Online writing is most effective when it helps readers. You should write, then, with audience needs in mind.
You can make the copy shine during the editing stage.
First, focus on what your readers need.
So how do you write a post while keeping in mind audience needs?
- Determine what those needs are (if you don’t already know).
- Address your audience’s needs using appropriate language.
- Edit text that isn’t targeted.
How to Determine Audience Needs
To determine the needs of your audience, first consider the text type. Then specify the reader profile. Last, ask your readers what they need.
Consider Text Type
Is it a blog post, white paper, or sales sheet? The text type influences both what you say (the message), how you say it (the wording), and how you package it (visuals).
Specify Your Reader Profile
Use descriptors to zero in on exactly who the target audience is. For example, consider the following:
- B2B clients in the email marketing industry (a white paper published by an email verification software vendor)
- Public school history teachers looking for primary research on the Civil War (a blog post published by a team of teachers in a high school history department)
- MBA holders applying for consulting jobs (an informational lead-gen landing page published by a management consulting association)
Ask Your Readers What They Need
If you’re unsure about the needs of your audience, ask them!
What are they hungry for? Product information or advice? Price info or service descriptions? Statistics or personal stories?
Of course, the answer may include several of these. If you have a hard time keeping these needs in mind as you write, make a checklist.
How to Address Audience Needs
Give ‘Em What They Want
Natalie Merchant was on to something. Satisfy audience needs by giving readers what they want.
Is your audience looking for information about your product? Then provide it.
Do your readers need a primer on a certain aspect of your industry? Write it.
Do they need to know what to do on your home page? Then include a call to action.
The website is the first—and sometimes only—face that many existing and potential customers see. An effective website provides visitors with clear, meaningful content most likely to inspire them to act, and can include varied information, including product/service benefits and customer testimonials. This information should be as straightforward as possible and easy to access.
—Jonathan Gosberg, founder of Clean Coffee Company
Use Language That Speaks to Your Readers
If you know your audience, then your choice of wording should be easy.
If you’re writing copy for a B2B website in the technology sector, use industry jargon. It’s shorter than explanations are and is appropriate for the context.
What about a blog devoted to older readers trying to become more tech-savvy? Here, the language has to be educational, informative, and accessible. For example, use explanations, analogies, and images instead of acronyms or computer jargon.
Last, make sure that your text is neither too hard or too easy to read, because readability counts. In fact, search engines use it as one factor in search rankings.
Edit Text That Doesn’t Meet the Needs of Your Audience
Edit or Delete with Extreme Prejudice
Reread your text before publishing.
Edit sections that are informational if they need to be persuasive. Change wording that is author-centered instead of customer-centered.
Rewrite verbiage that is too wordy for a business audience. Edit or eliminate text until you have a message that will resonate with your audience.
By doing this, you can decrease the wordiness of your copy.
But remember: concise doesn’t necessarily mean short.
A lengthy blog post isn’t just okay—long posts rank better than short posts in SERPs.
But don’t use filler text. Say what you need to say, then move on to the next thing. If you happen to have a lot to say, so be it.
Audience Needs Case Studies
RedLine has maintained a blog for five years. Some of our most successful posts are those that provide our readers with information and/or tips.
For example, we published a post last month on cover letter tips for translators. “Whoa!” you’re saying. “That’s kinda specific.”
That’s exactly the point. After receiving hundreds of generic, boring, and sloppy cover letters from translators over the years who wanted to work with us, we decided to share with our readers (many of them freelance translators) what they clearly needed: advice about how to approach a translation agency.
The result is the second most shared page on our site. Not bad!
Microsoft Word Users
Most of our clients use Microsoft Word to create their reports. While we prefer InDesign for making brochures and company one-sheets, we’re not going to argue with a client just because they prefer ease of use to visual appeal.
What that means is that we’re in a position to provide our readers with tips on using Microsoft Word. In other words, audience needs are dictated by the software they use.
No matter what the audience needs are, your writing will have more of an effect if you make it about your readers. Focus on them.
After all, your readers are the people who consume, digest, and (hopefully) share your content. Shouldn’t you make them happy?
If you know someone who wants to learn more about audience needs, then share this post!
Turn your content from so-so to great by reading how to write better web content, then download our free checklist for editing digital content.