Tarun Gupta

ABC’s OF Effective web content: Do you know them?

Tarun Gupta February 28th, 2007 Search Engine Optimization no comments.

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Effective web copy can deliver all that you desired from your online property. Be it enhanced visibility, brand building or ROI. But as things stand very few businesses understand actually what constitutes the so called “GOOD CONTENT”. Today, it’s more of a copy cat game especially when the deciding power lies with pure search engine optimizers (SEO).

For them, everything is about keywords and their placement in the copy. Very little importance is imparted to branding, usability and most importantly the tastes of the target audience. However, it would not be fair to project their approach as completely wrong because, their job is to get traffic and they just want to achieve that goal. But, in their quest for traffic, they often forget the cardinal need and that’s ROI generation.

That’s why I believe the correct approach has to be more users centric and the focus should be on usability and readability of the copy.

The correct approach to web content: 

Focus:

It may sound as nothing special, yet it’s a fact that most website content lack focus. Don’t believe me? Take a hard look at your websites content, I am sure 99/100 times, you would find it to be a baritone about what your company does, why your services are superior etc.

The point I want to put across is that most web content is very high on self appreciation. The visitor is not here to know why you are the best, they are here looking for some product or service and they want to know the easiest way to it. However, it helps in the hindsight if you have a proven track record, but the content should focus on delivering what the visitor is looking for; not on why you think you are the best. 

Web content formatting:

The formatting guidelines to be followed when writing for the web, is an entirely different ball game. Either you catch the attention of the reader in the first few minutes or can forget about converting them to patrons. Formatting and style perquisites:

Title:

A catchy title is half the job done. Great titles are what we call as “short and bang on target”. It should be able to flame-up desire in the reader to know more. If you haven’t been thinking on these lines, it wont come in a day, but with practice and exertion of your grey cells with time delivering  catchy punch lines would be like second nature.

Paragraph and sentences:

As a thumb rule conscious effort must be put into formatting a copy specifically for the web readers. Always ensure that the paragraphs and sentences are short. Paragraph length should not be more than 5-6 lines and sentences not more than 8-10 words.  Writing this way would make sure that the online readability of the document is very high. Needless to point out that higher the readability, greater will be the chance of getting your point across in a comprehensible way.

Bullets and Numbering:

It has been proven by research that most people don’t read word by word on the web. They usually try to get to the relevant information in the shortest possible time.

By using bullets and numbering, you can achieve two things:

  1. Enhance visibility of the most important data
  2. Improve the over all look and feel of the document by bringing in clarity.

Bolds and Italics:

All through my years in content development, I have often come across articles and documents that have used Bold and Italics liberally. Maybe, they would have read somewhere that using them enhances the appeal of a webpage. Well, in my personal opinion, only half of that is true.

No doubt they help in your endeavor to impart special emphasis on certain sections of the copy, but the trick lies in identifying those very special sections. Instead what we see generally is the overdoing of the same. Ideally, while bullets are being used, the title of that section must be in bold characters and in the rest of the copy it should be used sporadically. That effectively means-to be used only if the information is that very important and needs special attention from the reader.

Word Count:

One of the most contagious issues has been the word count. All sorts of theories are flying around. Matters were made worse by the article directories, as they set a benchmark about the minimum number of words in an article. The result: Web copy writers try to meet that word count requirement and as soon as they reach that minimum threshold, they simply stop. With no whatsoever, care about giving the document a proper ending.
My personal take on the matter is that every copy should be a well planned out effort. Even before you put pen on paper, decide the objective of the document and what all needs to be incorporated to meet that defined objective. Approaching web content this way will ensure that all the relevant information is presented while maintaining the crispness of the document.

A good writer must be able to present the complete picture in the stipulated words. For e.g. If the topic is “oceans of the world” and the word count is 500, it’s obvious you cannot write in detail, the information presented would be very broad. At the same time if the topic is “uses of a needle”, you can afford to get into the details in the stipulated 500 words. That’s why your aim should be to present a complete picture within the set word count.
However, when you don’t have a word limit (as with most web page content), focus on creating a crisp copy that covers all the important variables. In this instance forget about word counts, your principle aim should be to give the reader complete information.

Above all, I personally believe that writing content is more of a marketing effort; this thought is in contrast to the prevalent notion of it being a literary work. My views are based on the fundamental truth that almost all of professional content writing is being done for business sites. Naturally, the sites have some goal, some conversion bench mark; the target audience is coming to the website in the look out for some product or service; not to read any literary piece of art. That’s why their decision to buy from you or not depends to a very large extent on the convincing power of your content.

If your content is written well, with the right presentation and possesses the power to convince the reader, you effectively have taken the most important step towards enhanced conversions and ROI. 


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