Category “Effective CopyWriting”

Less is Definitely More When Writing Web Content

Tuesday, 10 June, 2014

Man surrounded by paperwork

I wrote the following post on the new LinkedIn publishing tool, and I know I’ve written similar topics before, but I thought it was worth reproducing here:

The architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously stated that “less is more” when it comes to good design. The same applies to many things in life such as asking for favours, applying make up, McDonald’s, and above all, web content.

The challenge all web writers have is not only how to write engaging content but also how to keep visitors on a website long enough to actually read that content so they’ll do what you want them to do (e.g. buy your product, hire your company, etc.). One of the recommended rules of writing is that you should take what you’ve written, halve it, and then halve it again – leaving you with the core of the message.

It’s definitely something I’ve found hard, as a lover of words and coming from an academic background, but there is a certain satisfaction in knowing you’ve picked the most precise language, used one word instead of five (what’s wrong with using “because” instead of “due to the fact that”?), and kept it simple but eloquent.

So when you’re considering writing web content, remember the following tips:

  • lists and headings/sub-headings can often replace a chunk of text (but make these count – engage the reader and focus on your main ideas and calls to action)
  • images really can be worth 1000 words
  • paragraphs should be short and start or end with the main idea (think about how seldom we read everything on the page)
  • nouns and verbs should be concrete and precise
  • language should be easy to understand, concise, and conversational
  • meaning should be very clear – don’t make the reader search for key information (hint: they won’t!)
  • links and sub-pages can divide up long chunks of text and add value for the reader (remember we don’t read web content in a linear way like a book)

So, focus on what you want the reader to do on your page, help them navigate the information and the website as a whole with logical ideas and design, and make sure that whatever content you include answers all the reader’s potential questions.

Finally, Van der Rohe also said “God is in the details,” so don’t forget to do a thorough proofread, spell check, and fact check before you publish. Heaven forbid you include an incorrect phone number or broken link.

PS – If this sounds like your worst nightmare, despite my tips, then why not hire me to do it for you?

Monday, 28 October, 2013

“High-quality web content that’s useful, usable, and enjoyable is one of the greatest competitive advantages you can create for yourself online.”

― Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web

Using Operators to Determine Keyword Popularity

Tuesday, 6 August, 2013

An alternative or perhaps companion to keyword research tools, operators can help you identify the popularity of certain keywords and keyword phrases when you are optimizing a site. Although very limited in the level of information you receive, I find them a quick way to check for popularity, as you simply type in a word before your search term/keyword phrase into Google and hit ‘search’ to get your results.

There are three main types of operators you can use:

1) Allintitle This operator tells you how many web pages globally have the same keywords listed in their title tags.

E.g.  “Allintitle: thai restaurants” is typed into the search field. The SERP then reports back that 744,000 web pages on the web contain both these words in their title tag.

Using Operators for Keyword Popularity

2) Intitle: This works the same way as Allintitle, but shows all web pages that list any of the keywords. So in the example above, if you used “intitle:” instead of “allintitle:” the SERP would reflect all websites that contained either the keyword “thai” OR the keyword “restaurants” in their title tags.

3) Allinanchor: This operator allows you to see how many links on the web are using the specific keywords.

If you’d like to know more about using keyword research tools for SEO, I recently wrote a post on the new Google Keyword Planner and how it differs from the Keyword Tool.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool Becomes Keyword Planner

Friday, 26 July, 2013

I Google; therefore, I am. If you use the popular Google Keyword Tool for SEO and keyword research for websites and ads, you may have noticed that there’s soon to be a shift to the new Keyword Planner. Similar to its predecessor,  Keyword Planner allows you to create keyword lists as well as ad groupings, but it’s not too hard to see that Google seems to be trying to push users towards creating ads and buying keywords as opposed to simply using the tool for organic SEO. This makes sense seeing as that’s how Google makes more money…

How is Keyword Planner different from Keyword Tool?

As the name suggests, the focus is on planning out whole AdWord campaigns, with an emphasis on keyword searches along with traffic estimates. Some of the main changes seem to be around the statistics on searches.You need to add your keyword ideas to your overall keyword plan to get more information and traffic estimates. The good news is that you get more data – instead of a default of search estimates for desktop and laptop users only, the new functions include all mobile users and tablets too, which makes sense in terms of today’s web users.

Keywords From Webpages Removed

Something that I really like with the Keyword Tool is the ability to look at what keywords already appear on a site (especially useful if I am trying to update the content on a website and want to know what they already have). This has been taken off the main interface. Now, to get this information, you need to download your historical statistics from the Keyword Planner and it will then give you that data.

