Lots of Noise
How many words have you read today? Hundreds? Thousands? Chances are you’ve read scores of emails, text messages, Facebook posts and other forms of content. Some estimates indicate that we read up to 54,000 words each day and the typical social media user sees 285 pieces of content per day. There’s no lack of content and noise for us to wade through daily!
The majority of people won’t stay on your website for more than 15 seconds.
How long do most people stay on your website? The majority won’t stay for longer than 15 seconds. This means you don’t have long to connect with your prospects. Given the amount of content – text, images, videos, audio – we’re exposed to daily and our short attention spans, content needs to be spot on. It needs to quickly and clearly say something meaningful.
Is your content spot on? Or does it sound more like Charlie Brown’s school teacher?
Charlie Brown’s teacher would talk and talk, but all the kids heard was “wah waaah wah waaah wah.” What do your prospects and customers “hear” when they encounter your content? Does it resonate or is it just more noise?
Good content communicates clear thoughts, evokes emotion, and moves people to action. It informs, educates, and sometimes entertains. Clear content is essential for business owners and marketers. After all, the words on our website, brochure or LinkedIn profile might be the first point of influence we have with a prospect. If your content is clear and meaningful, they may stay longer than 15 seconds; otherwise, they move on to the next site.
Here are three reasons why your content might sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher and what you can do about it:
1. Your content is boring.
Let’s call a spade a spade. People might find your content boring. “But my product is a boring product” you might think. True, your product might be boring, but that doesn’t mean your content has to be. Maybe your content was written by someone who is not a great writer, even if you are the writer. Many business owners we’ve worked with assume they can whip up the content as an afterthought given their knowledge of their business. However, the ability to translate that knowledge and experience into engaging content isn’t as easy as just “whipping it up”. Creating content is not a skill everyone has.
How to improve your content?
Get some feedback from some of the folks on your team or someone who you know will give you an honest opinion. If you need a content update, take the time to do it right. You may want to take a look at these guidelines for boring topics.
If you can write/create the content yourself or if someone on your team can do it, great.
If you or someone on your team doesn’t have the time/skills to create good content, then consider using a third party. Maybe you know a good writer. If not, talk to other business owners you know to see if they have any recommendations. You can also look for writers via a third party service like Scripted, Textbroker or Upwork [full disclosure, I’m an affiliate for Scripted]. Bottom line – it takes time and it won’t happen overnight but it’s well worth the investment.
2. It might be difficult to understand.
Your content might be well written, but it might be difficult to understand. Sometimes it is easy to forget that our audience doesn’t know our product or service as well as we do. We use terms and examples we understand but our audience does not understand.This is especially easy when writing about something you are very knowledgeable about. It is also very easy to do when your product or service is very technical. Here again, there is a great skill in crafting words that clearly communicate so that the intended audience understands. We need to remember the goal of our content is often to help educate those who are trying to learn more about a solution to their problem.
How to make your content easier to understand?
Review your content and look for jargon and other industry terms and abbreviations that you use internally or your industry uses that might not be clear to your audience. Replace those terms with non-jargon words and offer explanations where possible. It’s important that you understand your audience and how much they know. If you write over their heads they’ll go somewhere else.
3. It might be missing the point.
Let’s assume your content is highly engaging and written so your audience can understand. Congrats. Now the question – is your content useful to your audience? Does it answer questions and help people really understand what you do? Does it focus on your audience?
Your audience (customers and prospects) is looking for useful and helpful information. If your content does not help answer questions, provide helpful information, or at the very least provide some entertainment then your readers won’t stick around for long. Good writing is like a story, even if it’s for widgets.
If your content does not help answer questions, provide helpful information, or at the very least provide some entertainment then your readers won’t stick around for long.
How to make your content useful?
Write a story. “What?” you might be thinking. Yes, write a story. The idea of story is wired into us. Some really smart folks have studied this over the course of history (you can read more about the hero’s journey if you’re interested) and found that every good story involves a hero, a challenging situation, and a victory. Essentially, your customer is the hero and good writing helps your audience understand how you help them achieve victory through your product or service. Your content should put your customer at the center of the story and focus on helping them. There’s a good article on inc.com that gives an overview of five common elements of good storytelling. It’s worth a read.
4. [bonus] The formatting might be overwhelming
This is a quick one. Your readers might feel overwhelmed and leave if you have long blocks of text and that’s it. Take a look at any respected news source and you’ll see pictures, videos, quotes, bullet points, and variations in font treatment (bold, italics, underline) throughout the copy to help break it up visually.
How to fix your formatting?
Here are a few things to do if your content is long blocks of small text:
- Rework your copy into smaller paragraphs
- Use bullets where appropriate
- Provide highlights at the beginning (CNN.com does this)
- Include text callouts
- Use pictures, people are visual (make sure you use photos you have permission to use like iStock (paid) and Pexels (free)
- Bold and underline text where appropriate
So there you go. A few ideas to help you make sure your content connects with your audience and doesn’t leave them nodding their heads and wandering off to another site. Leave a comment if you have questions or other content tips.