How to keep your content always relevant to the people who are reading it

Humanlytics Team
Jun 2, 2018 · 7 min read

How often do you think about who exactly reads what you’re writing? It’s all well and good to be writing these long screeds or cool informational guides about your field, but have you thought about who actually reads your content?

The other day, I was looking through our publication’s readership, and was surprised to discover that a fair amount of our readership comes from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Why is that important? Because when you’re sitting in the United States writing content, it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re writing for a wider audience than you’d otherwise expect!

So for Chapter Three of our Basic Guide to Content Marketing, we decided to go a little more in depth about learning who you’re writing for, and then actually writing for them!

Your Audience is Global

Surprise! The Internet isn’t just in the United States! It’s a vast, interconnected network that dips into nearly every country in the world. So, when writing, you need to make sure that your text reflects that.

Consider the above paragraph, for instance. Do you see the issue with it?

Surprise! The Internet isn’t just in the United States! It’s a vast, interconnected network that dips into nearly every country in the world. So, when writing, you need to make sure that your text reflects that.

I went ahead and highlighted it for you. You see, if you’re a reader from Finland, a reference like that might jar you just a bit. “Of course it’s not a surprise!”, you might think. You’ve grown up with the internet in Finland!

It’s certainly not something that would offend someone, or make your content unusable. But a minor textual speed bump like that might give a reader enough of a pause or a cognitive misstep to lose focus on your content, and look for something else to read.

While that’s a minor issue, it brings attention to a larger one — GIFs.

Content these days is PEPPERED with GIFs. To some extent, GIFs have become their own language on the internet. If a picture is worth a thousand words, for instance, then a GIF is likely worth millions. GIFs are, in essence, cultural references and touchstones that can convey layers of subtlety and meaning to people who are familiar with the idea or object being referenced.

Want an example? Look up a bit. If you’ve never watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, you’re probably a little confused about why there’s a GIF of an alien shouting at Professor Xavier from the X-Men on your screen. If you’re a part of the in-group (those who’ve seen Star Trek), the GIF and the reference make perfect sense, and your understanding of the point I’m trying to make has only increased. But if you’re a part of the vast majority of people who haven’t seen Star Trek (aside — something I’d recommend fixing), then you’re not only less aware of what I’m trying to say, but also probably not sure if you want to keep reading.

So what does that mean? Check your GIFs for scope and context. Is the reference something that everyone reading your article will be able to understand, regardless of where they’re from? Is the media that you’re taking your content from recognizable enough to make sense to people? (Star Trek will likely never qualify, sadly) Basically, sit down for a second, and make sure that the reference you’re making will land with the audience that’s reading your stuff.

Meet your readers at their level

Many years ago, in high school English, I had to write an essay about whatever book we were reading at the time. By the time I got to the third paragraph, I realized that I had spent most of my essay up until that point defining relationships and describing characters that anyone who had even skimmed the book would have known. Given that the only person reading this essay was going to be my teacher (who I would imagine had certainly read the book), all I was doing was distracting my reader with superfluous text.

Recipe blogs are also SUPER guilty of doing this

Content marketers do the same thing all the time. Too often, I read guides about Hubspot or referral linking that starts from scratch with basic principles that anyone interested in that article should already know. All this does is convince the reader in seconds that your article isn’t what they’re looking for, and to move onto the next Google search.

The opposite is also true — there are too many articles that assume that you have a deep knowledge of whatever field being written about. Ever come across a StackOverflow article that assumes that you know everything and anything about the language/space it’s being written about? It’s infuriating, because you know that somewhere hidden in the article is what you’re looking for, but you just can’t find it.

It is important to make sure that the content you’re writing is at your readers’ level. Assume nothing about their prior understanding, or if you do, caveat that at the beginning of the article. Really speaking, as a content marketer, you should be looking at this as an opportunity to fill in a missing gap with a bridge piece of your own.

Wait, but what if I don’t know who my audience is?

The biggest thing with this, however, is knowing who your audience is for your content. Everything that’s written above is completely and totally dependent on knowing who is reading what you’re writing. If you’re a firm that specializes in working in a particular country, for instance, you probably don’t have to worry too much about generalizing your references. But if you’re like us, and have customers and readers from all over the world, well, then you probably want to curb your Office references.

Some of the top referrals from one of our recent posts. Notice the geographic diversity in the top-level domains!

Figuring this out can be harder than it sounds. Medium, for instance, doesn’t really provide a handy breakdown of who your readership is by country. Instead, what we find useful is to look within our referral links, and to get an understanding of our readership that way.

Of course, if you have set up Google Analytics on your website, you can get a pretty solid understanding of what your customer base and website users look like as well. That sort of analysis is invaluable for understanding who your users are, and most importantly, what your content readership should look like. That’s a deeper subject that we’ve already gone into in a previous article:

But let’s go a little further? What about skill level? That’s a tougher thing to quantify, frankly. Why? There aren’t really any stats that help you figure that out. Turns out there are two easy paths to solving this issue:

  1. Create community around your content
  2. Fill in the blanks yourself

We’ll come back to the first point in a second, but filling in the blanks yourself is probably the easiest way to solve the issue.

Imagine you’re writing an article meant for a “Level 3” reader. You don’t want to bog down your expert readers with too much basic stuff, but you also want to make the article accessible for a Level 1 or 2 reader, so that you can get more views and traffic. So how do you balance those?

The answer is surprisingly simple. You write the content, but slap it into a new piece of content. Your Level 1 or 2 ramp-up should be a separate piece, allowing those readers to engage with your content without bogging down a more advanced reader.

Most interestingly, this also gives you a potentially larger readership. Now you’re promoting two articles, and there are two nodes through which you could see a person come into your content stream. If you promote both correctly, they work together to make something that’s better than the sum of its parts.

Here at Humanlytics, however, we take the first approach. We have a strong community of readers who engage with our content and give us tips on wha they’d like to see next, as well as what they thought was missing from our other pieces. At the end of the day, they’re our greatest insight into what our readership actually wants to think and see — a constant and ever-present focus group that can give you quick and directed feedback on your writing.


This article was produced by Humanlytics. Looking for more content just like this? Check us out on Twitter and Medium, and join our Analytics for Humans Facebook community to discuss more ideas and topics like this!

Analytics for Humans

We examine how technologies can work with humans to create a brighter future for everyone. To that end, we showcase augmented analytics tools we are building to bring us closer to that vision. Beta test our AI-powered marketing analytics tool for free: bit.ly/HMLbetatest

Humanlytics Team

Written by

We examine how technologies can work with humans to create a brighter future for everyone. Beta test at bit.ly/HMLbetatest

Analytics for Humans

We examine how technologies can work with humans to create a brighter future for everyone. To that end, we showcase augmented analytics tools we are building to bring us closer to that vision. Beta test our AI-powered marketing analytics tool for free: bit.ly/HMLbetatest

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