- You need to train your brain to make these observations because so many of us don’t take the time to think things through.
- When you see a commercial, read a newspaper article or have a conversation with someone that makes you ask yourself questions, write the observations down before you forget.
- Relate these observations to your own industry.
- For a master class in the power of observation check out Seth Godin. This self-made marketing expert uses everyday experiences to make comments on why things are marketed and sold to people.
Every day we make observations, basing important decisions and forming judgments as a result of them. The power of observation is another one of those off the page processes we go through which can determine the content we choose to put online. In the latest chapter of our Web Content Recipe Book we look at how active observational skills can enhance the direction and quality of your website's content. This is taken from Wordtracker's "Web Content Recipe Book"
The ideas we put down on paper, the conversations we have, and the opinions we form, are borne out of observation. The notion of using observation as a means of generating content for your website may seem complex, but really people do it every minute of every day - they just haven’t trained their brains beyond the immediate visual element.
Godin: A master in observation
Take marketing guru Seth Godin, for example - he is a prolific writer and his books and blog are a phenomenal success. Typepad is consistently top 25 in Technorati’s list of most popular blogs. Why is this? I’ll stick my neck out and say it’s not because he’s the world’s greatest writer - that’s not what makes him a success - it’s his acute attention to detail and his observational skills which have made him the ‘guy in the know’. He’s seen as someone who is keenly aware of his industry, is proficient at understanding the trends and challenges for marketers, and it’s all because he doesn’t just watch what’s going on around him: he observes it, thinks about it, asks himself some key questions and then writes about it in a book or blog. Godin can’t go out to a baseball game, a restaurant or get into a taxi cab without thinking about the ways in which his choices have been marketed to him. His brain is never ’off’; he is continually thinking and observing actively.
One of Godin's blog posts focuses on a trip he made to the Apple store in New York. He writes about his experience of walking through the door - nothing about the software he was going to buy, the new gadgets on the shelves, the sexy layout of the store, nothing. Godin dedicates an entire blog post to the fact that the door didn’t automatically shut behind him. He asked a sales assistant about it who said customers complained all the time but they couldn’t do anything about it. This is Godin’s opportunity to talk about customer care in its truest sense. He says: “It's the customers that care who actually have a huge impact on your business. If no one cares, you've got trouble. Goal one is getting people to care. Goal two is listening to them.”
In the past Godin has written about a local restaurant closing down, poorly designed branding he’s noticed on the street, queues outside a car rental shop, and even the way a bought sandwich was prepared. Here’s Godin’s secret to success…he asks why?
Too many of us observe passively - rarely do we question why something is the way it is. In a world where we are bombarded with images, slogans and advertising, the general hubbub of life whizzes past us in a blur. In order to harness these experiences to provide content and ideas for your website you have to train your brain to put ordinary experiences into sharp focus, and importantly to make sense of it. Couch those experiences and observations in something which relates to your business, just like Godin does.
From observation to SEO
Take a single word or phrase from your observation and enter it into Wordtracker.
With the Lateral Tool you may find hundreds of related ideas to write about, even products to sell. Alternatively you could use the Keyword Researcher to find out how popular something is and you can find hundreds of variations on your theme to write about.
- You see a newspaper advert for a little mini-size motor bike, which are also known as 'mini motos'.
- Put 'mini motos' into the Lateral tool and find related words such as pit bike, mini bike, pocket bike.
- Put each of these phrases into the keyword research tool as seed words and you'll discover a whole world of possible content - enough for thousands of pages of writing.
Back your observation up with research
To train your brain to observe is to dwell on things just a few seconds longer and to ask questions. It’s a good idea to have a notepad with you, or to use your cell phone to make notes on what you have seen; then you can revisit it later when you have the time to give it more thought. In order to push the observation towards documentation (i.e. an article, a blog post, or an idea) you have to do your research.
Let’s go back to Seth Godin. He is excellent at pinpointing problems and providing interesting solutions in an informative, chatty tone. The depth of his lateral thinking rarely ventures beyond 300 words. In some of his blog posts he goes into considerable detail quoting experts, finding statistics to support his suggestions, giving examples and links to sources. You don’t have to do an essay every time you want to write about something - the fact that you're writing it down is what’s important and that’s where the brain gets its training. It’s about engaging your brain and not letting the day-to-day activities gloss over you without reaction or thought. By taking a few seconds to dwell on things from time to time, you will help your brain get used to being a bit more inquisitive.
If you are stuck on what to write about, go outside for a run or a walk, or jump in your car and take a drive into town. If you can’t, then sometimes surfing the net is good. All those junk emails you get - what works, what doesn’t, and how do people communicate with you?
The more you get into this pattern of thinking the more it becomes a habit, and it’s a pretty productive one to get into. As Yogi Berra, former New York Yankees baseball player, said: “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
Carving Up Mark Nunney - How to get lots of content from one interview
How To Get Ideas - How to come up with ideas for your killer content.
Inspirational Quotes - How to use quotes to the greatest effect.
Observation - Tips on how to observe and how to use what you've seen.
How to Write a Book Review - Ideas on how to approach your review.
About Rachelle Money
Rachelle is a contributor to The Web Content Recipe book
Nowadays, Rachelle is Communications Manager at Scottish Renewables.
She graduated from the Scottish School of Journalism in 2005 where she was awarded an internship with two national publications - The Sunday Herald newspaper and The Big Issue magazine.