Marketers are now finally waking up to the idea that pre-formatted communications aren't the right way to engage with customers. The marketing department needs to learn how to write valuable content that brings value to website visitors that initiates discussions, questions and comments. here are my tips:
(Pic: rachaelvoorhees cc2.0)
Step 1: Short text is a myth
The received wisdom on web content is people don't read on screens and long pages of text will disengage the reader. There are several reasons why this may not be so:
- Most of the traffic to your site will come through search engines, not from your own links and text-related search results won't show pages with no text.
- It is true that people don't read in the same way on the Internet, but it is false to say that they don't read anything on screens.
- Search engines are fond of text, and indexing is based on keywords, not images. If your text is too short and doesn't contain vital keywords, it is bound to remain the Internet's best kept secret.
- A good story doesn't depend on its length, but on the author's ability to retain the attention of his readers.
Step 2: Spice up your text with images, not the other way round
People are mesmerised by pictures and web content is becoming more picture-lead, especially if the subject lends itself to illustration, such as paintings or luxury goods. Yet, there are a few problems associated with peppering your site with images:
- You might see the pictures but search engines won't. Google has an image option but images are indexed by the text that surrounds them.
- Flash animations aren't really a good idea because they are mostly irrelevant, unmaintainable and above all unseen by search engines. Lastly, visitors hate them, if I judge by all the comments I see in the surveys I carried out on the subject, unless they bring real interactivity.
- Large pictures placed on a web page tend to kill the text around and below them.
Step 3: Hypertext, hypertext, hypertext
Sir Tim Berners Lee has to be remembered for is the invention of the http protocol -- the device for linking web pages, without which the world wide web wouldn't exist. Websites in which there are no links shouldn't exist either.
Links can be used to make content richer for the visitor, without presenting them with reams of text on one page.
Links can lock the visitor into your site as they click through to more information.
Properly done, these links can take the visitor along a journey through your site that finishes on an order form or a request to be contacted as a sales lead.
internet gurus like Jakob Nielsen advise you can't put too many hypertext links into a piece of content.
Step 4: Good content shows in the title
When writing content, product managers often keep their minds too heavily focused on their product names but they fail to ask themselves two important questions:
- Is the product name generic enough so that potential customers will recognise it even if they don't already know about it? Or do I need to include an explanation in the title that the uniniated can easily pick up on?
- What is the problem that my product is trying to solve (Michael Bosworth would have used the term 'painpoint') which I could describe in the title to draw visitors into the site.
And most of the time these questions have not been asked and as a consequence the title does little to explain what the product does or why anyone would need it.
Step 5: Keywords mean a lot
Once a good title has been found, one can start working on the keywords that we would like to see indexed by Google. If those keywords are nowhere to be found in the page, then you stand absolutely no chance of being indexed properly there or other search engines.
Google publishes a keyword tracking tool that will help you design your content with the optimum likelihood of being picked up in search results.
Step 6: Writing with a reader in mind
The content of your web pages must focus on your visitors. We can split them into three different categories, depending on their needs from your site:
- You have a visitor who understands their problem and has identified a solution: detailed, straightforward product descriptions should be made available to address this requirement. Interactive applications can also be developed that clients' choices clearer for them.
- You have a visitor who knows they have a problem but isn't aware that a solution exists, in which case his point of entry will be the focus on the problem via a search engine. He will browse the web in order to find relevant information and he will use keywords for this purpose,
- You have a visitor who doesn't even know that they have a problem, let alone that a solution exists and that you are selling it. Build your pages in order to demonstrate that the problem exists and you have a solution to solve it.
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