Archive for August, 2011
We’ve made the case several times that a challenging economy is probably the worst time to slash your online marketing efforts.
And for those following this sound advice, it also makes sense to optimize every piece of web content that you produce and publish, both from a sales conversion and SEO standpoint.
Though it may seem like common sense, many authors forget to figure out what they’re trying to say before they start writing, and thus waste resources creating content that doesn’t achieve its potential or goals. Here are some tips to maximize your web writing:
Tip #1 – Create an Outline
Outlines are useful tools for giving your article or webpage structure, but if you’re not a big fan of outlining, at least answer the following questions before you start writing:
Who am I writing for? What’s my ideal audience?
What do I want my readers to learn from this article?
How will I explain/prove my point?
Tip #2 – Be Informative
Readers seek informative content, so provide the “give” in your article body and leave the “take” for your Resource Box or website. The quality of your information should make a good impression by providing value to the reader, not leaving them wanting more. Resist the temptation to sell in your articles.
Tip #3 – Share Your Experience…
You’re an expert in your field or niche, your readers are not. Don’t worry about making your writing sound smart, just think of some questions your readers will have and then answer them. Use article templates to help you structure the information in your article and generate new ideas.
Tip #4 – …But Not All At Once
You have a lot of knowledge, so you’re understandably excited to share it. But be careful not to overwhelm your readers. Break up large topics into smaller components, in separate articles. This gives you more articles to write and won’t scare readers with extremely long articles.
Tip #5 – Consider Hiring a Ghostwriter
Weigh your options. Is your business better served if you outsource the article writing (or blogging, newsletter or web content writing) and focus on other aspects of your business instead? Return on Investment is all about taking your available resources and using them in the most effective way. This is especially true during tough economic times, when the reduced overhead of freelance partners has the biggest financial impact.
It doesn’t matter how big your business is, or if you’re from New York, Boston and Washington DC to Los Angeles, San Fransisco and Vancouver, Hat Trick Associates can help you build your web content online. (If you happen to be from one of these cities, the fact that I included your hometown might be a reason you found this page, for example!) Contact us to learn more about how your website content / text can help your customers find you, too.
As you have heard us say before, there are millions upon millions of online blogs and other informational websites, but what makes for great web content?
Clear and Concise
Being vague is one of the biggest mistakes a web content writer can commit, as it can compel your audience to instantly evaporate. No one wants to stay a second on something they find too complex or vague to understand. The mark of an expert lies in his ability to make complicated things clear and simple. Don’t use 200 words to say something that could easily be written with 50; people don’t have that kind of time these days.
Know Your Audience and Be Compelling
Know what your customers or general readers care about. If you think that your content can catch people’s attention because YOU are really passionate about the subject, you’re falling into the trap of assuming visitors will care because you care. Most people won’t spend a second on topics they don’t care about.
(…now it certainly does help to have a strong attachment to your topic, but you need more than just that!)
And “compelling” means that your web content not only grabs attention, but has purpose. Typically this is a sales conversion, but not always – especially on news-based blogs. Know what the end goal of your online copy truly is.
Accurate and Complete
The very first step is to create content that is accurate and complete. You need to ascertain that what you tell the world is correct. Information online is easily accessible today, but readers can easily spot posts or articles that were rushed and not fact checked pretty easily. If you don’t have the time to fully research your facts, like many business owners and others responsible for web content, find someone who does.
You also need to fully develop your ideas, or link to follow up information or action steps that make sense (such as a purchase option, if your content is made as a teaser).
And a good example is:
If you found this information helpful and would like to talk about ways to make your web content more compelling, contact us to learn more!
I try to check out as many new platforms, tools and services as I can. The vast majority of the time the technology is good enough and the idea is good enough, but the enterprise ends up falling flat for me. I’ll play with it a little bit, explore the different elements, but ultimately I find myself pulling away and going back to other places on the web. In thinking about it further, I’ve come up with a check-list of six questions that go into determining if this is a place I should be spending my time:
1. Who’s there?
Just about every site lets you connect with or invite your friends from Facebook, Twitter, etc. Great idea, makes sense. Or at least did make sense. But now I start to ask the question, “If s/he is my friend on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Quora and Facebook, why am I connecting with them here as well?” There doesn’t seem to be any context, it’s just random friend tapping. Sure, sites can benefit from the network effect, but the failure to add a layer of relevancy makes this a hollow exercise. Rather than trying to ramp up with volume, I’d rather see sites incorporate Klout or PeerIndex to say, “these are your friends from other social networks who are experts/influencers/interested in the topic that this site is all about. Real world example: Why doesn’t GetGlue tell me “These are your Twitter friends who are really passionate about TV/Film/Books/Music.” That would end up making the GetGlue experience better because I’d either be following or inviting my existing friends who will actually use GetGlue.
2. How does it connect with my life online?
Every site allows me to push content to my Facebook or Twitter streams. But a good majority of the time I don’t want to do that. To paraphrase Jesse Eisenberg (as Mark Zuckerberg) “If I wanted to post on Facebook, I’d be on Facebook.” Surely there must be other ways to connect your site to my online life. Many sites offer widgets and badges, but that’s rather low end. I don’t have an answer here, but I’d love to see someone come up with something beyond the basics we see now.
3. How does it connect with my life offline?
Here’s where Nike+ (and the new Speedo Pace Club) have done a great job. It’s not just about checking-in via a Location-Based Service, it’s about integrating what I do offline with an online experience. Also, it’s niche, but a passionate niche. I’m not going to see everyone of my Twitter friends in these, only the ones that are really into running or swimming or whatever. I think these type of sites have a real chance to grow and survive.
4. What’s in it for me?
So many of these young sites pump up the interaction with gamification, but have an incredibly small payoff. How many digital badges and stickers am I going to collect? Why exactly do I want to be at the top of your leader board? Foursquare works well here because I’ve received plenty of real world rewards for my efforts – free appetizers, 20% off merchandise, etc. More sites need to figure out how they can reward their users in more tangible ways. I’m not going to run around telling all my friends they have to check out a site because they can earn a badge.
5. How are you connecting with me?
I get plenty of emails with news about the latest updates or metrics milestones from sites, but very few emails asking me about my user experience. I wish more sites would show an interest in me. Surely there must be a way to search my online web content and then communicate with me in a way that connects who I am with what your website is in a more meaningful way.
6. How are you surprising me?
Instead of another badge, how about something like, “For our first birthday, we teamed up with our friends at Ben & Jerry’s. Free ice cream for all our members, go print the coupon here!” That would be unexpected and quite welcome. I’m sure I could come up with a dozen “surprise and delights” in about 30 minutes. Give me a reason to keep coming back, make me want to know what might happen next because of my connection with you.
Bootstrapping an online venture is tough, I get that, but don’t forget to think about your potential user as much as you think about the offering itself.