A friend of mine was recently interviewed by a major UK paper. She posted a link to the article with an unnecessary apology for the inaccurate headline that used the terms North Pole and South Pole as synonyms for the Arctic and Antarctica. As an interview subject, Sue Flood has no control over a headline.
To those involved in the business of polar travel that headline reflects one of the marketing challenges faced in a world of Search Engine Optimization and keyword content. Polar professionals use the terms North Pole and South Pole to refer only to invisible points on the planet at 90N or 90S. To use the terms as synonyms for the generic but accurate Arctic and Antarctica is tantamount to a sin. Using the terms inaccurately is the sign of an outsider, an amateur, a dilettante. No one mistakes Sue Flood for an amateur. She has the ice creds to call herself a polar professional.
Yet…the amateur is the person marketers of polar product want to capture. If amateurs refer to the polar regions by inaccurate terms, then the online content must include the terms with which people search for polar travel information. I came to terms with that conundrum by writing an article about inaccurate terms used by people when referring to the Polar Regions. I thought of it as an educational piece for seekers of information, and a clever way to ensure my former employer’s polar professionalism was not eroded.
When we insert keywords into a search field, for the most part, we do not worry about syntax or spelling. We insert keywords or phrases in a kind of stream of consciousness. Just use Google Insight for Search and take a look at how people search for your favourite subject. For example – more people search for Antarctica using the adjective Antarctic than the noun. The latter is part of the former, so the problem may be minor, but the point is the same: Writing for keyword content if you use search data undermines the English language and that irks me.