It’s Time to Stop Verbing Nouns in Digital Content

Read most business content, and you’re almost certain to come across some impacting and trending. You might see leveraging, trialing and even dog-fooding if the content creator’s really fond of the corporate habit of verbing nouns. The problem with turning nouns into verbs isn’t that it goes against dictionary definitions; it’s that it weakens strong writing and obscures meaning. Here’s why your content should skip the corporate conventions and use straightforward language.


 What’s a Verbed Noun, Anyway?

Essentially, nouns are names, and verbs are actions. When verbs describe a particular activity, they sometimes expand into noun territory, becoming the name for that activity. It happens especially often with new activities because these actions don’t yet have names of their own. That’s how sending email or text messages have become emailing and texting. You’ll also see it often in sports where the name of the equipment becomes the verb, as in snowboarding or rollerblading. These verbs’ evolution into nouns expands the language and makes it easier to communicate. It’s shorter to say ″I’ll email you″ than ″I’ll send you an email,″ and everyone knows what it means.

Some verbs are the wallpaper paste of language, holding sentences together but without adding much interest of their own. Forms of ″to be″ verbs such as ″is″ and ″are″ have become practically invisible because we see them all the time. ″To be″ verbs also find their way into passive-voice constructions that sap the life out of any content if writers overuse them. To spice things up, business content writers reach for more interesting verbs – but sometimes they reach too far. Instead of letting verbs naturally shift into nouns, they force them into that mold, which is how dog-fooding and donutting happen.


Solving the Wrong Problem

Business writing isn’t always filled with page-turning excitement. PowerPoint presentations of budget forecasts and analytics of SEO content need something to keep corporate audiences engaged, and one way business writers do that is with exciting language. In a boardroom presentation, that’s fine; anyone who’s sat through a dry, passive presentation would welcome a few newly minted verbs. For digital content you serve your audience, including SEO, blog posts, white papers and other branded copy, these new verbs don’t add to the conversation. In fact, they take away from meaningful content by making the conversation about themselves.

We’ve used it as an example already, so let’s take a closer look at dog-fooding. It’s certainly memorable, but what does it mean? Dog-fooding just means using your own company’s products and services. You see it in action on this website and blog because the same writers who work for you create the content you see on the page. Unless you knew that, though, this verbed noun doesn’t make much sense. How about donutting? That’s just forming up in a circle and discussing a project.

These don’t work well in digital content your audience reads in SEO articles, email and blog posts because they divert your readers’ attention from your subject to the obscure verb they’re now trying to process. In worst-case scenarios, they may even go to another site to look up definitions – and you never want your audience clicking away from your page unless it’s to more of your content.

Your readers don’t need you to do verbal gymnastics to keep them alert during a meeting or condense concepts to fit a large amount of information into a brief PowerPoint presentation. They need your content creation team to speak clearly to them about what they need to know.


Start Making Sense

For some corporate content writers, verbing nouns has become so common that it’s now a textual habit they can’t break. When nouns that already have a perfectly good verb form transform into verbs again, they hide meaning instead of clarifying it. An executive signaturing a document instead of signing it, a group conferencing instead of conferring, a test audience trialing products instead of trying them – these uses are awkward and make readers wonder why the content creator didn’t just use the existing verbs.

A little verbing goes a long way in business content, especially if you’re reaching a diverse audience with your SEO articles and blog posts. The occasional leveraging is fine, but leave the dog-fooding and donutting out of your digital content.

How Much Content Do You Need for Your Marketing Strategy?

Content is king. You hear it all the time, and every Google update supports this benevolent monarchy. What’s less talked about is how much content you need. Is it enough to have a few pieces of SEO content, a blog and a Twitter feed, or do you need an extensive website and a constant presence in industry journals? Is there an ideal amount of content to attract visitors without overwhelming them? There isn’t a magic formula to tell you how much content you need, but you can get an idea of what you need to keep your readers and the search engines invested in your content.

