April Seminar Wrap-UP - Digital Writing Demystified

In early April, three digital experts shared a variety of tips and content strategies specific to websites, SEO basics and Google analytics:

Danielle Wintrip, Founder, Wintrip Communication Design

For 20 years, Wintrip worked around the world for top organizations in technology, education, and investment banking, then set up shop as a website consultant focused on entrepreneurs and small business owners in 2014. To date, she has helped dozens of clients craft websites that look good and drive sales.

First and foremost, the team, typically a writer and designer, commits to a needs assessment to identify the client’s goals, mission and vision for the website. Wintrip noted that the web environment has progressed to the point that there are now conventional layouts and designs associated with specific sectors and industries, for example, artists and photographers, retail, service, professional services, healthcare and medical, charity, manufacturing and more. For instance, an about, contact and FAQ page as well as a site map and link back to the home page via the logo in the top left corner are all generally accepted conventions.

“As much as you and your designer may want to be creative and subvert convention, resist the temptation and put things where people expect to find them,” says Wintrip. “Don’t make people think or go looking for something unnecessarily.”

The use of images and graphics as well as the amount of verbiage required ultimately has to meet the needs and expectations of the client’s end user. Clear and concise is key but if the information provided is relevant and adds value, the user/reader is likely to follow the writer through the website content. Wintrip also offers this formula: write what you feel is required, cut it in half and then reduce it by half again.

“Online, people tend to scan so use plenty of headlines and subheads and whenever possible, go with two to three sentences per paragraph and use shorter sentences as well as bullets points and lists,” says Wintrip. “Keep in mind that In five years, our attention span has dropped to just eight seconds from 12 seconds, that many of us receive 304 messages and texts daily and check our smart phones 150 times a day.”

Emily Dockrill Jones, Owner, Page&Screen Communications

For more than a decade, Dockrill Jones has been creating Web content, writing and editing everything from online courses and learning aids to corporate websites, blogs, and social media accounts to the on-screen text for apps. She also trains other Web content creators as an instructor at George Brown College and Ryerson University, and through her own company, Page&Screen Communications.

Dockrill Jones suggests you focus on your client’s ideal customer before you even consider SEO basics, which start with identifying the key search words and phrases. Create a detailed profile and persona and then do what you can to think and act as they would. It will help you come up with the key words they’d use to research products and services online and once you start writing that content, you can write specifically for that person. This approach helps you create the content the user really expects, wants and will find useful. Dockrill Jones relies on Google Ad Words’ Key Word Planner because it’s highly effective and it’s free, although you will need to sign up for it using a gmail address.

Look for keywords that are:

  • Well searched (average monthly searches)
  • Little used/targeted (less competition)
  • Relevant to your client’s products and services and the content you’re creating for them
  • Leverage the power of similar words and synonyms, for instance, couch, loveseat, sofa, chesterfield

Use keywords:

  • Naturally through the content with appropriate context
  • In the title and subheads (preferably at the beginning)
  • As anchor text for links
  • Conservatively with about 100 words of text for each keyword

Good Web Content is:

  • User-focused
  • Concise and conversational

Good Web Writing:

  • Gets right to the point – start with the conclusion, then explain how you arrived at it
  • Uses simple, short with sentences that are no more than two lines long
  • Delivers immediate satisfaction – action items such as contact forms, email, comment boxes and buy-now buttons should be readily apparent and accessible from anywhere on the site
  • Allows users to complete any action in three clicks.

“In my experience, there is no right length for web content, whether it’s 50 or 300 words, what matters most is that those words communicate relevant information and get the user to take the action you intended,” says Dockrill Jones.

Robert Rock, Enterprise Account Manager, Powered by Search

Now the Enterprise Account Manager at Powered by Search, one of Canada’s fastest growing digital ggencies, Rock has also hosted his own TV show, “Social Media Learning”, on Rogers TV and taught Social Media at Durham College. He’s worked with a range of clients from enterprise corporations to small businesses and frequently speaks about all aspects of digital marketing at international conferences, Boards of Trade, Chambers of Commerce, and large networking groups.

Rock focused on the power of Google Analytics because it is the best possible way to measure the success of the program you created and delivered to your client.

“It’s crucial to know how you contributed to your client’s success and have the facts required to show that client the return on their investment in your services,” says Rock. “Google Analytics lets you tell the story of how awesome you are.”

He also stressed the importance of asking your client exactly what they want the campaign and content to accomplish and ensuring they provide details and specifics. He pointed out that while clients may say simply, “We want lots of people to read it” or “We want 5,000 views.”, it’s his job to explain that those readers and viewers are valuable only once they’ve been signed up or converted in a way that ultimately leads to a sale.

He shared a powerful example of a blog post created for a lawyer specializing in immigration. After one of Donald Trump’s outbursts, it became apparent that some U.S. citizens would consider a move to Canada should Trump become president. An 1,800-word post to the lawyer’s blog looked at the history of Canada/U.S. cross-border migration while also providing information on how such a move might be facilitated today. While the post was up to triple the typical length, readers were genuinely interested in the information provided and read through it. Many went on to connect with the lawyer and became clients.

Rock was able to show his lawyer client a very positive return on his financial investment in hiring Rock’s agency to create that post. He also demonstrated where the bulk of the post readers were based with additional demographic details as well as the actions they took as a result of reading the post.

“Clients rarely know what they don’t know or know what they really need to know,” says Rock. “Google Analytics offers an incredible amount of data on who is using your site and content and how they’re using it – take advantage of it to improve results.”