The first rule of storytelling is “write what you know.” That doesn’t mean you can only write about things you’ve experienced firsthand; it means you should truly understand an idea, a person, or a situation before you try to tell a believable story about it.

To create an engaging story on a website, we must first know our audience. We do that foremost through user interviews—getting the details directly from those who know. But other data can help create a more three-dimensional picture for us:

  • Keyword research: Working from our interviews, we can find main themes for our audience. Plugging these into keyword research tools, we can find related topics that people search for. For example, if the site focuses on brain tumor patients, we may find that radiosurgery if a focus—which may not have come up in our interviews.
  • Site metrics: If we’re working from an existing site, we can use the site metrics to show what people are really doing, not just what they say they are doing. In an interview, people may say they’d want to read about conditions, but the metrics could show that nobody currently is. While the metrics can’t tell us why that is, they can help us discover better questions to ask.

The more complete a picture we can craft of our audience, the better story we can write. We want to go beyond just the facts—we want to understand their motivations and emotions they experience on their journey. That’s how you start creating a good story.