March 21, 2013
I’ve been hearing more and more buzz about online reputation management aka reputation marketing. It’s touted as a way for businesses to build their customer base using the persuasive power of testimonials, reviews, word of mouth… the things people say and write about a company.
Wait a second.
Is that really new? Isn’t that how companies have grown and become successful since the dawn of commerce? Isn’t it an updated version of the old…
“She told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on”
These days, it’s a little more complicated with blogs, social media, and 3rd party review sites that let visitors comment and rate businesses directly out to the world, no filters. That’s where online reputation management comes in: guiding your clients to places where they can post, encouraging them to do so, and managing the inevitable negative ones.
But the basics of online reputation management are Business 101 staples:
- Use genuine testimonials or reviews,
- Don’t “cook” them up, that’ll come back to bite you,
- And make them highly visible to your prospects across multiple platforms.
Enhancing your company’s credibility with online reputation management is a bit more complicated than it used to be before social media. But the concept should feel as familiar as a pair of old slippers to those who have always recognized the importance of positive word of mouth.
About the author: Heather Reimer is the founder of The Write Content. She can help you build your business reputation with well-written persuasion content, press releases, and website usability tips. Visit The Write Content for a free content analysis and proposal.
March 7, 2013
A new client hired me to write a home page for his contracting business website. I didn’t know it at the time, but he also hired another company to do the same so he could compare.
When both documents were delivered, it looked like I had seriously ripped him off. My home page was half the word count of the other one and my fee was considerably more.
When the client suggested I add more “meat” to mine, I felt an explanation of website usability was needed and wrote him this:
The reason there isn’t more meat (and by that I assume you mean more words) is that people are in a hurry and are reading less and less online. They want quick, easy to digest points. They want to be directed towards the next page on their journey so they can make a decision. They will not read a long document on the home page of a business website.
Most people don’t realize that it’s much easier to write long unfocused copy than it is to write short, highly relevant copy that informs and persuades in very few words. But that’s what website users want: “Solve my problem, quickly, or I’m outta here”.
Jakob Nielsen has studied website usability for decades not just from his own personal observations but scientific studies. He says the most successful sites are the ones that are easiest for people to use. And that means, in his words, cut the blah blah blah.
That’s why I believe website usability has to be top of mind when writing content. And why professional content writers have to be more than just word jockeys. They have to know who their reader is, put their needs first, and cut to the chase.
About the Author: Heather Reimer is a content writer and proponent of website usability. Ask her to review your home page for free ideas on how to improve it and get a proposal and quote on a new, harder working home page. Visit The Write Content for details.
March 6, 2013
Have you ever tried to write catchy slogans or taglines for your family business or the firm where you work? If so, you know it isn’t as easy as it looks.
The fact that a slogan is so short makes it harder to write well because you have to convey so much in just a handful of words. But it is doable.
A good company slogan:
- makes your company stand apart from others in the same field.
- is catchy, easy to remember.
- expresses a benefit or solution to a problem.
My all time favorite slogan has been used for years by the SERVPRO company. They clean up fire and water damage. Their tagline?
“Like it Never Even Happened”
If you’ve had a fire or flood, what could be better than having the clock turned back and your place restored to how it was before the damage?
Sometimes, you need to dissect a tagline word by word to realize it says absolutely nothing. Case in point: an executive recruitment firm displays its name on its website with this company slogan:
“Confidence is What We Trust”
To that, I ask, “So what?” Where’s the benefit to the prospect? Where’s the competitive advantage? Where’s the punch?
Most company slogans fall into this category. Not blatantly terrible or awesomely great, just… there.
For example, see if you can guess what kind of company is represented by this tagline:
“Committed to providing high quality, value priced solutions”
Okay, there are benefits contained in that slogan. But the message is hardly unique or attention getting. And I can’t even remember what they sell.
More heads are better than one. Give your team the list of 3 slogan writing tips above and get them brainstorming. The finalists are the catchy slogans that express uniqueness and a strong benefit to the would-be customer.
