How does your content stand out from the crowd in a very busy marketplace?
And boy, that marketplace sure is busy. Every minute, there are an estimated 590,278 Tinder swipes, 694 Uber rides, and 4,166,667 Facebook likes.
Oh, and let’s not forget the 1,400 new blog posts that come online every 60 seconds, or the USD 83,000 Amazon scores in sales. The 400,000 Tinder users swiping in the quest for a life partner. Or the Apple users that download their way through 48,000 apps.
Life is hard. Creating good content is harder. And then we have clickbait to contend with. Clickbait works by pandering to our worst impulses: immediate gratification with very little work. We compulsively click headlines like “Don’t ever give up this one kidney,” despite rationally knowing the actual piece will be exaggeration at best and completely off-topic at worst.
Oh, wait. It’s probably taken you at least 30 seconds to get this far. While you were reading, you’ve missed some 1,500 new pins on Pinterest and now have some 36 hours of new video on YouTube to add to your playlist.
So, as a writer, how do you try and cut through the noise? We’re fighting a war, but there are some tips to help get us by.
How to Make Your Content Stand Out Amid the Digital Noise
1. Avoid clickbait
Counter intuitive and controversial. Thing is, clickbait gets you clicks, but very little dwell times. Audiences don’t engage with text once they know they’re being had. So on you go.
Remember: We’re talking about clickbait in its worst form which TechCrunch defines as “the intentional act of over-promising or otherwise misrepresenting — in a headline, on social media, in an image, or some combination — what you’re going to find when you read a story on the web.”
By all means, create catchy headings. But make sure they back up the story you’re writing.
Summary: Clickbait gets you the first click, which is good if you’re running ads. But genuine content marketing needs dwell times and interest, which clickbait never provides.
2. Know your audience
Don’t write general stuff that tries to appeal to the widest possible audience. Instead, write for specific audiences. Who are they? Where are they? What unites them? And, most importantly – what do they want to read?
Take this very site, for example. It’s not meant for beekeepers, tablecloth collectors or teapot hoarders. Instead, it calls a tribe of digital enthusiasts plying the fields of e-commerce, marketing, SEO and technology to the campfire. Now that you know that, go ahead and write something that adds value.
Summary: Audiences want different things. Don’t go socializing on a pub crawl. Find a nicer set of close friends that want to engage with what you read.
3. Go long tail
SEO experts have a name for specific search terms – they call them long tail. I just call them responding to specific human needs.
Try entering a phrase into Google. It’ll autocomplete, which will tell you that humans search for all sorts of stuff, and that many queries are oddly specific.
So what if you wrote something about a very specific topic that people were searching for?
Here’s a personal example. I’m also a professional presenter and broadcaster, and recently had static issues with a high-end microphone. I tried finding a solution by entering the brand name, and mic make, into Google. Immediately, I drowned without sound in a sea of reviews and all sorts of pricing information – which wasn’t at all relevant to my predicament.
Then, I entered a very specific search term – “Fix static issue on [name of microphone].”
And suddenly, I was in heaven. A previously undiscovered peeved community had ranted about it, approached the manufacturer, and then gone ahead to create no less than 34 DIY fixes. Needless to say, I read them all.
Summary: Going very specific means you can find tribes drowned out by general noise. Long-tailed keywords also work well with Google rankings – meaning your content shows up higher, and attracts more eyeballs.
4. Give people what they can handle
It’s said that goldfish have a nine-second attention span. Congratulations – the human race has just beaten them in a swim to the bottom. Microsoft says that the average human can now just about focus for eight minutes on mobile.
So what’s the solution? There is only one: going simple.
People aren’t reading long copy as much as they were. And if you’re in the business of content marketing, your audience is probably time-poor anyway.
So get your point across quickly. In the content world, text is only one out of 100 ways of delivering a message. To compete, make your copy clear, simple and easy to read and digest. Like really, infographic-like easy.
Never use a long clever word where a short simple one will do. It’ll help you cut through the noise to deliver words of value.
Summary: Simplicity is key. With our attention spans shrinking to goldfish level, no one is ever going to scroll to read empty clever words. Not even you.
Cutting through the noise may not be the easiest thing in the world, given the cacophony our readers are surrounded by. But it can be done with a bit of discipline. Happy writing!