What are words for? When no one listens, it’s no use talking at all

Back in the ’80s, long before we started thinking about search engines, this song made some sense. I remember thinking about it occasionally during my first full-time writing job, which didn’t pay squat but did allow some unique insight into what words worked and which did not.

Today we get curiously similar insight from analytics — whether you are using Google or some other app — and what we’re often looking for are long-tail keywords. Now there’s a lot to be said for setting up your website for traditional organic keyword results — and this does pay big dividends — but you really don’t get a good look at your long-tail keywords results until your site is up and those results are rolling into analytics.

I believe that successful results for small-business websites come from continual work on the wording inside the site. I don’t think you have to do it on a daily basis, but you should put aside a couple hours a week looking at your analytics results and tweaking the words accordingly.

I guarantee what you find will be interesting. Recently I set up a site for a construction company that did work throughout most of the northern Colorado Front Range, and I found that 70 percent of the web traffic was coming in sideways — not to the home page, but to posts I had set up using location (cities mostly) and treatment in the titles.

(I would like to prove that this approach works well in the ever changing landscape of search engines, but somehow Google determined that I was not going to be privy to how that actually works.)

Using a traditional WordPress approach — arranging posts into categories and using that for display — works well for this type of approach because you do have titles and descriptions for every post. However, the words you use for this type of long-tail approach don’t have to be seen by the user to work.

Title tags and meta description tags are seen in search results, but there are many other places to place and play with your long-tail keywords. Photo titles and descriptions and other meta tags work equally well, and of course you can always play a little with the copy that is seen, and changing copy on a website on a weekly basis is a very good practice for improving your search engine results.

Back to the past, that newspaper in Lyons, Colorado was right next to the “downtown” cafe, where we would pick up free coffee and discounted meals. I laid out the paper and would watch as people read the weekly — I’d know exactly what they were skipping by, chuckling at, or were angered by.

Curiously, you can also see much of that information in analytics. If the potential customer came in on a page you intentionally set up with a long-tail keyword, such as a temporary landing page, you can set up your account to see how far they went and if they actually purchased something. We’ll get into how to do that with Google Analytics a bit later.

So what are words for? Well today I guess they are important even if it doesn’t appear that anyone is listening