Writing for the Web


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Writing for the web requires us to think about the entire ecosystem of digital channels, devices, and contexts. In this talk, we present practical tactics you can start using today to know your audience, find your voice, and consistently write copy for the web that actually gets read and builds your brand in the process.

Writing tools such as a message hierarchy, editorial calendar, keyword strategy, and a web workflow can help marketers write better and write more.

Published in: Self Improvement
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  • Thank you for this very helpful presentation. In a very attractive and exceedingly clear manner, you mix the fundamentals with new and interesting twists, all the time hitting so many important real-world points. Thank you very much for sharing this.
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Writing for the Web

  1. 1. October 26, 2012Digital Marketing Boot Camp for Arts Marketers | Writing for the webhugeinc.cominfo@hugeinc.com45 Main St. #220 Brooklyn, NY 11201+1 718 625 4843
  2. 2. Michal PasternakPartner, User ExperienceJohn McCroryContent Strategy Lead
  3. 3. About us.We help transform brands and grow businesses.
  4. 4. Our approach.Great user experiences are what drivebusiness performance and marketing.
  5. 5. Agenda: 1. The journey of your message2. Key Principles 3. 10 Things you can do right away 4. Q&A
  6. 6. The journey ofyour message.
  7. 7. We’re here to talk about writing for the web.What do we mean by the web?
  8. 8. Our writing is carried through many different channels.
  9. 9. Web pages.
  10. 10. Blog posts. The Dallas Symph… https://dallassymphony.com/blog/2012/10/16/young-strings-community-celebrations.aspx
  11. 11. Email.
  12. 12. Social media.
  13. 13. Search results.
  14. 14. Apps and app stores.
  15. 15. Our writing reaches people in many different contexts.
  16. 16. Receive  module  on  Facebook  
  17. 17. Receive  module  on  Facebook  
  18. 18. A message serves many situations.•  A person is seeking information from you•  You are sending your message to someone•  Another organization (sponsor, newspaper, artist) is sharing your message with its audience•  Natural word of mouth in which an individual shares your message with a friend
  19. 19. We are writing for an ecosystem of channels, devices and situations.
  20. 20. You face a host of challenges.•  You aren’t only a writer… you wear a lot of different hats in your organization•  Your time and resources are constrained•  Sometimes, it feels like you have to do it all alone•  Your organization can’t afford the technology you need to produce and publish efficiently
  21. 21. Which of our What should I events should I write about spend more time How do I find writing about? guest writers and between seasons? how do I motivate them? Who am I writing Should I write for? Where will I find less formally onHow do I write an time to update the Facebook?email subject line blog? that will get opened? How do I write copy that will get How should I us found better in respond to tweets Google? What do I have to from followers? How do I write do differently for both current & when I write for new audiences? the web?
  22. 22. 2 most frequent questions wehear about writing for the web:
  23. 23. How often should we…•  Send email to our subscribers•  Update our Facebook page•  Tweet
  24. 24. Answer: It doesn’t really matter—if you are being relevant and interesting to your audience.Instead, pace yourself based onwhat you know can handle and do well. Start small.
  25. 25. What’s the best length for…•  Our email newsletter•  A blog post•  A web page
  26. 26. Answer: The best length for writing is the same length as a miniskirt: Long enough to cover thesubject, but short enough to keep it interesting.
  27. 27. So I have to keep it short? Not so fast. Length follows context.
  28. 28. Key principles.
  29. 29. Key Principles1. Know your audience.2. Know yourself.3. Know the competition.
  30. 30.
  31. 31. Your audience already talks to you.•  Web analytics can tell you which topics and formats provoke more or less audience interest.•  Search analytics can provide insight into the subjects your audience cares about – and the terms they use.•  URL shorteners like bit.ly can help you learn from your audience across different channels.•  Social media let you listen in on the conversations your audience is already having.
  32. 32. Talk directly to your audience.•  Meet them face to face, not through third parties or the computer.•  Anybody who is in your audience is also in your digital audience.•  Focus groups can be formal or informal: greet audience members when they come to a show, and ask them questions.
  33. 33. Visualize your users as real people.•  Demographic group•  Aspirations•  Inspirations•  Relationship to your brand•  How they consume and engage with media•  How they spend their time and money
  34. 34. Personas.
  35. 35. Key Principles1. Know your audience.2. Know yourself.3. Know the competition.
