Our top 10 tips for writing explainers

Our top 10 tips for writing explainers

At STEM Matters, one of the most important types of content we produce are explainers.

Not only are they proven to drive website traffic and social media engagement, but they are a crucial part of communicating an organisation’s expertise and profile within a certain area.

Cleverly written explainers help you ‘own’ key topics online and position your organisation as the go-to destination for information, education, and expertise in that area.

Here are our top 10 tips for writing an explainer that will get you on the front page of Google search:

1. Make it timeless. Explainers are incredibly valuable content because, depending on what you’re writing about, they don’t date. You could write an explainer about the physics of lightning that can sit on your website in perpetuity.

2. Fill a gap. If you want your content to make an impact, a good place to start is to find topics that no one else has covered. Pick a topic and see what content already exists – prioritise those topics that don’t already have a bunch of explainers on Google.

3. Do it better. If there’s a topic you feel you need an explainer on, but Google is already saturated, make your explainer better than all the rest. For tips on how to write the most effective explainer pieces, head to our website for our Guide to Writing an Explainer.

4. Make it useful. People don’t read explainers because they’re looking for a compelling story or a beautifully written narrative. They’re looking for information that’s clearly and simply written, and they want to be in and out in a few minutes. You want them coming to you rather than to Wikipedia.

5. Use subheadings. People are coming to your explainer with a specific question in mind. Maybe you’ve written an explainer about endometriosis and your reader just wants information on the symptoms – help them find what they want by including subheadings and sections related to the most frequently asked questions about the topic.

6. Don’t get complicated. When you’re writing the headline, don’t complicate things – your headline should be the question your reader is going to Google to find your explainer. Eg “What is genetic modification?”, “Peptides vs proteins”, “How does a Venus flytrap work?”

7. Leave your agenda at the door. People don’t read explainers to hear what a particular research institute is doing in that field. They’re after general information – they want their questions answered but they don’t want to marketed to. For that reason, keep the content general and think about including information on your organisation’s work at the end, if anywhere. Consider that they’ve already come to your website to read it.

8. Give them a reason to stay. If you write a great explainer, audiences will come. Give them a reason to remain on your website by creating an entire hub around the content area, filled with explainers, news stories, features, profiles etc. Google rewards sites that produce high volumes of high-quality content – so don’t just stop at one piece of content.

9. Don’t just ‘dial in’ the image. An eye-catching image is a crucial part of differentiating your content from everyone else’s. When you start looking, you’d be amazed at how many websites use dull, poorly thought-out stock images. Head to our website for our comprehensive images guide: How to Elevate your Story Using a Single Image.

10. Learn from the best. Don’t start out blind – identify how the most successful explainers are being written and emulate that. Eg LiveScience.com specialises in explainers, and is attracting 20 million visits per month, making it the #7 science/technology website in the world, and the #4 science/technology website in Australia. It gets more than 71% of its traffic through search.