Content Templates: The Paint by Numbers Solution to Creating Quality Website Content

In an article on A List Apart, content strategy expert Erin Kissane explains the concept of content templates, and how they make creating website content easier.

Content templates are very familiar to me because I got my start in professional writing as the editor of several guidebooks.

Imagine for a moment a guidebook, say a Lonely Planet travel guide. When hotels are listed, each entry will cover the same information, in the same order e.g. name of hotel, rating, description, address and phone number.

A content template ensures that each writer covers all the essential information in each listing, and the listings have a consistent format.

The same process can be use on the web when you need to create classes of pages, such as product or service pages, or bios for the about us page.

A content template is simply a Word document that outlines:

  • The information that needs to be covered on the page
  • The order it goes in, and
  • A description of how the information should be presented (e.g. paragraph, list, table, image), preferably with an example for reference.

Whether you’re using in-house writers or hiring a copywriter, content templates can help you:

  • Collect information more quickly, by giving writers a fill-in-the-blank structure
  • Speed up and simplify the content development process by producing more uniform first drafts
  • Improve the consistency of your content.

You can read the full article here:
Content Templates to the Rescue

Who’s Going to Write the Content for Your Website Relaunch?

Newsflash: Website content doesn’t actually materialise out of thin air. It has to be planned, researched, written and approved.

But all to often business owners and marketing managers fail to understand this when they hire a web designer to refresh their website.

So when the design is finished, the designer is left waiting, waiting, waiting for content that sometimes never comes.

This scenario is all too familiar to web design guru Paul Boag, and he’s written about this problem on his blog. Here’s what he sees time and again:

“What happens instead is that content is copied and pasted from your website, printed material or any other ad hoc source that can be found. This not only leads to a horrible Frankenstein mix of content, it also makes relaunching the website pointless.”

You can read the full blog post here:
So who is actually going to do the work?

Do you need help creating fresh website content?

If you’re planning on relaunching your out-of-date website it makes sense to get an experienced web copywriter on the project team sooner rather than later. It gets a job off your to do list and the results are likely to be much better.

The Best Headlines and Links are “Brutal and To-the-Point”

So says web content guru Gerry McGovern in a well-researched article on The Web Content Cafe.

When writing website content, McGovern says you “don’t get to the point. Start with the point.”

Nowhere is this more crucial than with headings and links. That’s because multiple studies show the first two words need to hit home. An 2004 Eyetrack study from the Poynter Institute found that, “Most people just look at the first couple of words, and only read on if they are engaged by those words.”

Therefore, whenever possible, you must start headings and links with attention-grabbing words that convey the essence of the message.

A study by Jakob Nielsen on links also found people prefer links that are:

  • Written in plain language
  • Specific and clear, and
  • Action-orientated.

Avoid bland generic words (“solutions” comes to mind) and made-up words or terms.

Other helpful tips include:

  • Make sure the link delivers on expectations
  • Links and headings should be no longer than eight words
  • Avoid marketing hype and focus on what your customers really care about.

You can read the full article here:
Writing killer web headings and links

Need help creating website content?

If you need help creating website content that gets attention and engages your audience, an experienced website copywriter can help.

How to Find the Best Firm to Outsource Your SEO

A recent article on the Wordtracker blog looks at how to find a good SEO company.

Although I do all my own SEO, I’ve often pondered this question myself. I wonder how you can be sure an SEO will get you results without using any black hat tricks that will get you blacklisted in Google.

You’ve probably already guessed it’s not a great idea to hire a firm in India that sent you a spam email.

Wordtracker offers up a several more useful criteria to make your selection easier if you decide to outsource your SEO, including:

Start with a Google search targeting local firms

If they can’t optimise their own site for page one you probably don’t want them working on your site.

Check their website

See if they are familiar with your industry or niche. Read their articles and blog posts to get a feel for how they operate. Check out their client list.

Get on the phone

There’s nothing like a quick phone call to test a firm’s client service. Good questions to ask include:

  • What’s their method of SEO?
  • What results have they achieved and can you talk to satisfied clients?
  • What reports will they give you?

You can read the full article here:

How to find a good SEO company for your business

Need some help?

Unfortunately I can’t recommend any SEOs from personal experience. But if you need an experienced SEO copywriter to optimise your site, I can help.

How to Find the Best Firm to Outsource Your SEO

A recent article on the Wordtracker blog looks at how to find a good SEO company.

Although I do all my own SEO, I’ve often pondered this question myself. I wonder how you can be sure an SEO will get you results without using any black hat tricks that will get you blacklisted in Google.

You’ve probably already guessed it’s not a great idea to hire a firm in India that sent you a spam email.

Wordtracker offers up a several more useful criteria to make your selection easier if you decide to outsource your SEO, including:

Start with a Google search targeting local firms

If they can’t optimise their own site for page one you probably don’t want them working on your site.

Check their website

See if they are familiar with your industry or niche. Read their articles and blog posts to get a feel for how they operate. Check out their client list.

Get on the phone

There’s nothing like a quick phone call to test a firm’s client service. Good questions to ask include:

  • What’s their method of SEO?
  • What results have they achieved and can you talk to satisfied clients?
  • What reports will they give you?

You can read the full article here:

How to find a good SEO company for your business

Does Your Website Content Have Good Manners?

Conversion rate optimization guru Bryan Eisenberg has penned a very illuminating article about for Clickz website about how to be polite online.

He makes the point that courtesy is the foundation of customer focus. You need to put your needs and desires aside and help your customer get what they want first. This is the path to success.

He lists several examples of discourtesy that are common, even on industry-leading websites, such as:

  • Thank you emails and pages that don’t actually express gratitude.
  • Surveys asking for 10-15 minutes of your time. Do you seriously think anyone will complete that?
  • Small fonts that are difficult to read for over-40s (one of my personal bugbears).
  • Forms without autofill. An easy fix says Eisenberg, that saves your customers’ valuable time.
  • Hard to find shipping costs. Now you know why your shopping cart abandonment rate is so high.
  • Slow loading pages. No I don’t want to wait while your poor excuse for a TV commercial downloads.

You can read the full article here:
Courtesy: What Comes Before Customer-Centricity

Need some copywriting help?

Because I was brought up proper, all the website content I write for you is very well mannered.

Does Your Website Content Have Good Manners?

Conversion rate optimization guru Bryan Eisenberg has penned a very illuminating article about for Clickz website about how to be polite online.

He makes the point that courtesy is the foundation of customer focus. You need to put your needs and desires aside and help your customer get what they want first. This is the path to success.

He lists several examples of discourtesy that are common, even on industry-leading websites, such as:

  • Thank you emails and pages that don’t actually express gratitude.
  • Surveys asking for 10-15 minutes of your time. Do you seriously think anyone will complete that?
  • Small fonts that are difficult to read for over-40s (one of my personal bugbears).
  • Forms without autofill. An easy fix says Eisenberg, that saves your customers’ valuable time.
  • Hard to find shipping costs. Now you know why your shopping cart abandonment rate is so high.
  • Slow loading pages. No I don’t want to wait while your poor excuse for a TV commercial downloads.

You can read the full article here:
Courtesy: What Comes Before Customer-Centricity

Need some copywriting help?

Because I was brought up proper, all the website content I write for you is very well mannered.

If Content is King Then the Web Designer is Like the King’s Tailor

So says the enlightened and erudite web designer Paul Boag in a recent blog post. He suggests that the designer’s role is to make the content look good without taking any of the limelight for themselves.

I agree with Boag when he says so much web design is designers showing off their creativity with little regard for the content. This weakens the effectiveness of the website and inevitably damages the brand.

But it’s not all bad news. Boag puts forward a few strong suggestions on how copywriters and designers can work together to get a better result for the client.

The copy is an integral part of the design brief

… so designers should treat it as such. It should help guide them how to approach the design.

Writers need to visualise their copy

… to deliver the right amount and format of copy for the intended design. For example, it’s no good delivering a sales letter’s worth of copy for a postcard, or ignoring SEO and usability requirements for online copy.

If only more designers shared Boag’s views…

You can read the whole post here:
Content is King

Need some copywriting help?

Content may be king, but it can be bloody hard to produce! If you’re strugging to create content for your website, why not hire an experienced website copywriter to do the job for you?

Guerrilla Market Research Cheatsheet

I’m a big fan of guerrilla marketing. When you’re a small business, you need to create marketing with maximum impact for minimum dollars. And it all starts with research.

These days you can do a ton of great research sitting right at your computer. Recently Karri Flatla explained how to do just that on her blog.

Here are a few tips to help you understand what makes your customers tick:

Google phrases your customers would search on

This will help you see what your competition is doing as well as the terminology they’re using.

Do keyword research to find out what’s important to your target market

To find out what phrases your customers are actually searching on you can use the Google Keyword Suggestion Tool. It’s important to use the language your customers use in all your marketing materials.

Do free online surveys

SurveyMonkey.com is a great free online tool for conducting short customer or prospect surveys.

You can read the entire article here:

Market Research Cheat Sheet for Web Copywriters, Marketers & Business Owners

How can I help you?

While I don’t don’t offer research as a standalone services, I start every copywriting project with a market research phase to make sure the copy I write for you is on target.

Quick Content & Sales Pitches: The Web Content Roundup

WebContentRoundup21 (1)Here are this week’s top seven stories on web content and online marketing as voted by my Twitter followers:

1). How to Create Compelling Content that Ranks Well in Search Engines http://feedly.com/k/1bupefG

2). The Simple Trick that Makes Your Website More Engaging and Persuasive http://feedly.com/k/155tLhv Hint: use buyer personas

3). How to Write Great Content Quickly http://feedly.com/k/12G1Ybb

4). 3 Ways Content Creators Can Diversify their Way to a Bigger Paycheck http://feedly.com/k/14fRlwC Attention freelance copywriters

5). Five ways to screw up your sales pitch http://feedly.com/k/12G5pyz

6). 10 Interviewing Tips and Techniques http://buff.ly/17JH8Yr Interviewing is my killer “secret” copywriting tactic

7). 24 Ways to Make Money with Pinterest http://buff.ly/1dHyP2O In case you’ve been wondering!

For more of the freshest tips and tactics on web copywriting, SEO, social media and online marketing be sure to follow me on Twitter.