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Tag Archives: web pages

How great content gets you referrals – six rules to follow

We all want to be remembered and recommended. The best leads come via our contacts, because the ground work is already done; you’ll already have been talked up, so there’s less explaining to do. Lucky sixes die

Your website should fill this role of referrer too, it should be full of useful content – tangible examples of how you help, so it’s easy for potential clients to remember you as ‘the people who….’

Writing memorable copy is what copywriters are paid to do – we create those catchy little phrases that hook brands and products into customers minds. But there’s more to it than that. You don’t need to be a copywriter to create unforgettable content, you just need to pay attention to the following rules.

Six rules for memorable content

Rule 1. Get to the point fast.  You know the way it is when someone asks for directions. ‘Left at the Queen Victoria pub, straight on, right at the second lights, third exit at mini roundabout, second on the right.’ All we remember is the ‘left at the Queen Vic’ bit. When you’re writing about what you do, be succinct. Don’t add too many layers to what you’re saying.  Say the most important bit, clearly, and deal with the rest separately. 

Rule 2. Shine a light on interesting details. There are hundreds of IT consultancies that deliver better systems and an abundance of leadership consultancies that help businesses develop their management teams. So how do you stand out?
a) Who do you work for? We met a Financial Advisor recently whose clients included many premiership footballers.  That kind of detail is great for referrals – he’s the man who advises top footballers.
b) What campaigns are you proudest of?  Be known as the people who got deliveries to customers in the harshest winter Britain has ever known.
c) What’s unique about your service? Is there anything you do very differently to your competitors that will improve the lives of your clients?  

Create content on your site that breathes life into these details, so that readers can quickly understand them and relate them to their own situations, and those of their friends and acquaintances. I mean content like case studies, Q and A’s, blogs – well written information that roots your offer in the real world. It’s show not tell, again.

Rule 3. Think heart not head when constructing your messages.
We remember things that pack an emotional punch more easily than those that are purely rational.  Do your potential clients care most about implementing their HR strategy, or do they just want a day when the phone isn’t ringing off the hook?  Consider how your services connect to your clients on a human level, and give these messages top billing on your website. Use these emotional hooks as the basis for strong home page messages with clear calls to action, and people will remember them. 

Rule 4. Engage, don’t preach. Back up your messages with content that demonstrates how your service makes their working lives easier – think about creating an ‘is this you?’ quiz, ‘service health checks’ video blogs as well as more traditional testimonials from happy clients. Engaging content will make your message stick.

Rule 5. Use memorable analogies.  Analogies and metaphors are great for bridging the gap between head and heart quickly.  They’re useful when you’re thinking about your key messages, and also when writing blogs that develop and deepen your theme. A word of warning though, similes and metaphors are powerful stuff. If you compare your help desk to a box of cats, no one’s going to forget it, so do think of comparisons that are useful as well as memorable.

Rule 6. Make people smile. Humour can be a tricky one on websites, and we wouldn’t advocate filling your site with a stream of ‘have you heard the one about the…..’ and Youtube viral funnies. But using wit in headlines and body copy,  and creating engaging content that surprises is a great way to get people to want to share your site with others.

Content is key to getting referrals. It’s the proof you need to show what you do, and it’s memorable material for your contacts to spread the message for you.

We help our clients create unforgettable messaging, and work with them to develop creative content that makes it come alive. Call us on 07985 01530

Drop the goldfish

goldfish shoal

As cliches go, it’s top of our list. We’ve got nothing against goldfish, (in fact, we used to like them) but they make pretty boring pets and equally dull pictures on your website.

Over recent years they’ve come to represent ‘we’re different’ in a very samey way, particularly in the consultancy space where we have lots of clients. Now, whenever we see goldfish on a website, we don’t think, ‘they’re refreshingly original,’ we think, ‘zzzzzzzz.’

Goldfish aren’t the only offenders. Other visual snooze buttons include:

Jigsaw pieces to represent ‘we make connections/we’re a crucial part of a bigger whole.’

Molecules to represent ‘what we do is technical/scientific/so complicated to explain that we won’t even try.’

Chain
to represent ‘we’re the missing link between x and y’

Handshake to represent ‘we are as good as our word.’

Stock shots of offices that aren’t your own to represent ‘we work in an office.’

Magnifying glasses on newspapers
to represent ‘we pay attention to detail/your news page.’

Hands on a computer keyboard to represent ‘we work on computers/we’re up to date technology-wise.’

This list goes on. We’re sure you’ve got your own un-favourites, please do share them below.

The serious point to this is that design and content need to work together. The right words can explain exactly how you are original and different far better than a hackneyed visual cliche. Clever design engages and makes connections so you really can drop the goldfish.

And just like a good writer has an extended vocabulary, good designers look beyond page one of the stock shots to find arresting and relevant ways to illustrate your message. It means a longer thinking phase, with writer and designer working together to find new metaphors to illustrate your proposition, but that’s good news for you and your business. Thought and collaboration creates stronger brands and smarter websites – and that’s got to be good.