Local and Monthly Searches Replaced

Of course one of the main elements of organic SEO, as well as ad campaign choices, is to review local and monthly searches to get an idea of how the keywords perform. This has been replaced with “average monthly searches”. The focus seems to be on nano targeting. You can still get global monthly searches if you select to target all locations, but now you can get a simplified version of this information. The average monthly search function allows you to pick specific targets (e.g. countries, cities, or regions) to help create more accurate keywords. You can also still get local search volume trends, but this is also only when you download your historical statistics. It does seem like the changes are making the process a little simpler, though in playing around with the tool, I get the impression you see less upfront.

Other Changes in Keyword Planner

Some of the features that have been removed from the Keyword Tool include the Search Share column and the Ad share column (according to the Keyword Planner information page, Google is working on a replacement for the latter). Another change is more accurate  CPC (Cost-Per-Click) data. Instead of “approximate CPC” – the Keyword Tool version, Planner has an “average CPC” column, making this data more specific and, therefore, more useful for ad campaigns.

Keyword Research With Keyword Planner

Keyword Planner still works well for keyword research as it still allows you to get ad group ideas as well as individual keywords and keyword phrases, but it operates more on a selection – Google likens it to a shopping cart idea. You can pick the words you want to use and add them to your overall plan. You can then build lists and the tools are able to do automatic combinations. For example, you may have a list of locations and then a list of keywords that you want to combine with those locations (e.g. real estate agents and the cities they work in). Keyword Planner can combine these and generate a list of suggested keyword phrases based on your separate lists (e.g. real estate agents Vancouver). The instructions on the Google Planner information site explain exactly how to do this. I foresee this as a great time saver as you can then get traffic estimates and statistics for these new phrases.

Analysis of Keyword Planner

So is it a good change? I don’t see it as being too different from the latest incarnation of the AdWords Keyword Tool, though it may take a bit of time to get acclimated to the changes and the concept of keywords first, data after, as well the ‘shopping cart’ concept to build keyword plans. I look forward to exploring it and seeing whether it really improves my organic SEO campaigns. I like the idea of being able to get more specific with targeting and that there seems to be a less is more approach to the layout and set up. I also think that, as the name suggests, rather than just doing research with the tool, you can build more of a concentrated plan for your SEO.

Only time will tell, though, and I still suggest that no matter the tool, always default to the number one rule of SEO – write for people, not search engines.

Geraldine

 

 

 

 

Tips for Blogging Inspiration

Monday, 22 July, 2013

It’s often really hard to just launch into writing a blog. Beyond the possible technical challenges, there’s also the inevitable questions like “what do I write about?”, “what should I sound like?”, and “will anyone even read this junk?”…. I find one of the best ways to get inspiration, ideas, and hopefully peace of mind, is to read other blogs. Don’t copy them, but pick out what you like and don’t like about them. What works? What doesn’t work? But ensure you use your own voice in your blog.

Look at how the bloggers connect with their readers (or don’t), how they use language, but also how the posts themselves are set up in terms of how they look. Are the titles effective? Are they tagged and categorized clearly? Is the message engaging?

For some ideas, you can take a look at this list that a colleague at BCIT and I developed for their Technical Writing Program’s annual  Alumni Lunch:

For Business/Writing:

For Pleasure:

Whether you learn from good blogs or bad, don’t let anything stop you from just going for it!

Geraldine

Meerkat Communications Turns 5!

Friday, 26 April, 2013

Picture of MeerkatsIt’s Meerkat Communications’ 5th year – hard to believe that time has gone by so quickly!

It’s been a privilege to work with a great group of clients in a range of industries and to help them express their ideas in various formats, whether in a brochure, sales sheets, or their company website. I love being able to help transform concepts into concrete copy and to help clients see the power of words in reaching  target markets.

Here’s to many more years of successful collaboration,welcoming of new clients, and of making words work for you.

Geraldine

Grammar Nuts – a Cartoon

Wednesday, 17 October, 2012

Cartoon about GrammarWhile I’m posting some great cartoons, I came across this one on Facebook. Unfortunately I don’t know the source, but it includes a link to The Plain Language Programme, so I’m going to assume that’s the original.

 

Writer’s Block… Blame the Pencil

Wednesday, 17 October, 2012

I came across this great Savage Chickens cartoon that made me giggle. I was feeling especially glum because I had finally done some new creative writing and then ended up losing it all on my silly computer, so this majorly cheered me up.

