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Selling to Strangers or Writing for Friends

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

Here’s a snippet from copywriting guru Nick Usborne’s latest article, posted earlier today, titled, “Optimize web content for your readers, and the rest will follow. Hmmm…not always.

A few days ago I tweeted the link to one of my articles: Should you optimize that web page for the search engines, or for social media?
Someone tweeted back with this message: Neither. Optimize for your reader and the rest will follow.

That someone was me.

The article goes on to try and prove me wrong, or at least partially wrong. For instance, if you were writing an article on coffee makers:

And now I’ll write a version which I believe would travel further through social media.
- 5 Things to check before buying a coffee maker.
I don’t have any data to prove it, but I’ll bet my neighbor’s flat screen TV that the second version would travel further through social media. If you haven’t noticed, lists do well on social media sites.

We’ve all noticed - especially the content farms and Guy Kawasaki’s ghost writers. It’s also the last thing I would click on. Numbered lists are the fast food of content. It’s a sure indication you’re about to be fed something empty and “optimized.” Maybe the masses haven’t caught on yet, but should the masses be your target audience?

Now, I like Nick. In fact, I’ve bought a few of his books and learned quite a bit from him. I’ll probably buy more, because I love getting all sides of a story. But, I suggested to Nick that he listen to Merlin Mann and John Gruber’s talk on 149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog With Credibility! (if you don’t get the joke within the title, read the previous paragraph again).

That one talk (that I keep on my iPhone for repeated listening) and perhaps Seth Godin’s latest book (read the whole thing - seriously, there’s a lot in there for web writers) summarizes just about all my experience as a blogger.

For 10 years I ran a popular blog that went through excruciating growing pains, endless monetization experiments and headline manipulations that the modern “Pro Blogger” community claims will make you rich. Truth is, there was money. Not a lot. Certainly not enough to treat my loyal readers (and best customers) with that kind of disrespect. I write today as if everyone reading is a friend. Maybe when I go back to blogging professionally, they’ll be more likely to follow.