Are you unintentionally turning off a significant chunk of your target audience by publishing content that isn’t inclusive?
How can you turn this around and make sure that you appeal to as many people as possible?
That’s what we’re discussing today with a fellow podcaster, Brighton SEO speaker, and coffee addict. She’s a former SEO at Holland and Barrett and the current search engine optimization manager at Captivate. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Sarah McDowell.
In this episode, Sarah explains six ways to be more inclusive with your content, including:
- Inclusive language
- Inclusive imagery
- Gender forms and security practices
- Showing support on your website
- Link out to resources
6 Ways to Be More Inclusive with Your Content
Sarah: Hello, hello.
D: Hello, hello. You can find Sarah over at captivate.fm. So Sarah, what does it mean to make your content more inclusive? And why is this important?
S: I’m going to be talking about this from an angle of LGBTQ+. It’s just about making sure that we’re not alienating people from lots of different backgrounds. And it’s also to make sure that there’s a true representation of all the different types of people that we have in society. So two main things. One is not alienating people and the other is making sure that there’s a good representation of people within the community.
1. Inclusive Language
D: Sounds eminently sensible. So today, you’re sharing six ways to be more inclusive with your content. Starting with number one, inclusive language.
S: Yes, inclusive language is so important. If you’re wanting to be more inclusive with your website, this is a great place to start. It’s about thinking about the language that you’re using on your website. For example, instead of mum and dad, parent. Instead of he, she, they/their. It’s about having a think of that inclusive language that you can use. And I get that maybe for keyword optimization you might want to use mum or dad. We are coming up to Christmas and you might want to have gifts for dad, but it’s about making sure that we come away from only talking about that and making sure that we mix it up and include the inclusive language as well.
I also just want to quickly talk about something that’s called compulsory heterosexuality. Or as the cool kids like to say, comphet. This feeds into inclusive language. Compulsory heterosexuality is expecting that everyone’s heterosexual until they say so when that’s not really the case. We need to be a bit more open-minded and not just think straight into that. I may have blabbed a bit on the first point.
D: Not at all. I even want to expand a little bit more into it. It’s the kind of point that you could have a deeper conversation about just in itself. The point that I was thinking of is traditionally marketers and content writers have a singular buyer persona in mind. Does this mean that the days of having a singular buyer persona are perhaps numbered and there needs to be a better way to approach the target customer?
S: It’s always worthwhile having buyer personas. I understand there’s value in niching down and understanding your audience, don’t get me wrong. But I suppose it’s about making sure that we’re open-minded when we’re thinking about our personas, and making sure that it includes people from the community. And if we are making sure that we include personas of the community, we need to be thinking about inclusive language.
D: Are there specialist editors that focus on getting this right? I would think there are some copywriters out there that have done this for quite a while and are perhaps focusing on one particular person in mind, and it might not be immediately obvious to them that they are alienating people. So are there specialists, copywriters, or editors that can help with this?
S: I haven’t seen any specialist. I’ve not really looked into it myself. Hopefully, it’s given some people some ideas. But I suppose we all need to be a bit better, at thinking about these things. I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community so maybe I’m thinking about that more as it’s more in my head. But by having these conversations like what we’re having now within this podcast, it helps make this less that there’s a specialist service but it’s more part of content writing. And when you’re optimizing, or when you’re thinking about accessibility, it’s just another thing that you’re thinking about. I would love to see that it just gets a bit ingrained in people or people are just more aware to it. I completely get that some people aren’t doing that. Why not use inclusive language? It’s normally not malicious. But it’s more that you’re just not thinking, but that’s why these conversations are important. And representation within your content teams. Have you got people that are from the LGBTQ+ community or can you reach out to them?
D: There are many follow-up questions that spring to mind, such as optimizing for Google and keyword research tools indicating that there are higher search volumes for phraseology that isn’t so appropriate, potentially. You mentioned mom and dad rather than parent. You also mentioned the importance of perhaps retaining those kinds of words, hopefully, optimized for different keyword phrases. Perhaps we can park that thought, and ideally pick it up in a future episode to discuss that further. But let’s move on to number two, inclusive imagery.
2. Inclusive Imagery
S: Yes, this is another big one as well. There have been times when I’ve gone on a website. Let’s say I’m feeling poorly, and I’m Googling my symptoms, or I’m doing research on presents and stuff, or lifestyle blogs. And the imagery that I’m coming across is, especially if it’s about relationships, a lot of it will be straight, heterosexual couples. Again, it’s another opportunity where we can make sure that we’re not alienating people. We are representing the community by ensuring that we’ve got a wide range of imagery that we’re using, and it needs to be diverse.
In an ideal world, you have your own pictures that you’d use, but I get that a lot of websites are using stock imagery. There are a lot of great resources out there. If you do a Google search of inclusive stock imagery, for example, Vice has a good collection of stock photos that cover a lot of different topics like lifestyle, technology, school, and work.
So when Googling, just be mindful that when you’re picking images if there is a good representation. A good way of looking at that is maybe you’ve got a category on your website for your different subjects and maybe you’ve got a category with lots of pictures for your images and blog titles. Have a scan, and have a look and see if they are diverse. Again, similar to the language, it’s just about being aware of this and making sure that we’re really representing all different types of people within the imagery that we use for our website.
D: Number three, be careful of alienating people with gender forms and security practices.
