Bottom line up front (BLUF)

Business Acronym BLUF

Communication is at the center of all human interactions. Whether it’s regarding friendship, romance, or even commerce of all kinds, clear, effective communication is necessary for those interactions to be successful. Too often, we don’t communicate well. We hem and haw. We skirt difficult issues. We focus on small talk rather than saying what we truly feel and mean.

When it comes to commerce, especially search engine optimization, or SEO, you want to be able to reach prospects, entice them to visit your website, have them become interested in your products and services, have them buy them, and then to speak highly of you and your company to others. The best marketing, as we all know, is satisfied customers gushing to their friends and family about something.

BLUF Basics

The term “Bottom Line Up Front” has its roots in the military. The idea is to convey information as clearly and succinctly as possible. For example, when you see three enemy divisions approaching your unit’s position, you want to get the point across immediately without any exposition. The military adopted BLUF in all its communications so that its personnel got used to saying things that way.

Obviously, SEO is seldom life-or-death in the same way as, “40,000 guys are about to attack on our left flank, Sir.” But, the people you reach, whether they’re prospects, existing customers, or former customers, consider their time to be valuable. So, you don’t want to waste it by communicating ineffectively.

Still, BLUF isn’t just cut-and-paste. You still have to be coherent even as you’re being blunt and “getting to the point.” It’s an organizational concept that should permeate your writing.

Order of Things

Extraneous Things

In this article, the first line says the most important thing of all: Communication is at the center of all human interactions. The rest is just details of how to communicate. The point of conciseness is that it saves time even if it’s just one message. For example, sending someone a message that says, “Hello, Boss. I have a question,” necessitates a response of, “What’s your question?” It would have been quicker had the employee just asked the question without the preamble. That might not seem like much, but in a company of 1,000 employees, cutting down the messages by half becomes a big deal.

Even if you include a question in your message, it still might not be enough. It could be something like, “Hey, Bob, do you know of any examples of great customer follow-up?” That’s quite general, and Bob will likely need to ask for clarification. Instead, say, “Hey, Bob, do you remember any examples of excellent customer follow-up where we solved multiple issues at once? The boss asked me to provide a bunch of examples of how we did well so that we can add them to the training manual.” That’s clear, specific, and concise enough not to be overlong nor to leave anything out.

The Order of Things

Address the issue immediately. Then, add the supporting information. That issue could be asking for something, ordering someone to do something, or replying to a question. Here’s an example:

The Boss: Good morning. Where are the reports I asked for on Tuesday? (It’s now Friday)

The Employee: Good morning. You’ll have them today by close of business. We had them all ready to go on Tuesday afternoon, but the system crashed and hasn’t been available until this morning. We really should look at new systems.

What did the boss want to know? The boss wanted to know where the reports were. So, the employee told the boss when they would be ready first. Then, the employee went on to outline the reason and to suggest a possible solution to avoid delays in the future. The natural tendency is to explain first, offer solutions, and then finally answer the question. It’s a variation on the old game of: “Let’s deflect blame first.” That derails accountability and wastes time. BLUF is a great tool when it comes to fixing what’s wrong rather than blaming someone for being wrong.

You don’t have to change what you say. You just have to do it in the right order. Don’t start with two paragraphs of exposition and then deliver the main idea. State the main idea first, and then proceed with the supporting information. That way, you don’t leave the reader hanging and needing to concentrate just to determine what you are trying to say.

Marketing

On to Marketing!

Grab you readers’ attention. Give them something about which to be happy. Tie that happiness in with your product or service. Does that look familiar? It should. It’s the same principle as giving the boss the answer right away rather than explaining things before answering. When it comes to the vast majority of people, lots of text, no matter how well and/or lovingly crafted, won’t attract as much attention as an interest-grabbing sound bite.

Take the following headline: SAVE 50% NOW!

Everyone, keen to save money, will flock to this site to see what’s what even if the company is unethical and raised prices 75% before giving 50% off. Of course, unethical behavior has a way of coming back to bite you. Word will get around, after all, and you’d much rather have people telling others about how good you are and not how bad you are. What’s the old expression? Satisfied people tell one person; dissatisfied people tell everyone.

So, if you’re going to offer a 50% discount to someone, offer it in good faith. Honor the promotion. Consider the lost profit to be a long-term investment toward gaining and keeping a new customer or retaining an existing one.

The key to successful marketing is determining what people want. Those wants are demographic-based. For example, men who are 18-25 years of age are not going to want nor expect the same things as women who are 55 years of age or older.

SEO comes into play once you’ve made the applicable determinations. As an example, Generation Z overwhelmingly likes Instagram and TikTok for social media and avoids Facebook and X. So, if your product or service is geared toward Generation Z, then you should advertise on Instagram and/or TikTok to reach the most relevant people as quickly as you can. Your SEO should focus on words and phrases that mean something to the members of Generation Z. These people, who are born between 1997 and 2012, rely heavily on Google, so almost anything that boosts your website’s ranking will be effective.

To be most effective, however, you need to tailor your text to meet those people’s needs and/or wants. Interestingly, young people actually prefer longer search terms than their older friends. With 90% of young people using a smartphone daily, your content must be geared to appearing on the smaller screens of these devices. They also love video content whereas older generations prefer email.

people’s needs

Why do young people like these long-tail searches? It’s because they know that short queries provide exceptionally broad results. They know what they want, and if the search they enter doesn’t return what they’re looking for, then just eight seconds later, they’re on to the next site. So, your SEO must cater to these preferences if your target demographic Generation Z.

How does this all tie in to BLUF? That’s easy. In the same way that you focus on text that conveys the targeted information directly to older customers, you simply convert that text into video content for younger people. The effect is the same. You just use a different medium to deliver it.

Posted in SEO

Published on: 2024-01-12
Updated on: 2024-01-27

Avatar for Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. As an SEO Professional, Isaac has considerable expertise in On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO, which gives him a leg up against the competition.