Website Content Improvement Case Study

The Writers For Hire understands that a good website needs much more than keywords.

  • Content development Do you want Google to be your friend? Stop worrying about getting the right keywords on your website and focus on getting quality information there. We’ve written enough websites to know the kind of content that Google, and most visitors, expect to find on a company website. We’ll produce copy that’s concise, well-written, and developed with your target audience’s needs in mind.
  • Reader resources Show people it’s worth their time to visit your website: we’re talking about expert-level content – from whitepapers to blogs to newsletters – that addresses your clients’ needs and interests. The resources will bolster your searchability while building your value and credibility in the eyes of potential customers. It’s a win-win.
  • Email campaigns Whenever you develop a new reader resource, or you simply want to offer a coupon or end-of-the-season special, we can craft compelling emails — and subject lines — that recipients will want to open, read, and click on.
  • Landing pages Our certified landing page writers know how to develop creative, effective landing pages that – paired with targeted pay-per-click campaigns – consistently achieve conversion. Gated content. Capture potential leads’ contact info by offering up a particularly meaty eBook or whitepaper, “gated” behind a simple form.
  • Social campaigns . Done well, these campaigns work hand-in-hand with your web content to build your search ratings, link people to your website, and strengthen your brand’s authority. We can help.

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Website Content Improvement Case Study

Website Content Improvement Case Study

The Metropolis Model: How to Use the Sharing Economy to Create Standout Thought Leadership Content

“It’s easy to admire a thought leader; it’s much harder to become one.”

—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take

Content creation in the sharing economy

The sharing economy continues to transform nearly every sector of the global economy.  A recent McKinsey report projects that sharing economy revenues will reach $335 billion globally by 2025.

Wikipedia defines the sharing economy as “peer-to-peer based sharing of access to goods and services.” Another definition describes it as “a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical and intellectual resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organizations.”

As its impact continues to grow, what does it mean for content creation?

Content creation is a challenge for marketers. Statistics from Kapost show that 39% of marketers indicate coming up with ideas is difficult, and that 1 in 2 marketers say they don’t have enough ideas to fuel their content operations.

The sharing economy is good news for content creation, offering rich new opportunities for engagement, dialogue, and creative insight. For marketers, the collaborative model is a content strategy resource for generating and developing genuine thought leadership.

It takes a metropolis

The term crowdsourcing first appeared in 2006 to reference an organization looking outside its own resources and employees for ideas and problem solving. The title of Hillary Clinton’s famous book, published ten years earlier in 1996, offers a useful metaphor for crowdsourcing: It Takes a Village.

In 2016, however, it takes a metropolis. The metropolis model is a shared production model that leverages your entire peer community. In the sharing economy era, optimizing your resources and harnessing the power of your entire “metropolis” to generate thought leadership content is a key strategy for success.

Applied to content creation, the metropolis model is a roadmap for utilizing the collective wisdom of your entire ecosystem—in-house resources, customer feedback, subject-matter expertise, and industry influencers—to develop standout thought leadership content.

Revisiting thought leadership & why it matters

While thought leadership has become a marketing buzzword, it’s essential for brands whose strategy includes establishing and maintaining a thought leadership role. 43% of marketers identified thought leadership as one of the top three goals of content marketing, along with lead generation and brand awareness, in a recent LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community survey.

Although it’s been said that the first rule of thought leadership is not to call it thought leadership, it’s worth revisiting the definition of the term. In their book #Thought Leadership Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign, Liz Alexander and Craig Badings offer a useful definition:

“Thought leaders advance the marketplace of ideas by positing actionable, commercially relevant, research-backed, new points of view. They engage in “blue ocean strategy” thinking on behalf of themselves and their clients, as opposed to simply churning out product-focused, brand-centric white papers or curated content that shares or mimics others’ ideas.”

In a conversation with Curtis Kroeker, CEO of Scripted, an online marketplace that connects businesses with writers, he defined thought leadership as “content that’s thought-provoking to people who already know a lot about that particular topic. So it’s a pretty high bar.”

