By Jeff Kline


Content Optimization, Part 1: Writing With A Human Touch

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Human-Readable Content

To write effective website content, you must take into consideration both of your audiences – search engines and people.

Search engine robots, powered by an algorithm, crawl from page to page collecting information based on your headlines, title tags and links.

People, on the other hand, use critical thinking and emotions to read your website for its meaning.

It’s crucial that your web content makes sense, tells a story, relays a message in plain English, and guides visitors from one area of the website to the next. And how do you accomplish this task? By defining personas, creating targeted messaging, adopting your “voice,” and earning your audience’s trust.


defining personasBefore you begin writing web content, you should first develop accurate personas to represent your target audience. 

Vanessa Fox, author of Marketing in the Age of Google, defines a persona as “a highly detailed description of an individual who embodies the key goals and behaviors of an important group of target customers.”

Personas are critical to understanding your audience and developing content that will resonate with them. Your target personas should drive all decisions made throughout the content creation process (and, really, all marketing activities).

A valuable persona profile is composed of the following information:

  • Demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, zip code, occupation, etc.)
  • Biggest challenges (to which your organization could be the solution!)
  • What they want (what solution can you offer them?)
  • Where they are in the “buying cycle” (are they just researching for information, or are they ready to make a commitment to your organization by joining/donating?)

Use the Up Close and Persona™ app to help you develop your nonprofit’s target personas. Or read 6 Steps to Create Marketing Personas for Your Organization.



As a nonprofit, your target audience isn’t so much looking to buy as they are looking to join your organization or make a donation. Determining how close they are to performing one of these actions (known in marketing-speak as “converting”) is an important step in developing your personas and the type of content you will write for them.

In his book Duct Tape Marketing, John Jantsch identifies three different types of potential buyers/members/donors: people who know you, people who like you, and people who trust you.

KNOW YOU – These web visitors have no interest in making a transaction at this time – they were simply searching the web and just happened to find what they were looking for on your webpage. This is their first impression of your organization, so have educational content available (things like ebooks and “How to” blog posts). Share new ideas that will grab people’s attention. And be sure to post quality content on a regular basis to keep these visitors coming back for more. As they learn more about your organization, they will begin to like you more and more.

LIKE YOU - The people who like you are starting to consider joining your organization or becoming a donor, but they need a little nudge. They need to learn more about your actual organization, so invite them to follow you on social media, sign up for your email newsletter, and provide factsheets and “product videos.” Provide honest, transparent, and compelling content, and they’ll go from liking you to trusting you.

TRUST YOU – When members of your target audience finally trust you, it’s time to propose a sales presentation or send a Member Benefits e-brochure. Make sure the “Join Now” and “Donate” buttons are clearly displayed on your website.

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County website provides content for all levels of the buying cycle. The Media Center contains informative news articles on a variety of topics that will draw visitors to the website (know you), social media icons invite visitors to stay connected (like you), and a prominent call to action button encourages people to “Join Now” (trust you).

Business Development Board of Palm Beach County website



1) Use the appropriate point of view.
Grammar Girl provides a great overview on the meaning and proper use of first, second and third person:

First Person
• The use of “I” or “We"
• Appropriate for blog posts and other autobiographical writing
• Not appropriate for news articles or whitepapers
• Academics and journalists usually avoid first person, because it sounds more objective

Ex: I founded this nonprofit organization in 1995 for the improvement of my local community.

Second Person
• The use of “You,” “Your,” and “Yours”
• Used to address one or more individuals
• Used to address the reader
• Appropriate for e-mail messages, presentations, tutorials, and business and technical writing

Ex: To become a member, you must visit the Join page, where you’ll find a membership form.

Third Person
• The use of “He,” “She,” and “It”
• Used in fiction writing and most academic writing
• Refers to a person, place, thing, or idea 

Ex: Jane Doe founded the nonprofit in 1995, realizing her dream of improving her community.

2) Write on a 9th grade level.
The average adult reads at a 9th grade level. So to make your content available to the masses, avoid using those really tough SAT vocabulary words. 

3) Avoid jargon.
All industries and companies have their own “secret language” – terms that only someone deeply embedded in the industry would understand. Avoid using industry jargon, and always write out acronyms. Speak your audience’s language, and use the keywords they would use to search. 

And don’t make this company’s mistake.

4) Be an expert.
Write your web content, blog articles, ebooks and whitepapers with confidence! Provide valuable, research-backed information that educates your audience on something new, and you’ll establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

5) Be human.
There’s a reason why I wrote an entire blog post on how to write for people, not just search robots. There’s simply too much robotic content on the web. When writing web content, write with emotion, humor and passion. That’s what will really resonate with your target audience.


So remember: to write effective website content, you must write in a way that resonates with your human audience. By developing personas, understanding the stages of the “buying cycle,” using the right point of view and making the perfect word choices, your website will be a success!



Join me next week for a discussion on how to optimize your website with keywords and increase search traffic!


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