Online content-training


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Online content-training

  1. 1. Evolution of Online Content MarketingSolving ProblemsIn years past, how did business leaders try to find and gather information about solutions to solve theirbusiness problems? The most popular resources used were the sales or account representatives fromorganizations for which they had dealt with in the past, brochure or company literature that had beenpicked up or sent to them sometime or an advertisement in a favorite publication.Today, how do business leaders try to find and gather information about solutions to solve their businessproblems? They‟re not passively waiting for the information; they are actively seeking it out – online.Information, opinions and advice that were once shared by acquaintances and close colleagues by Word-of-Mouth is now distributed by experts, thought leaders and mere on-lookers by Word-of-Mouse. Today‟sbusiness leaders have access to a plethora of up to the minute information via the Internet. Google,Internet portals, Blog‟s and corporate websites are often the initial resource for today‟s information.Why Web Sites?Users1 of the web seek to do one thing – fulfill a specific need. Users may have multiple tasks that they willtry to accomplish in rapid succession, or at the same time, but each action is driven by a specific task.Whether that task is to find the daily forecast, conduct research to help solve a problem or update theirstatus online, each activity is driven by a specific need. Their resolution is found within your webpage‟swords  the content! It‟s the content of the forecast; it‟s the content (data, information) collected and usedto put together a solution to the problem; it is the content of the status update – that satisfies their need.The web is driven by content. “People come to web sites for the content that they think (or hope) is there2!”It‟s not the Apps, or the videos that drive users to the web, but the content found by using Apps andviewing videos that bring users to the web. This content helps to: Inform users – provide information to answer questions. Information and answers that helps them to complete a job or task. The information is readily available, when and where they need it, 24 X 7 X 365 days a year. They can “pull” or access what they want, when they want. Start, and continue, to build relationships – the information and messages shared online can be used to position an organization as the trusted, expert resource in a particular area of focus, to solve and answer the users concerns. Share knowledge and expertise – to be a trusted advisor, an organization must be able to demonstrate that it has the insights from thought leaders to shape the market; they are actively involved in the current environment and are forward looking. Demonstrating expertise will help to develop trust with your users. Sell – time assigned for in-person meetings is precious. Content on websites can help continue, or start, conversations. Content on the web can help to drive conversations and the need for in- person meetings where your user wants to learn more. When users come to a site for information, they can also self select and qualify themselves as prospects for an organization o You never have a chance to make a second impression. In-person meetings garner a lot of attention and preparation. No one wants to lose an opportunity to build a relationship or make a sell because of a bad first impression. This counts for the web too. This time, the user dictates the meeting time and place, without any pre-arrangements. You have to be at your best at all times!1 Users; your intended audience, but can be anyone with access to the web that comes across your website and material.2 Redish, J., 2007, Letting Go of the Words Writing Web Content that Works, San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann, 1. Page 1 of 9
  2. 2. Scanning & SatisfyingHow We Read and Use the WebWhen developing content for online use, reflect on how and why you have used the web. Consider arecent interaction that you had using the web. Why did you visit that website? How did you get there?How did you locate the information on the page that you found to be of interest and ultimately of value toyou? How did you move on?For the most part, the same reasons that preempted your need to use the web are the same reasons whyusers will come to our organizations web site – to do a task, satisfy a goal or answer questions.Now reflect on one aspect of your most recent web activity; when you were on a page, how did you firstread the information when you landed on that page? Most likely you scanned the information quickly tosee if it contained what it was you were searching for. Did you notice headings, bolded or underlinedwords? What about the rest of the text – did it just blend into the background? If the page at first glancedidn‟t meet your needs, did you continue reading or did you move on? Presumably you moved on till youfound what it was you were looking for. Web users are often in a hurry, multi-tasking, and ready to makethe next click when presented with information that merely hints at being able to satisfy their needs.A study conducted by Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice Coyne of the Nielsen Norman Group tracked theeye movements of online users to learn how users interact with and read the content