Web Content – Just the Facts

We work with a lot of clients on projects for the web – web sites, email newsletter campaigns, blogs, social media, etc.  – and content is always a main concern.

Content is still very important – some say it continues to reign as king.  Unfortunately, not all organizations have a solid understanding of how to write for the web.  So, we’ve assembled some of our consultative tips from past projects to serve as a guide for you.

Web Content Dos and Don’ts

When writing for the web, there are some basic dos and don’ts.  They are straightforward and apply across the board…

What works in web content?

  1. Simple statements, to the point
  2. Direct language using keywords or targeted terms
  3. Headlines, lists, short paragraphs
  4. Topic -> Overview Details -> Call to Action

What DOESN’T work in web content?

  1. Long-winded flowery prose
  2. “25 Cent Words”, complex sentences
  3. Long paragraphs
  4. No clear definition of sections, i.e. no headings…
  5. No clear beginning, middle or end

Planning

When assembling or writing content, you will need to have a plan.  Successful content plans start with one or more of the following:

  1. Identify goals or desired outcomes first
  2. Host a brainstorming session with stakeholders
  3. Identify what CopyBlogger.com calls the MAP… (Medium, Audience, Purpose)

If you work through these pieces first, writing your content will go much smoother and the outcome will yield much better results.

Writing for a Web Site

Bottom Up Writing

Our past Wood Street Journal entry called Organize Your Web Site’s Message from the Bottom Up talks about a different approach to writing content for the web.  Here are the steps:

  1. Identify your goals
  2. Assemble the detailed content, white papers, articles, etc.
  3. Match areas of your detailed content with your goals (this requires a whiteboard or highlighter)
  4. The content/themes that appear over & over will constitute your top-tier content (homepage, main landing pages, etc.)

The purpose of this method is to get to the content that will drive your audience to your desired action.  By writing “in reverse” you are able to better organize your message and its outcome.

Writing for Search Engines

We have written several articles and newsletters on this topic.  We’ve coached several clients, spoken about it on radio shows and given numerous seminars on SEO.  Yes, it is that important.

Please check our past issues for more on this subject.  For the purposes of this article, I am just going to give you the basics.  When writing for search engine visibility, make sure you work through the following:

  1. Survey your clients, partners, etc to identify targeted keywords/phrases
  2. Refine your keyword list to about 15 phrases (post it somewhere visible, tack it to the wall where you write)
  3. In your code/content focus on Page Titles, Headings, Ordered/Unordered Lists, Content, ALT Attributes
  4. Make sure your content is audited for keyword density in the code and in the content (an SEO expert is advised here)
  5. Revise and repost, often

Writing to Achieve Goals

So you’ve organized your content from the bottom up and you’ve worked through an SEO strategy for your content, what else?  Goals!  Write your content so it drives the reader to an action, a goal.

How do you do this?

  1. Know your goals!  Are they attainable???
  2. Content in the top tiers should lead the reader to a goal
  3. Don’t get in your own way, get to the point
  4. Have someone outside your org edit/review your content, ask them what they were compelled to do if anything
  5. Review, revise, repost

If you follow these steps, you will be in a better position to achieve your goals online.  Make sure you map out your plan, have realistic expectations and involve outside help where appropriate.

Writing a Blog

Writing content for a Blog is definitely a different animal.  Consider blogging to be journals, PR, newsletters, white papers and interactivity all rolled into one.  This is your chance to be an expert and to interface with your audience on a targeted and effective level.

In order to write effectively for a Blog you will need to do many of the things we’ve already discussed but in a slightly different way, such as:

  1. Know your audience, what will they read and react to?
  2. What are your goals and how do they relate to your other marketing content?
  3. Develop an editorial calendar to plan your blogging in advance
  4. Keep your posts short and to the point – if they need to be lengthy, break them up into easily digested chunks
  5. Be prepared, know who will write the Blog, set a schedule
  6. Promote your Blog, listen to feedback, comment on comments

There are lots of resources on blogging.  Here are a few we think are incredibly useful:

  1. Copyblogger.com
  2. Marketing Roadhouse
  3. Our Seminar – Blogging

Writing for an Email Newsletter

You may have heard that email is dead.  Well, it’s not, not by a long shot.  Email marketing has been proven to be a powerful marketing tool for businesses and organizations.  And it dovetails perfectly into web and social media marketing campaigns.  You can even promote your Blog with an email newsletter.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed, it requires some planning and finesse.  Writing for an email newsletter is tricky but when done well, it can produce some great results.

First, Your Email Distribution List…

  1. Who is on your list?
  2. What do they look like, what is their typical schedule?
  3. What is going to grab their attention?
  4. What is important to them and what do you want them to do?
  5. What might annoy them?

You must know these people and what their wants and needs are.  Until you know them, how can you write to them???  This is why a well constructed list of actual people you are targeting is much more effective than a list of randoms you’ve purchased from a service.

Email Content vs. Web content

So, what is email newsletter content and what makes it different from web site content or Blog content?  Email content is quick, hyper targeted and must drive action.

