Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Copywriting for queries, not English

Another major issue these days becomes obvious when one realizes that popular queries aren't requisitely English.

For example, when a user is looking for a "Vioxx attorney," one must consider whether this is actually English. The answer is yes, and no. Ask yourself a simple question. "Would I actually call up a law firm and say: 'Hello, do you have a Vioxx attorney?'"


But I'd be more likely to phrase the question "Hello, do you have attorneys who handle Vioxx?"


English is a funny language. Most of the words are derived from the romance languages (Western Europe), but the grammar is from the germanic languages (unsurprisingly German is one of these). One of the neat things that Germanic languages permit is the concept of the "construct noun." Semitic languages (Hebrew, Arabic, etc.) also have this concept.

English is also highly erratic.

So users search for "Vioxx lawyers." They also search for "MP3 player -sony" to find music players that don't pay homage to the RIAA. Just because someone types a bunch of keywords in to a query box, and it accidentally forms a valid language construction, doesn't mean it's (desirable) English. You can say it once maybe and get away with it. But after that it starts to look spammy and unprofessional.

In Spanish (and other romance languages), we would say (translated) "bus of school," not "school bus." This sounds silly in English, but that is not always the case.

Consider 2 of my favorite salad items.

1) Hearts of Palm
2) Artichoke Hearts

Notice that the first is in a "romance construction" whereas the second is in a "germanic construction."


So why is this relevent?

Nobody says "Vioxx Lawyer!" Saying it more than once in your copy will look stupid. And, yes, keyword density counts. Not to the extent that it's worth measuring and calculating, but you'd be wise to include it 3-4 times in your copy in various inflections (tenses, plural/singular, etc).

So here is how to do it:

We construct 2 sentences (see: http://www.lawyerseek.com/Practice/Pharmaceutical-Injury-C1/Duragesic-P64/) --

Contact us regarding Duragesic; attorney consultations are free

... and hope for the best.

Lousy copy scares clients away. This won't. English is a beautiful but highly erratic language. When you copywrite, this is important to consider.


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