presented online.This study showed that as users scan a web page the first few lines on the page receive the most attention.The users‟ interest then drifts back to the left most side of the page quickly scanning the first few words ofthe line. Mid-way down (vertically) through a page users will often scan a little further into the middle of thepage (horizontally). As users complete their scan of the content on the page, the material that fell after thesecond most detailed scan, horizontally, rarely receives any attention.From this study, Nielsen and Coyne developed the theory of “Implications of the F Pattern3” for web design.This theory assumes that users of your site will not read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word mannerwhen they first find the information. Only after actively scan the information and determine that it will helpwith their task and goals will they give the content on the page the time and consideration to read thematerial presented. Still, reading word-for-word as would be expected of printed material is rare.3 Redish, J., 2007, Letting Go of the Words Writing Web Content that Works, San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann, 102-103. Page 2 of 9
  3. 3. The Web is Content. Content is the WebContent is a Valuable AssetContent is comprised of words. The words are assembled to deliver a message, to tell a story. Containedwithin the message/story is information to answer users‟ questions. To answer their questions, users haveto find the words that deliver the message and story – thus they turn to the web. The web is content ~Content is the web.Yes the web contains pretty pictures, flashy animations and videos. From the pictures and videos what isat the root of their creation? Content. Delivery – via video and animation must be considered to add valuein delivering the message and information in a way that the user will find it and pay attention.What makes content valuable? Again, consider your interactions with content you have interacted with onthe web. Valuable content is: Timely and up-to date – no longer are users satisfied with year old information, or in some situations data that is only a few months old. Information online has the ability to be instant. Information is demanded now, not yesterday. Accurate and Reliable – build trust and relationships by being the organization that users can turn to help them do their job. Be their reliable expert to turn to when they need help. Will the web provide all the information for a solution? No. However, the insight has to start somewhere. o Content online will be copied, referenced, quoted, picked apart, tweeted, retweeted, linked to, commented on and shared faster and more frequently than ever imagined. Once the content published online – it can possibly be available on a variety sites in a variety of languages for years to come. Don‟t let any of your content tarnish your brand or reputation, today or tomorrow. Know what you are publishing and keep it timely and accurate. Consistent – sending mixed messages to users can cause confusion, hampering their ability to complete their task(s) and answer their question(s). Inconsistent content can quickly erode trust and relationships. Make sure your content is consistent with what you‟ve recently published. If the material and messages differ, explain why. Don‟t assume they will find or use the previously published material and will draw the proper conclusions or connections. Accessible – don‟t make users think. If they want to engage you, but can‟t find what they need, when they need it, there is nothing stopping them from departing your site and jumping over to another – including your competitor! When a user visits your site – you have their attention. Don‟t lose it by bogging the user down with excess information or labyrinths of links. Make the information that you have to share available, fast, in a logical presentation for the user. Useable/Useful – users have come to your site for a reason. Satisfy that reason. Converse and build trust. Don‟t give them sales pitches or ramble on using jargon. Give them usable and useful information that will help them in their need to do their job, complete a task, satisfy a goal and answer their questions. If you aren‟t useful to them, they will easily find someone who is. Informative – users want to learn and know more. Don‟t sell. Show and tell. Inform and share your knowledge and expertise. You have a story to tell, share it. Your story and expertise is what sets you apart from your competitors. Let your content help to establish a competitive advantage by giving the users what they want. Not what you want. It‟s only informative if they can use it. Enjoyable – do not bore your users. Bored users will jump ship immediately. Make your content enjoyable for your users to read. Engage your users. Talk with them, not to them. If they enjoy interacting with you online, they will enjoy continuing the conversation even more in person. Page 3 of 9
