Writing for the Web, Part VI

Writing for the Web, Part VI

Subject Line: The Write Market Release – Issue #8 – December 1999

CONTENTS IN THIS ISSUE:

1. Writing For The Web Part VI
a) “The Closing Page” by Renee Kennedy
b) “When it’s Okay to Break Grammar & Design Rules ” by Judy Vorfeld
c) “Web Writing Strategies” by Renee Kennedy & Terry Kent
2. What’s New at The Write Market
3. Free Monthly Drawing enter TODAY!
4. Administrative Information

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THE CLOSING PAGE
by Renee Kennedy

If you are new to this newsletter – please check out the previous articles in our tutorial – Writing For The Web – at: http://www.thewritemarket.com/writing.shtml

Here’s a quick review of one possible structure of your website:
1. Introduction Page – Benefits
2. Secondary Pages – Benefits & Features
3. Trust Building Pages – Testimonials & Guarantees
4. Closing Page

Building to the closing page is an art form. (Albeit an art form that anyone can master.) You must lead your potential customer down the merry path to the sale. You knock their socks off with the benefits of your product. You convince them that your company is unique and that they should buy only from you. You illustrate your products features. You give them believable testimonials and a satisfaction guarantee.

They are almost ready to buy…

They only need one more thing to push them to the sale – they need to be asked to buy. Try the following strategies:

1. On your closing page, review these 4 things:
a. The biggest, best benefit of this product.
b. What is unique about your company. Why they should buy specifically from you.
c. Another testimonial.
d. A reminder that it is guaranteed.

2. Then, urge them to buy with one or both of these things:
a. A time-limited offer.
b. A bonus offer.

3. Now, ask them to buy. Tell them how they can buy. Give them explicit instructions on how they can buy in the following ways:
a. Order by phone.
b. Order by fax.
c. Order by secure server with your credit card.
d. Order by mail.
e. Give them several options on how they can pay – credit card, check, money order.

Tips:

1. Include the link to your closing page on every page. An “order now” button would do the trick.

2. If they still aren’t convinced that they want to buy your product – give them another option – something that they can do without spending money. (Like subscribe to your newsletter or download a free program or read more information.)

3. TEST, TEST and RETEST…
If it’s not working – if you’re not getting the sales, then something is wrong. Go back to your copy and change things that you think are not working. However, do it scientifically. Here’s how:

Each Monday morning do the following things:
a. Find the number of times you got your target response for the past week. (“Target response” is the goal of your site or a particular section of your site, or even a particular page. It is what you are trying to have your visitor’s do. For example, you may be trying to get people to buy your product, subscribe to your newsletter, purchase your services.)

b. Check your access logs for the number of unique site visitors that you had at your site for the past week (“unique site visitors” are the number of people that come to your site, not repeat visitors, but each individual who accesses your site.)

c. Divide:
# of target response divided by unique site visitors = % of visitors that gave you your target response.

d. If you aren’t getting your target response, or you aren’t getting the # of target response that you desire then it’s time to start changing things. Change web copy, change navigation, change your bonus offer, add a time limited offer, etc. etc. Just change one thing at a time – and measure it – the following Monday morning – did your change elicit any improvement in your % of visitors that gave the target response? If not, keep on changing.

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When it’s Okay to Break Grammar & Design Rules
A Humorous Tutorial
ŠJudy Vorfeld

Have you heard that you might lose potential customers and/or clients if your site doesn’t use effective grammar, style, and design? Do you find that statement somewhat snobbish? Consider this: do (for example) Germans, Chinese, French, and Japanese designers turn away potential customers if they don’t use good design, grammar, and style? Perhaps, although exceptions exist.

Will you break one of the sacred top ten Web Design Rules for Success if you create clumpy clusters of yellow text parked on an orange background, surrounded by bouncing hippos or cattle wearing shoes? It all depends.

Some frivolity might be appropriate for Vegetarian Shoes , but inappropriate for Alden Shoes. Apparently full-blown giddiness presents no problem for BatCatFrogDogShoes.com, whose wildly imaginative site also includes grammatically challenged text.

Vegetarian Shoes and Alden Shoes clearly want to sell their products which are reflected, in part, by attention to site content, grammar, and design. Yet their presentations are totally different. In both cases, however, they did their homework.

BatCatFrogDogShoes.com didn’t bother. Clearly, the owner didn’t take time to sit down and draft a thorough business plan, consult a marketing wizard like Wanda Loskot, or get with a gifted Web site architect. The Prez & CEO may also have to consult with Venture Capital expert Dee Power before it’s all over, as well. Money goes fast when you’re having fun, and these people – if nothing else – have fun, even if they’ll never win an award from Internet Brothers!

As a business owner you are trying to earn an income by appealing to people with money and discrimination. (It’s wonderful when they also have a sense of humor.) This means there is wisdom in taking time to include good design, grammar and spelling. If you have a serious writing problem, consider hiring someone to massage your spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

You agree. But while you can always delete bells and whistles, busy backgrounds, and heavy graphics, you don’t have the money to pay for grammar stuff. Okay. If you don’t want your site categorized as a BatCatFrogDog-type site, perhaps you’ll study and learn from some of the following most common American English grammatical mistakes:

DUE TO OR BECAUSE OF?
Due to modifies nouns and is generally used after some form of the verb to be (is, are, was, were, etc.): Lucia Fort’s success is due to talent and spunk (due to modifies the noun success). Because of modifies verbs. Ted resigned because of boredom (because of modifies the verb resigned).

ITS OR IT’S?
Its: The possessive form of the pronoun is never written with an apostrophe, “Its title” or “What is its value?” It’s: A contraction of it is and it has. “It’s frustrating to write right.” “It’s been great.”

