As every copywriter should know, ambiguous weasel words are best avoided. Claims to be ‘almost’ something or ‘one of the’ something else have little value. But when it comes to writing for the web, must copywriters sacrifice their weasel word ethics at the altar of SEO?
Let me explain … a popular search term for people looking for copywriter training is ‘best copywriting courses’. While we might think the Copywriting Apprentice is the best copywriting course in the whole wide world, that would be our opinion and impossible to substantiate. After all, Joe Bloggs could argue his copywriting training course is better. When it comes to the ‘best’, there can only be one. If more than one company claims to be the best, it ranks alongside ‘almost unique’ – it means nothing.
If we were to say the Copywriting Apprentice was ‘one of the best copywriting courses in the UK’, we’d be using weasel words. And as providers of copywriting training, that goes against the grain. The subject of weasel words is covered in the course and, in the interests of standards and ethics, we normally wouldn’t recommend their use. But SEO copywriting is another game, altogether.
SEO copywriting is driven by keywords. And it’s the careful inclusion of these keywords in the copy which help the site’s optimisation. Keyword research is carried out to determine which are the most likely search terms. So if the prospective customer uses weaselly words in a search, these must be echoed in the copy if the page is to optimise on those keywords. But if the copywriter shuns those keywords in the interests of quality, or rephrases the term to avoid using weasel words, the optimisation would suffer.
Of course, if there was a competition for the ‘best copywriting course’ and we were fortunate enough to win, we could rightly boast about it and no weasel words would be needed.
Take Nick Jones’ proofreading company, Full Proof. He is ranked as the UK’s number one proofreader by the FreeIndex website. This is because he has more recommendations and a higher rating than all the other proofreaders listed on the site. So Nick (one of our guest bloggers) can boast of being the ‘FreeIndex number one proofreader in the UK’ with impunity.
But even claims to being the best or award-winning have to be treated with care. A sign spotted in a supermarket recently proudly proclaimed the company had won a ‘green’ award in 2005. Putting that on a website might be good for SEO, but could have a very negative connotation. As the consumer, I might question why, if they were that good, they hadn’t won it since!
But with companies from every corner of the globe vying for the coveted number one slot on Google, should a copywriter deprive them of weasel words in their copy? If prospective customers are searching for the ‘best’ or the ‘cheapest’, who is the copywriter to disagree?
As a copywriter, you have to do the best for your client. And if that client specifies certain words or phrases to be used in their copy, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and use them, however weaselly they might be. In some situations, you can offer advice and explain why there might be a better way of phrasing the copy. But when it comes to SEO, there is little room for compromise.
So, as this blog title suggests, the question of SEO and weasel words really is a conundrum and one to which we don’t have the answer. What do you think?
Blog post by Joy McCarthy