Tag: copywriting

9 Characteristics of Great Blogs

Social Media5 Comments

With over 156 million blogs in existence, it’s safe to say a fair whack of those are rubbish. Of the remainder, most are ok, some are good and a rare few could be considered great.

I was recently invited by The University of Adelaide, Discipline of Media to talk to first year students about what makes a great blog. This is what I came up with:

Great blogs…

  1. Have a voice
    They are not anonymous. They reflect the profile, personality and passion of the author.
  2. Are focused
    What they are about is clear. There is no confusion from readers what they are going to get when they read this blog.
  3. Use compelling headlines
    Time is precious. Although I subscribe to a few dozen blogs, I only have time to read a handful of posts a day. Most of the time, I make a judgment call if I’m going to read something based on the headline and if it excites me or I can instantly see the value from reading it. There’s a reason ‘Top 10…’ posts make great link bait.
  4. Use paragraphs and lists
    The old adage that the web is for scanning and skipping holds true. It’s a lot easier for me to skim through an article and extract something meaningful if it’s broken up into bite-sized chunks than a impenetrable¬† slab of text. If I quick scan reveals it to be worthy, I might even read the whole thing.
  5. Make good use of video, audio, images
    Depending on the type of blog (and in this case, I’m going to assume it’s an ordinary text blog not a fancy vlog) you don’t want to overdo it. But selective use of interesting videos and images that complement the copy can really add a lot to a post. Having said that, it should never come at the expense of the writing. And if you’re simply not good at sourcing images (like me), don’t break your back trying to do it and focus on the words.
  6. Can be subscribed to
    If I like what you’ve got to say and want to know when you’ve posted something new, don’t force me to visit your blog in the vain hope that there’s something new. Let me subscribe to and RSS feed or a newsletter to be notified when you’ve got some new content.
  7. Can be shared
    By that same token, if I like something make it easy for me to share with my network. Provide easy links to at the very least ‘Like’ and ‘Retweet’
  8. Have a unique POV
    If you want to stand out, you’ve got to be different and unique. Don’t regurgitate someone else’s thinking and link back, bring your viewpoint to the table and tell me why that is. If all you’re reporting is news then how are you telling me something I couldn’t find somewhere else?
  9. Are polarising
    If you’re not making someone mad then you’re not doing it right. You need to have an opinion. Matter of fact with 156 million blogs, you better have an opinion. To be anything but is to be vanilla.

    And despite the title, here’s one more for good measure…

  10. Are consistent
    There are regular posts on a consistent cycle. Whether it’s several times a day, daily or weekly, you know when to expect the next one, thus creating a sense of expectation.

So there you have it. I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments. And if you’re looking for an example of great blogs, look no further than the blog roll.

 

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Why most web content sucks

Digital Strategy3 Comments

It’s often said that content is king. So why then do most businesses online presence fail precisely because they treat their content like the king’s poor idiot cousin?

Here are some thoughts why:

It’s an afterthought

A disproportionate amount of time gets spent on the design and function of a website instead of thinking through content requirements, site structure and navigation. Often it is only after a website/blog/social media profile is setup that creating content even enters into the equation. If design is what gets the audiences attention, it’s the content that makes them stick. Content and the related issues such as information architecture, site structure and functionality all need to be addressed early.

It’s created for marketing (not people)

While websites in and of themselves are a marketing tool, content needs to be aligned to user objectives. In short, stop thinking about content in terms of marketing and promotion but more informing and entertaining. The old saying people use the web to save time or waste time applies here.

It’s not optimised for the web

The web is not like any other environment (it’s save time or waste time, again) and you need to respect that. Think about all the good stuff like SEO, headlines, tags, links and appropriate writing for the web when you start preparing content. Whether you’re outsourcing your copywriting or doing it yourself, make sure you check out some of great resources on the web, such as Website Criteria and SEOmoz.

It’s too brief

While web content shouldn’t be vast, sprawling amounts of text, it also shouldn’t be too short. It seems like the conversational aspect of social media has almost become an excuse for content to be vague. Understanding your audience is key to giving them the information they need quickly and succinctly without having to navigate a plethora of pages.

It can’t be found and shared

Build it and they will come is definitely not how it works. If a wicked funny video gets created and no one watches does it really exist? With so much content floating around the webs, you need to give yours the best chance of not only being found but also being shared by your most loyal customers. Think SEO and SSO (Social Search Optimisation), RSS, platforms and basic sharing/interactive functionality.

No one is responsible

Someone in your organisation whether it’s big or small needs to be responsible for maintaining content whether it’s on your website, Facebook page or blog. Stuff goes out of date really fast on the web and you need to keep feeding it with interesting, relevant content otherwise your audience will simply stop paying attention and go elsewhere. Particularly in social media, there is so much else to do that it’s critical that you give your audience compelling reasons why they should follow you. Besides, nothing looks worse than a long forgotten Facebook page riddled with unanswered questions and spammy comments.

These are just some of my views. What do you think? What other common web content mistakes have you seen?

If you’re keen to find out more, Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web is a great place to start.

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Some cool presentations

Digital Strategy2 Comments

Slideshare is an great place to find inspiration. No matter your poison, someone is bound to have put up a presentation about it with lots of really talented people all over the world sharing their thoughts.

Here are two recent favourites…

Writing for the Web: The Right Strategy
View more presentations from Shay Howe.
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Really simple test of home page effectiveness

Digital Strategy0 Comments

Not sure how well your home page is performing?

There’s a really simple test that I picked up from Malcolm Auld during his presentation at Marketing Week. While primarily to do with copy, it is nonetheless a simple and effective way to assess if your website’s home page is hitting the mark.

  1. Call someone with no prior knowledge of your business
  2. Introduce yourself and tell them what you do by way of reading back your home page copy verbatim

If they can understand what you do, you’ve passed. If not, it’s to the glue factory for your website.

90% – and that’s being generous, the real number is probably far higher – of corporate websites would probably fail this test. Far too often, they get so caught up with their own corporate hyperbole and double speak that they miss the point: Nobody cares about your product or service. They only care about how your product or service will improve their lives.

When you take this test into consideration with the importance that users place on good web design (of which weak web copy was likely to drive 25% of survey respondents away), you can see how critical it is to get your web presence right.

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