At Valuable Content we work closely with excellent designers. If you’d like us to help with your web project, call me on 07985 015300

More articles to help you with your website:

Seven signs you website needs spring cleaning

How to make your homepage a hit

Five ways to make me leave your website immediately

How to write your About Us page

How to write less, (and say more.)

tower blockYou know that sinking feeling you get when you click on a web page, and the text is far too long? Pulled in by a great headline, but confronted by a dense slab of over-wordy words, the chances are you’ll just click elsewhere to find what you wanted more quickly.

So how do you stop that happening? It’s easy. Follow these copy rules to keep users happy.

How to write less (and say more.)

1. Be very clear about the purpose of each section. Knowing exactly what your readers want to find on makes it easier to start shaping the content.

2. Don’t try to make too many points on each page. Focus on getting one message across strongly, rather than showering the page with weaker points. You can always add more pages. An engaged reader will be eager explore further, and drip feeding little by little works better than a huge wall of text.

3. Work on your sentence structure. Rid your lines of slow-you-down conjunctives. So no ‘however’s, or ‘moreover’s, or ‘hereby’s.

4. Using active verbs in the present tense gives the impression of purpose – just what you want to make readers feel they’re getting somewhere fast.

5. Short sentences make for an easy read.

6. Metaphors condense ideas and feelings succinctly, so weave some in and cut straight to the heart. Pick ones with an emotional resonance to pull readers in and make them more receptive to your message.

7. Focus on the first words of each sentence. If you’ve written a succession of ‘the’s, you need to think again. Starting with the subject of the sentence gives your writing impact and purpose.

8. Can the ‘can’s. Don’t say ‘we can deliver x,’ say ‘we deliver x.’

9. White space helps your readers breathe. Overloaded webpages make me feel like I’m stuck in a tube train during rush hour. You might be telling me something interesting, but all I can think about is getting out. Give your carefully crafted text some space and people will want to read on.

10. Make it scannable. Use headlines as scaffolding to sum up your main points and give your content structure. Signposting with headlines is a great way to make web pages fast rewarding reads.

And finally,

11. Embrace editing. Write it, leave it, come back with new eyes and cut out anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.

If you need help sharpening the content for your website, call me on 07985 015300

7 signs your website needs spring cleaning

fifties housewife

If you’re running your business on Valuable Content principles, then your website is the powerhouse. It’s the engine that drives everything, and most of the time – if you keep the content coming – it all runs smoothly, refining your niche and generating leads. 

 
Every once in a while though, you need to stand back, and ask yourself whether it’s working as well as it should. Peer into those neglected corners, scour the pages you usually skim over, and take a hard look at the way it’s arranged.
 We’re calling it our Valuable Content spring clean – and here are the seven signs that show your website needs one. 

1. You can’t update it yourself.

The best sites are really easy to manage – if you can’t make changes, add pages, and post the kind of information your clients are looking for without a phone call, then you need to do something about it. We recommend WordPress sites, but any content managed system that puts you in control will work.

2. You don’t know how many hits it gets, or how long people stick around.

How will you measure the impact of your valuable content if you don’t know who’s reading it? Get your analytics sorted, and use them to market yourself smarter.

3. You’ve still got too much text on the home page or a really long Flash intro.

We know it looked so good a few years ago, but now the world’s moved on. Your customers want information fast. Cut the distractions and get to the good stuff quicker.

4. It doesn’t make the right first impression.

Your content is static or out of date, or perhaps you have a blog but it is hidden out of sight. High performing websites lead with their content. One glance is enough to tell you that business is buzzing, and that these people can help you with your problem.

5. Your users don’t know where to go next.

Websites designed with users in mind work smoothly with the content on one page leading you to another. If the web copy sparks a question, the next step is a natural click away. Is this the way it happens on your website?

6. It’s not obvious how to get in touch.

Put addresses, phone numbers, email and Twitter details somewhere easy to find.

7. No calls to action.

Be bold about it. What do you want people to do once they’ve read your stuff. Sign up for your newsletter? Download your guide? Call you? So say it, clearly.

So, what are you waiting for?  Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.  If you’d like an independent view of the way your website’s working, we’d be happy to help. And if you’d like to know more about Valuable Content’s high performing websites, give us a call.

Five ways to make your home page a hit

estate agent board

When you’re trying to sell your home, estate agents recommend clearing out the clutter to show off your best features. I think the same applies to your home page. It’s the first place new visitors land, so you want to make a good impression.

Here are my five tips for a winning home page.

1. Clarity of purpose

Your home page should tell me very clearly and simply how you and your services can help me, so share your mission in a few well chosen words. I’m talking a paragraph at most. About Us will go into more detail about you and your ethos, so you don’t need to say lots here. Keep this page very clear and straightforward.

