Chances are, you don't update your website all that often. You're time-crunched enough as it is running a veterinary clinic or another small business. However unintentional, you ignore your business website until the company decides to move, offer a new service, or something else you consider newsworthy. This makes for a static website that may not draw the attention of the search engines that you had hoped. The search engine optimization (SEO) benefit you receive from regular blogging is just one of the many reasons why your company needs to incorporate it into its overall marketing strategy.
We have been (slowly) rolling out a series of blog posts about Why Blogging is So Critical to your business, and where to get this content. But, once you have the text that you're going to publish on a page, there are a few tips and tricks that help that content not only get found, but help your reader quickly and easily capture the critical points of what you are saying. Recently, Microsoft conducted a study surveying the attention span of humans. What do you think the time frame is?
Shorter than that of a goldfish.
I linked to the study above, and I do hope you read it (likely, if you share characteristics of the participants of the study, you'vealready left my page to check!). But the study also highlighted something critically important. That attention span isn't necessarily a bad thing--in fact, people actually are in a mode of wanting to be consistently mentally engaged. Their brains will quickly discern any new knowledge and quickly move on to the next piece of information. What does this mean for you?
Your content needs to be strategically formatted to allow your readers to capture a maximum amount of information, in minimal time.
How can your web content be enhanced?
- Bulleted lists of items
- Engaging images which support your text
- Bolded titles
- White space
- Concise, error-free content
As you'll note, that quick little list was easy to read--using the tips included help to allow the reader to scan bite-size pieces of information, rather than a novel.
Where can you find great images to correspond with your content?
- iStock Photo (paid subscription service)
- Thinkstock Photo (paid subscription service)
- Pixabay (images free of copyright, even for commercial use and are distributed under Creative Commons)
Those are our favorites, but there are many more. Just a few rules:
- Remember to read the attribution requirements carefully, as blogging often requires photographer attribution.
- Google images are not free for the taking.
- Even if you have an in-house photographer, it's appropriate to attribute his or her work.
Just a few extra moments of time can strategically improve the impact of your writing, and help cater to the attention span of your readers.
In many cases, your website is the first introduction that your potential clients have to your business. If it is one that offers a product that is non-culture specific, then perhaps it is a good idea to evaluate how well your website tailors to those coming from different language and culture backgrounds. If your audience includes (or you want to begin including) those from a non-English language and culture, then, just like any good business, your website should tailor well to the needs of your clients. Although some websites simply translate their content into the many other languages they want to reach, this may not be a financially viable option for most business owners, nor may the translation be culturally accurate (especially if using an online web translator). Here are a few ideas and things to keep in mind as you expand into non-English cultures and languages.
Remember that language and culture go together
Language is a reflection of culture. Many things that we say, in any given language, are idiomatic in nature, and don’t always carry over to another language precisely because they reflect a unique aspect of that language’s culture.
A good example of this are the many words that Eskimos have for “snow.” Because snow and ice form such a large part of their culture, Eskimos have many ways of expressing the variety of forms of snow and ice. For example, the Eskimo word “patuqin” would be equivalent to “frosty, sparkling snow” in English. (Perhaps a perfect reference to what is heading in the direction of MN today, anyway!)
Another example are the indigenous tribes in some parts of the Indonesian islands. In the most remote areas high in the mountains, some tribes have a large amount of words for green and brown, due mostly to their direct contact with the infinite variety of greens and browns found in the flora of that region.
Well, chances are, you probably don’t have any Eskimo or Indonesian clients. The point is that as you develop your website, keep in mind that the way you say things, and even present your products, may be very one-sided. Keep your mind open, and ask yourself as you include new content how innately “American” it is, and whether or not other cultures can relate.
Case in point, the infamous "Got Milk?" commercials.....unfortunately the direct translation to some communities was "Have you given your family enough milk today?" (or quite frankly, a bit worse, but you can Google that on your own....)
One would definitely hope to avoid falling into the delivery of a message that was not quite the intention, but much worse, something offensive.
Keep the needs of your audience in mind
A good first step to take when it comes to expanding beyond an English-speaking audience is to determine which languages and cultures you want to reach. Once you have a good idea that you want to open up to the Spanish-speaking community in your city, for example, then the next step is to adapt your message to the needs of your audience.
A good question to ask yourself is, “How or why would Spanish-speaking community use my product compared to an English-speaking community?” As you do so, you should reach out to those who are most familiar with the public you are trying to reach. In this case, someone with experience in the field, who is also a native-speaker of that language or is a native-born in the culture, would be your best help.
Let’s say you own a doggy daycare, and you are considering a push to open up more to the Hispanic community. You may want to find answers to questions such as the following:
- “What similarities and differences exist between the Hispanic community’s needs for doggy daycare, and the Caucasian community’s needs?”?
- “What messages/images would the Hispanic community find appealing?”?