Now it’s the blank screen and the keyboard that do us in….

Cartoon about Writer's Block by Doug Savage

Why should your business have a blog?

Tuesday, 25 September, 2012

Tips for Business BloggingBlogs can sometimes seem like something only narcissistic weirdos with too much time on their hands  are interested in producing. However, blogs can function as highly effective business tools. Web 2.0 and social media give us a way to connect with our clients and potential customers directly, encourage feedback from them, and find out how they think we’re doing, almost instantly. Done right, blogs can be used by businesses to promote their products and services, cement their brand, share news, and create brand evangelists – a community of dedicated followers and supporters. Blogs can also be used very successfully as an internal means of communication to engage with employees and receive valuable feedback from your own immediate community.

What are some of the main functions of a business blog?

You can choose to use your blog to communicate within your business or to reach out to your clients and customers (existing and potential). Your blog can function to

  • market your company through free media
  • raise your social media/online presence but also add depth to it
  • communicate new products and services
  • recruit new employees, clients, customers, investors, etc.
  • communicate bad news to clients (but also do damage control at the same time)
  • get instant feedback on new ideas/products/services
  • gather information about potential target markets
  • offer customer service and/or technical support
  • and give your company a voice.

Of course you need to blog effectively to ensure the blog fulfills its potential functions.

What are some tips for better blogging?

In order to create a successful blog, you need to first of all identify who your intended audience is, whether internal or external. Next, you need to profile that audience to determine their particular needs and expectations. What sort of tone will they prefer? What types of information will they need and not need? What is their level of knowledge on the topic? Will they understand industry jargon or do they need layperson’s terms? Then you need to determine your blog’s ‘personality’ and the range of topics you are going to cover.

Remember that you are creating a whole channel of communication, not just a single message, so it takes careful preparation  and follow-up to blog effectively.

Here are some of my other tried and tested tips for blogging:

  • Use and develop a readable, comfortable, conversational style of writing (you have permission to be less formal but should still care about grammar, style, spelling etc. as this can affect your credibility)
  • Keep the information valuable, interesting, and to the point
  • Supply readers with links, extra resources, images, infographics, etc. (remember that both internal linking and external linking help with your search engine rankings)
  • Proofread the message and evaluate the content (edit, edit, edit!)
  • Keep your posts short (probably around the 180- 200 word mark)
  • Create a list of topics for you and your team to write about so you don’t run out of steam
  • Use engaging, eye-catching headings for your posts and use sub-headings for longer posts
  • Tag your posts with appropriate tags and categories
  • Ensure all information is legal, ethical, accurate, and not taken from any other source without permission or credit.

Finally, remember that you are trying to reach and build a community of readers who can potentially become clients or customers, so you need to allow for comments and feedback and be a responsive blogger. Reply to comments, consider following your own followers back , and encourage interaction.

Blogging is a great tool if used correctly, and remember that it’s perfectly appropriate for business, not just those navel-gazing weirdos…

Geraldine

 

 

 

Barriers to Communication

Sunday, 29 January, 2012

Sometimes, despite careful planning, a well crafted message can be misunderstood or misinterpreted or, perhaps worst of all, ignored.

One of the issues I find these days is that people really just don’t seem to have any listening skills, nor do they actually read all of what has been written. I have experienced both of these problems many times. For example, in my classes I can repeat instructions several times and put them in writing, and students still do not listen properly and end up doing the wrong thing (to their detriment). And I’ve also written very clear, well structured business emails (after all, it’s my profession so I have to show I can practice what I preach!), and still I get a response that indicates the person has not properly read anything I have written.

Sigh…

So what can we do about it? Unfortunately we can’t control others (oh for such a power!), but we can keep ensuring we construct well organised and thought out messages, and allow for feedback and questions. Sometimes, too, all it takes is a deep breath and a lot of patience. Something I learned a long time ago, because of the torture I experienced from certain teachers, is that if someone doesn’t understand something and they ask you to explain it again, explaining it in exactly the same way will not help, because the person did not understand you the first time.

We also have to be aware that communication is a process, a cycle from sender to receiver and back again, so we have a responsiblity to others to listen to them carefully and to read things slowly and with attention. This can save us time and unwanted issues.

So, it takes practice, patience, and sometimes, a healthy sense of humour to stay sane and ensure you overcome any barriers to communication to get your message understood and get what you want.

Geraldine