This weekend, my girlfriend and I went on a little camping trip to the Nordhouse dunes, located on the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan. The drive was about two hours long, and despite the “no work, relaxing weekend” rule that was put into place, my thoughts soon drifted to, well, my work. I promptly began having a passionate conversation with my significant other on the ins and outs of SEO and the collaborative effort that is needed to create a truly riveting content offer.
After about twenty minutes of overly enthusiastic speech and gesticulation, I asked some nearly rhetorical question. Something like, “Isn’t that just amazing?” Only to hear the same dull “mmhmm” I had been receiving for the duration of the trip. I turned to the love of my life in outright horror! How could she not be as ardent as I on the topic of digital marketing?!
The interaction set my head spinning. I fell silent. I contemplated the repugnant reality I was living in.
That’s when it hit me!
It wasn’t that my girlfriend loathed digital marketing! It wasn’t even that she found it dull! I had just been talking about it in the completely wrong way. I was using words she wasn’t familiar with; I was over explaining simple concepts and under explaining complex ones; I was stomping through the conversation like a barbaric oaf, instead of dancing through it like a truly skilled conversationalist.
I needed to make a change in the way I was talking about my industry. If your having trouble gaining traction with your blog or other website content, maybe you do to.
Below are four tips I wrote down after my car ride so that I could more effectively talk to my clients, readers, and even my girlfriend about digital marketing. Take a look, apply them to your industry, and see what improvements you can make to your content.
1. Avoid complicated jargon, define when necessary
Every industry has a set of words, phrases, even jokes that are commonly used. When writing content, you should avoid anything that may be confusing to your readers. This may seem like a given, but you spend day after day with people who have the same proficiency in discussing industry topics as you do. They know all the special abbreviations and shorthand phrases. They know how certain words are defined in the industry and how they are used. It can be easy to confuse what is industry knowledge with what isn’t.
To avoid sending your readers back to the search engines and away from your content, constantly ask yourself: “Is a random website visitor going to understand this discussion?”
If the answer is no, try using a different word or phrase. When all else fails, just provide a definition or link to a post that does.
2. Analogies are your best friend; examples are your soulmate
Something I’ve noticed over the past few months is that many bloggers are afraid of making their content too long. They have heard the mania on the average individual’s attention span, and they think anything over 500 words is going to be tossed aside with hardly a glance. Because of this, some writers don’t take the time to properly explain industry ideas or concepts. They should, and so should you.
Writing quality, informative content is key to gaining any kind of following. You won’t get anywhere if you are only producing half-baked pieces.
So, when explaining something that might be difficult for the average visitor to grasp, use an example or an analogy that they can relate to. If you’re average reader is a forty-year-old mother of three, she can probably relate to raising a child. If you’re average reader is a twenty two-year-old male, a beer pong analogy will probably hit the mark.
3. Watch out for that rabbit hole
If you’ve spent anytime at all around children between the ages of three and six, you have probably run into something I call the “infinite why effect.” You’re making dinner, minding your own business when suddenly—
Child: What are you doing?
Adult: Making dinner
Patient Adult: Because we need to eat.
Annoyed Adult: Because if we don’t we’ll die.
Nervous Adult: Because….ask your mother.
It is very easy to inflict the “why” effect on yourself when writing content for your potential customers. You begin to explain one process, only to realize that in order to explain it, you need to explain an entirely different process, and to explain that, you need to explain another, and so on and so forth until you have a twenty-four page blog post on tying shoes.
To avoid this effect and to imbue your piece with a sense of focus and cohesion, you need to define a cutting off point for explanation. There are certain things that you need to assume your reader knows.
For example, if you are writing a blog post entitled 5 Tips for Choosing Your College Major, it is probably safe to assume that your readers know what college is, know what a major is, and have some surrounding knowledge of the college application process (ie: know what financial aid and scholarships are, are familiar with the typical course structure of a college program, understand the cost of college). If you provide information the majority of your readers already know, your content will be perceived as boring and uninformative.
So, before writing, be sure you know who you are writing to, and make a few assumptions on what they know. You aren’t going to explain your entire industry in a five hundred word blog post.
4. You’re a nerd, remember that
You are a nerd for your industry. You get excited about things that other people find entirely weird. You think incredibly mundane facts are interesting and you get giddy over “neat data.” It is important to remember that your visitors might not share your enthusiasm. You need to find away to make reading your content as thrilling as it was to write it.
If you are having trouble nailing down the tendencies of your average website visitor, download our Target Profile Worksheet below. It will help you identify the motivations, fears, and concerns of your visitors, allowing you to speak to them more effectively. Just click below to get the worksheet!