  36. 36. “Humans expect computers to act as though they were people, and get annoyed when technology failsto respond in socially appropriate ways.” - Clifford Nass, Professor of Communication, Stanford University
  37. 37. “Are you a real person?”
  38. 38. Who is this? Could be anybody. Welcome to The ______ Center for the Performing Arts, the new heart of the arts for Southern ______ . This world-class performing arts center was built to showcase the very best in theater, dance and music from around the world. The stage is set, so how can we inspire you today?
  39. 39. Boardroom voice. Founded in 1972 as a 501(c)3 professional company, the Monterey Valley Dance Theater (MVDT) has for 40 years enriched the cultural life of Monterey Valley through countless dance concerts and training for young dancers. Maureen Scott was appointed Artistic Director in 1994 and under her direction, MVDT has earned its reputation as a company of fully- professional dancers committed to unconventional and deeply courageous programming which expands access to the stage for dancers of many nationalities, races, ages, and physical abilities. We are also known for our cross-border projects, our site-specific Border Fence Dances, our summer dance workshops, and for the sheer beauty of our dancers.
  40. 40. Over-the-top voice. Shes back! Dixie Longate returns to throw her good olfashioned Tupperware Parties filled with outrageously funny tales, FREE giveaways, audience participation and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on a theater stage. Loaded with the most up-to-date products available for purchase, see how Ms. Longate became the #1 Tupperware seller in the US and Canada as she educates her guests on the many alternative uses she has discovered for her plastic products!
  41. 41. There is no perfect model. Use your own voice, but inlanguage your audience actually uses — avoid your own jargon.
  42. 42. Be the person I want to know.•  The friend with great taste who is always in the know•  The curator who deftly articulates an artist’s unique vision•  The concierge who can direct you to experiences that match your interests•  The performer or artist who cares about sharing the works of other artists•  The outsider who knows all the insider gossip, and dishes
  43. 43. Re-write in your own voice.Target sells nearly 1 million products. The descriptions ofthese products are delivered by the manufacturers –thousands of different brands, each with their own voice.Thousands of new products are being added every month.We designed a publishing workflow that helped Target bringthese products “on-brand.”Start with the top priorities – pick the top 10%.
  44. 44. Key Principles1. Know your audience.2. Know yourself.3. Know the competition.
  45. 45. You have 3 kinds of competitors.•  Our audience’s other interests•  Demands on our audience’s time•  Claims for our audience’s attention
  46. 46. So much email, so little time.
  47. 47. Who gets you to open their emails? Who gets you to open their emails?
  48. 48. Do: make me care.Don’t: tell me how to feel.
  49. 49. 10 ideas to startworking withtoday.
  50. 50. 1.Find your voice.
  51. 51. How do you market to members?
  52. 52. “World-class service is our brand.”
  53. 53. No one likes to be a target.
  54. 54. Stop marketing and start helping.•  Create an editorial style guide: — Audience personas — Voice, the personality we speak from — Tone, the feelings and values we convey — Value proposition, the unique promise we make that differentiates us from others•  Structure your message: a single core message, and supporting messages for different offerings or different audiences.
  55. 55. Create a message hierarchy.   Core Message   Supporting messages by product or audience Attribute A Attribute B Attribute C message message message Proof points Proof points Proof points supporting supporting supporting attribute A attribute B attribute C
  56. 56. 2.The same rules of good writing still apply.
  57. 57. Respect your audience’s time. The Dallas Symph… https://dallassymphony.com/blog/2012/10/16/young-strings-community-celebrations.aspx
  58. 58. Help the reader scan the page.•  Write in tight chunks: one idea per paragraph.•  Break up blocks of copy with headings and subheadings•  Write meaningful headings, not clever or cute ones•  Use bullets to highlight key details
  59. 59. Remember the essentials.•  Be direct. Use active voice: When we make the performer of the action the subject of a sentence, we build up energy in our writing.•  Write short, declarative sentences. Avoid parenthetical explanation.•  Omit needless words.•  Describe what things are, not what they aren’t.•  Stick to one tense.
  60. 60. Be punchy.•  Favor short words. They hit us in the gut.•  Multisyllabic words tend towards the abstract, requiring our brains to interpret them to understand your meaning.•  Etymology trick: replace Latinate words when a simpler Germanic word will do.
  61. 61. Guts vs. Entrails. Germanic Latinate body cadaver ask inquire bug insect eat consume feeling sentiment ban prohibit helpful beneficial guess estimate irk irritate talk converse
  62. 62. 3.Write for humans.
