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What is etymology, and how can it help your improve your company’s SEO? As the newest member of the Blue Corona team, I’ve got the answer for you.
I’m a copywriter with a degree in English, so I thought I’d bring a little of my academic flair to the world of SEO. I’m still learning about it, but one of the first things I noticed was how much a good understanding of the etymology of English can contribute to great marketing content.
If you haven’t heard of etymology, I should explain firstly that it’s not entomology. That would be a very different blog post.
What Is Etymology?
Etymology is the study of word origins. In English, most of our words come from one of three sources: Germanic, French, or Latin.
- Germanic words are the oldest, and make up the building blocks of English. These are basic words like I, it, but also practical stuff like house, fireplace, or dog.
- French words are a bit fancier, and often imply class. For example, while an Old English speaker might call something red, a French one might say it’s burgundy.
- Latin words are technical and often lack connotation. Many of our Latin words come from scientific fields.
Because English is absolutely chock full of words, it’s a fun exercise to pick three synonymous words from different roots. A classic example is the place where you live. In German, it’s a house, in French, it’s a residence, and in Latin, it’s a domicile. Three roughly synonymous words with three very different connotations.
What Does this Have to Do with SEO?
As anyone who has dabbled in SEO knows, you’re often working with rough synonyms when deciding on keywords. Let’s look at a few examples.
Etymology in Action
Buy vs. purchase
Buy is a good strong Germanic word, while purchase comes from the French. A quick AdWords Keyword Planner search reveals almost twice as many monthly searches for the former.
Bug vs. insect
If you picked up anything from my etymology lesson (or in this case, entomology), you should be able to guess that bug is Germanic. Insect is Latin. Keyword Planner shows bug gets over seven times as many searches as insect.
Cheap vs. inexpensive
Despite the negative connotations of the Germanic cheap, it beats out the French inexpensive nearly 17 to one in a Keyword Planner matchup. Wow!
Obviously, etymology isn’t the main factor driving these search patterns. I doubt many users consider the origins of the keywords they search! But the dominance of basic Germanic words over their French or Latin counterparts points to the preference users have for concise, common language. Searchers look for the most basic way to put something when plugging it into a search engine. They’re rarely concerned about sounding smart or crafting an elegant turn-of-phrase.
That preference is important to remember when writing for the web. While a big vocabulary might be useful in some scenarios, it’s generally not going to help you write good SEO content – and it might even hurt.
Need Help Writing SEO-Optimized Web Content?
If you think I’ve made a lick of sense, you should get in touch with Blue Corona now! We’ll help you produce stellar content for your page that produces clicks, leads, and most importantly, conversions. Give us a call or complete the contact form to the right to get started today.
About The Author: Blue Corona is a data-driven online marketing company with offices in Gaithersburg, MD and Charlotte, N.C.
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