Questions for a Language Ninja: Why, Oh Why Will No One Read My Content?

Q: I’ve been trying to produce content that bolsters my online profile and optimizes my search engine rankings. I’ve studied nearly all of the online tips and incorporated the strategies of various thought-leaders into my own web content, but I haven’t seen any improvement. What gives?

A: The Language Ninja has received so may questions and concerns about content production that she felt compelled to address the subject once again, thereby adding to the online content glut we currently enjoy. (By “enjoy,” The Ninja means “skim through and forget or ignore outright.”)

What exactly is your ultimate web content goal? Is it to become the kind of “thought-leader” that everyone consults when they wish to achieve some professional objective? Or do you want to suppress the many news articles about the nest of raccoons living behind your restaurant’s freezer? The answer to this question should help you determine what type of content will yield the best results. (If the answer is freezer raccoons, the best type of content may be “magic content.”)

Why on earth would anyone read your blog?

If you wish to be considered an authority on your professional subject, I heartily recommend taking the following into account:

No one wants to read your content.

That’s right. Life is too short – no one wants to drag their eyes across 600-plus words of text about concrete formliners. Here are a few other reasons why your potential audience views reading your content with the same level of excitement they’d experience replacing a grease trap in their septic systems.

  1. You don’t know your audience. Who are these people, and what do they want from you? How do they speak? Who is their favorite Bachelorette contestant?
  2. You can’t force yourself to stop selling – even for a paragraph. Sometimes, people just want information. They don’t necessarily care about your promotions. If every social media post or blog crows about the wonderfulness of your products/services, you’re training your potential customers to ignore you.
  3. Your content is boring. Where’s the humor? Where’s the whimsy? Of course, this might not be the ideal solution if you’re an oncologist, but a little entertainment never hurt anyone.
  4. You don’t use your own experience/perspective. Don’t be afraid to inject your opinions and POV into your content. Tell your audience about the time you cleared out a customer’s freezer raccoons. It’s what separates you from your competitors.
  5. Your layout makes your content a chore to read. Do you upload so many photographs/graphics that readers have to scroll endlessly to get to the point?

Now, The Ninja readily acknowledges the fact that not every subject lends itself to fanatical readership. So, while the enthusiastic audience for your subject might be nonexistent, there is an unenthusiastic audience that will force itself to endure your breathtakingly dull content… but only if there is a tangible benefit.

The Ninja isn’t going to suggest doing anything unethical, such as peppering your content with dubious advice about how to conquer erectile dysfunction. (She won’t directly suggest that, anyway.) But she will encourage you to occasionally offer something for free – a how-to guide book; a webinar – that your target audience couldn’t get anywhere else. You’ll also want to do the following:

  1. Tell your audience exactly what it wants to know. The Ninja can’t stress this enough. Imagine you’re just a normal person who happens to need the services you provide. Don’t you want actual solutions that aren’t put through a sales filter? The Ninja realizes that your goal is to boost sales, but don’t be afraid to dangle the carrot of a free solution. It builds audience goodwill.
  2. Keep it short. Blog posts that are roughly the same length as the Old Testament don’t make you seem authoritative – they make you seem long-winded. Unless the topic of your blog is so complex that you couldn’t possibly delineate the subject in under 1,500 words, keep it under 300 words.
  3. Keep your landing page content succinct. There is no reason why your home page should have a 1,000-word introduction.
  4. Ignore the siren’s song of the infographic. Not every infographic is a hideous, eye-straining waste of time, but this one certainly is.
  5. Don’t put one minute’s worth of information into a five minute video. Nearly every web content strategist will encourage content diversification – text, photos, graphics, and video. However, when you just want a few bits of information and discover that you have to sit through a video that will take five times as long to view as the information would take to read, you close the window before the video’s through buffering. Unless your video has a cat playing the keyboard, keep it out of your blog.

Will these tips deliver you sure-fire results? Will they instantly deliver a customer base as loyal as Labrador retrievers but more willing to try infrared saunas? Perhaps. But there is one thing that The Ninja can absolutely guarantee – you’ll definitely fall into a keyboard-playing cat YouTube wormhole. You’re welcome.

Holly Troupe is a professional web content writer and an amateur everything else. She spends her days writing, eating, and looking for ways to incorporate the term “perfidy” into the urban vernacular.