When you write your email newsletter, think conversion.  What can you place in your headline and copy that will drive someone to read it and click for more?

You don’t want them sitting there reading all of your content in their Outlook or on their Blackberry (mostly because they won’t).  You want them on your site or on your Blog (especially if you sell or advertise there).

So be brief and strive to convert.  Here is a breakdown of how this can work:

  1. Write compelling headlines that grab attention
  2. Keep the email content brief with links to long versions online
  3. Develop effective Landing Pages
  4. Post your full newsletter content on your Blog or website
  5. You want them to scan the email then click to visit your site/blog

Track Your Email Progress

An email newsletter campaign is completely worthless if it isn’t tracked and measured.  If you are simply shooting out emails with no idea of what’s working and what isn’t, you are missing the point.

Most email newsletter services offer stats (if yours doesn’t, switch).  Some will let you incorporate Google Analytics, even better! With these stats you can…

  1. See what headlines were the most effective, which ones get the most opens/clicks
  2. Track what links were clicked the most
  3. Duplicate what works!

If you plan, track and adjust, you will succeed.  Here are some good resources for email marketing…

  1. Blue Sky Factory
  2. MediaPost
  3. Our Newsletter on Landing Pages and Email Marketing

Writing for Social Media

Again, who are you talking to???

Since Social Media Marketing is relatively new there are a bunch of different approaches out there.  But, if you stick to the basics, you will see results.  As with any type of marketing online, content is important.

But before you can start blasting out content on any given social network, you need to know who you are talking to.  Do some research; are your clients, potential members, fans, etc. on these networks?  Which ones?  Ask them.

Engage!

Social Media Marketing is a bit different from the rest in that it is mainly an ongoing conversation.  You need to be yourself (or a reasonable facsimile thereof).  In this conversation you will need to…

  1. Interact with friends/followers, be transparent and authentic
  2. Establish your voice, use a consistent style
  3. Give more than you take, be a trusted resource

Remember though that the same rules apply, just slightly modified…

  1. ADD thrives on Social media, write accordingly
  2. Have goals with each engagement
  3. Is it for fun? Is it to promote? Is it both?  What aligns itself best with your goals?
  4. Be consistent with your tone

Writing for Twitter

Yes, you have probably heard of it and no, it’s not all about Ashton Kutcher.  Real marketing is actually happening here, and quite well in fact.  The problem with writing for Twitter is that you have 140 characters, that’s it!

So, with Twitter you will need to be laser focused.  Having a strategy and some goals will certainly help you.  A checklist of Twitter tasks could look something like this:

  1. Post links to useful articles
  2. Post links to your Blog
  3. Retweet with comments
  4. Post thoughts and commentary
  5. Be careful with abbreviations, cut out all unneeded words

Here is a snapshot of my twitter feed…

Twitter Example

@JonMikelBailey Twitter Sample

 

 

 

Writing for Facebook

Yes, even marketing on Facebook requires a content strategy.  Similar to Twitter, you need to be brief.  You can write longer bits of content here (at least it allows you to) but I don’t recommend it.  You are competing against a lot of information for attention so get to the point.

With that in mind, a strategy will help you be certain you aren’t getting lost in the sea of Facebook posts.  Here is a general overview of what a Facebook strategy could look like:

  1. Have a plan and an agenda, publish useful content
  2. Start a fan page and promote to clients, colleagues, etc.
  3. Similar to Twitter (in fact the two should be connected)
  4. Use it as an extension of your website and Blog
  5. Build your fan numbers with valuable content

Here is a sample of our posts in our Facebook fan page…

Facebook Example

Wood Street’s Facebook Fan Page

 

Let’s Review

Remember to Use What Works

Planning, strategy, testing, trial and error are all important.  Start with the basics and grow from there…

  1. Simple statements, to the point
  2. Research, plan and identify goals
  3. Direct language using keywords or targeted terms
  4. Use effective headlines, lists, short paragraphs
  5. Topic -> Overview Details -> Call to Action

A Writing Challenge for You

To reinforce our lesson here, we’ve developed this simple exercise.  Try rewriting this sentence based on what you’ve learned.

Here are the parameters, it is for a plumber’s web site, the audience is potential clients and the goal is a phone call or contact email to schedule an appointment.  Here you go…

Our targeted diagnostic approach and technologically proven plumbing methodology are what sets us apart in our ability to resolve plumbing issues and correct problems caused by inadequate plumbing practices.

This article was adapted from our seminar “Writing for the Web”.  Slides from this seminar can be viewed here.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

3 Responses to “Writing for Websites, Blogs, Email Newsletters and Social Media
  • Awesome piece, Jon. Thorough & comprehensive. I submitted an entry to your email.

    An idea: since this post is so good, contains lots of keyword-dense copy, nice SEO-optimized headlines, etc.

    You GOTTA change that title tag to be like “Web Content & Copywriting Guide – Writing For The Web”

    Just an idea from an old-school SEO hahah.

    -Chris M.

  • Chris, great point. I plan to edit the title once the contest is over.

    • heather

    Great information, Jon. Thanks for sharing.

Comments are closed.