How to Create Effective Website Content

Recently, a client phoned me to tell me that I had increased his website hit rate by 25%. You might imagine I applied a complex formula to his content – SEO + Adwords = Megahits. But I didn’t. Good website content is simply about communicating your message in a way that makes customers want to buy from you.

How Do I Do This?

Invite them in: Put a welcome message on your homepage which explains what your company does and what your goals are. Embed links to your other pages into your message, which will entice them to explore further. Ideally, there will be very little else on your homepage, so your potential customer’s eye will immediately be drawn to your message.

Tell Them Who You Are. It’s amazing how few business websites name the owners. You are your business. In your About Us page, give customers a brief introduction to you and your business. You want to communicate with your customers, so make sure your contact details are displayed clearly throughout your website.

Tell Them What You Can Do. In your services section, give a brief outline of each of your services (or products for a retail website) and be very specific about what each one does. This is your chance to tell your customers what you can do for them. If you have a slightly bigger website, you may choose to devote a couple of pages to giving tips on how to use your services more effectively. This builds trust among customers.

Putting It All Together

Layout and Language. Reading online is more stressful on the eyes. Make it easier for your customers by breaking your content up into snappy headings, short paragraphs and bullet points. Use short words and sentences – aim to write as you would talk.

You and We. Create a dialogue with your customers. Even if it’s just you in the business, refer to your company using ‘we,’ ‘our’ and ‘us.’ Address your customers as ‘you.’ This makes your customers feel you are talking to them.

SEO. The big one. Making your content SEO-friendly will help you rise above the crowd. The best way to ensure that your content is picked up by search engines is through Google Analytics. This shows you what words people are using to search for your site. You will see patterns emerging and you can weave those keywords into your content.

Website Content on a Budget: Even if you have only have funds for a one-page website, you can still create dynamic website content. Get to the heart of the matter with a killer homepage message that tells your customers everything they need to know.

Web content and web design go hand in hand. That’s why I’ve teamed up with web designer Samantha Clooney of The Virtual Office to offer web design and content as a complete package. A lot of thought goes into the look of a website. Our service will ensure that your words work just as well as your images. You’ll find information about our offer on http://bit.ly/bevPPf. Samantha’s own website is http://www.virtualoffices.ie

Advertisements

One Press Release is Never Enough

You’ve spent hours slaving over your press release. You’ve targeted it at the most relevant media outlets. You’ve sent it off. And nothing is happening. Why is this? It has a good newsworthy angle and it’s concise. Yet it has sunk without trace. Even if it does get in, you may be wondering why it hasn’t had more of an impact.

The truth is, even the best press releases have trouble breaking through the wall of sound that surrounds journalists. Stories are clamouring for their attention from every corner. In previous blog posts, http://bit.ly/bBm5x4
and http://bit.ly/cfvgaP, I’ve showed you how to write a relevant press release. But if you’re serious about making media publicity part of your marketing strategy, it’s time to take your efforts a step further, with a press release campaign.

How to Run Your Media Campaign

‘Where am I going to find the time for that?’ you ask yourself. Yes, you will need to invest time in the beginning, which is a lot harder than investing money. But it’s time well spent. Create a template press release, giving a profile of your business and what makes it different. You can use it as the basis for all your press releases, so you won’t have to write a completely new one every time. You can just update the one you have. For example, you can change the first paragraph but keep the rest intact, or create a new quote to finish with.

Aim to send in your press release once a month. Significant developments, like winning an award, an exclusive product range or major expansion, are immediate attention grabbers. But what do you do when there’s nothing new happening? You’re bound to have strong opinions about what’s happening in your industry and how these trends are affecting your customers. You can also comment on existing press release coverage for your industry. This will give you plenty of material for press releases.

What’s In It For Me?

By sending in a press release regularly, you stand a better chance of breaking through the wall. Target a few specific journalists and you’ll build a relationship with them. They’ll see you as someone they can rely on for a comment and journalists love anyone who makes their job easier!  Being featured regularly in the media will make a greater impact on the public. They will become more familiar with you and what you can do for them. They’ll see you as a trusted expert. This in turn will make them want to buy from you.

It may seem like you’ll never break through the wall, but with consistent effort, it will happen. The media offers you the best opportunity to run a sustained marketing campaign for free. And after the initial press release, even the time investment is significantly reduced. Most small businesses don’t invest in this kind of strategy. If you decide to take this step, you will have the edge.

