Does the need for search-engine functionality mean that metaphor has kicked the bucket? Is it safe to use idiom or do I now run the risk that this article will appear in a Google search for buckets?
Maybe I should find another word for the aforementioned cleaning vessel? There is probably no need in this article just yet… we must remember that although one of our readers is a search engine, computers have evolved to recognise idiom and will identify where words are not being used in a literal sense. However SEO best practice would dictate that for computer-clarity I do not mention buckets again or isolate that word in a heading for fear of misdirecting the searching masses…
Well, some rules are meant to be broken. The rules for writing for the web however are clear – be clear. That means using language appropriate to your audience. If your audience is international then you should avoid local idioms such as kicking the bucket or Cockney rhyming slang (however if it is Cockney-land that you are reaching out to then job’s a good’un).
Writing for the web
Writing for the web differs from the freedom of style found elsewhere because the reader is generally seeking out information for a purpose. The reader has a goal and he wants to get there efficiently which generally means clear instructions which avoid cultural misinterpretation. Your writing will be clear if you understand what his goal might be and focus on getting him there, dealing with likely questions along the way. Be conversational and cover all bases – the alternative is supplying a folder of answers to your customer service department in the hope that your visitor asks for help…
So it is not the need to communicate with search engines that is neutralising language it is the need to speak to the world, comprendez?
I recommend the web app Hemingway to help you develop a clear style. For more information please take a look at the post 9 blogging tools that I use (and one that I can’t).