About the Author: Heather Reimer has been writing slogans, website content and articles for over 20 years. Visit her at www.TheWriteContent.com
May 17, 2012
I usually preach the gospel of transparency and easy accessibility. But there are times when online businesses should not invite their prospective customers to contact them.
If your business doesn’t have the resources or inclination to respond to incoming emails and voice mails, then don’t invite them.
Do not trick people into going to the trouble of filling out your customer service form, explaining their query, and waiting for a response, if you don’t have a system in place to give them one promptly. Even an automated response is better than silence.
Because silence is a slap in the face. Silence tells prospects one of 2 things:
“Yes, I lured you to my site, enticed you with my offer, promised to answer your questions should you have any. But I’m busy with more important stuff.”
“We’re a fly-by-night ecommerce operation, set up only to sell stuff, not to stand behind it.”
Either way, a contact us page under those conditions is a liability because those jilted prospects won’t convert and won’t be back. And won’t speak well of you to others. But then, if you cared about that, you’d have answered their email.
May 15, 2012
Why is proofreading so important in web content? Here’s a short story. The other day I was reading an excellent article by a respected copywriter. It was all about ways to make website content for B2B service providers more effective. But when I hit this line, I stopped reading:
“Do the company have a guarantee?”
That little hiccup caused me to pause in my progress through an otherwise engaging article. It caused me to stop and think about my own proofreading and editing.
Because nothing chips away at customer confidence like the proverbial shoemaker whose kids go barefoot. Or the article writer whose own self-promotional copy has errors.
Your articles and web content can be full of great insights and excellent offers. It can be engaging, thought-provoking and compelling. But if you slip up and omit a word or insert a typo, something that isn’t a big deal in everyday writing can make your readers stumble. It trips them up on their way towards a possible conversion.
Worse, it raises a chilling thought: If I hire her, will my new shoes fall apart too? Will my new content have mistakes?
Web Content Proofreading Tips:
- Pass your web content through a spell checker. It won’t catch everything, so don’t rely on this method alone.
- Sleep on it or at least wait a few hours and reproof the content before publishing.
- Try reading it aloud.
- Read it backwards, last sentence first.
- Have someone else do your proofreading. You’ll be surprised what they catch.
April 10, 2012
Do you ever find yourself struggling to understand a page of web copy, reading and rereading it? How certain are you that your own website content isn’t having the same mind-numbing effect on your visitors?
Here’s a prime example of web content that made me want to scream at my monitor: “Yes, but… what exactly do you DO?”
(Our) key strength is our focused specialization in building, integrating and supporting mission-critical business applications and systems to deliver the solutions that achieve your business objectives. Our integrated Global Practices, blended with our best-of-breed tools, standardized processes and skilled resources, enable a consolidated, end-to-end focus for your mission-critical applications and systems.
Vague platitudes, blustery boasts, and industry jargon (words like solutions, processes, integration) are not just boring to read. They usually fail in the critical task of communicating clearly to your audience.
So. Does your web copy pass the sniff test? Can first-time visitors quickly find out:
- What you do, exactly?
- Who you do it for?
- What problem(s) you solve?
- How you solve them better than your competitors?
If visitors have to search for the answers, if they have to spend a lot of time deciphering overly long sentences and industry lingo, then you may be forcing them to work too hard to receive your message. And that never ends well.
April 4, 2012
Back in the olden days when I studied communications in a paper-based universe, Alice, my journalism instructor, inserted a writing rule into my brain that, unlike so much else from those days, actually stuck there and has remained useful.
That phrase was “adjectival pile up”, a thing to be avoided as fervently as split infinitives and dangling participles once were. Here’s why that rule, unlike so many others, has stood the test of time and is still valid — maybe even moreso — when writing web content today.
A 13-adjective pile up brought operations at a drug industry newsletter to a standstill Tuesday afternoon.
