» SEO Tips for Speaking to Same-Sex Couples

Having strong SEO for your business is critical to building a powerful online reputation, and considering your keywords thoughtfully is important when marketing to same-sex couples. What you might not realize is that, at times, the best practices when referring to LGBTQ clients can also be out-of-sync with optimal SEO keywords. What’s a pro to do? Start here!

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.com, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

When we first founded our company in 1999 as TwoBrides.com and TwoGrooms.com — ‘mother-approved shopping sites for same-sex couples,’ we loved the domains because our URLs were catchy and descriptive. In 2005, however, we had the opportunity to acquire the domain www.gayweddings.com and expand our offerings.

Though our “new” company name, GayWeddings.com, is a bit less “catchy” than our first brand names, the advantage of our owning this keyword-rich domain is obvious. It’s the fastest shorthand to describe what we do, and the name speaks for itself in conversation and SEO optimization.

Or does it?

The answer to that is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ And, in my ambiguous answer lives a story of how a market, a marginalized community, and our larger society has changed in fifteen years’ time.

As Far As Acronyms Go

Over twenty years ago, our community largely referred to itself as ‘the gay community.’ But, within the community, there was a push to be more inclusive. Thus we began to refer to ourselves as the ‘lesbian and gay’ community and ‘lesbian, gay and bisexual’ (LGB or GLB) community.

And, over the years, our transgender brothers and sisters lobbied and pushed (rightfully so) to expand the community’s definition to LGBT. And, finally, of late, others, including myself, have begun to add the Q for ‘Queer’ into our mainstream use as a means by which to be most inclusive. (While we’re at it, in case you are wondering, there have also been other acronyms including ‘I’ for Intersex, ‘Q’ for Questioning, ‘A’ for Allies in the mix.)

The bottom line for our purposes as wedding professionals, however, is that we are talking about same-sex couples. Two persons of the same gender who wish to marry and who, for the most part, identify with being part of the broader LGBTQ community.

As Far As Getting Hitched Goes

In the nineties, we talked about commitment ceremonies and civil unions, and some of us began to call our ceremonies ‘weddings’ because that’s what it felt like we were doing even if legal marriage wasn’t part of the deal at the time. But now, in 17 states, the District of Columbia, and more to come and in relatively short order, we are talking about marriage. And, beyond the obvious celebration of the equal access to legal benefits, members of the LGBTQ community feel a special bit of pride to lay claim to the word.

So, in what seems like the blink of an eye, we’ve gone from ‘commitment ceremonies’ to ‘gay weddings’ to ‘same-sex marriage.’ From ‘gay couples’ and ‘lesbian couples’ to ‘same-sex couples.’ From the ‘gay community’ to the ‘LGBT’ or ‘LGBTQ community.’ And, even though there are some clear patterns in how we identify ourselves, there are always differences of opinion about what terms are best to use or how we might apply them to each other and ourselves.

And, perhaps more importantly, with this evolution of ‘best practices’ in how we refer to same-sex couples, the gap widens between what a wedding professional might say, what s/he  might write in a post or article, or what keywords s/he might use when creating an AdWords campaign, creating a website, or writing a blog post.

What then, you might ask, is a mainstream wedding professional who wants to serve same-sex couples to do?

Doing It All

Overall, to best serve and reach same-sex couples (whether you are doing so online, in print or in speech) you must make sure you understand all of the terms: terms used formally, search terms for services, and the language you use to show you understand the community’s needs.   Understanding the nuance of each and when and how to use them and how those terms will be received by your listener (or reader) or prospective client will be key to your success as you prepare your business to move from ‘gay-friendly’ to ‘gay wedding competent’. And, if this feels a bit overwhelming, start simply. Just ask yourself, what am I trying to accomplish and to whom do I wish to speak or what is the purpose of the use of this term and take it from there!

Find below a guide to common LGBTQ language and terms and how they have evolved over the years. Also, review how they stack up against the alternatives and what may be best for common speech vs. search engine optimization!    

Previous commonly used term: ‘gay’

  • rates well as a searchable term and generic descriptor
  • rates well as a term that most men (and some women) will use when searching for products or services
  • rates poorly as a ‘best practices’ term in writing (unless you mean gay male couples specifically)
  • rates poorly as a ‘best practices’ term in speech (unless you mean gay male couples specifically)

Today’s common term: ‘LGBT’ or ‘LGBTQ’

  • rates well as a searchable term
  • rates okay as a term that individuals might use when searching for products or services
  • rates well as a inclusive descriptor
  • rates well as a ‘best practices’ term in writing
  • rates awkwardly but correctly when speaking

Another common term today: ‘same-sex couple’

  • rates well as an inclusive descriptor
  • rates okay for some searchable purposes but isn’t necessarily how couples refer to themselves
  • rates well as a ‘best practices’ term in writing
  • rates well as a ‘best practices’ term in speaking

Previous commonly used term: ‘commitment ceremonies’ or ‘unions’

  • rates out-of-date as a general descriptor
  • rates okay for some specific searchable purposes
  • rates out-of-date as a ‘best practices’ term for ‘weddings’ in writing
  • rates out-of-date as a ‘best practices’ term for ‘weddings’ in speaking

Another previous commonly used term: ‘gay weddings’ or ‘lesbian weddings’

  • rates well as a specific descriptor
  • rates well for searchable purposes done by couples and individuals
  • rates well as a ‘best practices’ term in writing if you are talking specifically about gay or lesbian couples, respectively
  • rates well as a ‘best practices’ term in speaking if you are talking specifically about gays or lesbian couples, respectively

Today’s common term: ‘same-sex marriage’

  • rates well as an inclusive descriptor
  • rates well for some searchable purposes, but isn’t necessarily how couples search for products or services
  • rates well as a ‘best practices’ term in writing
  • rates well as a ‘best practices’ term in speaking

Another common term today’: ‘same-sex weddings’

  • rates well as an inclusive descriptor and is inclusive of couples who can’t get legally married
  • rates well for some searchable purposes, but isn’t necessarily how couples search for products or services
  • rates well as a ‘best practices’ term in writing,
  • rates well as a ‘best practices’ term in speaking

Interested in more best practices? Check out our Inclusivity Do’s and Don’ts Infographic for more helpful tips!