2. Navigation

I want to know exactly where to go next. Your home page should set the agenda, so your choice of words and destinations is important. Being too clever here can be a mistake. I see an awful lot of websites, and am a fan of the ones with the easiest navigation. The home page isn’t the place to surprise me, or to be oblique. Help me find my way around.

3. Call to action

What do you want me to do now I’m here? Call you? Read more? Look at this? Think about that? Don’t go overboard with your demands, but do try and get me to engage. The right words can pull me further into your site.

4. Evidence of life

Empty houses are harder to sell, and so are empty websites. I’d like to know you’re around, hard at work, helping people like me. Twitter feeds, blogs, video content. Have something on the home page that shows me you’re in business, right now. We’re talking tasters – headlines, logos, boxes – not the whole thing. Use your up-to-date content to lead me deeper into your website, and to reinforce your expertise.

5. Room to breathe

Sometimes I use the home page as a reference point, somewhere to go back to and orientate myself. In a large website, packed with valuable content, it’s good to have somewhere clear and simple to take a breath. (It’s a bit like returning to the blurb on the back of a book you’re reading. That concise reminder of the story that grabbed your attention is useful.) So don’t overload it. Less is more.

If you want Home page help, get in touch.

How to write your ‘About Us’ page.

Picture of Kermit the Frog

Chances are the most viewed pages on your website are About Us and your client list. Who are you, and who trusts you with their business ? Two key things that potential clients want to know before getting in touch.

Client lists are self explanatory – names, logos, testimonials, and soundbites all linked to case studies add credibility to your business.

But what about About Us? The section is a chance to let potential clients see the real you, and to show a bit of personality. But what bit of you, and how much personality? There are infinite ways of doing it, and we thought it would be useful to outline an approach we like.

So here it is, some Valuable Content tips to creating a powerful About Us page.

Do see the page from your potential client’s point of view. Your golfing prowess might be awesome, but how does that help them? Write about your approach to the business, not your hobbies.

Do think about the page as part of your business story. Write about how your role fits and contributes to that story. ‘Before joining x I worked as a sales consultant for fifteen years. My understandings of what can make or break a sale help my clients succeed’.

Do share your mission. What do you believe, and why? Define your audience – what kind of people can your business help?

Do interpret your data with your offer clearly in mind. So don’t just say ‘I worked as an accountant for 20 years before starting my payroll business,’ write ’20 years in accountancy showed me how crucial payroll services are to business success.’ Keep asking yourself ‘why is this relevant?’

Don’t write too much. Remember the rules of good web writing. Short and to the point is good. Strong headlines will draw people in, so link to further pages if there’s more to say.

Do make sure the whole page links well to the rest of your site. Relevant About Us copy will make natural links to your clients and services and approach, so embed them in the site. Fire enthusiasm, and lead people seamlessly to the rest of your content.

Do use good professional pictures of you and your team. People like to see who they will be working with.

Don’t be too obscure. You might feel that you’re best represented by a picture of a lovely smooth pebble, or a snap of Kermit the frog, but not everyone will get it. (However if you do want to go down an alternative visual representation route, make sure your explanation is easy to find and written with wit.)

Don’t be boring but…….

Don’tbe ‘wacky’ or ‘zany’ or anything that could be remotely interpreted as something Timmy Mallet might do. Nothing along the ‘you don’t have to be crazy to work here…..’ lines, please.

Do ask for help. An independent view can be really valuable in helping you see what’s most relevant and most compelling for a potential client. If you’d like us to help you create an About Us page that gets your message across, please get in touch.

Six steps to great web writing

A funny thing comes over some businesses when they start putting together their web copy. Rather like having a posh ‘telephone voice’, they write about themselves in an artificially ‘proper’ way.

Instead of saying ‘we run coaching workshops for new businesses’, they’ll write ‘we facilitate training sessions to leverage success for business.’ It’s a bit like having Hyacinth Bouquet answering your office phone. More than a little off putting.

When I’m writing web copy, I imagine I’m telling someone in the same room. My tone is conversational. I use the same words to explain something that I’d use if you were sitting next to me. Good web copy makes a connection with its reader. Lacing your sentences with unnecessarily long words puts your readers at a distance, and that’s not where you want them.

Sometimes I think it’s a confidence thing. People don’t feel they’ll be taken seriously if they talk in everyday language. Big words are good for hiding behind. My advice would be to take a deep breath, and just tell it how it is.

Top six web writing tips

1. Be clear. Say it out loud before you write it down.
2. Use short sentences. They’re easier to understand.
3. Keep technical language to a minimum. Of course some pages demand it – especially if your offer is a technical one. But your Home page and About Us copy should certainly be straightforward.
4. Be accurate. A conversational tone doesn’t mean you can forget your grammar. Good grammar makes your writing make sense.
5. Get to the point. There’s no room for rambling digressions in web copy. Users want information fast, so cut anything superfluous and give important stuff room to breathe.
6. Be yourself. Connect with your reader.