Writing for the Internet? You're doing it wrong.


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You have your content plan. An editorial calendar. A campaign idea. Even a tagline. But how do you actually put those words together in a digital way that helps people grok them? Take a peek into how we tackle it at space150.

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Writing for the Internet? You're doing it wrong.

  1. 1. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Writing for the internet? You’re doing it wrong. ! The 7 basic web writing screw-ups, and how to fix them.
  2. 2. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Screw-up #1: You don’t sound like you.
  3. 3. “We develop innovative strategies to deliver maximum ROI by leveraging industry best practices married to out-of-the-box thinking.” ! You want to sound professional. Competent. Serious. And that means you’re trying too hard to sound like someone else—someone smarter than you. ! The problem is, you end up sounding like everybody else, when you really want to stand out. That’s not smart.
  4. 4. SCREW-UP #1 IS HAPPENING WHEN… ! Your vocabulary sounds like it came out of an intro biz school course. You insist on complete sentences, no contractions, no use of the first person (singular or plural), but love abbreviations. Like the Fresh Prince, your parents just don’t understand what you do.
  5. 5. THE FIX-UP: BE YOURSELF Writing on the web is intimate. Status updates, tweets, blog posts? When we do it in our personal lives, we sound like ourselves, and we write about what we like. That’s why our best friends like to read it. That’s also why a big brand needs to develop a persona: • A single point of view • A single tone of voice • Your own vocabulary • Your pet interests and causes
  6. 6. Source: Carbonmade Feel the personality!
  7. 7. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Screw-up #2: You’re “saying,” not ‘being.”
  8. 8. “We’re the global leader in widget manufacturing.” ! Listen. How many restaurants serve the world’s best coffee? Eye-roll, right? So how many of your customers roll their eyes when they hear you say it? Even if it’s true, saying it doesn’t win you any points. You need to prove it by doing it.
  9. 9. SCREW-UP #2 IS HAPPENING WHEN… ! You claim you’re an industry leader. Or you note that you are especially innovative. But you never seem to have a specific example at hand when these statements are made...
  10. 10. THE FIX-UP: PROVE IT Anybody can say they’re a leader, an innovator, or an out-of-the-box thinker. But here’s how to show people that you are, in fact, changing the world: • Tell stories that show the difference you make • Start from the perspective of your audience • Point out what makes you special and unique
  11. 11. Source: 3M Innovations – Stories You had something to do with that major news event? Wow!
  12. 12. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Screw-up #3: Your audience wants to talk about something else.
  13. 13. “10% stronger than our leading competitor. 10% stronger than our leading competitor. 10% stronger than our leading competitor.” ! You won’t get invited to parties if you only ever talk about one thing. Especially if that thing is you. ! Your readers should know all the features of your products. It’s why they buy, right? ! Therefore, talk about those features everywhere: on the package. On the product web page. In the banner ad. In pre-roll Hulu ads. On Facebook. On Twitter. On Instagr— hey wait! Why did you unfriend us?
  14. 14. SCREW-UP #3 MAY BE HAPPENING WHEN… You can’t get any responses to your social posts. You run out of things to talk about after your feature list. Your fingers make the “copy and paste” shortcut motion in your sleep.
  15. 15. THE FIX-UP: EMPATHIZE Empathy will help your audience understand what you’re saying, and help you anticipate what you need to tell them. Let the conversation meander away from your feature list: • Know your audience. How do they talk? Mirror that. • What do they want to talk about? Deliver it. • Are they jumping to a new topic? Jump with them. • PS, features aren’t always the best persuader, anyway.
  16. 16. Source: Chobani on Instagram
  17. 17. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Screw-up #4: You’re not leading with the good stuff.
  18. 18. “To our valued customers, without whom we would be nothing, and in honor of the beginning of summer, which always brings to our minds the end of school, new adventures, and new relationships, we offer this valuable 10% off coupon.” ! Zzzzzzzzzzzz wha?!? Did something happen? Did I hear something about a coupon? ! No. I didn’t. Because I stopped reading about 6 words in. I mean, really, “whom?” Thanks for the nap, professor.
  19. 19. SCREW-UP #4 HAPPENS TO… Those who hold handshakes too long. Like 10 minutes too long. While making aggressive, unbroken eye contact. Seriously, don’t you just want to run away?
