I walked to the conference this morning, meandering through the quiet West End streets, dodging bicycles and being dusted with the scent of fabric softener from the laundry vents of the walk-ups.
There are three tracks today with panels, lightning talks, and product demos so things may get a little scrambled. We’re just starting the “Speed Networking” and at 9:00am we can choose to attend one of the following: Track 1 Panel – Writing for the Web, Track 2 Panel – Conversion Optimization, Track 3 Panel – Online Advertising.
I’m interested in the “writing for the web” from a business and marketing perspective so I’ll check that one out to start.
Panel members: Crawford Kilian, author of “Writing for the Web 3.0″, Elizabeth Southall of Powerhouse Copy, Jim DeLaHunt of Jim DeLaHunt & Associates, Tom McNamara of McNamara Communications, and Monique Trottier of Boxcar Marketing.
Update: 9:00am – After some quick intros, Monique is up first to talk about how to write effective newsletters and the value of an email newsletter. Here are a few of her tips:
Update: 9:12am – Elizabeth Southall is up next to talk about killer landing pages that pull leads and sales from the internet like a vacuum cleaner on steroids!.
“You don’t get a second change to make a first impression,” your website is the entrance point to your online sales funnel, notes Elizabeth who shares six elements that every successful landing page must have: Headline, Sub Headline, Product shot/image, Body copy, Opt-in Box, Call to action (avoid using the word “submit”).
Elizabeth is now showing some examples of good / bad landing pages and how they can be improved. You can mix things up like putting the sub headline above the main headline.
Update: 9:20am – There are so many factors that lead you to a purchase, according to Tom McNamara. “The bigger the purchase, the more likely here will be more decisions to make and more influencers.” With your business, you need to figure out what all of those factors might be and focus on meeting those needs for customers through targeted information on your website. Make sure you address your target audience in order to enable the selling process.
Update: 9:30am – Crawford is up next: “When you’re writing for a website you’re dealing with three issues: Orientation (where am I?), Information (why did I surf here anyway?), Action, (now that I know what you have to tel me what am i going to do about it?)”
Think about the text you put on your site. Write long, then cut short. If you have 100 words you can fit into a screen without scrolling, write 150. Then, slash back to 75 and see if you’ve got the right message. “Say what you have to say with the fewest possible words.” [Editor's note: This reminds me of Tim Bray's advice from Open Web - #6 of the commandments, "be brief"]
“Maximize the hot spots,” notes Crawford, stating that the first part of a paragraph and the last are where readers will go first – don’t bury important and information.
Make sure your article or content is readable. Crawford suggests Readability.info, where you can upload your text or offer a URL and it will scan it for you. He said he submitted a story to The Tyee and it was at a 10th grade reading level. He was disappointed since he was aiming for 8th. (I just tested Miss604.com and it’s at a 7th grade reading level)
Update: 9:40am – Jim is the final panelist to present and his topic is “internalization”. What’s the navigation or your site? The flow? The technology translations for your audience? How do you deal with landing pages, influencers, readability all in multiple languages?
[Editor's note: Apologies to Jim, I navigated away from the edit panel in WordPress and hit the dreaded "Back Button" to discover my latest updates had not been applied. I exited the dashboard, went back in to edit the post and WP alerted me saying there was an auto-save and would I like to restore. All of my updates were restored. I (heart) WordPress although I missed pieces of Jim's talk.]
Update: 9:50am – We have all been handed an exercise sheet where we’re supposed to shorten 15 sentences without changing their meaning. Here’s the first example: “This is a subject that usually holds much interest for engineers.” The group in the conference room suggests, “Engineers want to know…” or “Engineers love this.” Crawford is leading this session and man he IS concise!
More examples from the exercise sheet:
“There’s a deplorable tendency in this room to go right to the sentence fragments.” This is awesome! Crawford is schooling us all on being concise, precise, and using proper English. I’m going to have to read more of his blog.
Final exercise: “Needless to say, recent events have vindicated our predictions.” All suggestions from the crowd were turned down. “Too long,” said Crawford, followed by, “Needless to say – If it’s needless then why are you saying it? That’s an expression that should be stood up against a wall and shot!”
Update: 10:00am – Monique is now leading a mini-workshop about email subject lines and is handling several questions about writing, subject matter, authors etc. One question is about finding a web writer or blogger that can find a balance between keyword optimization for the web and truly captivating writing. Monique says it’s important to keep your voice and not to sound “spammy”. I agree, it’s hard to determine if you’re writing for Google (in the business realm) or writing for your audience. It is possible to meld the two – it’s a fine balance.
Jim says the SEO expert will know what visitors are looking for (through search results) whereas the writer will know what they want to read. Crawford says you should give the visitor what they wanted as well as offer them something else – one-upping their search and discovery.