  4. 4. The Web is Content. Content is the WebContent is a Valuable AssetObstacles to valuable contentOnline content can not only help in building trust and relationships, but it can also quickly destroy them.Why then is the strategy and development for online content often delegated to the last task beforecompleting a project?We all know why – it‟s not easy to develop. The deliverables that online content often supports are noteasy to develop either. Online publishing is still a relatively new addition to the entire project process. Mostof the focus still resides in the development of the final deliverable that is often developed and designed forprint and time dedicated reading – examples include a brochure, whitepaper or report.Instead of being considered part of the final deliverable, or as an extension to it, web content is simplyviewed as a means for quick and economical distribution. If we post it, users will come is the commonmantra. It is believed that creating valuable web content is quick and simple to draft, review and finalize.Thus, creating web specific content is often neglected throughout the full, and possibly lengthy,development process for the delivery till the project nears completion. Unfortunately by this time of theprocess, all the energy and enthusiasm has been exhausted and the main focus is on meeting deadlines.Publishing “something” online becomes an acceptable standard.Given this mindset, content is seen as a commodity. Everyone has content and words on their pages.Everyone has a bunch of web pages and information. But is this mindset creating a competitiveadvantage? Is it delivering your message and demonstrating your expertise in the most valuable ways? Page 4 of 9
  5. 5. Creating Valuable Web ContentWriting for the webWho?Who are you writing for when you develop any type of thought leadership piece or presentation? Youraudience! Who are you writing for when you write for the web? Your audience! Your audience shouldn‟tchange from your deliverable to the web. However, you must consider all of your intended audienceswhen publishing on the web and thus develop a strategy to meet their needs; collectively or individually.Marketing is all about knowing your customer. People like and want to know that you care. Let yourcontent show and tell your user that you do care by writing to and for them. Help them answer theirquestions and not just share what information you want them to know. Deliver the information that yourusers want, when and where they want it.To best develop online content for your user audience, incorporate its creation into the overall projectprocess. As the outline for the final deliverable is finalized, begin to develop the strategy for the onlinemessage. Extrapolate the key message and purpose of the end deliverable to draft and review the onlinematerial in parallel with the final deliverable. The focus of the web content should be to deliver your key mmessage in a way that ultimately needs your users‟ needs, while showcasing your organizations strengthsand expertise, without selling to them. Remember, you want to carry on a conversation. Position theinformation so that it addresses the user and puts them at the center of your writing and conversation.When starting to create your online content, keep the following questions in mind so that you engage yourusers in an online conversation; What do YOU (user) want to know, What do YOU need to know, What doYOU need to feel comfortable and smart, What do YOU care about – really.If the structure and tone of the content is overly written to feature your organization, or to meet yourorganizations desires, users will be bored and uninterested. They will quickly seek alternative resources toprovide the information that they find useful and valuable. Keep the corporate-centric talk and tone for thedeliverables that they expect to find it in; brochures, thought leadership papers, case studies, cover lettersand in the “about us” section of a web site. That‟s it! The rest of the content on the web should be drivenfor your users.Different audiences? Different answers. Don‟t be shy about creating different messages and sectionswithin a page. Break the information out on the page in ways that will indicate to the user that theinformation that follows is for them. One way to do this is by using headings throughout the page to breakup your content. Content can be packaged together to address specific questions and audiences. If youhave enough information to share with a particular audience, consider creating a new page for thataudience or specific question. Everything doesn‟t have to be on one page. What is important, is writing foryour user and meeting their needs. Page 5 of 9
  6. 6. Creating Valuable Web ContentWriting for the webWhat?Your content is important to building trust and relationships. What you don‟t want to do is mislead yourusers. Be trustworthy, deliver on your promises. If you can‟t do that online, why would you do it in person?To do deliver on your promises, be clear with your users about what you have to share with them. Do notuse cleaver or cute headlines, titles or teasers hoping that this will grasp your users‟ attention. You need toprovide the information that will guide them as they hunt for answers to fulfill their mission. While on thehunt, users will not completely read your content – you have to first prove to them that you have what theyneed before they will consider continuing the conversation with you and continue to read your material, orat least scanning it with greater interest and focus.Headlines: Stress what‟s important to your users in the headlines and in your content. Make sure bothmatch –the headlines support the content and the content supports the headlines.Content: More is not always more. Online, less is more. The web has generated a need