Christopher Davis

What if I told you the U.S. can now keep the lights on in 1.3 million American households using only the power of the sun, and that experts believe we’re “on the cusp of a new solar revolution?” You may be more inclined to learn about the bright future of solar energy.

Now, let’s say I told you the U.S. installed 723 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity in Q1 2013, or that solar companies expect 4.4 gigawatts of PV to be installed by the end of 2013. Chances are you won’t be picking your jaw up off the floor. I wouldn’t be surprised if you skimmed right over that sentence entirely.

Save for a handful of electric utilities personnel and green energy advocates, most readers will be tempted to click away from such a dry introduction by the time they reach the term ‘megawatts,’ if not the bland three digit number before it.

Entice, inform, delight

The daily deals site LivingSocial tells its copywriters to always “entice, inform and delight.” I’ve carried this mantra with me in all my writing projects, and it’s been a fool-proof way to construct engaging web content that balances need-to-know information with colorful language. This combination carries the reader from one sentence to the next, paragraph by paragraph, without being burdened by dense figures and numbers.

Industry statistics, surveys and snapshots are certainly relevant to any business. But if you can ferry this data across to potential clients in a way that entices them to learn more, informs them clearly and delights them with the promise of spectacular service or goods, you’ll come across as more than an industry participant. You’ll be an industry leader.

So how do you turn a drab quarterly report or data-driven article into a creative piece of content for SEO?

Know your audience.

This is twofold. First, know that your readers are internet users, who are, for the most part, as equally distracted as a toddler in a toy store. The entire internet is at their fingertips, and clicking isn’t hard.

Web Traffic Barely Reads Content.

One study conducted by traffic analysis firm Chartbeat found that, on average, 38 percent of all readers who landed on a page at bounced immediately. Of those, 5 percent never scrolled down. After a few hundred words, 50 percent of the remaining readers had ditched the article.

Keeping this in mind, move on to determine how, exactly, your audience wants to digest the information you feed them. In my case, I often write for homeowners and small business operators who are considering solar or wind energy.

These people don’t want to know the ins and outs of the energy deregulation laws that enable them to choose a renewable energy provider – they want to know they aren’t alone in making the bold decision to switch to green energy. They want to hear that solar energy isn’t a fad, but a movement in which millions of others are participating. They want to hear that solar panels are cheaper than ever to install, and that soon, everyone will be doing it.

Equal parts trial, error and research

I learned how to cater to an audience by looking at what already worked – existing landing pages, popular blog posts, successful branding materials and content marketing strategies – and combining these tactics with a bit of trial and error. While I always stayed within the appropriate parameters, I learned that playing a little jazz and deviating from the most standard headlines and topics allowed me to create content that pleased both my clients and their readers.

I learned that playing a little jazz and deviating from the most standard headlines and topics allowed me to create content that pleased both my clients and their readers.

Let’s look at headlines. While the title “Are coal companies crying yet?” certainly falls into the edgy tone a client once asked for, it’s also loaded with negativity. It villainizes a large American industry, could potentially isolate readers and actually isn’t that informative. It makes sense the client requested a title change. Instead, I went with “Wind energy leaves fossil fuels in the coal dust.” This more accurately informs readers and retains the tone they want.

Over time, adapting news articles to readers’ demands helps brands organically develop effective content marketing strategies.

It does take a little research on the writer’s part to become well versed in industry terms and write authoritatively on a subject, but not as much as you may think. In the aforementioned quarterly solar report, for example, the comparisons and context were found in the same document as the hard numbers – it just took some extra work to parse through the densely packed information. This makes the content more engaging, but it also gives writers the chance to stick to their keyword strategies.

Put simply, if you’re bored writing it, readers will likely be bored reading it. Identify one area of a report that is interesting to you, and run with it. Who knows, you may even find that photovoltaics and megawatts can be an exciting read.