Is Your Technical Writing Killing Your Business?

Posted by Peter Rastello

Dec 29, 2014 7:00:00 AM

7524268_sAre you putting a lot of time into writing technical content for your website that no one is actually reading? This could be killing your business because you're probably spending a lot of time and money on this, yet no one cares. How can you find out if this is happening to you?

When you look at your website's bounce rate for the pages on your site that contain technical content, do you notice something? Statistically, technical pages have a higher bounce rate than those with non-technical content, and, in case you don't already know this, you should be aware that a high bounce rate means that your visitors tend to very quickly see enough of your content and have 'bounced' to some other place, away from your site.

Why is Your Technical Content Marketing a Problem?

Typically, technical content can be very dry, to say the least. When I was in university in the process of earning my engineering degree, my classmates and I sawed through stacks of text books, many of which were written by other engineers which meant long, blocks of uninterrupted text with a periodic light scattering of diagrams that somewhat broke the monotony.

Why did we have to read those books? We read them because we needed to comprehend complex concepts that were difficult to convey in short simple sentences. It was the same situation after graduation, in the workplace. technical writing was thick, very heavy and difficult to plow through.

In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines technical writers as follows:

"Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information among customers, designers, and manufacturers."

 

In a nutshell that's the biggest problem. It's what bores your readership, drives them away and kills your business.Technical writers are rarely skilled in producing content that can be easily consumed by the average reader while simultaneously offering enough detail to satisfy technical readership. being able to do this is the art behind good technical writing, but unfortunately, finding people with this blend of capabilities is particularly difficult.

In engineering school, we were a captive audience, stuck with those dusty, boring books. However, people researching online are not stuck reading your boring content, they just bounce away. It takes particular focus to write 'marketing' technical content that keeps visitors engaged. 

Five Things That Make Your Technical Writing Unappealing

In many articles that we have written on content creation we talk about creating content frequently, building compelling content, adding images, sticking with a keyword strategy and making sure the content adds value. On the flip side, the following are five things that can cause your readership not to read your technical content.

  1. Too technical - I already covered this above, but the point is to make sure that your content hits your target buyer persona, be that an engineer or other technical person, but remember that these are not the only people interested in technical content. Include dialog that is comprehensible to the C-suite and marketing folks -  in other words, a high/mid-level translation.

  2. Missing Structure = tough to read - Pick up most technical white papers or manuscripts and you'll note that they lack formatting - a continuous block of text devoid of lists, headings and images. Have you made your content difficult for people to consume?

  3. Not Enough Meat - Does your technical writer lack specific topic knowledge or is he/she trying to fill in the blanks on his/her own? Generic text is not worth publishing. Find a writer who can produce recognizable quality content that adds value for the reader.

  4. Complex writing - Similar to point #1 above, has the content been properly distilled even for an engineer to follow? It takes an extra step to create content reduced to its simplest form so that concepts are easy to grasp by your technical readership. Have you checked your content to make sure it is easily consumed by technical people?

  5. Not Road testing the result - Authors of technical content often lean back after creating a technical piece and smile - Their manuscript makes perfect sense to them. Unfortunately, it is rare that this is the case for everyone else. As an ASIC design engineer, documentation review was a part of life for exactly this reason. Publishing content that has not been proofread by at least one or two others is a huge mistake.

Good technical writers need to be able to walk the line between precision and attraction so that everyone gets something out of the content they produce. Not doing so can be expensive and catastrophic to the growth of a company. How much are you spending on content that is actually turning your prospects off?

 

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