for quick and fastdelivery. Don‟t overwhelm your users by losing them in an onslaught of words. Be truthful, but be brief.Remove extra “fluff.” Being direct will not bore your user, if your information is in deed of value to them.They will respect the clarity and speed with which you helped them answer their questions and move onalong their day.You have a lot to say and share, and that‟s ok. Don‟t throw it all on one page. Keep the page to one topicor issue to better retain your users attention. You can also position your content for distinct audiences –one audience per page. Keeping content specific on a page will also allow users to bookmark your page forfuture reference with ease, as well print the page if hard copy is desired.Related information should be placed on a separate page. Users do not mind the need to click to anotherpage, within reason, for more information that they want as long as the pathway to follow is clear. Toomuch of a good thing, at one time, however, can be just as damaging as not enough of the right thing. Justwhen you think your content on a page is complete – consider cutting out some terms, and then try cuttingagain. Clarity will get the conversation started.Attachments: Documents and other attachments should be considered supplements to your online content.In the fast, grab and go culture that the web has created placing all of the information you have to sharewith users in a document attached to your website only slows them down. Break out the information sothey can find, scan and review what is important and valuable to them on the screen. If they are on the goand viewing your website from a mobile device, most likely they will not be able download and view thematerial or have access to the tools to print as well.Meet your users where they are – online. Finding and accessing your content will improve when youremove the attachment restrictions for your users. Page 6 of 9
  7. 7. Creating Valuable Web ContentWriting for the webWhen?By now you should see a pattern emerging; write for your audience and deliveruseful, valuable information to help them answer their questions and that meetstheir needs. Great – got that. But how do you structure it? Since users will firstscan your web page to see if you have information that looks useful to them,deliver the key, mission critical, information first. Follow the key informationwith supporting details. Lastly, close out your page with “nice to have” material.To help guide the structure of your content development, use the InvertedPyramid4 for writingKey message: Provide the information that your users want and need to know.This mean starting your web page‟s content with your conclusion first. What?? Conclusion – that signifiesthe end. Maybe in traditional writing, such as for printed material, but when writing for the web your usermay never reach the „end‟ of your page.Conclusions are your results, the solution to an issue. Conclusions summarize the information and if fornothing else, you learn something from the conclusion. That is why web pages should start with theconclusion. Deliver your users MUST KNOW information first. Not everything that you have to share, justthe key, valuable information for your users.As featured in the Nielsen and Coyne eye moment studies, users will scan first few lines of your contentand maybe a few words down the left column to determine if you have information that is useful andvaluable to them. If you don‟t prove to them that the information you have is worth their time to read, theywill leave your content at the first click available.Follow the key message with supporting material. Supporting information should still be useful to the user,however it‟s not mission critical to your key message. Supporting information can include relatedinformation that showcases your knowledge and expertise in a way that addresses their needs and relatesto the key message as well as benefits gained by continuing to interact with your information, such asdownloading and reading attachments you have provided. Don‟t assume that your users will make theconnection. Tell them why the information is related.At the end of the page, this is where you should place the “nice to have” information. Nice to haveinformation includes background, including information on a survey or featured authors, history of a seriesof papers, and even technical details as appropriate. This final information is not a must. If the user neverreads this far down the page, it‟s okay. You‟d like them to, as you‟d like to this entire share this informationwith them. However, if they don‟t they will already have scanned and hopefully read the first information –your key message, the information you would like them to „hear.‟4 Redish, J., 2007, Letting Go of the Words Writing Web Content that Works, San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann, 104. Page 7 of 9
