We were optimizing web content for a client who manufactures and sells health and beauty supplements. He went into some detail about the history of his first website and his company. “That’s why,” he explained quite seriously at one point, “our content is long and boring.”
Long or short, you don’t want your content to be boring.
What makes web content dull?
No, actually. People often assume that the problem they face is that their subject is dull. Fortunately, this is rarely an issue on the internet, even for companies that sell cardboard boxes or other products considered intrinsically boring. Your visitors did not get stuck sitting by you on a bus, trapped into hearing you drone on and on about cardboard boxes. They came to your website intentionally because they need cardboard boxes, or information about cardboard boxes.
What’s more, there is an amazing range of opinions on what subjects are boring. For example, I have no interest whatever in celebrity gossip. I just Googled “celebrity gossip,” went to the top result, and learned that someone I don’t know attended mass, another complete stranger went for a walk with her child, a singer admires Michelle Obama, and several more strangers are on magazine covers. It’s hard for me to imagine anything more boring. And yet I was so fascinated to hear from Tom that the CERN scientists used Comic Sans to present their findings that I not only went and read the article, but also tweeted it. The point is, there is no subject so arcane that no one online will find it fascinating and none so popular that someone won’t find it dull.
The subject is never the cause of boring web content.
Yep. You can be so boring as a writer that your information sounds boring even to people who are looking for the information you have to offer. The second choice on the SERPs for “celebrity gossip” had no more interesting information than the first (I guy I’ve heard of is getting divorced from someone I didn’t know he had married, a variety of famous strangers attended Comic-Con — seriously, people think this is interesting?) but used more interesting words and some witty remarks. I actually read some of the paragraphs.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be humorous or poetic about your cardboard boxes. Just watch out for these boring things:
- Passive sentences Sometimes passive voice makes sense. “Cardboard boxes are classified according to shape” is better than “People classify cardboard boxes according to shape.” Sometimes they’re just a bad habit. Passages like, “Boxes can be ordered in any quantity. Shipping will be calculated according to weight. Boxes can be combined to reach desired weight…” will put anyone to sleep.
- Unnecessary words You need words in your sentences, obviously, but they should all be hard-working words. “By using cardboard containers, you can make an economical choice for all your shipping needs” is a snoozefest compared with “Cardboard is an economical choice for shipping,” even for people who are interested in cardboard.
- Generalities Cardboard may be an economical choice, but a bald announcement of that claim is less interesting than something more specific: “Cardboard containers average 1% of the cost of the items they ship, so they’re an economical choice” is a much more dynamic and convincing sentence.
Your information is not the same as your subject. The information you provide has to be interesting, entertaining, or useful to the people you want to reach with your website. If you’re a cardboard box maker, your customers will certainly want to know the sizes of your boxes, your willingness to make special orders, whether or not you imprint, and the kinds of coatings your offer. They may also want to know about clever packaging, cardboard’s level of environmental friendliness, and conceivably even the history and science of cardboard. I kind of got into the geometry of corrugation while I was writing a website on the subject. As we said, people are looking for information on your subject.
Do they want to know that, “Many people use cardboard boxes”? Are they hungering for the definition of “cardboard”? Will they be engrossed in a list of industries that use cardboard boxes? Hardly. Think about your visitors and provide them with something they don’t already know. Answer the questions people actually ask you. Write about problems your customers actually have.
No matter what your subject may be, providing clear, specific, lively answers to the questions people actually ask will keep your web content interesting.