YOUR OR YOU’RE?
You’re: A contraction of the words “you are,” e.g., “You’re up for an award, Jeff.someone said you’re leaving.” Your: A possessive form of a personal pronoun, e.g., “I like your graphics & layouts, Dean. Thanks for giving your time.” Both: “Your excellent application of HTML shows that you’re a dedicated designer.”

THEIR, THERE, THEY’RE?
Their: Belonging to: possessive of “they.” “Their company has kewl customer service.” There: At, or in that place. “Look over there!” They’re: A combination of “they are.” “They’re renovating their site.”

To summarize:
learn the right way to do things, but also learn when it’s okay to break the rules to make a point. Whatever you do, try to do it with class! Enjoy the trip. But pulleeeze don’t put up a BatCatFrogDogShoes.com-type site!!!

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Judy Vorfeld, of Peoria, Arizona is a an Internet old-timer who mounted her first web site in 1996. Her Office Support Services began as a secretarial and copyediting service. Today, through her Web site, she also offers copy editing and copy writing, Web site analysis and renovation, as well as site design, maintenance, and coaching for small site owners. Visit her business website at: http://www.ossweb.com/

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WEB WRITING STRATEGIES, blah, blah, blah…
by Renee Kennedy & Terry Kent

Here we go – this is it – this is the big finale folks! We’ve discussed how to structure your site and possible content for each page – but this article will discuss the real meat of the subject – how to actually write for the web.

The whole goal of writing for the web is to get people to read your stuff. If it’s not readable – then it’s nothing better than “blah, blah, blah”.

Keep in mind that most people will need a lot of help to get through a web site and/or a web page. Just as we previously discussed web site navigation strategies, we must discuss strategies to help people navigate each individual page. You must make the task of reading your pages as simple as possible.

The name of the game is “scannability” (that word aint in the dictionary!) Can your reader scan the page, get the information they need, and move quickly to the next page?

Now for the nitty gritty strategies:

1. Write in “chunks”. Don’t overwhelm with a lot of information in one paragraph. Keep your paragraphs at 2-3 sentences each.

2. Use headings. By using headings – you will make your page easy to scan.

3. Use lists. Lists will create scannability, as well.

4. Bold. Bolding will allow you to highlight important information. Bolding is also effective in search engine promotion (bolding keywords). Don’t overbold, things can quickly become unreadable if everything is bold.

5. Write at an “eight grade reading level”. My point here is that you want to make it easy to read. That doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be interesting – keep your visitors excited about your content – but people don’t have time to read involved text. (If you need to include involved explanations – save it for pages further on down the line – your first priority is getting them interested.)

6. Watch the jargon. If you are using words that are specific to a certain community of people – be careful. For instance, if you are talking about ISP’s, HTML, gifs, bandwidth, and jpegs; you are really talking to a community of internet gurus. If you have the slightest feeling that your audience will not understand your specific terminology – then give definitions.

7. Write it the way you say it. Don’t write it as if you were writing a textbook – write conversationally. You don’t even have to write in complete sentences – as long as you are getting the point across. Sometimes, text is easier to read without complete sentences.

8. Use spacing, punctuation, and symbols to their fullest advantage (- . , ! ” % $ & ~ : ). The dash (-) or the ellipse (…) can be very powerful – leading people to the next bit of text. Get a little creative and remember – “White Space” is your friend.

9. Use colorful, positive language: words that evoke emotion, words that are “strong”, words that conjure images in people’s minds. Here is a nice little list of strong, positive words for a “professional site” – dedicated, beneficial, reputation, ground-breaking, advancement, establish, profitable, flexible, achieve, innovative, succeed, envision, expand, connection, strategy, essential, perspective, diverse, current, cutting edge, dramatic…

10. Tell stories. Nothing gets the point across like a little story. Use examples, metaphors, analogies. Also, explaining something in different ways may also help – repeating the main concepts. When we are trying to learn something new – we need to have things repeated to us in different ways. Each time it’s explained – we learn a little bit more.

11. Watch out for too many font sizes. Just as deadly, using too many different font faces. Either can make the page hard to read. A good rule of thumb in traditional print design is two font styles and 2 font sizes, one for headlines and one for the body copy. While the web is a different medium and your font choices are much more limited the same can apply. Often you can say more with less. Try bolding or enlarging the headings and bolding various key words but keep the body copy all the same size. You’ll be amazed at how neat and professional it can look.

12. After you finish writing a page close your eyes. Now open your eyes and just glance at the page. First, look at the overall appearance – not the actual text. Does the page look neat and clean or messy and unreadable? Do certain words or phrases stand out? Are those the concepts that you want to stand out? Second, go into the text – scan the headlines – do they make sense, if someone only read the headlines would your page be making the point you wanted it to make?

That’s it – the end of the millenium and the end of our tutorial on Writing for the Web! We’re looking for ideas for a new tutorial. We’re thinking of a tutorial on newsletters – how to start one, how to find content, how to write articles… But, we would welcome any suggestions on any other subjects related to design or promotion – send your suggestion to [email protected]

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WHAT’S NEW AT THE WRITE MARKET

The Write Market – http://www.thewritemarket.com – is going through some big changes this month. First of all, we have taken all our services off this site and we are moving them to a brand new site. The new site will not be up and running until January 2000. The new site will focus strictly on our web design services – we’re moving up in the world and trying out a full Flash site. When it’s launched you’ll all be the first to know!

There are literally hundreds of pages of resources on The Write Market site. Take some time to browse through the tutorials or to check out the free graphics mine. Christmas graphics can be found at: http://www.thewritemarket.com/Gallery/christmas.htm

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