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Matt Cutts: Write Clear, Understandable Content

jennifer-slegg
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Matt Cutts

As webmasters, it's constantly drilled into us that quality content is key as part of an SEO strategy. But when it comes to more technical content, how should you handle it?

Should your content be geared toward a higher, more specialized reading level, or should it be written in such a way that novices on the topic can understand? This is the topic of the latest webmaster help video featuring Google's Matt Cutts.

Many webmasters are hyper analyzing their content lately to ensure that however they present the content and readiness is going to rank the best in Google. But how can you find this balance between super technical writing and writing aimed at the general public who might be interested in the topic but don't have knowledge behind it to understand the more complex discussion or vocabulary?

Cutts began by sharing what is likely a familiar scenario for many. You end up at Wikipedia trying to find background information on a topic, but it's either way too technical or simply not understandable.

"So you see this sort of revival of people who are interested in things like 'explain it to me like I'm a 5-year-old'," Cutts said. "You don't have to dumb it down that much. but if you're erring on the side of clarity, and on the side of something that's going to be understandable, you'll be in much better shape because regular people can get it, and then ... feel free to include the scientific terms or the industry jargon, the lingo, or whatever it is."

It seems Cutts believes you should strive to strike the right balance between technical writing while still ensuring that the average person can understand it.

"You need to find some way to pull people in, to get them interested, to get them enticed to try to pick up whatever concept it is you want to explain," Cutts said. "So I would argue, first and foremost, you need to explain it well, and then if you can manage to do that while talking about the science or being scientific, that's great."

Cutts said that how you explain a topic often matters almost as much as what you're actually saying.

"If you're saying something important but you can't get it across, then sometimes you never get across in the first place, and it ends up falling on deaf ears," he said.

What about if your target audience is a group of people that are industry professionals or have the same sites reference you? You don't necessarily want to alienate that audience because you dumb it down too much for the general public.

But on the other hand, you want your content to be approachable by the masses, because that opens you to a much wider audience than the smaller group of technical people you might currently target.

Sometimes it's about finding a balance or writing for two different audiences with different content for each.

"If you're only talking to industry professionals, exterminators were talking about the scientific names of bugs, and your audience is only exterminator experts, then that would make sense" Cutts said. "But in general I will try to make something is natural sounding as possible."

He also suggested a tried-and-true techniques that many people have used for years: reading your content aloud. Often you can pick up the little mistakes or the awkward sounding parts, such as excessive use of keywords, when you read it out loud.

"When I'm writing a blog post, I'll sometimes read it out loud to try to catch what the snags are, and where things are going to be unclear," Cutts said. "Anything you do like that you'll end up with more polished writing, and that's more likely to stand the test of time."

Bottom line, don't focus on being so technical that you're excluding a lot of the audience that might want to learn more about your topic, but just can't understand it because you're not explaining it well.


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