With the increasing importance of thought leadership as a content marketing strategy, how can you effectively meet this standard? How can you create content that offers genuinely new ideas, insight, and solutions?

Using the metropolis model to develop thought leadership content

The metropolis model is an effective way to tap into your entire community of talent and resources to develop thought leadership content. Using the metropolis model, you can crowdsource and collaborate with your network of in-house teams, customers, SMEs, and influencers to generate content that meets thought leadership standards.

Here’s how.

1. Know the defining issues and trends

Author and marketing strategy consultant Dorie Clark recommends immersing yourself in the existing industry conversation as the first step toward breaking new ground. Become conversant with the culture and current thought leadership in your industry. Be familiar with the topics, issues, research, and perspectives other experts are presenting.

Armed with that knowledge, you can then start to identify what’s missing from the dialogue and where there are opportunities to contribute new thinking.

 2. Crowdsource for new ideas

During the ideation phase of thought leadership content creation, your best resources are the citizens of your metropolis: your in-house teams and your customers.

Kroeker says crowdsourcing is key for effective content development, and for thought leadership content in particular. “If you’re not tapping into the crowd, you’re going to miss out on perspective, expertise, and ideas,” he told us. “Even if someone is particularly well-versed in a certain area, it’s only going to be one person’s opinion. Crowdsourcing lets you tap into multiple perspectives and make for a much richer conversation and richer content creation.”

Mobilize in-house teams

Explain your thought leadership mission to your internal colleagues and solicit their input to develop new topics and ideas. Involve your entire team including IT, developers, analysts, designers, sales, and customer service.

SMEs are another important resource for ideation. One strategy for soliciting input from SMEs is to simply ask them, “What did you do today?” Their day-to-day roles and processes involve the key issues that directly affect your customers, whether it’s technology, sales, customer service, research, or product development. Almost everything they do is content.

Walk through their daily activities and the various components of their jobs to identify relevant topics.

Let your team know why their participation is important. As valued in-house experts immersed in the daily workings of your business and customer interaction, their insights are essential.

Set up brainstorming or gamestorming sessions that make it fun and pressure-free for everyone to contribute ideas.

You can start the ideation with questions like the following:

  • What’s missing from the industry’s current conversation?
  • What areas are underrepresented in our current content strategy? What issues should we be covering?
  • What are your biggest challenges, and why?
  • What challenges and issues do you observe among our clients?
  • What new ideas and trends are emerging in our business?

You can also use tools like 15Five and Slack to help solicit relevant topics.

Your role is to direct the dialogue and provide moderation and feedback. Let participants know they don’t have to write anything—just contribute ideas. Assign a point person to keep track of the dialogue and take notes.

Solicit feedback from customers and users

Metropolis2

Next, reach out to your users for feedback. Your online community is one of the best sources of intelligence. Customer feedback is an essential means of surfacing new business challenges and issues for your content strategy.

Polls, surveys, and incentives are ideal ways to engage with your community. Services like Polldaddy can help you create simple surveys.

Begin identifying new content opportunities by generating dialogue with your users around the following types of questions:

  • What’s your biggest business challenge?
  • What question do you most need answered? What information do you need that is not available?
  • What’s the most pressing issue in your business?
  • How could we improve our product or service?

Be responsive and stay actively engaged with your community to monitor the discussion. Solicit and leverage comments to create and maintain a topic- and issue-oriented dialogue. Encourage debate around contrasting viewpoints.

Engaging in a dialogue with your audience will help you generate useful data that can be developed into content. By asking your users about their needs and showing you care about their challenges and their opinions, you invest in them as co-creators.

3. Engage with experts and influencers

Tap SMEs for knowledge and expertise

Subject-matter experts are critical allies in your thought leadership strategy. They can contribute the deep technical, practical, or instructional expertise you need in specific topic areas. Develop a set of targeted questions for them to respond to in writing or in an interview.

Depending on the business area you’re focused on and the type of expertise required, you may also want to interview outside SMEs.

Leverage the power of influencers

Influencer marketing is one of the top marketing trends of 2016.

Engaging with influencers not only gives you access to authoritative insights and opinions from people your customers trust. It dramatically scales the visibility, reach, and engagement of your content.

