Rules, even golden rules, are made to be broken. Jakob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox article puts forward a remarkably strong case for prioritising the first two or three words in any headline or paragraph. Usability studies show that the eye scans down the left edge of any text; so you need to get the most relevant keywords into the opening of your sentences. And if that means breaking the golden rule of web writing – active voice, rather than passive – then so be it. He advises:
Words are usually the main moneymakers on a website. Selecting the first 2 words for your page titles is probably the highest-impact ROI-boosting design decision you make in a Web project. Front-loading important keywords trumps most other design considerations.
Writing the first 2 words of summaries runs a close second. Here, too, you might want to succumb to passive voice if it lets you pull key terms into the lead.
I’m used to SEO advice clashing with good writing guidelines, but this is the first time I’ve seen it happen with actual usability.