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Write More Effective Copy for Your Nonprofit Website

Workshop on best practices for web writing, created for nonprofits and presented at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, Charlottesville, VA. Linda Kolker is a highly experienced copywriter. She teaches documented best practices and shares tips on writing the she used as a direct marketing copywriter.

Linda helps clients create or redesign a website by starting with the marketing and communications plan, assessing the organization, including stakeholders and audiences, creating the structure of the site and mapping content. The project is then given to the designer and programmer for completion.

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Write More Effective Copy for Your Nonprofit Website

  1. 1. Linda Kolker Consultant, copywriter, content manager Best practices for your website 434‐984‐6619
  2. 2. Audience profile Motivations (benefits) Action (s) 2
  3. 3. People make decisions based on what they FEEL Whole body is engaged, impulse to action begins in the body. Justify decision with factual information The mind evaluates whether the feelings can be trusted. And then they take action 3
  4. 4. Benefits– emotional—what would  motivate reader to take action? Support with facts Build trust Provoke action 4
  5. 5. Where to get info on benefits  Interviews  Testimonials  Letters & email  Others on staff  Publications for target audience 5
  6. 6. Find the benefit  Congregation Beth Israel provides Charlottesville,  Albemarle and surrounding counties with a welcoming  Jewish environment in which people can study, worship,  socialize and take part in helping others. CBI offers both  Reform and Conservative worship services. 6
  7. 7. CBIC Tech Tour: a day‐long event to introduce area high  school students to our region’s tech companies,  designed to expose students to the diverse career  possibilities offered by our regional tech community and  to help them envision themselves as technology  innovators.  Chaperoned groups of students spend the day traveling  to selected showcase tech companies for a hands‐on  visit to meet employees and experience the use of  technology in unique and specialized operations. 7
  8. 8. Write a benefit  After nine months of closure for repair, the Broad Street  Bridge reopened to traffic on October 31st, slightly ahead of  schedule. The project was managed by the Waynesboro  Department of Public Works, Fairfield‐Echols of Fishersville  served as the general contractor and Schwartz Associates of  Lynchburg acted as design engineer. The $2.6 million project  was funded, in part, by a Revenue Sharing Grant from the  Virginia Department of Transportation. 8
  9. 9. Build trust (credibility)  Testimonials  Success stories  Members of board of directors       Site easy to use (finding things) Easy to see what you’re all about by skimming Engaging writing Correct grammar Correct spelling Site is visually attractive 9
  10. 10. Exercise: Look at your own site Audiences? Action? Benefits? The MAIN benefit? Facts? Trust‐builders? 10
  11. 11. Sitting down to write content  (handout) 11
  12. 12. Write an Outline 1. (handout) 12
  13. 13. How to organize and write content Good web writing = how Google looks at pages Source: 13
  14. 14. Eye tracking AND Google tracking Heat map 14
  15. 15. What Google looks at  Page titles (only available in html code)  Headline (tags <H1>, <H2> etc. in html code)  Page content, from top down  Captions (& Image <alt> tags in html code)  Links 15
  16. 16. Page Title (Meta Title)  16
  17. 17. Headlines & Sub‐heads
  18. 18. Captions – grab reader attention & Google looks at (before) 18
  19. 19. Captions What’s important about this image / use keyword (after) 19
  20. 20. Use links liberally Forest planning for the GWNF 20
  21. 21. Engage skimmers  and improve Google search ranking “Chunk” the page • Subheads (<H2> tags>) • Short sentences & paragraphs • Bullets & numbering • Boldface text (not underlines,  they’re for links only) 21
  22. 22. Use subheads  Tell the story on their own  Capture essence of following paragraph 22
  23. 23. before 23
  24. 24. Partnering to make communities better places to live 24
  25. 25. Bullets 25
  26. 26. Fewer bullets, more paragraphs 26
  27. 27. Use a chart; tell a story 27
  28. 28. Shorten sentences CBIC Tech Tour: a day‐long event to introduce area high school  students to our region’s tech companies, designed to expose  students to the diverse career possibilities offered by our regional  tech community and to help them envision themselves as  technology innovators.  Revised The CBIC Tech Tour helps students envision themselves as  technology innovators. This day‐long event introduces area high  school students to our region’s tech companies. It exposes students  to the diverse career possibilities offered by our regional tech  community.  28
  29. 29. Shorten paragraphs 3‐4 lines – no more than 6 29
  30. 30. 5‐second test 30
  31. 31. Example: shorten paragraphs, use bullets 31
  32. 32. 5‐second test 32
  33. 33. 5‐second test 33
  34. 34. 34
  35. 35. Shorter paragraph, bullets, boldface (highlights) 35
  36. 36. Readability  # sentences  # words  Words/sentence  Syllables/word Less=better 36
