Tag team written by Paul Weber and Brenda Heffron.
1. Everyone creates lists ad nauseam.
Lists. Lists. Everywhere lists. For the grocery store. Things to do. Your bucket list. And content writing for blogs. Everyone is creating lists ad nauseam or as Merriam-Webster defines it, “to a sickening or excessive degree.” Heck, we’ve even created a list of six reasons why good writing has gone bad…
Some of the most visited news and social media websites have prime real estate devoted to Top 10 of whatever lists. But why? What’s up with content writers’ obsession with lists?
It’s all about numbers. Talk show host, David Letterman, was on to something when he started his Top Ten list. People like the best of the best. It saves them the weeding through a lot of junk to find the gems. Why bother evaluating information when there are plenty of people willing to tell you what’s worth noting.
Readers like numbered lists. Lists are a quick read and easy to understand. Most lists are formatted to read like a series of headlines with details following. They’re designed to spoon feed information. It’s down and dirty skimming.
Advertising writers like numbers too, specifically the number of people who read their lists. Numbers mean results. When “Secrets of Copywriting” is pitted against “Five Secrets of Copywriting,” the five secrets win the battle for more readers every time.
Lists aren’t prolific writing, and Mark Twain might have considered them the bane of his existence, but they make for popular marketing content in a short-attention-span world.
2. We have to explain what ad nauseam means.
Lists aren’t bad, and neither is butter in moderation. The proliferation of lists is partially due to a general decline in blog writing quality.
We don’t intend to sound pretentious, but someone has to call out the obvious. Writing skills have declined while the number of writers has grown exponentially. There’s a problem brewing.
If there were fewer bridge engineers in America, but a growing number of bridges being built, you get concerned. But with copywriting and content writing, we seem to be okay with the growing number of blah, mediocre articles written by writers without much in the way of credentials. (Present company excluded, of course.)
Unless you have a serious expertise or a very unusual perspective on a subject, then why must you have a blog? Blogs are about advertising clicks that translate to money, but is anyone really reading them? Or are we just watching and sharing cute puppy videos?
Who’s to blame? Google?
3. People write as if Google is the only one reading.
Great writing used to be judged by a writer’s peers and readers. Today, Google judges writing. Top search engine listings have replaced favorable reviews and gold stars. In other words, if it’s at the top of Google then it must be really, really good.
Google rewards writers for effective keyword use. Because if a writer uses carefully chosen keywords effectively, then he or she must be an expert in that subject.
But that’s just not the case. All it proves is that the writer knows a lot about Google and on-page SEO. But when you’re looking for an expert, you want one in the field of <insert subject here>, not manipulating Google with keyword usage.
Good writing has gone bad because writers are rewarded for not using their expanded vocabulary and creativity. Focusing on a few keywords and overall word count – that’s passing as good Google writing these days.
Google (bad) writing: Think business cards are a thing of the past? Don’t give up on professional business cards. Business cards are a chance for personal interaction. And when you’re handing out a custom business card, you don’t worry about coming up with something to say. You can always mention how amazing it is that people still print business cards and pass out business cards.
Good writing: Think business cards are history? Don’t give up that increasingly rare chance for one-on-one interaction. And don’t worry about coming up with something impressive to say to the recipient. You can always share a chuckle about how amazing it is we’re still handing out tiny pieces of paper to communicate in 2014.
4. Nobody takes risks like Hunter S. Thompson did.
Love him or “loathe” him, Thompson was a pioneer. He created gonzo journalism. He wrote of real-life events in a way that told a story, not just the facts.
Writing content for blogs is not journalism, although it can be a form of journalism. The most interesting (and shared) blogs are those based on fact with the writer’s perspective sprinkled in to make it relatable.
The Democratic Convention. The Kentucky Derby. A Hell’s Angels club. The Mint 400 desert race. They are events most of us will never attend. But who’s to say readers can’t tag along for the journey through someone else’s eyes. Isn’t that what good writing is about? Taking a reader on an adventure?
Blog writers can do that even if they’re writing about a product or a service. But they don’t because they’re too worried about appeasing Google with keywords. And while it may be a necessity today, it’s a damn shame.
5. We have to explain who Hunter S. Thompson is.
What happened to a sense of history? Memory and retention have regressed to that of a gnat, as has attention span. Good writing often requires setting the stage or using a historical perspective to educate readers or at least give them enough background to have a better understanding of the story to come.
World-class athletes know the names and records held by the athletes that came before them. World-class researchers can cite the studies of their predecessors who often laid the groundwork for the science they now pursue. And great writers in history could always quote the work of the classics.
Sadly, we suspect that many of today’s writers in the digital space have no sense of history of the art form they wish to embrace, and that’s why good writing has gone bad.
Forget the format. Print or digital, writing is writing. It is art in its finest form. Google be damned. Write to make someone laugh. Write to make someone cringe. Write to startle, to stun, to shame or to stake claim to your position. But whatever you do write with passion. Hunter S. Thompson did.
6. Nothing is left to the imagination anymore.
It sounds like we’re blaming the proliferation of online pornography when we say, “nothing is left to the imagination anymore.”
But it’s hard to dream and wonder when the answer to every question is at your fingertips, coming to you courtesy of Siri. But when the imagination is left to run wild, the result is some of the finest writing you can, well, imagine. And that’s what readers really want to read.
Free-range sushi. Don’t know what it is? Neither do we, but it sounds like a marketer’s dream. Make it into something. Make it live and breathe. Make it something it wasn’t before with nothing more than your words.
Stop writing for Google. Google may be both a noun and a verb, but it is certainly not a living, breathing entity. Write for the human who will actually read and appreciate your writing. Use your imagination in ways you haven’t before. Write to your heart’s content and we will all appreciate it.
Some enjoy writing. Others equate the stress level to public speaking. If writing content for blogs and other marketing channels isn’t your forte, we have writers who can write. No, really write. For people. Not just Google. Although Google likes us too. It’s an art.