  20. 20. THE FIX-UP: PRIORITIZE The internet is immediate. You don’t need to build up to your point. Lead with the main takeaway, and let your readers decide if they need to dive into the details or related matters. Demonstrate relevance, usefulness, and interest immediately. Organize according to the Inverted Pyramid… (next slide)
  21. 21. Further Reading: The Inverted Pyramid - The Purdue OWL Source: Inverted Pyramid - WIkipedia
  22. 22. Source: Spotify A great lead. ! What? Music. Who? Everyone. Where? Everywhere.
  23. 23. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Screw-up #5: You’re all over the place.
  24. 24. ! ! ! You have a lot to say. Is it better to cram it all at the top of the page, above the fold? Or to space it out? ! Spoiler alert: the answer is, space it out. If you help your readers read, they’ll come away, overall, with greater comprehension of your content. ! (Still love you, Dr. Bronner’s!)
  25. 25. SCREW-UP #5 HAPPENS WHEN… You put image carousels at the top of your web page. You fill up every last pixel of white space. It’s like watching 3 TV shows at once!
  26. 26. THE FIX-UP: GUIDE THE EYE In Western cultures, most people tend to read in an “F” shaped pattern: top to bottom, starting from the left. Write your copy to match this pattern: • Generally, make a strong margin from top to bottom (centered or right justification is good, but left is the most natural) • Chunk your paragraphs into bite-sized pieces • Use short, styled headlines to break up body copy, give your reader resting points, and make it easier to scan the page for relevance
  27. 27. Source: Evidence Soup The red spots show where the eyes went. ! See the F?
  28. 28. Source: Nike Golf 360 App Look at these great chunky paragraphs! Look at these great signpost subheadlines!
  29. 29. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Screw-up #6: You’re cramming the SEO.
  30. 30. “We’re leaders in cloud computing, office networking, fiber optic management, server support, email services, website hosting, AV protection, backup services, etc., etc., etc.” ! Whoa! Slow down there, Listy McListerson. I get it. You want me to understand every service you offer. I have to tell you, though, you sound like Bubba in Forrest Gump, going shrimp-crazy. ! But do the Google bots like it? Bad news: not really. The more keywords you stuff on one page, the less likely you’ll rank on any of them.
  31. 31. SCREW-UP #6 IS HAPPENING WHEN… You need to ask how to punctuate a list inside a list. You look up synonyms for “services” or “consulting.”
  32. 32. THE FIX-UP: SEO SMARTER Want to deliver what reader and search engines are looking for? Work with your search and analytics experts to identify high-volume, relevant keywords and make sure these words appear: • In the headline and title tags • Early in the body copy • In any relevant image file names, title, and alt description tags • On relevant anchor text links
  33. 33. ! The top nav groups all their kinds of cakes into high-level categories, linking to pages that focus on the specifics. Source: Cakes.com
  34. 34. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Screw-up #7: You aren’t smart about links.
  35. 35. “Learn about SEO! To start, click here.” ! Do me a favor. Google search “click here.” I got 6,670,000,000 results. That’s a lot. ! Such a lot, in fact, that Google isn’t going to rank links like this highly. Or the pages they link to. There are billions of other hits ahead of you in line. ! The upshot? The web doesn’t need more links that say “learn more” or “buy now.” It needs you to tell the user (and the search engine bots) what comes next.
  36. 36. SCREW-UP #7 HAPPENS WHEN… You really, really, really want someone to click right there. Yeah. That’s the spot. It’s Friday. It’s 5:15. And this is the 25th link to write today. You’ve run out of ideas. It’s obvious from the context where clicking that link will take you. Right?
  37. 37. THE FIX-UP: NO SURPRISES Tell your users what to expect when 
 they click. Where they’ll go. What content they’ll find there. Search bots are confused by weak link copy. They want to understand the relationship between web pages. But “click here” is no help. Human readers can figure it out, if the context indicates where the link will take you. However, even humans are more likely to click when they know for sure where they’re going to end up.
  38. 38. Source: Buffalo Wild Wings Nice. Tell me where to go!
  39. 39. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Okay, but I am a special case!
  40. 40. The rules still apply, friend. ! Even dense, legal copy can be broken up into manageable chunks for easier scanning. Look for opportunities to inject personality, even if it must be in the margins. ! Plus, the inverted pyramid gives scanners a high-level overview, and detail seekers plenty to chew on lower on the page. It’s a win-win!
  41. 41. See you, web writer… Hope this helps!
  42. 42. Confidential and Proprietary space150 ©2014 Thank You.Next, check out space150's work.
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