Quality content is one of the key ingredients for improving search engine placement, gaining links, and driving conversions. If your content isn't written well, isn't asking for the conversion, and is hard to read, you're losing a whole lot of sales and leads from your website. People can sniff out your "marketing speak" from a mile away, and won't respond well to fluffy "we're the best" claims. Your content needs to focus on your audience's needs, answer all of the questions they could possibly ask, and tell them what you want them to do.
This week's site clinic features CollegeAdmissionsPartners.com
, a service that offers counseling to parents and high school students as they select and apply to colleges.
Target audiences: parents of high school sophomores and juniors who want help finding the right college for their child; high school students who are looking for help finding the right college.
Unique selling proposition: years of experience, personalized attention from a professional, and availability during most hours including evenings and weekends.
Website goal: qualified leads, contact by phone or online form.
The content is the area most in need of improvement on the College Admissions Partners website. Answering the following questions in your web copy will make all the difference in the world between a site that doesn't perform well and one that ranks well, attracts links, and gets qualified leads. Is my web content easy to read?
Before I can even address improving the copy itself, CollegeAdmissionsPartners.com needs to format the content so that it is easier to read. It currently uses a fluid width, which is preferable, but it doesn't have set minimums or maximums. As a result, the text stretches as wide as the window, which gets very difficult to read as the lines get longer and longer. Width is relative to font size, so as a general rule each line should be no longer than 72-80 characters at the most. On a fluid site, your content should never be 100%; you always need some inner and outer padding for better usability.
Also critical to readability on the web is making your pages easy to scan. People will read a page of 1,000 words as long as it is broken up into sections that are easy to glance over quickly. Visitors don't often want to read every single word on a page; they want to find what most applies to their needs. A few tips for easy to scan content:
Am I answering the questions WWWWWH?
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short
- Use alternating paragraph lengths for visual interest
- Break into sections of no more than 2-3 (short) paragraphs each
- Use keyword rich headers to label each section
- Use bulleted and numbered lists when appropriate
- Keep your most important information at the top of the page
- (see how I formatted this article?)
If you aren't answering the questions
you aren't addressing all of your audience's needs. We all probably learned to answer these questions when we wrote our first essays in elementary school. But as we grow up, we forget.
CollegeAdmissionsPartners.com answers the what and the how, but all of the others are prominently missing. Who is the person offering the service? I found a little bit of information about him buried at the bottom of a large text block, but there was no picture and not a lot about him. Where is the office? Do they do regional or national work? Why should I pay that much money to have someone tell my kid where to go college? Can't we research on the internet, visit schools, and decide for ourselves? These are just a few of the questions I had after reading over the main site. And this is information that parents will want to know. Without it, the copy isn't convincing enough to get the conversion. What's in it for me?
If you aren't telling your visitors exactly "what's in it for them," you're going to lose their business. All of the copy on your website should be geared towards answering this question. It can never be all about you (small business owner); it must always be about them (customer).
A strong call to action is the single most important tactic for driving visitors to your conversion point. It, too, should always answer the question WIIFM? The great thing is that your call to action (contact us) can be paired with your benefit statement (free consultation) to be most convincing: "contact us for your free consultation" (with a link to your contact form, of course.)
If you aren't asking straight up and offering a benefit, you probably aren't going to get that sale or lead. Am I backing up my claims with facts and testimonies?
Nobody is going to read copy, or convert, if all it says is that you are the world's best fill in the blank. People don't want fluff, they want facts. And they need a reason to trust you.
You always need to back up your who, what, when, why, where, how with hard facts and testimonies. For example, CollegeAdmissionsPartners.com could incorporate:
Is this mechanically correct?
- Statistics on families served, students placed in colleges, how many graduated from their initial college choice and in how many years, how many stuck with their original major
- List schools that have been recommended in the past to show variety and knowledge of each
- Include testimonies/recommendations on every page from students and parents who used your service successfully
- Incorporate a "student of the month/week" and highlight their strengths, interests, extracurricular activities, volunteerism, the college chosen and why, and how they've been successful in that choice.
Please, please, please proofread your copy, or have someone else who is a good writer proofread your copy. Misspellings, misplaced or missing punctuation, sentences that aren't parallel, and incorrect word usage all detract significantly from the professional-ness of your website. This seems like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many typos I find on websites of all sizes.
CollegeAdmissionsPartners.com doesn't have major mechanical issues, but there are enough small ones that a parent looking for oversight on college applications would be wary of having the company reviewing their kid's essay. Review the content carefully, especially for parallelism and word usage.
One of the best ways to comb your copy for mistakes is to read it out loud; this forces you to slow down and read what is actually on the page, not just what your brain thinks should be there.Quality Content Focuses On Visitor's Needs
Above all, remember your visitors and their needs as you develop content for your website. Always ask "What's in it for me?"; answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, how; and ask for the sale using a benefit statement. Good content goes further towards increasing your sales and leads, the main goal of any site, than any other online marketing tactic.
May 30, 2008
Jackie Baker is an internet marketing analyst with SiteLogic Marketing (http://www.sitelogicmarketing.com) where she focuses on auditing websites as well as SEO, social media, usability, and information architecture consulting. She comes to the industry from a marketing/PR and website development background. Jackie maintains an active presence online through her blog RegardingHorses.com (http://www.regardinghorses.com) where she shares her love all things equine, particularly therapeutic riding.