7 Reasons Business Websites Lose Readers—and Business through Content
You don’t have to look at many corporate websites to see the one thing they all have in common: they’re boring. In fact, if you can stay awake reading a typical corporate website, you probably have insomnia.
Why is this?
Is it the subject matter? Everyone knows it’s easier to make celebrities or current events interesting than it is to talk about corrugated carton packaging solutions or rotary lift parts. So when an industry isn’t already popular to the public, does it have to be dull? Or is something else at work?
The truth is, when it comes to Web content, there are many factors that can make it dry and stale—many of which have nothing to do with the subject matter. So to help you evaluate your own site, here are 7 of the top reasons website content misses the mark and loses readers.
1. It Forgets the Reader. Too many companies make their content totally product- and company-focused, neglecting what’s in it for the audience and making what Michael Brenner of B2B Marketing Insider calls the “biggest mistake marketers make.” Don’t assume readers will automatically be interested in your product—SHOW them why they should be.
Takeaway TIP: Think about what your product offers to customers. Then, look for ways to build your content around those benefits—showing readers exactly why they should want what you’re selling.
2. It Doesn’t Know the Reader. Who are your typical customers? Hospitals or grocery stores? Parents or business managers? In order to reach your audience, you need to know them: who they are, where they are, what they want and what they’re interested in. This is where customer research is so valuable. Your content should target the type of customer you’re trying to reach by showing what you offer and by taking their interests and preferences into account.
Takeaway TIP: Whether on your own or with the help of an Internet marketing company, research your audience before writing your content, using the research to inform your style, tone and perspective.
3. It’s Too General (and Filled with Fluff). Filling your website with empty content does nothing for you or your readers. Rather than crafting general paragraphs just to fill pages, design your content to communicate real facts and information about your company and what it offers.
Takeaway TIP: Ask yourself if your site answers the basic questions of who, what, where and when for readers. Will reading your content give them a clear sense of what you do and what you offer, or will they leave with questions?
4. It’s Too Detailed (and Heavy on Jargon). Just as content that’s too general can turn off readers, so can content that’s too detailed. To best connect with readers, companies need to get outside their own heads, so to speak, so they can write about their services and products in a way that appeals to their potential clients. Aim to write in clear, concise sentences that get to the point quickly.
Takeaway TIP: Write your content to appeal to your customers, not to your executives. When in doubt about using too much jargon in your site, get the perspective of someone more outside your industry.5. It’s Too Long. Many companies will add more and more content to their websites over time, without ever reevaluating to see what can be taken away. According to Paul Boag at Smashing Magazine, this is because of a fear of missing something, a worry that readers won’t understand and/or a desperate urge to convince. Unfortunately however, this plan often backfires, as too-long content turns readers away and then, nobody even reads it anyway.
Takeaway TIP: Rather than working to make your content longer, work to make it more meaningful. See what you can take out without losing your message to tighten your content and make it more concise.
6. It’s All in Third Person. Remember in high school how every academic paper needed to be written in third person? In order to be credible and authoritative, you had to stop writing with “I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours,” etc. But now with the Web, where you’re writing to attract customers and build connections, it’s the exact opposite: third person often feels stale, stuffy, boring and disconnected from readers. In fact, for most companies, writing in third person is a classic symptom of focusing too much on themselves and not enough on readers—but speaking to your reader, on the other hand, makes you instantly more personal and thus more effective.
Takeaway TIP: Instead of writing your Web content in third person, which communicates distance and formality, try writing instead in second person, addressing your customers directly.
7. It’s Sloppy and Unprofessional. For many companies, it’s not a lack of understanding that limits their Web content but rather a lack of resources. The fact is, it takes time and energy to create the kind of writing that draws customers and holds their interest, and for many small to mid-sized businesses, that time and energy is already allocated to other necessary projects. So what can result is sloppy, unprofessional, half-finished content.
Takeaway TIP: If your company lacks the internal resources to create and manage its Web content, enlist the help of an Internet marketing company with professional copywriters who can help you make your content more effective.