If your online content sucks, then you simply won’t engage your audience and improve traffic to your site. Whatever field you work in, your digital offering has to be kick-ass if you’re going to win customers over and keep them coming back for more. Certain things really turn people off. Here we’re going to talk you through some of the things you need to avoid when penning online content.
Repetition is boring. End of. People don’t like to read the same thing over and over again, so there’s no point simply rehashing old articles or rewording the blog post you put up last week. If you want to engage with your audience then you really need to keep the content fresh. If you have nothing new to say, sometimes it’s best not to say anything at all.
Ever read an online article where the same keywords are awkwardly stuffed into every sentence? Keyword stuffing can make your content virtually unintelligible for your average reader. It can also make you sound quite robotic and corporate when customers really want to know there’s a human being behind the brand. Yes, you want to improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), but the plan can backfire. Overloading a page with keywords is now considered a very underhand tactic. You can be penalised by Google and other search engines if they think you’re going overboard.
If the content you’re publishing is already out of date when you upload it, your customers will lose interest. Content which is irrelevant or old news can really harm your organisation because if people don’t feel you have anything important and new to tell them, they’ll simply stop listening. You should try and strike a balance between ‘evergreen’ content which won’t go out of date and exciting new developments, whether that’s the announcement of a summer sale or the launch of a new product. Whatever you post, make sure it’s current and relevant to your target market.
We’re constantly being told attention spans are getting shorter. When people can scroll through web pages on their smartphones, you need to grab them within the first sentence or risk losing them completely. Most people won’t read beyond the first two or three paragraphs if they’re not engaged. That means no pointless introductions – tell them everything you need to tell them within the first few lines.
People buy from people. If the tone of your content is too corporate, too keyword laden or too full of jargon, you won’t make many friends. Customers want to hear enthusiasm and passion, because who wants to buy from a bored corporate drone instead of a human being? Every brand has a story to tell, and people like hearing stories. Inject your content with emotion and you’ll win people over. Keep the tone stale or lifeless and you’ll lose them.
For a while, they were all the rage, but listicles have fallen out of favour and should be avoided. The problem with listicles is that they rarely tell the reader anything new, and are often just old content rehashed. For too many organisations, listicles are the cheap filler candyfloss just making up the website. Many readers find them bland and a little bit patronising, so credit your audience with some intelligence and give them real, ‘meaty’ content to read.
Giving your readers inaccurate content is a big no-no. Whether by accident or deliberately, getting the facts wrong can have major repercussions. If, for example, you’re selling a product and don’t describe it accurately enough, then chances are the buyer is not going to be too happy when the goods arrive. Unhappy customers leave negative reviews, and negative reviews can kill trade. It’s important to always check and double-check the facts before you upload anything. Don’t let a silly mistake risk your business.
Similarly, it’s always good to include relevant sources where you can. This shows that your content is well researched and wasn’t just cobbled together on a whim. People will trust you more if you can cite professional sources or direct them towards relevant information. Sources can also work as a good two-way street when it comes to publicity. If you cite an online source and share a link to them, they may well return the favour further down the line. Online friends can be a great way of networking and getting more exposure.
As with a lack of sources, poor or non-existent research will leave customers feeling they can’t trust you. If you make a claim then you have to be able to back it up with facts. Simply ‘making things up’ or stretching the truth without doing your homework never ends well. You’re bound to be found out eventually, so research, research and research some more to create the most accurate and authoritative content.
Now we’re going a bit Goldilocks in search of a happy middle ground. If your content is too short then people will be left wondering what has gone unsaid. It’s true that many people are short on time and just want the headlines, but they’re also going to be put off if your content doesn’t deliver enough information. If your blog post, marketing email or landing pages don’t give the full story, people will be left wondering where the rest of it is.
On the flipside, you don’t want your content to be too long, because people will just switch off. There’s a balance to be struck between the two. Too short and people will question it, too long and they’ll be comatose. You need to say everything you have to say in an as succinct and readable way as possible, without rambling on for too long.
Finally, before you sit down to pen your kick-ass content, you need to be clear in your own mind what its purpose is. If you lose sight of its purpose then your audience certainly will. Know exactly what needs to be said and how many words you have to say it in, perhaps planning with a few bullet points. That way you stay on topic and write content your customers will actually want to read.
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