10 ways to alienate your audience

From animation to poor grammar, these turn-offs will send your readers running for the hills.

Do you wonder why you have trouble attracting readers to your blog or other content marketing? If so, the problem may be your content.

Here are 10 points to check whether you’re turning readers away without knowing it.

1. Why should I care headline. Does your headline draw readers into your article? If not, you’ve lost an opportunity to engage. If your headline doesn’t give readers a reason to care, they’re gone.

Remedy: If your headlines are weak, try some of the tried and true headline formulas. Without a good headline you’re missing a great social media opportunity. While it’s all right to start with a working title, spend time polishing the headline to pull people in when you finish the post.

2. A photo is worth 1,000 words. A photograph or embedded video helps draw the eye and get people to engage. Is your blog or website a text-only zone?

Remedy: Include photographs and other non-text items to break up the endless copy. Here’s a table of social media content options.

3. Too many flashing objects. Does your blog or website have too much animation? Do flickering items greet your visitors? In general, flashing objects should be restricted to emergency vehicles and Christmas trees.

Remedy: Reduce, or better yet, eliminate the flash on your blog or website. There are more sophisticated ways to get your readers’ attention that don’t cause them to click away.

4. I can’t read your posts; the type is hard on my eyes. Bad typography can send readers away in a heartbeat. Is your content too tiny for your average reader to see, let alone read? Does your content have crammed line spacing or too many colors?

Remedy: Use no more than three typefaces: one for paragraph text, another for headings and a third for captions and other special needs. Keep the color variations down to two (not counting link colors.) Use single spacing and readable screen fonts. Here are some blog design hints.

5. I’m sure there’s useful information somewhere, but who can find it? Are your posts densely written? The endless paragraph can be a sign that your writing suffers from this problem. Is there so much going on that readers don’t know where to start? If so, streamline your content in the same way you’d clean out your closets.

Remedy: Break up your prose into short paragraphs organized by subheads and bolding. Using an outline approach has the added advantage of guiding your reader. Use bolding to make your various points and keywords stand out.

6. Did you take seventh grade English? While the occasional typo is acceptable, consistently poor grammar isn’t. Do your sentence subjects agree in number and tense with their verbs? Do you misuse words such as: you’re and your, their and there, or advice and advise?

Remedy: Run a spelling and grammar check. Don’t assume that readers don’t care because, to the contrary, they do.

7. Where are you going with this post? Does your writing wander off topic? Is your content unfocused? Do your posts leave readers confused after they’ve taken the time to read your content? If so, your information needs better structure.

Remedy: Start by outlining your content. Does it tell a story? Does it flow in an orderly way with a beginning, middle and end? If your answer is no, get some copy editing help.

8. Complaints, nothing but complaints. Do you use your content just to rant? Are you always mad about something? Is your writing void of any solutions? If so, potential readers may consider this a turn-off. While people are willing to pay attention to an occasional gripe, a continuous diet won’t cut it.

Remedy: Before you hit the publish button, go through your content and ask whether outsiders would classify your writing as a complaint. If so, edit it to eliminate the problem sections or don’t publish it. Alternatively, use your outline and start over.

9. Wake me when you say something interesting. Do readers feel that your writing is a yawn? If so, this is a big problem. If readers are bored, they’re not going to stay, let alone return to your blog.

Remedy: Find out what your readers are interested in. Ask for their input on your blog posts. Check how reader feedback meshes with your content. Alternatively, mix up the content on your blog or website. (Here’s a chart to help you develop useful content in another format.)

10. Enough about me, what do you think about me? Is your content only inwardly focused? Is your writing full of marketing-speak and promotions? If so, re-evaluate the goal of your content.

Remedy: In today’s content-driven marketing world, it’s critical to remember how important it is to provide content that your readers find useful. It’s about their needs, not your sales. That said, you can develop content that helps readers use your products or provide answers to their problems. In addition, it’s important to include links that show you’re engaged with the rest of the conversation.

Heidi Cohen is president of Riverside Marketing Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @heidicohen.

Topics: PR

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