- “What messages/images would the Hispanic community find offensive?”
- "How can I bridge the gap between what is the essential meaning of my message, and how I can effectively state it?"
And so on. As you find answers to these questions, adapt your website to suit the needs of your audience--in order to clearly communicate your intention.
Think in translation terms
When Disney makes a really big production animated movie, they don’t worry about whether or not the message is going to hit home with the global community because they prepare it to be localized to each language and individual culture. As the text is prepared, it goes through a process of globalization, which consists of an important step: internationalization. All references to specific American culture and language are removed, and they are replaced with the general meaning or overall idea, so that they can be later localized to match the target audience.
The idea of internationalization can be adapted to your business’ website as you open your doors to non-English languages and cultures. Prepare your content so it suits the needs of all your target audiences, rather than just the typical English-speaking American. For example, according to 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, many non-native English speakers believe that it is a better idea to purchase pet food at the grocery store instead of their local pet store. If you sell quality pet food, and want to reach more members of a specific community, you may want to tailor your website around the fact that the pet food you sell offers more health benefits, and savings in pet health care in the long run, thus increasing the value of the service you offer in the sale of that particular item. Your site, in essence, is providing an educational service of enormous benefit in this regard.
Best idea? Consult a translator to most effectively communicate the point that you are wishing to portray.
Knowing how to whip out a fast and entertaining short article is a valuable skill to possess. Visitors (or readers, depending on your platform) stop returning when it becomes apparent there’s never anything new to read. (Remember the museum analogy we used last week?) Once you learn how simple and expedient adding fresh content can be you’ll help ensure your visitors make more frequent trips to your side of the web world.
An engaging article needs to be no more than 400-600 words in length. Learning to use correct structure and style will help you to produce engaging articles in no time. Since we're talking about how to compose a quick article, let’s get straight to the point. Grab your espresso and a pen........(iPad, Surface, Laptop, ....)
1. Catchy Titles Catch the Reader
Web users are skim readers, and quite frankly, often impulsive. An average person may spend hours reading a Sunday newspaper cover-to-cover. However, that very same person will speed-scroll through a website’s content and quickly move another site if nothing jumps out at first glance.
The title is where you grab readers by the collar and drag them to read your article. The title needs to be succinct and snappy. Inform readers what your article is about. Tell them what they’ll gain by reading it.
Web users fixate on headings and subheadings. You are wasting your time composing elegant, informative, and helpful content if your headings are bland and uninspiring. Dull headings won’t encourage anyone to stop and appreciate your literary talent.
2. Keep Them Hooked: The Opening Paragraph
Thanks to your catchy heading you have grabbed readers’ attention. Don’t loosen your grip. The opening few sentences need to convince people they made the right choice to continue past the heading. You have a very short space of text to entice readers to your main content.
The opening paragraph should be brief. No more than 3-5 short sharp sentences. Explain the problem. Tell them you can fix it. State how better things will be once they’ve read your article.
There is no need to get any more complicated than that. Moving on…
3. Body Beautiful
The key to fast-paced articles: Action verbs and colorful nouns.
There’s no time to take the reader on a wild fanciful trip through your creative genius. You got straight to the point in the opening paragraph. Now stick to it and progress the article.
You’re looking at 4-6 paragraphs for your main subject matter. You’ve made a promise to teach a reader something. This is where you fulfill your promise. No time for waffling, meandering or magical mystery tours. Keep your sentences short and punchy.
400-600 words are not a lot to work with. You may disagree when staring at a blank page. It’s easy to get distracted and abandon brevity and clarity. Every sentence you write should flow. Transgress logically from sentence-to-sentence. Ensure each paragraph progresses the article.
The body should be a self-contained unit. When the body has said its piece the final paragraph takes over.
4. Make Your Point and End In Style
The article has to end without leaving a reader bewildered or confused. Provide a natural end to your article. The closing paragraph is simply a short summary. Remind the reader what was taught and follow this with a final sentence to reinforce lessons learned or action to be taken.
It’s as simple as that. For example, a final paragraph for this article could be:
“Remember: Catchy title, quick opener, informative body, and a wrap-up. To help you stay on topic, use short paragraphs made up of 4-6 short sentences. This will also help you to maintain concentration. Practice this technique. You’ll be shocked how fast you can write a quality article.”
5. Don't Forget About the Comments!
After you go through the trouble of writing your smashing article, don't forget to enable comments on whichever venue you're posting. Everyone has an opinion these days and this is a great opportunity to engage in conversation.....with moderating tools and CAPTCHA, you can cut down on spam or those inappropriate bots that can find their way to your blog. We want the comments, but not the comment spam sent by non-humans.
Still a daunting task? Too much time? We have content writers that would love to write for your website, presentation, blog or even social media purposes. Let us know what you're working on and we can get the content together for you.