  8. 8. Creating Valuable Web ContentWriting for the webWhere?Content is valuable if the user is going to find it on the page. As we know, users will scan and quicklyreview your information. How far will they go to determine if the content is worth their time? Not very far.Taking the lead from journalists, the most prominent location to place your most important information is“above the fold,” as in above the fold of a newspaper. Okay – so the web doesn‟t have a fold. No – but theweb does allow pages to scroll down and down and…..To help ensure that users do not miss your key content, put it “above the fold” on the screen; that is abovethe need where users would have to scroll down the page to see more content. Using the inverted pyramidinformation discussed previously will help guide placement of your most important content. Placing theimportant information first, written in a clear and direct way that addresses the user and meets their needswill encourage the user to stop and read more of what you have to offer.Supplement and support your message with a document. Deliver the key message to your users online,not later.Why?When you sit down to read something in print, such as a book, magazine or newspaper, you typicallyintend to read the content word for word. Do you find yourself reading with the same intent? Do you evenread instructions or simply start to click and navigate your way around figuring it out as you go?Material drafted for print is written in a style and format that does not easily transcend to equivalent useonline. Users‟ attention spans are shorter. Online content needs to be written in a casual style to interactwith its user, to keep their interest, and easily show its value to them. They are typically on a mission,hunting for information to satisfy the need that drove them online in the first place. When on a website,content is first scanned to see if anything jumps out to signal value to the user. Once the user feels thatthe information may satisfy their need, they may read a little more, still scanning along the way.Attachments: Did the user come to the web to find information or just to download a document? On therare occasion, typically preempted b y a previous interaction with you, will a user have the sole mission ofdownloading material.If you feel that you do not have any information that is of importance to share with your user outside of theattached material, please consider the need to post the material at all. Other means of electroniccommunication may fit your distribution needs more completely. If you do have information to share, do soimmediately. Don‟t force your user to download your full attachment, in hopes of finding the informationthat they want.Remember, web pages can be easily bookmarked and printed for ease of use, as it can provide just theinformation they need. By delivering your content on the web page, and not only hidden in the document,you‟ve helped them with what it is they needed to accomplish and move on. Page 8 of 9
  9. 9. Creating Valuable Web ContentWriting for the webHow?How do you go about creating valuable web content? Aside from addressing your user and their needs byopening conversations on specific topics and issues to provide them with timely, up-to-date, useful, clearinformation that is available when and where they‟re going to look for it so that they can answer theirquestions and move on to their next task… need to deliver it in a fashion that is attractive andenjoyable.Content that is delivered online is not read in the same manner as printed material. From the format andlayout to sentence structure – the rules are different.Conversation: You‟ve got your users attention, don‟t lose it. Let the flow of your message developnaturally, as it would in a conversation when discussing the issue or topic and advising on a resolution.Make your users feel engaged and cared about, not just talked too.Jargon: If your users can‟t understand your message, they won‟t have any reason to stop and focus onyour information. Be sure to use your users‟ words and phrases. Show them that you have the informationthat they need by gaining their attention by using their words. Don‟t simply throw in words and phrases thatyour user would use to capture that attention; it has to be meaningful and appropriate.Short sentences and paragraphs: Your users attention span online is short. They are busy and they wantthe information fast and easy. Don‟t shower them with lengthy sentences. The rules for online writingdiffer from those for printed materials. Short sentences are useful, as are short paragraphs. Be you‟reyour sentences are straight forward, remove the fluff. Embrace white space when developing your contentfor online viewing. Break down the walls of text and allow the user to easily scan and find the informationthat they want.Visually appealing: It‟s important to repeat that writing content for the web is different than when writing forprinted delivery – such as in white papers, magazine articles and newsletters. Your users are not going toread every piece of information you want to supply, especially on the computer screen. Make theinformation visually attractive and easy to navigate so that they can easily review and find what the need.Use body headings to highlight key topics and issues by using your users‟ key words and phrases. If it‟shard to pick a heading for a section, then the section probably covers to much and should be consideredfor further break down. Headlines should be specific for the text and logical.Use short sentences and paragraphs, incorporating bullets, lists and tables as appropriate to continuemaking it easier for your users to locate the information they need, and that you want to share.Use quotes, image and charts/diagrams that add value and information. Don‟t simply add these items toincrease the visual appearance of your page, or add white space. It will only distract and slow your userdown. Page 9 of 9