There are formulas, algorithms, keyword densities and reading levels that all are jumbled and sorted and ranked for importance when it comes to writing content. I have so many ‘SEOs’ telling me how to do my job it is almost laughable sometimes! Getting down to listening to the customer is always the best step – not all websites are created equal, and not all audiences are either.
The latest assumption is that dumb is better – apparently copywriters are being told that web copy needs to be written at a sixth grade level. Anything more complex is just too much, and will go over right over the heads of the majority of web readers.
You have got to be kidding me. As usual, this might be fine in some applications, but in many others it makes you look uneducated and not very bright to your audience, particularly if you are running a professional website.
This half baked ultimatum when it comes to readability completely disregards the fact that ALL content should be geared toward your target audience. If your target audience is sixteen to twenty something, mixed gender and not looking for anything more scintillating than where to find movie tickets or directions to the hottest clubs in the district, some down and dirty quick ad copy with a no nonsense message and a minimal vocabulary is acceptable.
A professional offering valuable services to other professionals on a professional website Is something else again. You need to present a certain level of aptitude in order to be taken seriously. If the industry uses professional or technical terms, you don’t want to look like a hack!
A year ago I was hired to write some quick copy for a company on a deadline; they wanted to launch yesterday, and were jockeying for name brand recognition and a quick jump in the SERPs for their company name. In other words, slap it together, SEO it, get it live – and we’ll pretty it up later.
It was a commercial application, but I made the mistake of following ‘protocol’ – I slammed out ten pages of optimized content overnight, following the KISS concept (keeping it simple, stupid); not a good plan. I had that site broken down and the application reduced to the lowest common denominator so that even a grade-schooler could understand it.
Oh, it still looked nice – I DO take pride in my work – but the company owner hemmed and hawed and finally told me that it was great, but could I put some of the technical terms back in? His audience was going to be other pros in the biz; he was actually planning to be a B2B company, so they would expect him to know the right words for everything, and I ad inadvertently make him look like a beginner. He had 20 years in the business, and needed something a step up!
I did a revision, since he explained that the people reading the site would be knowledgeable about the product already. I changed the text to a brief overview that showed how their product differed from others already on the market, and used the industry terminology according to the knowledge we expected his readership to have.
Remember, you always need to be sure what audience you are writing for and adjust your level of proficiency needed to read your copy to match the reader, not a formula!