A 3 minute read by Nathan Burns, Copywriter
How To Write Content For Humans
We’ve all been there. Scrolling through a website that was clearly written only for a search engine. Sure, C-3PO might find this stuff riveting. But humans sure don’t. Buzzword-laden hyper-technical copy doesn’t really appeal to anyone — so why do we write it? Maybe it’s corporate pressure to use industry terms. Maybe it’s pressure to crank out 15 whitepapers, 3 case studies, and 10 listicles a month. Maybe it’s just keyword stuffing. As writers, we have to fight back by striking the perfect balance between storytelling and search optimization. It’s all about finding the right mix of quality content and SEO to create amazing results for humans and for search engines. It’s easy to get caught in the cycle of grinding out content with the right formula of keywords and character counts. But to connect with real people, we have to write like real people.
Plan first. Write later.
If there’s a surefire way to make your copy robotic, it’s waiting until the last minute to get input from your SEO team. It’s far from subtle. Everyone can tell when your keywords have been crammed in at the last minute. Coordinating with your search team first on keyword needs and best practices will give you the opportunity to include them in your copy naturally. That extra time to weave keywords into your copy naturally makes all the difference.
Teamwork makes the dream work.
The classic chicken or egg conundrum: Copy first? Design first? Most of us want to live in a black and white world, but the answer is somewhere in the middle. It’s an uncomfortable squishy gray area, but collaboration works. The best copy comes from syncing up with other creatives to wireframe, brainstorm, scrap bad ideas, and tweak copy along the way. This helps us create thoughtful user experiences through intentional copy and design. That way, you’re guiding users down a path, not forcing them to sift through the fluff.
Let your brand just be itself.
I won’t be the guy that tells you to write quirky copy all the time. I’m guilty of the occasional bad pun, but humor isn’t always the answer. Sometimes empathy is the answer. Sometimes it’s speaking directly to your audience in a serious tone. Sometimes it’s just presenting the data well. It depends on the brand, your audience, and the topic at hand. But knowing these and consistently applying your brand’s personality goes a long way.
Show them the good stuff.
It’s easy to break out your brand’s key benefits into a few icons and subheaders and call it a day. Take a moment to consider why the user should care about your content. How will it really make their life better? How will it make their job easier? Answer these questions like you would want them answered.
Keep it flowing.
If you’ve lost interest, so have the readers. The average human on the internet has the attention span of a gerbil. What does that mean for us? Keep things rolling. Read things out loud in your head. Cut out the fluff and keep things interesting. We live in a world of BuzzFeed lists and four-word captions, so it’s hard to keep people's attention. Easier said than done, but longer content needs substance to stay engaging.