Archive for May, 2011

Writing engaging web content

To attract users and search engines to your website, you need to write content that engages and excites. Posting valuable content and updating it regularly will help you earn credibility and trust with your audience, and encourages enquiries and responses from them.

The bottom line is… people will visit your website and purchase your products/services if you have good content. Content is ‘king’, and needs to be:

  • relevant to their needs
  • interesting
  • engaging
  • dynamic or changing regularly
  • easy and fast to read, view and navigate
  • informative and
  • calls them to action.

Yet the majority of websites fail in this regard.  Why?  Because writing good web content is difficult. It’s easy to ramble on about how great you are and to load your website full of jargon that your customers don’t understand, but writing copy that is interesting, engaging and calls people to action is much harder.

Here’s just a few tips for writing good web copy…

Avoid clutter and stay focused
By keeping your design free of clutter, you will make it easier for visitors to know what’s important. Steer clear of excessive advertisements or images that don’t add value. What’s left is the real content, which needs to be focused on communicating the messages you want your visitors to receive. By focusing or a few key topics you have a better chance of maintaining their attention.

Reinvent your writing style – get active
While it’s important to be informative, there’s no need to be boring when conveying information. Don’t simply state the facts, generate interest with active verbs like ‘drive’, ‘soar’, ‘infuse’, ‘create’ and so on. And ditch the passive voice which dulls down your writing and makes it dry. Instead, identify the active voice (‘you’) and write to your audience – i.e. ‘Product x makes it easy for you to…’.

Paint a picture
Help readers experience what you’re saying. You can achieve this by using sensory words and good descriptors that help them feel, taste, touch, hear and see what you’re talking about. By writing this way you can also incorporate keywords and phrases easily into the descriptive text.

Show and tell
Sometimes words aren’t enough and to engage readers, you need to show them. Don’t just tell them about your product features and benefits; show them, with images and video about how to install/use your product. Include testimonials.

Be specific
Don’t be vague – it leads to ambiguity and confusion. Avoid words like ‘it’, ‘that’, ‘we’ etc and replace them with meaningful words instead. By repeating the proper name of the thing you’re talking about (whether it’s your brand or product) you’re reinforcing these names with your audience and helping search engines better understand what your page is about, thus improving your search engine optimisation.

Avoid jargon
Because you know what you mean, you tend to generalise and use jargon when writing about your company, products and/or services. Although it makes sense to you, your content may be lost on someone less familiar with your business.

Brand your interaction
Everything you do is part of your marketing, so the way you write needs to be consistent with and reinforce your brand image and reputation.

Keep in mind that your website is never ‘finished’ and that good writing requires continuous revision. When you think you’re done, set it aside and come back to it in a few days with ‘fresh eyes’. And as always, get someone who’s a complete novice to review your content and point out anything that’s unclear or needs improvement before you publish.

References:
B. Clay and S. Esparza 2011, ‘Write Exciting and Engaging Web Content for Better SEO Results’, viewed 25 April 2011.
Vandelay Design 2008, ‘5 Steps to a More Engaging Website’, viewed 25 April 2011.
M. Dorian 2011, ‘How to Create Engaging Web Content that Captivates your Audience’, viewed 25 April 2011.

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Small businesses benefit most from social media

In recent years, ‘[social media has moved from uncertain strategy to primary tool in the savvy marketer’s toolkit and it seems the self-employed and small business owners are reaping the most benefits]’, according to Michael Stelzner author of the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

Of the 3342 marketers surveyed, 47% were either self-employed or small business owners. Here are just some of the areas where they reported greater results from using social media than their peers

  • Almost 90% reported increased exposure in an increasingly noisy marketplace
  • At least 59% developed new partnerships
  • They were twice as likely to find qualified leads
  • 48% saw improved sales as a direct result of their social media effort
  • Almost 60% reported reductions in marketing costs when using social media

But when small business owners have so many demands on their time, just how much time needs to be invested in social media to reap the benefits? Perhaps not as much as you’d think, with 75% of survey respondents reporting increased traffic and twice as many leads generated with as little as 6 hours a week on social media.

According to the report, almost all marketers have four tools in their toolkit; Facebook (92%), Twitter (84%), LinkedIn (71%) and Blogs (68%), with small business owners more likely than others to increase their use of LinkedIn during 2011.

Not all are going it alone, with 34% of small business owners reporting that they outsource at least part of their social media for growth. Tasks being outsourced include: design and development (17%), content creation (10%), analytics (10%) and monitoring (7%). Somewhat surprisingly, only 6% are outsourcing or seeking advice regarding their strategy.

It is also encouraging to see that marketers are integrating their social media efforts with other emarketing and more traditional marketing strategies, with 64% reporting a desire to increase their use of SEO and email marketing, as well as webinars, teleseminars, event marketing and press releases.

As Michael says ‘small business owners are finding great value in social media marketing [and] in many cases, they’re benefiting more than their large company peers]’.

Refer to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report for more insights into how social media can help businesses of all sizes and levels of experience. And for more helpful hints, tips and resources I also recommend Small Business News: Small Biz Social Media Guide.

References:
Michael Stelzner 2011, ‘2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report’, viewed 25 April 2011.
Phil Mershon 2011, ‘Small Businesses Benefit Most From Social Media – Study Reveals’, viewed 25 April 2011.
Small Business Trends 2011, ‘Small Business News: Small Biz Social Media Guide’, viewed 25 April 2011.

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