Thursday, April 30, 2009

Leveraging Website Copy

Notes From A March 13th Presentation
To SCK's
Ask The Experts Workshop Series

U.S. Households lost $11 TRILLION IN WEALTH IN LAST YEAR. That's worth keeping in mind. But if you’re in business, now’s not the time to retrench. If anything, you need to work smarter if not harder in biz development. During tough times, there’s a flight to quality, value, dependability, etc.

Entrepreneurial people aren’t as intimidated by chaos, because they find opportunities in change and see patterns that others may not. Use the web as your skunk works; experiment with it for building leads, contacts and conversations.

Full disclosure: I’m not really an expert about the web. Be skeptical of anyone who says they are. The web is too fluid and dynamic for anyone to ever really become expert, because just when you think you have the hang of it, things have moved on. The goal instead is to be a learning machine.

For the web to work at its best, you need to blend the various sub-disciplines (SEO, e-marketing, analytics, design, content, usability) into a seamless whole. Think of them as tactics blending into your larger web strategy.

The end goal of all of this is, or should be, inbound marketing. Business is a lot easier when some opportunities find you.

A Few Do’s & Don’ts On Web Copy

Don’t Bury Your Lead
Get the essence of your organization/product offering on the home page, not buried four clicks away, hoping visitors might find it. Just as every successful presidential campaign has a crisp, clear, coherent, credible narrative that states the case for voting for that candidate, your home page has to quickly and clearly communicate what you’re about, how you’re different, and why anyone should care. And it should be tailored to your audience & closely tied to your business objectives.

Don’t Get Carried Away by Baking Key Words Into Your Message
This can sometimes come at the cost of being unclear about your main offerings, real corporate culture and central differentiation points. Besides, you can always accomplish some of that via meta tags and title tags.

Don’t Panic About All This Social Media Stuff
Just do something, at least one thing well, and grow from there. These are merely tactics that shouldn’t cause you to lose sight of your larger strategic objectives. Do a couple things that help with inbound marketing. Consider an “ask the experts” micro site in which you invite visitors to ask questions. It’s a good way to demonstrate your knowledge.

Do Give Both Readers & Skimmers Something for Them
If you worked for Bill Clinton, you might best report on your progress by preparing a long report for him to read. If you worked for George W. Bush, you’d be better off crafting a short and compelling story to relate to him orally. Find a way to deliver your message to different kinds of audiences.


At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Mike Q said...

Thanks for these notes, and for yesterday's. I wanted to catch your gig at Lakeland but was unable to.

I think most entities pay 95 percent of their web attention to the design and 5 percent to the content (including a certain university).

At 1:31 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Mike, right you are. But the smart folks (and organizations) are quickly (well, not quickly enough for me, really) waking up to how dumb that really is. That's in part because of what's being called in some quarters the "content marketing" revolution, which is really more like an evolution, from my point of view. Anyway, I'll surely be writing about all this in coming weeks and months. Thanks as always for stopping by, Mike.

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Julie Cajigas said...

The point on giving readers & skimmers something is well taken. Whenever I write web copy, clients seem to want this short, snappy, easily digestible copy, which of course I advocate for their splash/home page. My clients, however, often want this kind of copy on every page and are afraid to have longer pieces or articles.

I am a big fan of second and third level pages having a good amount of content. I am a reader, and if I'm interested by a site's splash page, I want to find little tidbits and even longer paragraphs to read so I can learn more about them and their offerings.

Some content I love to see includes:

- A press page: Yes, I want to read your releases to learn more about you.

- Staff bio page: I want to know who I will be working with if I work with you.

- Details/educational materials about your area of expertise: Teach me something - give me value!

- Your blog: I want to read the most up to date info about you.

- Links to and sections of other articles about your discipline.

Anyway, you make a good point. I think it's important to put content on the web. Perhaps it's our attachment to traditional print that makes us afraid to post content (where more content = more $$$) or perhaps its the perception that web crawlers don't read. Either way, I think it's a mistake to leave longer copy blocks out of one's website altogether.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You've expressed it well, Julie, and nicely fleshed out my point. We tend to be too easily influenced by the simple repetition of things that are manifestly untrue (such as the idiotic idea that no one reads online--plenty of people do, plus there's something called the print function, which allows you to print out lots of pages if you prefer to convert web copy to printed page, something that's always overlooked, for reasons that escape me).

Simple minds tend to boil everything down to black and white with blanket statements. But the truth is there are all kinds of intellects, attention spans and reading interests among online readers, and it's important to try to cater to all of them to the fullest extent possible. And as you suggest, good web design and navigation ushers the readers to the deeper pockets of content they want to see, while still allowing the skimmers to skim for what they want. You can serve both.

Anyway, dear Inspired Freelancer, I'm looking forward to finally meeting you in just a bit.

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh.... hi John- i really enjoy your invigorating writing style. You are like poetry in motion with you wonderful prose which all your gentle readers truly enjoy. How do you think the Kindle will affect your work?

At 2:23 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Silly MFH, always trying to bust my chops... You just love giving me the business about that "gentle reader" phrase, don't you? That's okay: I still think the phrase fits perfectly.


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