Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Writing Content To Your Demographic

I see a lot of web content that is not written with the intended audience in mind, and because of this, I feel that I should always have unlimited work and people should be trying to outbid one another for my services. I should be very highly paid and in extraordinary demand because I am not so smart that I'm a dumb ass. (I'm actually fortunate enough to have some awesome clients who understand my unique form of genius and keep me pretty busy, but I have to feign indignation to make my point.)

We have all seen straight-up poorly written content, or content that was clearly written by someone who does not have a firm command of the English language. For that reason alone I should be swimming in work, but I'm not even trying to go there right now. I'm talking about content that is written as though it was a white paper on a technical matter. End users don't need too much information. They just want to know what the thing that you are trying to sell will do for them and why they should buy your version of it. Making them feel as though you must be really smart because they don't know what the hell you're saying is not the most effective approach to writing content.

I understand that many people who spend their lives immersed in the technical side of computing are not trying to flex their knowledge when they try to explain an application. They just see things from behind the scenes as it were, and that's understandable. This is why writers should compose web content, not designers. Let me research the product and understand what it does, and I'll explain it in a way that the average end user can understand.

Now you may say that the demographic for many products are techies in their own right. I would counter by saying yes and no. There are countless small businesses that don't have an IT department--but they may have a hell of a need for killer apps that make their lives simpler. Plus, you have decision makers who are not in IT who can be sold on a product and inform IT of the fact that the company will be using this solution. That is, if they can understand what it is by reading the content that describes it.

My premise is that you should write to the audience you are trying to reach. Aside from potential customers, your content should be telling the Google bots what you do and what you sell. I am not a designer, but when I use SEO tools to analyze keyword density I notice that a lot of expensive looking sites don't have any keyword focus. The bots are not even reading the written content, they are seeing code that apparently tells them nothing about the purpose of the site (For instance, "Adobe" as the top keyword on a site that has nothing to do with Adobe). I would hold out the possibility that there is something at play here that I just don't understand, but the sites I'm talking about are not doing well.

Then there are the sites with quality writing (but way too much jargon) that do not consistently remind the bots that the purpose of the site is to sell widgets in Chicago. Proving that you know all the business school lingo is cool...at the job interview (maybe). But if you find yourself writing content, serve your client and don't be too uppity to sell his frickin' widgets in plain English. And by the way, I invite you to check the keyword density of this blog.

Of course all of the successful sites on the web were done by amazing designers who understand good design with SEO focus, and they contain content that sells. I'm talking about the rest of them here.

I purport to be a content dude. I am humble, and I know I have a lot to learn, but I also know that my content work would be an improvement on the majority of the sites I've seen. Let good writers who are focused and detail oriented enough to consider keyword density write your content, and let the designers design.

Disclaimer: I do sound kind of pissed off when I read this back to myself, but I'm not really. I don't get pissed off. This is a persona I adopted to make a point. I will always be an iconoclast no matter what I do so this is just that coming to the surface. I am actually drinking White Russians and listening to Radiohead as I write this and smiling rather dumbly...

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