How to Benefit from the Media’s Love Affair with the Countryside

What with the recession and the growing threat of global warming, life has become very complicated. No wonder  we’ve developed a longing to go back to basics, to simple, chemical-free food, ancient crafts and eco-friendly habits. The media has seized on this longing and now supplies us with an endless diet of features about country pursuits, rural industries and green living. If you’re running a rural-themed business, or you’re interested in writing about aspects of rural life, you can capitalise on this trend.

Rural-themed articles have always been popular in the Irish media. Think of the cosy, rural-based stories in Ireland’s Own, which have been entertaining us since 1902. Or the homespun wisdom of Cormac McConnell and Carla Blake, beamed to us from the pages of the Irish Examiner Farming Supplement every week. The difference now is that more and more urban dwellers are interested in the country life and this has widened the appeal of the rural-based article.

Are you an artisan food producer? Have you revived an old craft? Turned your farm into a thriving enterprise? Decided to give up the rat race and change career? You have an interesting story to tell and the media will be interested in hearing it. Don’t forget to include details of new products, awards you have won or plans for expansion. This will increase your news value. Programmes like Nationwide and Countrywide and print publications like Munster Interiors and the Farmer’s Journal give generous coverage to rural-themed business. They often visit agricultural shows and food festivals, which gives you an opportunity to display your wares to the entire nation.

There may not be anything of note happening in your business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t identify a topical angle. Not a week goes by without a feature appearing on radio or in newspapers offering tips for reducing your carbon footprint, or how to cook in an organic way. If you’re in a rural business, or a writer with a passion for the environment, you’ll have the inside track. Send in a pitch or press release which demonstrates your unique perspective on rural issues. You may be included in lifestyle features for the likes of The Irish Independent or The Irish Times.

Specialist rural publications can often fly under the radar, but have a strong following. If you’re a rural writer, you can contribute to publications that defend traditional rural pursuits, like The Irish Field. You can offer insights on how the recession is affecting farmers to farming supplements of newspapers and farmers’ magazines like Irish Farmers’ Monthly. And you can send whimsical tales to Ireland’s Own and Ireland’s Eye.

If you can feed the public appetite for rural themed articles, you’ll generate extra revenue for your business. And if you want to write, you can create a steady side income giving your perspective on the country life.

Literary Fiction vs Popular Fiction

If you’re a book lover, you’ll often hear the words ‘popular fiction’ and ‘literary fiction’ being bandied about. In all likelihood, you’ll favour one type over another. But what do these terms really mean? To me, the words sum up differing attitudes to fiction. While literary fiction aims to hold up a mirror to the human condition, popular fiction aims to entertain, to thrill, to comfort. This difference manifests itself in various ways.

Plot

Popular fiction books tend to be driven by plot. They are big-hearted, bally stories that slip down as easily as punch on a summer day. Plot is less important in literary novels; often, very little happens.

Character

In literary novels, the character takes centre stage. They drive the story. The reader becomes fascinated by the characters, as they reveal themselves layer by layer. They tend to be outsiders, with a murky backstory. Characters in popular fiction novels are more likely to be stock figures, whose function is to serve the plot.

Setting

Places in popular fiction novels are either immediately familiar or exotic, offering the possibility of escape. In literary fiction, places take on characters of their own. Authors will often explore the foreign within the familiar, for example, the self-contained London Jewish community.

Language

Literary authors use language with care. Not a word is wasted; each word packs a punch. Unusual images and metaphors abound. In popular fiction, the language is plainer, closer to everyday spoken language.

Dialogue

Popular fiction is generous in its use of dialogue. Because popular fiction authors write as they speak, the dialogue rings true and is rich with the language of everyday life. Literary fiction relies more on description than dialogue. When there is dialogue, it is more like written language than spoken.

Theme

In both types of fiction, there is always a danger that the novel will be bogged down by issues, that the issue will matter more than the plot or characters. In both cases, the reader will feel that they are being preached to. Both types explore relevant, interesting themes and this exploration is most effective when it is channelled through characters or plot.

In reality, both types of fiction have their own appeal. And the lines between them are becoming increasingly blurred. there are intelligent blockbusters that pack a punch. And there are literary novels that are the equivalent of a limp handshake, lacking bite and sparkle. It’s time publishers, booksellers and readers stopped thinking in such narrow, genre-based terms and learned to celebrate quality, no matter what form it comes in.

What types of fiction do you read? Do you automatically think literary means quality? Does popular fiction pack a punch? Feel free to share your thoughts.