  63. 63. Get to the point, then call to action. Most important info Who, What, Where, When Call to action Details Background
  64. 64. Zappos kills it with microcopy.
  65. 65. Write microcopy calls to action for people, not machines.
  66. 66. Machine words are not inviting. SUBMIT
  67. 67. Human language has verve. LET’S GO
  68. 68. 4.But, also write for robots.
  69. 69. Words are key to ranking in search. Components of Google Ranking Algorithm Social Graph Registration and Metrics, 7% Hosting Data, 5% Traffic and Click Data, 7% Domain Authority, 24% On Page Keyword Usage, 15% Link Popularity of Page, 22% Good     wri(ng     Anchor Text of helps  here   External Links, 20%
  70. 70. Keyword strategy is crucial.•  Each URL on your web site should be mapped to a specific and unique keyword or phrase•  Top-level pages should target the most competitive and important keyword phrasesFor example, ASME, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers: Page URL Targeted Keyword asme.org ‘Mechanical engineering’ asme.org/Education/Courses/ ‘Engineering Training’ calendar.asme.org/ ‘Engineering Conferences’ asme.org/Jobs/ ‘Engineering Jobs’
  71. 71. Good application of keywords. “How to change a flat tire” Keyword in Page Title and URL, Keyword in Breadcrumb Keyword in Headline / H1 Keyword variations in content – especially the first 200 words
  72. 72. Keywords got Edmunds to #1.
  73. 73. 5.Write portable headlines and summaries.
  74. 74. Search engines cut you off midsent…
  75. 75. Truncation happens.
  76. 76. How brief is brief?•  For page titles and headings 50 characters•  Summaries and descriptions 160 characters•  Tweets are limited to 140 characters•  Allow space: don’t write up to the limit
  77. 77. “A line is the lengthof a boulevard.”—Derek Walcott
  78. 78. 6.Choose link words carefully.
  79. 79. The words you link from count. Pilobolus at Joyce: Click here! Learn more about Pilobolus at Joyce. Learn more about Pilobolus at Joyce.
  80. 80. 7.Write for each stage of the customer journey.
  81. 81. The journey follows a story arc.
  82. 82. Message and tone change througheach step of the journey.1.  Invitation2.  Advice3.  Instruction4.  Feedback5.  Support6.  Checking-in
  83. 83. 8.Create an editorial calendar.
  84. 84. Who has time for it all?The most-recent blog post is a year old.
  85. 85. How do we feed the beast?
  86. 86. Planning ahead cuts anxiety.•  Make a spreadsheet with a column for each week for the next three months.•  List each week’s events at the top of its column.•  Make rows for each channel you use, and decide what you’ll create in each channel for each week.•  Bonus points: color code your events by type or audience.•  Near the end of the second month of a quarter, create the next quarter’s calendar.
  87. 87. Start small and do it really well.
  88. 88. 9.Create a workflow.
  89. 89. How do we work together?
  90. 90. Workflow for print is one-way.
  91. 91. Workflow for the web is a loop.
  92. 92. Learn from experience.
  93. 93. List who performs each activity ateach step in the workflow.
  94. 94. 10.Have a point of view.
  95. 95. Really, really care, and be interesting. Amazing Heroes has come a long way. I started collecting as a young child. Comics, Sports cards, Coins and Stamps. If you could collect it, I did. (I even collected Insolators from phone poles.) ….Steves Collectables was our first name and we moved into the worlds smallest store. It was 7 x 12, I built the floor and put in lights and paid the rent late every month but I was able to learn what NOT to do. I also picked up Pete at this time. He started by just watching the store when I needed to use the rest room (the first store didnt have one and I had to go next door) and he has been a big part of the success ever since. Then came the dark time. I moved to a bigger store but I picked up a partner. We changed the name to We Could Be Heroes (I never liked that name, too far back in the phone book) and we started selling records as well as Cards and Comics. Long story short, came back from dinner to a empty store. I changed the name to Amazing Heroes and restocked the place…
  96. 96. “When you write, you are findingthe never-before thought about.”
  97. 97. If you want your audience to give you time in their day, to pay attention and listen to you,you gotta have something to say.
  98. 98. hugeinc.cominfo@hugeinc.com45 Main St. #220 Brooklyn, NY 11201+1 718 625 4843
  99. 99. Questions…