It’s Probably More Than You Think

Content is a catch-all term. If you’re thinking about how many blog posts you need per week or which images you’ll add to your lone landing page, you’re leaving off a great many key aspects of a complete content marketing strategy. When you distill content to its most essential element, you’ll see that most of it serves a single purpose: answering your visitors’ questions. Everything from FAQ pages to product images to price listings answers a question viewers have for you – sometimes the very question those visitors typed into the Google search bar.

Some questions can be answered with a single paragraph or image, but others need more explanation. It’s easy enough to answer a customer who needs to know your business hours or phone number with a few lines, but what about the one who wants to know how your new and improved product differs from its original version? When you start thinking of your content in terms of the answers it supplies for your prospects’ questions, you get an idea of the scope and depth of a full-on content strategy.

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The 6 People Your Content Needs to Convince

When marketing a product such as a new perfume to an individual buyer, you generally need to persuade only one person to buy – or two, depending on how your prospect’s spouse feels about gardenias. In B2B marketing, by contrast, you have a constellation of important decision-makers to impress. While it’s important to speak to everyone in your audience with your content, these six influential people are the ones who will ultimately make the choices. Impress them, and you’re well on your way to a good relationship with a new customer.

Research Assistants

They may be in the middle of an organizational hierarchy, but the researchers who get the order from higher-ups to comparison-shop or gather information about your product line are often the first to see your website. They rely on search engines for their initial foray into their fact-finding expedition, and if your content team has done its work, your site will be on the first page of Google results. That first page is where 80 percent of search engine users stop; give researchers what they need on the first page, and they won’t need to dig deeper. Give them white papers, case studies and infographics they can take back to their supervisors to win them.

R&D Supervisors

Researchers report to someone, and often, it’s the person in charge of new ideas, especially in tech sectors. People who succeed in research and development are typically analytical, linear and fact-oriented in their decision-making process. If you want your products to become a part of their number-crunching decisions, give them enough raw material to chew. Present factual data, spec sheets and statistics to help them choose you. If your company offers services or products that are harder to quantify, focus on straightforward content with a minimum of sales copy.

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Why It’s Impossible to Make Viral Marketing Happen

Every business dreams of having a video or article go viral, spreading like a beneficial bout of the flu and reaching millions or even billions without spending an extra dollar on marketing. When it happens, it’s electrifying; you’re deluged with visitors, your phone won’t stop ringing and your site analytics scramble for new parameters to track the geometric rise in site traffic. Like a bolt of lightning, you can’t predict where it’ll strike – but you can increase your chances of drawing that lightning. Continue reading

The Rise of Earned Media

When marketing professionals speak of media channels, they often divide them into three groups: owned media, paid media and earned media.

The first group is self-explanatory; it refers to the media channels you control directly, such as your blog, home page, press releases and landing pages. If your site has a moderated forum or chat feature, that would fall under the aegis of owned media as well. Owned media is an excellent vehicle for getting your message out uninterrupted, but it may lack the wide distribution of other avenues. Even if you buy content online to publish yourself, it still counts as owned media and not as paid media. Continue reading

Do You Have a Brand or Just a Name?

Every company has a name, but names don’t make a brand. Your business name identifies you, but with a cohesive branding strategy, your customers identify with you. Brands transcend labels and become a part of an overall lifestyle.

If that sounds like a tall order for a small business, you’re right. Most brands belong to Fortune 500 companies that have poured countless advertising executives’ talent into iconic logos and brilliantly calculated ad campaigns. The biggest brands no longer need to have their names in their ads. “Just do it.” “I’m lovin’ it.” “It’s the real thing.” Branding at that level takes decades of effort and billions of dollars. Continue reading

Branded Content: Becoming an Online Destination

As print newspapers and magazines struggle to find readers, online content has soared in popularity. With that shift has come a revolution in where great content is found. No longer confined to print information, writers are looking for new markets for their best work. They’re increasingly finding those markets with branded content – business blogs and articles. Continue reading


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