PC and non-stigmatizing terminology vs. Google search SEO findability
December 15, 2017 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I work in marketing at a nonprofit that focuses on addiction, and we constantly struggle with trying to change the conversation and stigma with terms that are outdated, like junkie, but also want folks who use the old terms to find us on Google searches. How do we compromise?

We're trying to reach people who might use more coarse or crude language in a Google search, and who wouldn't necessarily use the 'correct' term. At the same time, we don't want all of our content to have the stigmatizing language in its headlines, since we're trying to change the broader conversation, too.

I found this article, which is not only 11 years old but talks about "made up terminology" for PC terms, so it's a bit off. I was wondering if anyone had any links to other articles discussing this issue, or if anyone else in marketing has dealt with this issue previously, and what they did about it.

For other examples:
-junkie vs. person using heroin
-disabled vs. person with disabilities
-addiction treatment vs. rehab
etc etc

I know that Google has some synonym terminology for searches and we're working through that. Just wondering if anyone else had insight to previous discussions of such an issue.

posted by knownassociate to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can you use the term heavily in sentences that push against the term?

"Do you think you're a 'junkie? We don't."
"We don't use words like 'junkie' or 'cokehead' here - there's more to you than that"
"We're an addiction treatment center - not your usual 'rehab'"
posted by lalex at 10:51 AM on December 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

Do you have a Google Adwords non-profit grant (or any budget for that purpose)? This may be something you've already thought of, but you could create paid search ads which use the appropriate terminology, but target the more colloquial (but harmful) keywords.
posted by kylej at 10:51 AM on December 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

I like what lalex said a lot. To take off of that: It might be useful to include a post on your site that specifically breaks that down (or a series of posts that do), why you say X and not Y, which might help showcase your positive approach and why it's important. Then that post or those posts could be linked from a frequently asked questions page on your site, or a page that talks about your approach, e.g., "We believe the words we use to describe ourselves matter in treatment. Read more here." This will help with your goal to change the conversation as well, because you'll be getting it out there in conversation with the wider community of people who are interested in and might be Googling for information on these topics.
posted by limeonaire at 12:28 PM on December 15, 2017

The other benefit is that you've clearly put a lot of thought into why this is important for your organization, and it helps let the world know about the work you've done on this and the ways your organization is conscientious about it. It could be very beneficial to open up that conversation and be as transparent as possible about your organization's work in this area and your goals.
posted by limeonaire at 12:37 PM on December 15, 2017

Have you tried putting these terms in the site's metadata? You can add keywords (basically like hash tags) to the parts of the site that don't show up...in the data...and then...there's things...you do ..to make google look for it. (Sorry, not an expert, just know that it exists) ...The keyword you're looking for is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Google has somewhat downgraded the usefulness of this (since people were abusing it massively), but they still send spiders out looking for keywords and their algorithms are getting better at figuring out if you're sincere or just spamming. (Basically it's just dumping a bunch of words at the end of your website but not 'printing' them on the screen. (I would also use phrases or questions like 'am I a junkie?' or 'do I have a problem?'
posted by sexyrobot at 1:26 PM on December 15, 2017

(And I also like lalex's suggestion)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2017

Along with lalex's great suggestion, why not create two separate AdWords campaigns that lead to different pages on your site made for those distinct audiences?
posted by beyond_pink at 3:03 PM on December 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sexyrobot’s suggestion is about 10 years too late. Hidden words are not helpful, and can actually hurt your search ranking, because they scream scammy SEO link farm sites to the Googlebot.
posted by rockindata at 3:50 PM on December 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Definitely Adwords and metadata.

Another idea that's a little bit more iffy, but could work: what about pages with the term "junkie" etc in the headline but not findable from anywhere else on the site? So, the page with "junkie" on it is not linked to anything else on the site, but it does link to your other resources. This might not work because it's not linked by anything else, and it may make you uncomfortable, but it may be worth a try.
posted by lunasol at 5:49 PM on December 15, 2017

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