December 1, 2013
I was walking my dogs one evening when I passed a small drug store with a poster in the window for blood glucose monitors. I put the brakes on the dogs and did a double take.
The 4-word heading not only plugged the monitors but also contained the secret to writing great sales copy for a new world of busy, impatient and demanding online shoppers.
“Do More. Think Less.”
This is exactly what web users (B2C or B2B) really want — to arrive at your website, quickly understand your offer, get the information they need, make a decision and take an action with less thinking required. That doesn’t mean they’re stupid or lazy. But many of them are busy, tired, and distracted by a dozen other tasks, especially business people.
For them, thinking less is a matter of efficiency because it means reading less (wordy, boring sales copy), searching less (for the information they want), guessing less (trying to figure out if a site is trustworthy or not), and feeling less uncertain what to do next (because the content doesn’t move them towards an action).
Companies create a good impression and improve conversions with clear, accessible sales content and a user experience that lets visitors do more and think less!
About the author: Heather Reimer is an experienced online content writer, consultant and usability proponent. Contact her at The Write Content if visitors are leaving your site without converting and you don’t know why.
November 22, 2013
Do you ever bargain hunt in your local thrift shop? I find it so addictive because you never know what you’ll find… sometimes, there’s treasure in amongst the tacky ornaments and mothbally clothes.
That’s why I also love doing website content analyses for prospective clients. It gives me permission to rummage around their websites, where I often find buried treasure.
It happened again this week while analyzing the effectiveness of a business service company’s website, as I tested the content, navigation and usability. I read a lot of ho-hum verbiage before I struck “gold” at the very bottom of a subpage. It went like this:
Within 18 months of taking over customer invoicing at a large US hospital, our Chief Billing Manager identified and recovered over $754,000 in missed billings.
What makes this a treasure?
- It is a very persuasive example of a real benefit a new client can hope to enjoy.
- It’s a story and storytelling greatly improves sales copy.
- It contains a specific dollar amount, which has more credibility than a rounded off figure.
- It’s full of nice action verbs: taking over, identified, recovered.
My next step is… well, it could go several ways. I might take that juicy little sentence, research the background and create a full page case study from it. Or incorporate it into the home page content. Or include it in a page devoted to client success stories.
Do me a favour? Let me poke around your website, digging for buried treasure. No charge, no obligation. If I find some, I’ll share the booty with you!
Heather Reimer is an experienced content writer and website consultant. Visit her website to request a FREE content analysis.
June 20, 2013
The delete key. That innocuous little onboard editor. Every business needs a functioning delete key and someone who’s not afraid to use it.
I just read an article on how to write brief web content. It clocked in at over 1200 words. The sign of a malfunctioning delete button.
The irony reminded me of the old long-versus-short debate.
The Numbers Game
Years ago, I used to tell clients that at least 300 words per page were required for keyword optimization. I knew of other SEOs who insisted the magic numbers were 500, 600 or 1,000 words with a keyword density of [input widely varying ratios here].
Web users were thought to be avid readers. Keyword counting was all the rage. What were we thinking??
Now that Google is learning to recognize synonyms in context, we can get more sensible with our writing… sure, use keywords in your copy but write until you’ve made your point. And then stop. Whether that happens to be after 100 words or 2000.
Then go back and murder your darlings like a madman.
Because no matter how relevant the subject matter may be to your niche group’s vested interests, EVERYBODY needs an editor. Very few documents in the history of the world could not be improved by a nip and tuck… or a slash and burn.
No Formula For This
The downside is there’s no easy mathematical formula to tell us when to stop writing or how to apply keywords to our content correctly. Which is why the lowly writer / editor is experiencing a kind of renaissance in the world of online business. Let us murder your darlings for you, we just aren’t as into them as you are!
Brevity may be the soul of wit. But it’s also the steel-toed boot that commands attention.
The Author: Heather Reimer is head writer and usability professional at TheWriteContent.com. She’ll help your website communicate better by choosing the right words and fewer of them.
Request Free Content Analysis / Proposal
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.