Website traffic on the brain? Your writing sucks.
Candice Landau • May 4, 2015
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot more about website traffic. How many people are coming to our site? How many social referrals are we getting from Facebook, LinkedIn, other blogs? Has traffic dipped because we’re publishing less, or because we published a particular article at 11am?
In fact, I’ve been so distracted by numbers and looking for patterns, that I didn’t notice I was spending all my time worrying about the wrong thing. Not until my sister pointed it out a couple of weeks ago as I sat scrolling through Google Analytics for the third night in a row.
At Palo Alto Software, my job is – broadly speaking – “to attract”. To attract people to Bplans and LivePlan. To attract YOU by providing the most interesting, relevant, useful, actionable content possible so that you can grow or start a new business venture, regardless of how much experience you’ve had.
The thing is, if I’m worrying about numbers, I’m not worrying about creating or commissioning interesting, useful, actionable content. And that means, if YOU are worrying about the same thing – about how many hits you’re going to get, how many shares, and so on – neither are you!
If you work in marketing in any shape or form, I’m going to bet you’d argue with me. You can and should write with numbers and keywords in mind. It’s possible, isn’t it?
I hear you, only I disagree. And I disagree because I know from experience that the best writing has time and time again come from the slightly rebellious side of my brain that agrees momentarily to forget how many hits I’m going to get by writing with keywords in mind. The best writing is something that I would read and think “gosh, that really did solve my problem and it was interesting as I read it.”
I’ve noticed the same is true for the writers I work with. Tell them to write an article optimized for “nonprofit marketing” and you’ll end up with a very dry piece of literature. Tell them instead to help someone market their nonprofit and you’ll get an article written in an entirely different voice. Plus, it won’t be bleak as winter…
As writers and content creators, our job is not “growth hacking”. Rather, it is championing sentences, paragraphs, ideas and stories that disperse knowledge; that excite; that incite action, and that further the conversation.
It’s about sincerity.
When you work in the technology sector, especially within marketing, you become aware very quickly of insincerity. Even when a company is providing useful blog posts, it’s pretty easy for readers to pick up on their motives.
That’s why, when I sit down to write I always start with story and with a single goal in mind: to reach a single reader. My good friend Patrice Burnside puts it best:
Whether you write for a small newspaper or a big business, never forget that it’s not always about how many people see your material. Sometimes, reaching just one — the right one — is the most powerful connection the universe could ask for in that moment.
This approach doesn’t mean you can’t go back in after you’ve written your article to “tart it up”, but it does mean you should forget it from the outset. Think only of the information you want to share with that one particular person and then, go ahead and write and enjoy yourself as you do it because if you don’t, neither will your reader.