Why “No One Reads” Is Bullshit

One of the most frustrating things I’ve been told in my writing career was uttered by a managing editor at a large content meeting: “No one reads.”

Besides the fact that it makes no sense for someone who’s made their career in words to say or believe this, the statement also happens to be completely false. People read. If they didn’t read, Harry Potter books wouldn’t fly off the shelf like gold, our favorite novels wouldn’t be repurposed as movies and shows just so their success can be further capitalized, and every successful athlete, politician, and business owner wouldn’t be given an opportunity to write a biography. People read. People love to read. 

But people don’t read boring content. 

No one gets excited about deep diving into SEO-driven drivel. We might scan such articles to glean whatever information we needed, but we’re not letting every word hug us the way those of a great author might. We scroll to find the information we need, and then we move on. 

People want to read stories. We want to read books and blog posts and articles that grab us from the first sentence and don’t let go until the end. We want to learn things, feel things, and to walk away sensing that we’re somehow better for having read the words. 

Here’s the part where people like that managing editor get lost. They know people love stories, but they feel like that’s different from writing content — especially SEO content. But it’s not.

You can write an SEO piece with a story arc. You can give people the information they need while also giving them a memorable reading experience. What’s more, if you give them a memorable reading experience, then you will have helped them even more. That’s because they won’t be quick to forget what they learned — what they sought out to discover when they googled the phrase that led them to your work.

I think a lot of people assume that SEO-driven pieces have to only be scannable because they forget that information doesn’t have to be boring. They also forget that there are people on the other side of that search phrase that need to know the information. You might be writing the article because it was assigned to you — but people are reading it because it will fill a gap in their lives.

Don’t insult your readers by trying to fill that gap with formulaic robo-content. Serve their needs by writing with care. Think about what they need to know and why, think about how this topic makes them feel, and answer their questions with empathy. You can still hit all the SEO check marks if you write this way. In fact, if you hit those check marks and write in a more engaging way, the reader will be more likely to finish your article and share it — and that’ll help your SEO efforts even more.

People read. They’re just tired of reading boring internet robo-content. Want to set yourself apart? Write like a person. Write like you care about your topic, and like you care about your reader. When you do, they’ll notice — and they’ll love you for it.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash