Web Content That Sells

Sooner or later, those who want their Web sites to produce must recognize that it's not all about code and algorithms -- it's about persuasive, targeted content.

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Location: Cocoa, Fl, United States

U. of Miami grad, journalism, NCAA basketball scholarship, advanced studies at MIT and Boston University Graduate School of Mass Communications, right brain creative, love to explore the human condition, 10 years as senior staff writer, hi-tech Fortune 500's, 5 years marketing communications manager, 7 years freelance copywriter, former reporter in Germany, sailing instructor in the British West Indies, professional jazz/classical guitarist, articles/essays published in national magazines, currently specializing in optimized content for Web sites. Email me at woods.lee1@gmail.com

Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's All About Content That Sells

Take a look at the writing below, in blue. It was created by a company that produces video messages for customer Web sites. Notice how the writing keeps pointing out benefits, benefits, benefits, or what the video will do for the customer, including the proven fact that information conveyed in motion helps a person remember.

Also notice the continual emphasis on content that underscores the reader's point of view. When readers can identify with the writing, they will join you in your message. If you spend all your time talking about yourself, they'll feel left out and leave. Notice also how the headline tells visitors that a video presentation will heip them make money.

Add a Video Presentation to Your Web Site
and Watch Your Revenues Take Off

Try this.
Go to any Web site. What do you see? Chances are you see a screen filled with static words and graphics. Now go to
http://www.webvideo.com/. What do you see? Motion, movement, action. More impressive, yes? And more memorable. With a video presentation on your site, your customers will remember your product or service first.

Why is that important?

If they don't remember your offer, they won't act on it.

Memory experts tell us that information presented in motion is easier to recall than information given in static form. Notice that we’re talking about information. Not flash. Not bobble-head happy faces or dancing icons, but detailed, factual, beneficial information

Chances are your target audience will visit other sites – and if a competitor’s site is more memorable than yours, guess whose product or service those readers will recall when it comes time to buy.

“When we added a video to our site,
our call center saw a twenty five percent
increase in calls in the first week.”
R. K. Miller, GM, Tropical Lawn Furniture

At WebVideo, Inc. – where Web site video technology was created -- we can help you design a Web site that features a video presentation or we can help you incorporate a video interface for your existing site.

We’re so sure that a Web site video will increase your sales, we will refund your cost and remove the video if you do not see rapid, measurable increases in your revenues.

Your product demonstrations, your testimonials, your message from a president or CEO – these and other messages can capture your customers’ attention and help them remember your product or service when they’re ready to buy. To see a portfolio of samples, go to http://www.webvideo1.com/.

Call our customer service hotline today and let’s get busy helping your business grow with your own Web site video. 1-800-535-8976.

WebSiteVideo, Inc.
2134 Victory Lane
Miami, FL 32547

One way to help yourself discover what it is your audience wants to hear is to find a friend or co-worker who can realistically play the role of the reader. Ask them to put you to the test. Ask them what they need to know about you and your product or service. Finally, once again, the most common failing among writers in the business world is their failure to analyze the wants and needs of their readers.

The late advertising great, David Ogilvy, put it this way:
"If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Audience, Audience, Audience

When you want your site to persuade visitors to buy your product or service, don't think about what you want to tell them. Think about what they want to hear. That's the key to writing content that will spark the interest of people who click into your world of goods or services.

The realtor's catch phrase has always been "location, location, location."

For us, as writers trying to persuade a world of people to sign up, the catch phrase is "audience, audience, audience." A writer's failure to recognize this crucial step in the communiccations process is perhaps THE most common lacking in attempts to capture a reader's interest.

Begin by enlisting the help of a friend or co-worker. Sit down with them and ask them to bring up your Web site. Brief them on your purpose and audience, then ask them to play the part of a visitor. Ask them what they want? Ask them what benefits they are looking for? Do they have a central issue or problem that they want your product or service to solve? Can they navigate the site easily? Is there a "buy" or "order" link on every page -- above the fold?

One effective way to measure how well you are playing to your audience is to perform a simple "we versus you" analysis. First search your content for "you," then again for "we" and "our." You should always have twice as many "you" or "your." Look at the following example, written for the American Bronze Foundry in Orlando, FL. Sixteen "you" or "your" and four "we" and two "us."

Watch Your Sculpture Come to Life in Beautiful Bronze

You have a vision…a vision that you want recreated exactly as you created it. And at an affordable price from a creative organization that listens to exactly what you want.

At American Bronze Fine Art Foundry, we base our total approach on giving you just that – your vision faithfully rendered exactly the way you want it rendered, be it a sculpture for you, the artist, or for a private business or government entity. Not a similar version. Not something close or approximate, but an exact finished piece of beautiful art in a bronze sculpture that will live on year after year.

To do that, we bring the skills of highly qualified bronze specialists with 15 years experience in the business of blending art and craft to create stunning bronze sculptures that capture the eye and the imagination. These same specialists will carry out a tested, highly refined process that bears your stamp from start to finish.

You can count on that because we invite you to take part in the process every step of the way. Take a moment and visit our Past Projects page for the visual proof of beauty created by artist and foundry working in harmony.

If you can imagine it, or if you have an existing design in mind, we can bring it to life in bronze, silver, or other precious metal. Call today so we can share ideas on how to make your sculpture or statue a reality.

Never forget: it doesn't take much for a visitor to click away in frustration. Too much flash, too much flair? Too hard to navigate? Don't be afraid to make your site simple, compelling, and easy to understand. Don't let the intoxicating world of glamour technology lure you into creating complicated pages that only confound or confuse visitors.

How Your Organization's Social and Political Realities Affect What You Write

On the job, your reason for writing letters, memos and proposals can get caught up in a variety of social and political forces, causing your readers to react emotionally. People may try to look at office issues objectively, rationally, but they often make decisions based on fear, jealousy, bias, anger, revenge, envy, ego clashes, power struggles, charter battles, hidden agendas, sacred cows, office romances, and other emotional factors. Think about your purpose and your readers. Are you lighting a fuse?

Office politics and personal relationships can undermine your purpose, no matter how justified or promising it may be. Such forces can rarely be detected ahead of time, but to charge headlong without at least trying to assess your situation is like skipping nonchalantly through a minefield:

A Checklist

Are you sending an appropriate message to an appropriate audience at an appropriate time?

Will your purpose ignite any smoldering issues between you, management, supervision, peers, subordinates?

Will you be aggravating any existing personality or ego clashes among friends, enemies, supporters, neutrals?

Ear to the Ground

Is your purpose consistent with your organization's culture and climate"?

Is anything at stake? Recent or pending promotions? Favors due, debts owed? Pride, image, recognition on the line? Sacred cows in jeopardy? Territorial disputes, charter squabbles, responsibility issues?

Is the air foul on this subject? If something goes sour, could you defend your position?

What is your credibility with this audience? Should you first get preliminary approvals, opinions, advice, support?

Are there any pressures or priorities that could block your purpose? Do any laws, policies, or regulations apply?

What objections or resistances could your purpose create? Are you putting anyone, including your boss, on the spot?

Are you reacting emotionally? Emotions subside, but the printed word remains.

REMEMBER: Once you let go of what you've written, it could end up
anywhere — even on the evening news. And, finally, don't forget the wise words of Net etiquette expert Judith Kallos: "You never put anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't want your mother to read." Or your boss.

Finally, to thine own self be true.

Don't Be Aftaid to Comment

The business world continues to spawn new ideas, new processes and new techniques at an astounding rate. The significance or meaning of it all, however, is seldom obvious to readers whose minds are occupied with other matters. When you plan your writing, see if you have any new information or raw data that needs a bit of explanation, or commentary.

Objectivity on the job is usually considered a virtue, but it became totally unwarranted several years ago during an incident at a Chrysler assembly plant. An ABC television correspondent, interviewing a worker responsible for driving new cars off the assembly line, registered more than mild shock when the man said:

"One day a steering wheel came off in my hand.”

"What did you do?" the correspondent asked.

"I jammed it back on the column and parked it with the others."

"Did you tell anybody?"

"No," the man said, "That's not my responsibility."

Total, unwavering objectivity — the refusal to add helpful information when it is called for — is at least irresponsible and can be, as this case demonstrates, downright dangerous.

A lab technician writes:

"During the experiment, the temperature rose to 750 degrees Fahrenheit."

He also believes the reading to be unusually high under the circumstances, but says nothing because he is sworn to the facts of the matter, no more, no less. In this case, he is letting objectivity rule his better judgment. Fortunately, such circumstances are rare.

Most business writing situations are based on ordinary, day-to-day events, where an appropriate comment seldom poses a threat to those who regard opinion as an act of treason. In a day-to-day example, a writer possessed by objectivity will say:

"The letters were sent yesterday, as you requested."

A communicator would add, "They will arrive later than usual, however, due to the recent postal workers' strike."

Have you ever listened intently to a specialist (doctor, lawyer, tax advisor. car mechanic), wishing that he or she would translate all those technical terms into something meaningful to you, something you could understand?

A classic example is the exchange between a detective and the medical examiner on any one of many TV and movie dramas. When the detective asks the "ME" how the person died, the doctor launches into a complicated explanation dominated by med-school jargon. The detective replies: "In English, doc."

Such moments demonstrate that there are times when an explanatory comment or two is needed — not only to convey information, but also to communicate.

Finally, when you do choose to include explanatory comments, make sure you are motivated by a desire to help your reader comprehend the significance of your information, and not by a momentary desire to inject inappropriate opinion or bias.

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