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How to Let Your Audience Drive Your Content

You’re at a party and there’s one guy who will not stop talking. He talks about everything and nothing and it’s clear that no one is interested in what he’s saying. Nonetheless, he won’t let anyone else get a word in.

Unfortunately, some companies treat their content like that annoying guy at the party. Websites and blogs talk about whatever is on the author’s mind at the time and don’t stop to listen to what the readers care about. Needless to say, no one likes it when they cannot take part in a conversation.

To avoid making your audience feel like they don’t matter, engage your readers with content they can relate to. You can write content your audience wants to read by:

  • Writing for the people, not the persona
  • Correctly optimizing your work
  • Listening to your audience’s questions and comments

Write For the People, Not the Persona

The people that inspired your buyer persona are the driving force behind what you write. Audiences want to feel like the content they read was written specifically for them. If you write content just for the persona, you’re assuming that it’s a “one size fit all” approach. In reality, everyone has their own experiences, opinions, and needs that influence how they feel about a piece of writing. Remember: Talk to people, not at people.

Keep an Open Mind About Who Makes Up Your Audience

Don’t cater to one specific audience. You want to be able to draw in new readers with dynamic content while retaining your current audience. It’s not enough for people to come to your site, especially if they become bored and leave.

Engage in Conversations with Your Audience

Another annoying party guy trait? Only talking about yourself. Engaging in conversation with your audience through social media is a great way to get to know your audience. Remember to use the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of your content should talk about others. Develop an effective social media strategy to connect with your community and begin conversation.

Optimize for Users First, Search Engines Second

Once you’ve found topics your audience wants to consume, optimize your content for search engines so it can be easily found. When it comes to search results, Google is encouraging and rewarding creative, dynamic content.

How Google Ranks Your Site

It’s amazing (and a little spooky) how Google is smart enough to know what kind of content is on your site. It uses the context of your content to rank search results through their many algorithms based on what people search and how they act once they arrive at your site.

What is Keyword Stuffing?

Once upon a time, Google was not as intuitive as it is today. People took advantage of the old SEO rules by keyword stuffing their way to the top. Unfortunately, some people still think that keyword stuffing is the best strategy for ranking well on search engines when in reality, it can seriously damage your online reputation.

Keyword stuffing is taking a phrase you want users to find you for in a search engine and forcing it into your content. Stating the same words or phrases over and over again is also keyword stuffing. For example: “Anna’s Cakes can provide your next event with quality homemade cakes and other delicious treats for a great price. Let Anna’s Cakes provide your next event with quality homemade cakes and other delicious treats.”

While Google will penalize you for partaking in shady SEO practices like keyword stuffing, it’s your readers who will be the deciding factor of whether your site will succeed or not. Google also has a Search Quality Rating Program where people go through and rate different sites based on their usefulness to searchers.

Open, Honest & Useful Linking

Another common mistake is when companies put an overabundance of links into their content to manipulate their search engine ranking. The links stuffed into the content sometimes isn’t even relevant. Some site owners even put in hidden links to try to bump up their ranking. Hidden links are invisible to the human eye by way of:

  • Placing them outside the normal viewing area, like in the margins
  • Making them the same color as the page background
  • Formatting them in a very small font size

Overburdening your content with links will result in a negative user experience. It will appear spammy and look like you’re just repeating what everyone else is saying. If you have nothing new to contribute, why should readers choose your site over others?

Stop Talking, Start Listening

Audiences appreciate it when you take the time to listen and respond to them. If you respond to their questions and comments in a way that is irrelevant to the topic at hand, you’re still being that awful guy at the party. Your audience will be put off and walk away to find someone who will listen when they have something to say.

Rather doing nothing but talk, listen to what those around you have to say. In doing so, you can expand your content with topics that interest your audience. For example, say you have written an article about your company’s outdoor science kit. After reading it, someone wants to know more about how the kit will hold up if left outside in the elements for several days. You can take that opportunity to respond to the question and write about the materials in your products.

In the end, it always pays to read the room: What are people saying and doing (or not saying and doing) that you can respond to?

By stopping to listen to what your audience wants to say, you can avoid being known as the annoying party guy. Instead, you can build a reputation as someone who takes the time to stop, listen, and respond to your audience.

Next Up: How to Find Your Niche Audience

Coming to the jWeb Blog May 29, 2015

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