  37. 37. Readability Scores 70 60 50 40 30 Ease 20 Grade level 10 0 New Yorker ‐‐5th Grade New York Times ‐‐6th grade Economist ‐‐8th grade 37
  38. 38. Magic words YOU (not “we”) VERBS – lively, action  Start heads, subheads & sentences  Use ACTIVE verbs (avoid passive) 38
  39. 39. The car was started by him He started the car 39
  40. 40. Sentences  “Load” meaning in the first 3 words 40
  41. 41. Capture meaning in the first 3 words  Make meaning early  Let rest of sentence branch to the right Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies by Roy Peter Clark 41
  42. 42. “Companies keep saving, waiting for the economy to  improve…” “The Pete Rouse era began shortly before noon on Friday.” “The Americans moved ahead on Saturday, building a 6‐4  advantage… 42
  43. 43. Paragraphs Put most important thought at the  beginning – first sentence Shorten to 6 lines or less  Optimum = 3‐4 lines 43
  44. 44. Exercise Work in pairs with someone from ANOTHER organization Select a page you would like feedback on Share FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Subheads  Captions  Paragraph length  Sentence length  Inverted pyramid 44
  45. 45. Tell stories 45
  46. 46. Ask clients, volunteers, staff  to write a story for your site 46
  47. 47. 47
  48. 48. What stories could you tell? 48
  49. 49. Questions & comments 49
  50. 50. 50
  51. 51. Best Practices Guru  Jakob Nielsen – Alertbox ‐‐ 51
  52. 52. Audience scenarios and personas Who uses your site What they’re looking for How they use what they find 52
  53. 53. Words  adjectives  adverbs   –ings 53
  54. 54. Adjectives                     quantity ‐ few, no, one, two, three, four, little, several, many, all, some, every, each, ... opinion ‐ good, better, best, bad, worse, worst, wonderful, splendid, mediocre, awful, fantastic, pretty, ugly, clean, dirty, wasteful, difficult, comfortable, uncomfortable, valuable, worthy,  worthless, useful, useless, important, evil, angelic, rare, scarce, poor, rich, lovely, disgusting, amazing, surprising, loathesome, unusual, usual, pointless, pertinent, ... personality/emotion ‐ happy, sad, excited, scared, frightened, outgoing, funny, sad, zany, grumpy, cheerful, jolly, carefree, quick‐witted, blissful, lonely, elated, ... sound ‐ loud, soft, silent, vociferous, screaming, shouting, thunderous, blaring, quiet, noisy, talkative, rowdy, deafening, faint, muffled, mute, speechless, whispered, hushed, ... taste ‐ sweet, sour, acidic, bitter, salty, tasty, delicious, savory, delectable, yummy, bland, tasteless, palatable, yummy, luscious, appetizing, tasteless, spicy, watery, ... touch ‐ hard, soft, silky, velvety, bumpy, smooth, grainy, coarse, pitted, irregular, scaly, polished, glossy, lumpy, wiry, scratchy, rough, glassy, ... size, weight ‐ heavy, light, big, small, little, tiny, tall, short, fat, thin, slender, willowy, lean, svelte, scrawny, skeletal, underweight, lanky, wide, enormous, huge, vast, great, gigantic,  monstrous, mountainous, jumbo, wee, dense, weighty, slim, trim, hulking, hefty, giant, plump, tubby, obese, portly, ... smell ‐ perfumed, acrid, putrid, burnt, smelly, reeking, noxious, pungent, aromatic, fragrant, scented, musty, sweet‐smelling,... speed ‐ quick, fast, slow, speeding, rushing, bustling, rapid, snappy, whirlwind, swift, hasty, prompt, brief, ... temperature ‐ hot, cold, freezing, icy, frigid, sweltering, wintry, frosty, frozen, nippy, chilly, sizzling, scalding, burning, feverish, fiery, steaming, ... age ‐ young, old, baby, babyish, teenage, ancient, antique, old‐fashioned, youthful, elderly, mature, adolescent, infantile, bygone, recent, modern, ... distance ‐ short, long, far, distant, nearby, close, faraway, outlying, remote, far‐flung, neighboring, handy, ... shape ‐ round, circular, square, triangular, oval, sleek, blobby, flat, rotund, globular, spherical, wavy, straight, cylindrical, oblong, elliptical, zigzag, squiggly, crooked, winding, serpentine,  warped, distorted, ... miscellaneous qualities‐ full, empty, wet, dry, open, closed , ornate, ... brightness ‐ light, dark, bright, shadowy, drab, radiant, shining, pale, dull, glowing, shimmering, luminous, gleaming, ... color ‐ pink, red, orange, yellowish, dark‐green, blue, purple, black, white, gray, brown, tanned, pastel, metallic, silver, colorless, transparent, translucent, ... time ‐ early, late, morning, night, evening, everlasting, initial, first, last, overdue, belated, long‐term, delayed, punctual, ... origin/location ‐ lunar, northern, oceanic, polar, equatorial, Floridian, American, Spanish, Canadian, Mexican, French, Irish, English, Australian, ... material ‐ glass, wooden, cloth, concrete, fabric, cotton, plastic, leather, ceramic, china, metal, steel, silicon, ... purpose ‐ folding, swinging, work, racing, cooking, sleeping, dance, rolling, walking,  ... Source: Enchanted Learning 54
  55. 55. Adverbs Weaken strong verbs.  “She smiled happily” On Writing Well by William Zinsser 55
  56. 56. Take it easy on the –ings Use simple verbs instead 56
  57. 57. “Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying” (Dusty Springfield) Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies by Roy Peter Clark 57
  58. 58. “Wish, hope, think and pray” (With apologies to Dusty Springfield) Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies by Roy Peter Clark 58