3. Gender Forms and Security Practices
S: Yes, this is another big one. For example, if you’re signing up to something, there might be a security practice such as, “What is your mother’s maiden name?” I see that quite a lot. And there are a lot of reasons why people might not have a mother. For example, someone might have two fathers. So you can see how that’s quite alienating to that person. And then the other big one is gender. First things first, gender is a quite personal question, especially to those who are trans it’s a quite hard question to answer. So if you are asking for gender, do you need that information? Is it going to help you? And if you do need it, you should have a bit of description around the form saying why. What are you going to do with that information? Because then the person who has given that information might feel a bit nervous about it. So once you know why you’re giving personal information, and you know why you need to do it, you’re more likely to feel comfortable.
And make sure that on the form it’s not just male or female, and prefer not to say. You might think “prefer not to say” is incorporating them more but that’s really alienating towards someone that doesn’t fit within male or female if they’ve only got “prefer not to say” because they might want to say, but they just don’t have the option. I see a lot of these forms and I know it’s not malicious, it’s just an overthought. People just aren’t thinking.
D: That brings us to number four, keywords.
S: Keywords, yes. Here, you need to be careful. If you do sell products or services for the community, do your keyword research and find out what people are searching from the community which you should be coming up for. Do the research.
I did a talk at Brighton SEO where I spoke about how to be an LGBTQ+ ally. And I made the joke about don’t just say for example that I’m selling soup for lesbians. That’s the only joke that I could think about. But then it did remind me that Marks and Spencers got into hot water because during Pride a couple of years ago, they did a different take on the BLT and called it the LGBT and basically made a sandwich based on those. It was lettuce, guacamole, bacon, and tomato. And they got in hot water. Yes, for every sandwich that was bought some of the money went to charity but I think it didn’t sit right with some people of the community.
D: So use a bit of common sense. Is this something of value that you’re offering or are you just trying to gain some cheap PR out of it?
S: Exactly. It reminds me about not jumping on the pride bandwagon. This is a big topic but every year when pride happens, we see quite a few companies jumping on the bandwagon because they kind of see it as a way to slap on a rainbow and sell some more products when that isn’t the point. If you want to get involved in pride, then please do but make sure it’s for the right reasons. Maybe you want to raise awareness about a topic. It kind of feeds into that as well.
D: And that brings us to point number five, showing support on your website. And then you’ve got a search function as well.
5. Showing Support on Your Website
S: Yes. For example, Starbucks, a couple of years ago did something good and it was received well within the community. But they partnered with a charity called Mermaids, an LGBTQ+ charity, and they did an ad campaign to show the big significance of someone presenting a new name for the first time, for example, in the trans community. And they did that by someone going to Starbucks, and you know how they ask for your name to put on the cup. So they have presented a new name for the first time. And that went down really well with the community because one, they paired with a charity that knew what they were talking about, and they used that as an opportunity to raise awareness. And they also raised money for charity and all that good stuff.
So by all means, if you’re doing stuff for the community that’s relevant to your business, make sure that you’re shouting about it on your website. Have a dedicated page somewhere that talks about what you’re doing and why. That will show to the community that you’re being supportive.
And with the search function, a lot of websites have a search bar where you can type in anything that bring back relevant searches. If you’ve got content that’s relevant to the LGBTQ+ community, make sure it’s being found. For example, have a test on your way website and type in “gay,” for example, see what that brings back. And if it doesn’t bring anything back, but you know you’ve got content that’s relevant, then that’s where you need to have a look ah how you can do that better.
D: And that brings us up to number six, link out to resources.
6. Link Out to Resources
S: This is another way that we can support the LGBTQ+ community. The idea isn’t for you to link out to all the resources that you possibly can. They need to be relevant to your business and what you do. For example, maybe you’re in the travel sector. Unfortunately, it’s very sad to say this, but it’s not safe for the LGBTQ+ community to travel everywhere in the world. And that is sad.
If you are in the travel sector, maybe you can link out to a resource where there’s a map, and it’s color-coded in green where it’s very friendly for the LGBTQ+ community. Orange or amber could be okay but there are some issues. And red is a legal sort of thing. So have a think of things that you can do or say. Maybe you can link out to beauty products or resources where you know, the business owners are from the LGBTQ+ community. Just have a think of ways that you can support the LGBTQ+ community by either making things safe for them, or showing support to the businesses, professionals, or people that are in the community.
The Pareto Pickle – Improve Click-through Rates
D: Great advice. Let’s finish off with Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?
S: I love this question. I would recommend looking at where you have content that is ranking, let’s say in position one. Or you’ve got a Featured Snippet. You’ve already got that position and you’ve already got that ranking. Have a look at how you can increase click-through rates. Normally, a tactic that SEOs or content marketers do is look for low-hanging fruit opportunities. Where you’re ranking lower on page one of Google or even page two, that’s a great tactic. You can even get good results or better results from looking at where you’ve already got a Featured Snippet or you’re ranking in number one because you always want to look at how you can increase click-through rates. For example, where you’ve got a Featured Snippet, can you better answer or can you increase the click-through rate somehow? Is there some way that you can entice people? So with low hanging fruit is a good tactic, but also look at where you’re already ranking really well because you’ve already got that first position. It’s a no-brainer to increase the clicks even more.
D: I’ve been your host, David Bain. You can find Sarah over at captivate.fm. Sarah, thanks so much for being on the In search SEO podcast.
S: Thank you very much for having me.
D: And thank you for listening. Check out all the previous episodes and sign up for a free trial of the Rank Ranger platform over at rankranger.com.