Local grammar police said they’d never responded to such a large mash-up. No one except the English language was hurt.
The offending adjectival pile up: “Multiple-dose, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter, multinational, unbalanced, parallel-group comparison study”
It’s a satirical example that reminds us to be ever vigilant in our web writing for the less dangerous but just as annoying 3 and 4 word adjectival pile up.
They slow down our readers (a cardinal sin all on its own), force them to re-read our copy to gain clarity, and make journalism instructors really cranky.
March 27, 2012
I missed the Twitter bus. Don’t have an account. Don’t even follow other people’s tweets.
So, does choosing to ignore a major social media juggernaut like Twitter make me a backwards Luddite or some kind of misguided rebel?
Neither. I’m just not wired to enjoy communicating in the text equivalent of 3 second sound bites. I haven’t felt compelled to hijack Twitter to build my client base. In fact, there’s something slightly distasteful about the way marketers repurpose every new “thing” into a way to make money.
It reminds me of fashion designers who steal the latest street trend, hang it on a model, and parade it down the catwalk… coming soon to a JC Penney near you. Really??
Twitter. Facebook. Linked In. Now Pinterest. All have been highjacked by marketers who tell businesses we simply must get on board.
But who has time to maintain all those social media accounts in a meaningful way??
I agree with marketing writer Dianna Huff who wrote in her blog (which I read for enjoyment and information, not as a vehicle to be leveraged for my own financial gain):
“It’s better to go deeper with fewer connections and a couple of white papers or an e-book than it is to constantly post superficial crap to thousands of people who just ignore it.”
True that, Dianna. True that.
March 20, 2012
Do you ever wonder if your business web design conveys the right image? And whether the content, graphics and overall design are sending the message you want your target audience to pick up?
I was researching law firms recently for a new project when I came across a site so incongruous I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was for a small law office that specializes in corporate, real estate, and family law.
Nothing on the home page conformed to my expectations of how a lawyer’s website should look.
- The web design template looked homemade and rudimentary.
- There was no textual content on the home page.
- Instead, the page was dominated by 2 graphic elements: a large head shot of the lawyer and an equally large cartoon!
It wasn’t a particularly funny cartoon either, nor well executed nor very pertinent to the practice of law.
How to Establish Credibility
Credibility is a tricky thing. It looks different depending on who you ask. But there are some standard web design and content guidelines you can usually rely on:
- Content: You don’t need volumes of text but you do need enough to explain, persuade and guide your visitors to action.
- Design: The colors, images and web design should reflect your industry and the values of your target audience.
- Usability: If navigation menus are standardized and intuitive, it shows you care about the visitor experience.
I was evaluating the web content on a resume writing site for a prospective client. She came to me because she knew there was a problem but wasn’t sure what it was.
I found myself wondering how a company could make any money writing resumes these days. I mean, there are so many resume services already out there. And so many people write their own resumes.
So I dug deeper into the site’s web content trying to ferret out how I could help the business differentiate itself. And I found a clue near the bottom of the FAQ page. (It’s surprising how many companies hide these nuggets on low-traffic pages.)
Q: Can you help me with every phase of my job search?
A: As a comprehensive and full-service career marketing firm, we can indeed help you with each and every phase of your job search…
Much more than just writing resumes and cover letters, these amazing people can identify recruiters and job postings suited to my career goals, post my resume online without my boss knowing, help me with interview skills and even write my Johnny Paycheck letter (“Take this Job and Shove It”).
Unfortunately, 99.9% of this site’s visitors will never get to experience that hallelujah moment because it’s buried deeply within the web content.
What about your web content… is your top benefit hidden in well-meaning but generic copy? Are you marketing your low cost service instead of a more profitable and rewarding one?
Think about what your prospects really want from you. Do they just want a resume? Or do they really want career advancement?
Do they just want new accounting software? Or do they really want to streamline routine tasks so they can spend time on other work?
When you know what your target audience really wants, the direction for your web content becomes much clearer.