Simple content is effective content. Articles with more ‘readability’ to them tend to get shared more online. In print, the easiest to understand works are the ones that stick with us for the longest period of time. In other words, avoid big words and overly complicated metaphors.
Contently ran a great article on this idea not too long ago. Their study includes a graph about how ‘shareable’ content is. If it’s a novel (unique) idea and is easy to read, people will want to share it online. If your content is a tired (old) idea or reads at a higher level, it still has potential to be shared – even though that potential isn’t as great. The articles that are both an old idea and hard to read? Well, you don’t want to have one of those.
The internet gives us all kinds of tools for measuring how effective content is. Keyword: tools. Some brands get caught up in those metrics that they shoot for easy ways to raise their Likes on Facebook, or how many click-throughs they have on their website. Ultimately, the goal of print branding or digital branding is to engage the reader. How we measure that helps us do better – but those metrics are not the goal.
Here are some tips to keep your content simple.
1. Write Advertisements for Kids
I don’t mean that you should put exclamation points at the end of every sentence and use colorful fonts; I mean that you should ask yourself if a child could understand your writing.
According to the Contently research, almost every American adult can read at a 3rd grade level. If you go above an 8th grade level though, you’ll lose half of that audience. It’s not that these adults never learned to read any higher than that. Many adults don’t read for fun and so they lose the fluency they may have once had. Their entire exposure to reading may be what you write on the packaging of a box. The goal of writing on any packaging is to make someone buy it. And would you buy a box you didn’t understand?
There are many free tools on the web for measuring the Flesch-Kincaid reading level of a piece (how easy it is to understand). If you want to train yourself to write simple content, try out one of these on your own writing. Meyer Bennett uses one. Every blog we post here gets a score attached to it! We’re not always as simple as we’d like to be, but it’s a great way to measure how we’re doing.
2. Show, Don’t Tell
Video continues to grow in popularity. Each year, marketers predict that the next one will be the year of video. I’d say that so far, they’ve been right every time. YouTube was a social network before there were social networks and its growth has continued each year. More sites are vying for that share of the market. Micro-video sites are popping up to make it easy to share on mobile devices. Vine and Instagram are trying to reach high adoption rates before YouTube can expand into their arenas.
Even if you don’t choose to make videos, use pictures and photography. A picture says a thousand words. And if you’re posting online, a thousand words is a pretty long read. Even though writing simple content may sacrifice some flowery paragraphs that set the mood, good graphic design can do the same thing at a glance. A visual voice lends itself to shaping how people read your content.
3. Simple is Good; Broad is Bad
Simple does not mean generic. Going so broad that you miss ever making a point isn’t going to make readers come back to your brand and it isn’t going to make search engines think you’re an authority on anything. Specific content is also more likely to be shared.
Before the internet, almost all content was specific. Nearly two decades of writing generic content packed with keywords to abuse search engine formulas ruined us. Young writers entering the job market haven’t known anything other than generic content. As a result, marketing gurus are acting like it’s a revelation that specific content works and that sites are hiring journalists away from traditional media. Specificity has always been what people wanted to read; we’re just now re-learning that lesson.
Simple Content Deserves Clean Design
Contact Meyer Bennett Creative to talk about branding and how our services can complement your brand. Call 614.485.9913 or drop us an email to get in touch.