Il y a longtemps…No I haven’t a clue what it means either but if you used it in a French exam answer you got an extra mark. It was one of several phrases that I’d cram into the first paragraph, irrespective of topic, in order to be awarded maximum marks. The aim was to get these key phrases out of the way before attacking the rest of the essay.

And this seems to be the approach towards website content. Get as many keywords into the first 250 words on the home page so that the spiders will rank the site highly. The spiders that scour the web assessing content that is. And the dark art of Search Engine Optimisation is dangled in front of clients as a carrot, as the guaranteed way to achieve a number one ranking on Google and the like. Which it might do. But the traffic driven to the website is not spiders its humans. And a human landing on one of these contrived ‘rearrange these keywords into a sentence’ home pages will bounce back off again.

Because what works in print also works online. It’s basic four-step direct marketing – AIDA. Attention, Interest, and Desire can lead to Action. Taking the user through the steps towards contacting you, buying your product or whatever you’re trying to achieve with your website.

Beneath the widgets and wacky navigation most websites are brochures online. And words are important. I provide content and I have a direct marketing background. And yes I have been known to agonise over the use of a comma. Which I’d say is preferable to having content written by a web developer who doesn’t have a grasp of basic grammar or sentence structure. But this is so often the case and so much web content wouldn’t pass the gatekeepers of print. Typos on websites are common yet it’s a quick fix, unlike print where it’s a costly mistake. But I guess we should all be more laissez-faire. The content may be nonsense but the website can be considered a success if it appears at the top of the search engine results list. And I can pass the French exam despite being unable to express myself to a native speaker. Il y a longtemps indeed.