Creative Writing for the Web

Writing Effective Digital Copy
I recently attended an IDM training course – and this is what I learned.

Turn content on its head! for the people that are only going to scan the headlines put you point at the top (job done!).

Web audiences are now familiar with typing. Previously 90-9-1 rule would apply.90% would take with 1% contributing.

now it is around 65-20-15. 15% are contributing.

Audiences are looking for something interactive. They want voice when it comes to your site. They also expect you to react to what they are doing. If they comment you best respond sharpish! This little effort will go a long way to building a strong customer relationship.

Keep content simple/short audiences are impatient. Also we as humans are slower to read on a screen due to physiological, lighting, size conditions

Build communities with your audience around content, not just discussion. Work on a ‘Co created with (consumer)’ model.

As with all things it is important to know the rules but it is important to note that this allows you to break them as and when you see fit.

For example…

Positioning content above/below the fold. Below the fold can now be ok due to broadband and more skilled users. They are aware that content exists below the fold. The problem with this aries with Facebook as an example that impressions are counted on posts that are deliverd below the fold on somebody’s newsfeed. the chances are that peolpe will scroll down but if not and impression is counted with out an impression. be careful not to rely to heavily on this and certanitly do bnot pay for it if you are out sourcing  the running of you facbook fan pages.

There are two main audience groups – methodological readers and the skimmers. Don’t miss out one or the other ensure that your content appeals to both.

Beware of trends that effect now and are changing to roll with the times. e.g. Facebook open-graph.

For keywords sake don’t use play-on headlines! Search engines don’t have a sense of humour and if your readers don’t either you will loose them before you have started.

When laying out content key words should be down the left hand side and feature in the first two words of a paragraph coupled with interesting emotive words to encourage continued reading.

To encourage reading down the page content is better to be broken up. White space should be used like it is going out of fashion.

Paragraphs should be no more than two sentences and make no more than one point each (oops!).

As writer you may have limited ability to redesign the site so it is important to think about what it looks like to the reader. Writers become incharge of how somebody see something. When the text is all you have to play with a consumable layout is fundamental.

Consumers will invest more time in something if they have invested in it. i.e. they have paid for it. With the free web and abundance of information if people do not find what they want, there is so much clutter and other content they will move on.

Unlike print you content will be discovered from a multitude of different avenues and consumed in a thousands of different orders. it is important that you take you visitor on a journey and what ever path they take they are able to easily navigate and understand your messages.

You need to provide information together with a call to action. This provides a path for you reader to follow.

Internal messaging will rarely make sense to your customers.

Be careful of style over substance. If expectations are raised and then dashed we feel betrayed and move on.

With print there is the underlying impression that someone has put this together for a reason. With the web there is so much information in an intangible format that content has to work much harder for peoples attention. this will change to some extent and the younger x/y e.t.c. generations grow up and digital media is the norm of the largest population as apposed to in addition or an alternative to print.

The web allows people to choose the content they want, ensure that you have clear signposts to other relevant content. Don’t direct all visitors to you home page, and don’t have this build in flash! This breaks and cant be read by search engines.

All the basic marketing things need to translate onto your webpage.

iTunes as an example you don’t have to write anything to grab people attention. Can use video and images quiz e.t.c. can more appropriate presentation for audience. Just make sure your key message isn’t lost.

Producing content that is easy to share and can provide you audience with some ‘social currency’ by doing so is a fabulous viral strategy.

When hyperlinking like to the keywords not ‘click here’

Pyramid of content.

o   Summery

o   Expand

o   Quote

o   More info

o   Quote

o   Background

This format make it ok that a reader leaves as long as they go to somewhere they want them to go, to continue their journey with you. One hub page services several pages.

SEO:

Make sure that if you are preforming well organically then do fork out for the top spot with PPC ads. Position 5-8 generally will have a better ROI, evidence from eye tracking studies.

70% of traffic comes from organic results, the free stuff needs to work as hard as possible.

Cached pages are good for seeing how competitors are performing, where keywords appear on their page.

Key words should be at the beginning of paragraphs.

Blogs are good. Vary links and types of media. Good place to link from the site not part of the cooperate site. Has a more approachable feel.

They are useful but are a nightmare if they are not managed correctly. Regular content suitable for the audience.

Twitter is good for recency (note- recency is not relevance). What is the best match. What is the latest. Where is your audience looking for information. Twitter is more b2b rather then b2c.

A cross between a podcast and a video blog illustrated with his pictures from around NYC. This creates a much more engaging piece of content the other wise would be quite dry.

I also like how for the video content section of the site the contrast in inverted to ensure the video stands out.

Search engines read the name of picture files when they are uploaded to a site or CMS. Ensure that they have appropriate names.

Use stats and change content to suit. don’t delete but edit, this is the beauty of the web. the first 100 words are key, especially for SEO. Test, test and re test and stick with what works best.

Writing style, the rules are there are no rules. Just ensure that what every you choose you remain consistent.

Emails:

“Spam is not and offer for a penis enlargement kit, it is something that you have not asked for”

The success of email marketing lies with the database behind it.

The first two links will be the most clicked on ones. ensure that these are the most important ones.

Call to action – what is in it for me (the reader), repetition be clear as to why, ‘This will benefit you because…’

Email address it comes from is important. Source and subject line.

Keep testing against spam filters. Test three emails and have the email coming through to several different landing pages. A/B test to find out which links work best.

Sometime linking text is more useful than images, people might not be aware that the image is a link, people are familiar with blue hyperlinks.

Repurposing Content:

10 pages of text or 10 images? repurpose and make interactive like the NYTimes on the street. http://video.nytimes.com/video/2010/11/26/fashion/1248069379788/on-the-street-thanksgiving-day-parade.html?ref=bill_cunningham

Leverage the assets you have and reuse in a different format for a different audience.

Flicking through the pictures is not necessarily that interesting. Video diary – add value to you content that differentiates. If content is too complicated easier to absorb some people like to listen and watch.

Right content in the right place:

Read the story? Or can people take the test and comment e.t.c. how else can your text be presented.

Everything can be overused, make sure you mix it up and keep appealing.

What are your audience expecting from your online space.

Go where you consumers are! Don’t drag them to another location.

Ask the question what can I be part of with them.

How has social media has changed things. Audiences can get involved and have some personal ownership with your brand.

You can do what you want to, but give something in return. What is in it with the audience? Show them you actually care.

Starbucks Promoted Tweets are a waste but, Dell have been hugely successful. Dell had vouchers and discounts, there was a reason for people to come back.

Social networks have realised that if they integrate it is easier to share content, makes sure that your content is easy for audiences to pass on.

Additional Notes:

Low number of keywords that are relevant to the audience that gets the message out.

Create content packages not one page, make them choose to look at more. Hold your consumer hand and take them on journey.

5 key points then follow round to different pages. Separate pages for separate propositions.

Get them in and then link to others, no one page is the final destination.

Careful with negative terms as people will only resonate with that.

Need to grab peoples attention when content is out of context. Links/url e.t.c. i.e. in search and sharing of you links.

Brand or not to brand whether new or not. Establish a brand before making a big deal of it.

What time of day are people looking for the information. monday morning may not be the best time.

Do you need to be there? Is your audience there? If not don’t bother. Don’t do things just for the sake of it.

Ask questions. Provoke a response.

JD!

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