease in Writing?

"Ease in writing" comes from a poem by Alexander Pope, the British poet:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

Note he (and I) didn't say "easy writing." But just like dance lessons can help get you around the floor with your partner more gracefully, the goal for this newsletter is to share a tip or two each month so you can improve how your organization communicates in writing.
SEO: Writing for Search Engines 
 Search Engine Optimization encompasses techniques to structure websites, blogs, and other online vehicles so they rank as high up as possible in the major search engines--especially Google. It's a question of balancing the needs of search engine "spiders" with those of your human readers.

Current best practices include--
  • Choose one keyword phrase per page, which you can sprinkle on (not bombard!) the page to describe your product or services. Research shows people usually use 3 to 5 words in a search phrase. And don't use the same ones on each page of your site--you'll only be competing against yourself for search engine placement.
  • Think narrow (ish). The keywords need to be general enough that someone besides you will search on them but not so broad that you do not have a realistic shot of a high SE rank. Many services offer basic keyword analysis for free, then charge for more premium assistance. The basic stuff is fine for a start. Check out WordTracker (free trial requires registration), Overture, or The Analyzer to give you an idea of the keyword density of your current pages, competitor's pages, or new pages you create. Google has a tool that suggests phrases people used--some are ridiculous but some will catch your interest.  
  • Use the keywords in the page title and the headlines. Help the search engines find you! Example: A header could read "Hand-Delivered Gourmet Fruit Baskets," rather than "A Great Gift."
  • Label your graphics. Use the ALT image tag (your web developer will know about this if you do not) to describe your images in words. Helps the spiders and makes your page more accessible to the visually impaired or those with text-only capability.
Although content is paramount for search engine placement, other factors play a role, too, including links, design, and server issues. Let me know if you need referrals to SEO experts in these areas.
Five Steps to Stronger Strategic Messages

My colleague Rebecca Leet has written a book that brings together many decades of her work in helping nonprofits and companies craft strategic messages that (in her words) "use crisp, clear, compelling language to connect with target audiences whose action is needed to achieve the client's goal."

She suggests a 5-step action connection framework:
  1. Identify your organization's desired action

  2. Identify the people who must be activated to make that action happen (target audiences)

  3. Identify the desires of those target audiences

  4. Identify the overlap between what your organization and target audiences desire

  5. Within the area of overlap, create a message that makes your audience hear their desires will be met by taking the action you want.
The book Message Matters: Succeeding at the Crossroads of Mission and Market, of course, explains the framework in more detail and gives lots of examples. But when I learned that she helped the American Lung Association create the message "When you can't breathe, nothing else matters," I realized what an expert resource she is!

Attention, Authors!
Have you written a book, blog, or other piece about communicating through writing? I would love to share the information with others. Let me know what you have created!