High End vs. Low End Content

In most topical niches, there is an “expertise range”. Some bloggers will try to appeal to the masses by making just about every post “n00b-friendly” (e.g., ProBlogger does this well). Other blogs seem to be written for other experts (e.g., Signal vs. Noise).

The issue as I see it is this: writing for the low-end is going to have a much wider appeal and usually get you more traffic, simply because most people aren’t experts. On the other hand, if you write for experts, you’re more likely to get links, since other experts are more likely to have blogs in the niche; it’s also usually better in terms of building your personal reputation and authority. Bloggers who try to do both (i.e., expert post today, n00b post tomorrow) will usually end up annoying both audience segments with the inconsitency.

Of course, the optimal kind of content is probably the type that appeals to both the masses and other experts; People like Copyblogger and Chartreuse seem to do the balancing act quite well.

Whom do you write for in your blog(s)? N00bs or experts? And why?

12 thoughts on “High End vs. Low End Content

  1. We have a couple article-series that are “definition of …” and “foundation series: [topic]” style writing, to augment the posts that are expert-level. We link back to those topics regularly to provide background for new readers who will stumble along to our blog some day in the future.

    The anecdotal data for Tyner Blain actually contradicts your premise a little bit. Expert posts do get links as you mention, but the background/n00b posts actually get a lot of links as well. Our niche is really an amalgam of a half a dozen micro-niches (as probably are all niches). And experts on sub-topic A will link to intros on sub-topic B about as frequently as they link to expert-posts in sub-topic A.

    Anyway, while not as good as copyBlogger, we seem to be balancing reasonably well too.

    Great topic tho – and a reminder to me to write some more beginner posts. Thanks!

  2. Frankly I like to keep both happy, with indepth analysis and retrospectives mixed with more n00b friendly news like “review of fifa 07” etc.

  3. Your comment policy says:

    “Important: Please do not drop personal links unless highly relevant to the topic. Thanks!”

    but you edit out links, even when the commenter considers them to be relevant. How are we going to tie the conversation together more effectively without links? Where’s the added value / incentive for participation? Sort of runs counter to the spirit / proposition in the post, doesn’t it?

  4. Touché!

    The Barb was know for being especially adept at writing towards two levels of audiences at the same time. He did deal with the same issue in his time very effectively.

  5. Great way to think about it… Traffic from the tail or authority & links from the head… I like it! I’ve been thinking about ways to increase collaboration / cooperation too, & ways to overcome the gap between the head & the tail….

  6. Knowing the audience is the key.

    When a person starts out blogging, its all about me, me, me. Whats he likes / passionate about will be reflected in his blog.

    But when people reads and interacts with him, then slowly he gets to know the audience. After that, his style changes to suit the audience.

    So, answering to the question N00bs or experts?, I would start writing for me first, and then based on my audience, I might tilt on their side.

  7. Ah, but Brett, there’s a difference between using simple words and using them well.

    “To be or not to be…”

    Those words got a bit of traction if I recall correctly.

  8. I read many books.

    I read them for fun.

    It improves my vocabulary.

    My writing is good.

    I can use better words.

    Whew! Sorry just can’t do it. I write for me. I let the words flow naturally and only edit for flow. I like to write at a level that could be understood by someone that likes to read The Economist for fun.

    I stay away from medical terminology as I am terrible in biology. Other than that, anything goes.

    I do not dumb down my words as this would not provide a clear vision to my readers of who I am. I do believe that some words serve better to convey a concept and to replace those words with a more generalized version only increases confusion.

    That said, I typically write towards audiences that are interested in improvement and that includes improving themselves. I have every confidence that if I happen to use a word that my readers do not understand, they will either look it up, or they will misunderstand and hopefully argue with me.

    The discussion will then generate more traffic and the feedback will prove to be invaluable to my future writing as I will now have a better understanding of my readers perspective.

    Easy words are no fun.

  9. Big time requirement for copy. I break that rule a bit on my blog, but people seem to let me slide.

    But when it comes to clearly explaining the true value of Paris Hilton, no one does it better than Chartreuse.

  10. Generally speaking, I write for me (which is probably why I don’t get the kind of traffic I would like). I find that I know me best and relate best to people who are similar to me. I write what I would be interested in and write the details the would peak my interest. This also allows me to be appropriately passionate as I truly am excited about what I am writing.

    If I were writing a techy blog, this would translate into me writing posts at my current level. I am not a nooby, but neither am I an expert. As I became more informed about the topics, my posts would become more informed. This is more of an organic approach to blogging and marketing, but it fits my style.

  11. That’s actually a WC3 accessibility guideline:

    “14.1 Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site’s content.”

  12. Here is an interesting comment (well I think it is LOL):

    At my former employer, where we made consumer products, whenever we created advertisements, we always had to think for “the walmart shopper” — meaning we had to write to make sure someone at a 6th grade english could understand it.

    It is always very important to consider your audience when writing or communicating. Using Scrabble triple letter score type words may make you look smart and intelligent but if your audience does not understand them, what’s the point.

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