New research from Twitter shows consumers now trust influencers nearly as much as their friends. And with a new study by Tapinfluence showing an 11X higher return from influencer marketing campaigns compared to other digital marketing channels, engaging influencers in your content marketing efforts is essential.

Find out who’s driving the conversation and who your users are listening to. It could be a highly visible blogger, leader, executive, or industry expert—a recognized name with authority, influence, and a following.

LinkedIn can help you identify people of influence who are already in your network. There are also web services that will help you find and engage the right influencers for your business, including InNetwork and Traackr.

Reach out to the influencers you’ve identified and begin cultivating relationships. Be familiar with their work—read their book and follow their blog, for example—and ask them to participate in your thought leadership initiative.

Invite them to contribute their perspective, analysis, and insight. Explain how you’ve identified this issue and why you believe they’re uniquely qualified to contribute fresh thinking.

Thought leadership partnerships should be mutually beneficial. When you approach an influencer, be prepared to offer something of value in return. Maybe you can offer publicity. Or maybe your offer can be tied directly to the product or service you provide—a membership, free trial, or special access of some kind. In essence, be prepared to answer the question: what’s in it for me?

If your influencer is a blogger, he or she may be willing to write something on the topic themselves. Alternatively, working with your team and/or a writer, you can craft questions, interview the influencer, and create the content yourself based on his or her input.

4. Putting it all together: creating your content

When you’re ready to write and publish your content, ensure a professional, well-written presentation. While good writing alone doesn’t turn generic content into thought leadership, good writing skills are essential for clearly communicating new business insights.

In a recent LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community Survey, 57% of marketers said “engaging and compelling storytelling” was among the top three criteria that make content effective.

“Without good writing, you risk your insights being lost because they aren’t communicated effectively,” says Kroeker. “Good writing ensures that those powerful insights are communicated in a way that’s clear and that resonates with the target audience.”

Infographic by Kirsten Kohlhauff
Infographic by Kirsten Kohlhauff

Creating thought leadership content is a kind of alchemy. Done right, it:

  • Addresses new issues, ideas, and challenges
  • Provides context, analysis, and synthesis of multiple perspectives
  • Weaves a coherent, engaging narrative that offers new information and actionable solutions
  • Is well-written and tells a compelling story

“Being able to collaborate effectively and directly is critical to the creation of great thought leadership,” says Kroeker.

As a marketer, you’re at the center of your metropolis, collaborating with your community to generate meaningful thought leadership content worthy of the name.

Why Website Designers Don’t Need Differentiators

Or…How to Write Great Website Copy for Your Design Agency

This blog post was spurred by an answer I recently posted on LinkedIn to a website design agency. They were in the process of redesigning their website, and they wanted tips on what to do with their copy. This specific design agency was struggling a little because they kept falling into flowery high-handed words and phrases that ended up translating into…well, nothing.

Anyway, we’ve worked with well over a dozen design agencies over the years, as well as written copy for a few, so I started thinking about what I look for in a design agency, and I came up with a list of five criteria for my perfect website design agency website…

1. First, I always look at the design agency’s own design first. I’m one of those people on the side of less Flash. Although design websites are one of the few types (along with artists and musicians) that can get away with a really Flash-heavy website, I still don’t necessarily recommend it. Flash headers can fun, but if you design the whole website in Flash, it can often get cumbersome for people to navigate quickly to the information they want.

Oh, and please remember that most people do not have their screen resolution at like 1 million X 1 million pixels. I know designers love to have the biggest monitors and work on these ultra high resolutions – they should! That’s their job. But the rest of the world really does work on something less than a big-screen TV. So, please remember to check and see if your website has a horizontal scroll bar.

2. Next, I go to the portfolio. To me, this is the most important piece on a web agency’s website. I really recommend breaking your portfolio down by industry or some other groupings that make sense for you, like “social media sites,” “personal sites,” “B2B sites,” etc. And I suggest using some nice simple thumbnails that I can click on with a clear descriptive link.

