Most every entrepreneur wants to be seen as a leader and an expert. But trying to impress people with your content gets in the way of helping them.

People turn to search engines when they have questions. The goal of search content is therefore to provide people with answers to those questions.

Have you ever been so lost, so unsure of where to start, that you weren’t even sure what to type into the search bar?

There are people like this in your audience. They know what their problem is – and autocomplete might even help them fill in the blanks – but they don’t know how to describe the solution. And part of your job is to meet them on their level.

Your customers can describe their problems, but aren’t always aware of all the solutions

When people are searching, they know they have an unmet need. But they don’t know how to solve it or even what the solution might be. For product-based businesses, creating solution-focused content for the problem-aware reader is a little more straightforward.

Case in point: Last month here in Texas during Winter Storm Uri, I had ice dams on my roof. I searched for “melt ice dam.” Many of the results were from big home repair blogs about “preventing ice dams” (unhelpful, when there were already 4 inches of ice threatening my home office). A lecture about the importance of preventing ice dams doesn’t do me any good during a freak storm when I need to act quickly. A roofing company could have written some tangential content about how to deal with this situation and ended with a call to action to call them out there for an inspection after the storm

a blue house has icicles several feet long hanging from it

Local businesses with hands-on services aren’t the only ones who can expand their content footprint by being more clear. I recently chatted with a life coach at a virtual networking event. When I asked her what kind of coaching she did – I’ll be honest – it kind of went in one ear and out the other. My brain latched onto a couple of familiar keywords. But instead of remembering something like “Michelle helps women rediscover their self-identity,” I thought “Michelle…shadow work…inner child?” And I felt bad.

I wondered what kinds of things Michelle’s clients are searching for before they know that her kind of coaching is an option for them. No doubt there’s a need for it, and plenty of people in her audience are searching for answers to their questions. Still, I couldn’t help thinking that the way she described her work to me as a stranger was how she would describe it to a colleague, competitor, or someone else who knows the subject matter as well as she does.

woman holding coffee smiling and working at imac

Your competitors are not your customers

Many business owners seek out SEO-driven content strategy after they’ve proven out their product, but before they’ve become a strong competitor in their space. Which makes sense – you don’t want to spend years building a marketing engine around your Better Mouse Trap until you’ve proven that your mouse trap can compete in the market and there’s a demand for it.

So when you go from Heads Down Building The Thing to Heads Up Selling The Thing, you compare yourself to your competitors. A lot. You might even Google obsessively, willing your website to come up before you’ve done the research or the work. 

Sure, your competitors know all the industry jargon. And they’re probably creating content that restates the basic concepts so they can be indexed for those keywords – even if the content itself isn’t knowledge they can apply. Most every 30-year-old I know remembers “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell,” but can’t apply knowledge of glycolysis and short-term energy storage to their everyday lives.

Instead of reinventing “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell,” how can you add your perspective? Better yet, can you create an example that will land with them better than “powerhouse?” If you’re teaching 7th graders in 2021, the mitochondria could be the content creator of the cell. Organelles haven’t changed in the last 20 years, but communication has. In some ways we’re more aware of our similarities, but we have a stronger vocabulary for articulating our differences.

Your customers are not a monolith

I see too many websites whose owners assume all of their customers understand the same information the same way because they have other similarities. 

No one says anything clear. Meaning gets buried in assumptions.

Instead of making a clear statement like “Better Mouse Trap is a no-kill mouse trap that minimizes contact with sick or diseased mice. It works by…” they say things like “Don’t say cheese! This ain’t your grandma’s mouse trap!” Well, okay, but what’s unique about it?

Concrete products, like the mouse trap, require little additional information for different types of people to understand. For abstract concepts, a plain-language explanation helps people get on the same page. Do you wonder if your clients or customers have all the information they need to understand your content? Consider creating a glossary to help your customers become familiar with terminology you use often. Instead of explaining it in detail every single time, you can link to it each time you mention it in your content.

Search-centric content is about serving your customers. The objective isn’t to be clever – it’s to be clear.