If there's one thing that we hold in common as a human race it's that, when we're on the Web, we're cheap. (Even the Swiss are cheap.)Go on, admit it; you're cheap. Breathe in deeply, and then as you breathe out slowly, whisper:
Now really loud:
"I'm cheap!! Yeah!!! I'm cheap!!!!"
Okay, calm down. That's enough. Sit down, please. Stop punching your fist in the air. It's embarrassing. People might see you.
Nobody sees you when you're on the Web. You can be your true, cheap self. It's what we love about the Web. We comparison-shop to get a great deal; the best price.
But our conscience does get at us. (Or is it our vanity?) When we see those cheap words we can sometimes recoil. Because, really, in all honesty, we don't want a cheap hotel. What we really, really want is a deluxe hotel at a really, really cheap price. We want a bargain, a special offer. Because we're special; we're worth it.
All this can make it quite difficult for helping people find our website. If they don't necessarily like to read the words they've searched for in the content, then what are we to do?
The best strategy is to get linked to from other websites with the words that people are searching for. So, if someone searches for "New York cheap hotel", then a great link to get would contain "New York cheap hotel".
The title tag is extremely important. Use "New York cheap hotel" in the title, as the title does not appear in the page content. (It does appear at the very top of the browser, but most people don't look up there when they're scanning a page.
Of course, the title has the extra benefit in that it is the link text in the search result. The words we search for are burned into our short-term memory. When we see a search result that has those exact words, that's a very clickable proposition.
It is also advisable to use "New York cheap hotel" in your description tag, as this content will only appear on the search results page, directly underneath the title. (Google only occasionally uses the description tag.)
Be clever with your content. You might not put the word "cheap" in your heading, but your might say something like this in your first sentence. "The only thing cheap about this New York hotel is its prices." Be imaginative.
Place some of those softer words into graphics. Your nice heading, "A boutique hotel for the budget-minded", can go as a graphic and thus not be picked up by the search engine word indexer. Your more hard-nosed words can be placed as text.
Whatever you do, always remember this critical piece of advice: Do not optimize for search engines; optimize for people who search. Search is just the first step in a task that your customers would like to complete.
When customers get to your homepage it's just the start. They will skeptically scan your page, giving you about 10 seconds. If your content doesn't speak directly to them, in the right language about exactly what they care about, they're gone.
It's not that hard to bring customers to your website. Getting them to complete a task-that's the real challenge.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.