Hubspot: How to Write the Most Boring Content of All Time!

By Michelle O'Keeffe on Jul 31, 2012
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Seriously, I love this HubSpot BLOG article so much I'm linking to it and posting it verbatim for you guys to read (which incidentally won't help this article rank well with Google).

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How to Write the Most Boring Content of All Time

Posted by Corey Eridon
Tue, Jul 31, 2012 @ 03:15 PM[How%20to%20Write%20the%20Mos]

You guys ready for a total snoozefest?

Just kidding.

I doubt any marketer sets out to write boring content when they're staring at a blank screen, but we're all probably guilty of it -- especially if we work in kind of ... ahem ... "boring" industries.

So, what do we do about it? NOT any of the things I'm about to list in this blog post, that's for sure. Instead, let's learn how to write fun, engaging content by highlighting what not to do. For the duration of this post, let's all just pretend it's Opposite Day, shall we?

Speak in incomprehensible business babble.

If you're providing value-added solutions to anything, I'm out. Can't we all just start saying what we mean, instead of worrying about how professional we sound? Not only is it condescending (look how much smarter I am than you!), but it also actually makes you a less effective marketer, because readers aren't learning as much as they could from your content.

Your authority doesn't come from sounding like a legal brief threw up on you; it comes from giving sound advice. And when your content reads like a conversation you'd have with someone face-to-face, you're far more likely to retain readers through to the end -- where they can do awesome stuff like convert on your calls-to-action and share your blog post on social media!

Take yourself EXTREMELY seriously. You are very important.

People love reading, especially when it's stuff for work. Or maybe sifting through tax documentation. So when you make it a very serious, solemn task, they really appreciate it.

Oh right ... that's never the case.

If you never poke fun at yourself, never crack a joke, never give your audience's brain the proverbial breather, you'll lose 'em. Granted, there are some companies for which this is easier than others. Take Moosejaw, for example -- their copy is just plain hilarious, but then again, they sell outdoor sporting apparel. They're not a very serious company to begin with. But even a serious company can inject a less serious tone into their copy without explicitly cracking jokes, by just writing naturally -- you know, like a human being. Approach your content with a positive angle, and only focus on the solemn and serious when that's the only appropriate tone for the occasion.

Ramble on.

Be concise in your writing. If you take too long to get to your point, you'll lose people's interest. Attention spans are short. Moving on.

Write in looooong chunks of text.

When someone gets to your content and they see hundreds of lines of dense copy, it kind of feels like someone threw an encyclopedia at your face. Part of getting your audience to stay with you through your content is making it easy for them to do so -- and if it doesn't look easy to get through your writing, many people won't even try. Break up long paragraphs, use headers to separate content into sections, and use formatting devices to give your readers' eyes and brains a bit of a breather -- it's easier for them to work in short sprints!

Don't let anyone look at pretty pictures, ever.

You know in elementary school when your teachers made you put down the picture books, and start reading stuff full of just words. Ugh.

Don't be the disciplinarian. Give the people what they want! And they want pictures. That means a few things:

  • Always include images in content to draw the eye and break up text.
  • Don't choose boring, generic stock photography. Nobody thinks those people collaborating thoughtfully around the white board work at your company.
  • If you can tell a story visually, do it. Would you rather look at this content visualization to learn the definition of closed-loop marketing, or read 2,000 words on it? (If it's the latter, color me impressed!)

Make sure not even a little bit of passion comes through in your writing.

We ask some of our colleagues to contribute blog content every month. Whenever they ask us what they should write about, we ask them, "What do you like to write about?" This is because every time we force a topic on someone (hey, you work in marketing ops, want to write a piece on branding?) the end product tends to sound, well, forced. When our marketing operations colleague writes pieces about how to conduct an analysis on lead intelligence from your CRM, however, the posts rock. That's because it's what she likes to do! She gets it! She rocks at it! That passion comes through in her writing, and it's transferred to the reader.

If you're writing about something you have no interest in, do one of two things: find someone else to write it, or if you're the only resource, try to find something in the subject matter you can relate to so you don't end up writing a total snoozer.

Ignore what your audience wants. Write for you.

Because marketing is all about you, really. It's not like you spent hours upon hours creating buyer personas so you know exactly who you're marketing to, and who your content should resonate with.

Oh right, you did do that. (Good for you!) So you know that the content you pump out is meant to be about the topics your readers care about. For example, a colleague of mine writes blog posts about cool mobile apps for her personal blog. Whenever she asks me what she should write for the HubSpot blog -- because I want her to write about something she's passionate about -- we try to think of a topic surrounding mobile marketing. Thing is, our readers don't want to hear about the latest version of Angry Birds. It's not helpful, because it's not making them better marketers. So unless we can find some important marketing lessons you all need to know from their latest update, we don't write about it, no matter how much fun it would be for the writer.

Don't feel the need to back up any of your points.

Just say things, all willy nilly. People are always happy to take things at face value, so you should never feel like you need to explain your rationale or anything. Certainly don't reference any data points or third-party research. That would be ridiculous.

In reality, you'll take your content from simple to interesting if you take your points one step further. Trying to explain why it's important to segment your emails? Cite a data point that backs up that point -- according to Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report39% of marketers who segment their emails experience higher open rates, 28% experience lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experience greater revenue. Oh, really? I guess it is important. Don't have a data point handy to help out? Just explain your logic -- when you segment your email list, you're sending to more niche groups of people, so you can create content that speaks to their needs more specifically than you could if you had to write content that appeals to a general audience. Oh, that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the explanation!

When you don't leave readers hanging or make them fill in the blanks, they're more likely to keep reading because they know you'll paint the full picture for them -- in other words, you're being more helpful.

Talk about yourself some more. Really, it's fascinating.

You know when your friend comes back from vacation and she sits you down for a half hour slideshow of all her awesome photos? That's kind of what writing only about yourself is like.

There's nothing wrong with a little self promotion now and again, but your content shouldn't just be all you, you, you. It should be helpful, educational, positioned to inform your audience about what they need to know. That doesn't mean you shouldn't release, say, a press release. But you can spin it to talk about why your recent announcement is relevant in your reader's life, not just a series of pats on the back for your company. Keep your balance of content largely educational, sprinkling in just a bit of self-promotion now and again to ensure your readers don't tune out.

What do you think makes for incredibly boring content? Share it so we can all just avoid it already.

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Michelle has been in marketing strategy for over 20 years. Michelle got involved in Engaging from Day 1 with the conviction of creating a business that ‘does great work with great people’, including clients, partners and staff. A born problem solver, she immerses herself in clients’ businesses and reconstructs their sales & marketing activities to ensure they operate to deliver directly on the business’ objectives. Michelle is passionate about maintaining a company and company culture that leaves the world a better place than we found it.

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