Home > Articles > Home & Office Computing > The Web/Virtual Worlds/Social Networking

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Writing Relevant Content for the Web Audience

How do you analyze your audience for print publications? Suppose you write for academic periodicals. If so, you have a good sense of the history of debate within each one. And you know that readers of a given periodical are professors or graduate students in the field. Perhaps you have a demographic survey of its subscribers. From this, you form a mental representation of a typical reader (maybe even someone you know, like your advisor), and as you write or review your own work, you imagine that person reading it. In the print world, this is the closest you will ever get to addressing audience members based on known facts about them.

In most print contexts, you know significantly less about your audience than you do in academic periodical contexts. Magazine writers might know rough demographics about subscribers, but they never know who might pick up a given publication at newsstands. Book writers know even less about their audiences. You might write a book for a particular audience, in the sense that you define its topic and purpose so that audience members who are interested in those things will buy it or check it out. But you don't always know exactly how to address them, either as individuals or as a group. Print audiences are typically much more diverse than subscribers to an academic journal. It is simply not possible to address all possible readers with one print product. You just don't know them well enough to do this.

For this reason, many print writers invoke their audiences by using storytelling and other compelling techniques to draw them into the book's world. When readers start down the path of a particular story, they leave all expectations of being addressed for who they are at the trail head and follow the writer into unexplored territory. The more richly the writer creates that territory, the more readers will feel compelled to take the journey.

On the Web, you know a little more about your audiences, but your knowledge is fairly generic: You might know their service providers and perhaps which search engines they came from, and which paths they take through your site. But on an individual level, you don't know much at all. (Unless they sign in to your site. But let's leave those cases behind, since very few users take the time to do so. And even if they do sign in, what you know about them can't help you tailor messages for them.) Because users take unpredictable paths through your information, you can't connect with your audience as you do in print, such as by addressing a tightly defined audience or by appealing to a diverse audience. You have to find some way to connect with them in order to deliver content that they will find relevant. There are no perfect solutions to this problem, but we have developed some strategies and tactics to help you better connect with anonymous audiences on the Web. All of them center on search.

When you write content explicitly for search engines rather than for your users, in a sense, you invoke the search engine users with an effective mix of keywords and links that draws them to your pages. The challenge is to craft your pages in ways that attract specific users from search engines, especially Google. In so doing, you can present relevant information to your audience. This book is about attracting your audience with keywords and links and thereby providing relevant information to them. As mentioned earlier, because Google and other search engines cater to the way users scan and retrieve content on the Web, writing for Google is also an effective way to write relevant content for your audience.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account