3. Next, I’ll search for very, very specific information. So I suggest listing, very specifically, what capabilities you have. Use lots of bullets and choose clear, boring headers like “online shopping carts” rather than something like “actionable purchasing services.” You really don’t have to get all froo-froo with fancy sounding words. Clear and concise will get you farther than creative and murky. Depending on my client, I’ll want to know items such as:

a. Can you design social media sites?

b. What programming and technical capabilities, specifically, do you have? (Will you just hook up a contact form, or will you write custom code, integrate databases, and provide full hosting for a million-subscriber dating site?) If you have a lot of technical nitty-gritty stuff, then break up your services into clear sub pages.

c. What size websites are you used to dealing with? Do you design mostly brochure type websites? Or can you migrate massive amounts of data, efficiently, from a website such as Investopedia or Microsoft?

““

4. If I discover that you have the capabilities that I’m looking for, I’ll go through a few final criteria. Does the company look and feel approachable? Sometimes designers tend to be image-conscious. Who can blame them—that’s what they do, right? But sometimes they take that to such an extreme that their websites end up losing that personable edge that is able to make a sincere connection with the audience.

Don’t be afraid to put some real pictures of you and your staff up there – I know you may cringe at the thought, but the fact is, people want to connect with other people, not just with really awesome graphics. Along the same lines, testimonials are a great way to show that you’ve connected with your past clients, and that you could do the same for your new ones.

Finally, be yourself. Have a personality in your copy – and don’t make one up. If you’re funny, it’s OK to be humorous. If you’re kind of a geek, that’s OK too. Use some colloquialisms that you use in your unique speech. Let some of your company culture show through. Be who you are, and you’ll attract more clients who are the right match for you.

5. Finally, I’ll go to the contact page. If the website design agency site doesn’t have a real phone number, I’ll go someplace else. It’s very important to me that I know that I have a designer who will answer his or her phone. Sometimes my clients really start pushing on me for stuff, and I need to know that the designer will be around if I need something.

So…interestingly enough, there are only a couple of items on here that have much to do with copy. That’s not an oversight. I’m probably going to get yelled at here, but it’s my opinion that unlike other industries where my first advice is always: make sure you have a value proposition, a USP, a clear benefit that you can’t get somewhere else, etc., website designers don’t actually need this.

OK, so let me defend that statement before I get every copywriter out there up in arms: First, website designers are in a singularly unique position on the web in that they are selling what you are looking at. So, if you’ve already got the client in your “shop,” there isn’t such a pressing need for a USP. The potential clients are already there touching the wares and trying the product – so designers are one step closer than the rest of us to that potential sale.

Second, most website design agencies don’t have a fundamentally different service than most others. If they do, great, then by all means, have it up there as the first sentence. But for the most part, designers don’t, and trying to force them to have one ends up the equivalent of trying force a square peg into a round hole. For the most part, a website designer’s real differentiators come in the form of the items that are listed here:

a) their portfolio
b) their specific capabilities
c) their personality
d) their customer service

Or, I should say, it comes in the form of the unique mixture of these that the client is looking for. If a client can…

a) find a design similar to the one he is looking for,
b) discover that, yes, you have the specific technical qualifications he was looking for,
c) get the feeling that he’ll enjoy working with you, and
d) be assured that you will take care of him, personally,

… then, you are different than the other designers he or she has been considering. Because you (and probably only you), has that unique mixture of these qualities that makes you the right match for the client.

By the way, we’re always looking for great website designers to partner up with. So, if you’d like to be on our radar for some mutual outsourcing, email me at: [email protected]

Get More Click-Throughs by Writing Better Links

Have you thought much about the links that you include on your webpage, newsletter, or online marketing materials? Before I started writing for the web, I never really realized how important they were. But those little guys have a lot more to say than you or I might have imagined.

For one, internet scanners might scroll down the page quickly, looking for a brightly colored link that directs them to what they want. Secondly, links let people browse your site at their convenience: You put just a blurb of your free article on your site; If people want to read more, they’ll click through and do it. If they don’t want to read it, then they’re not forced to scroll past your entire article, which didn’t interest them anyway.

So here’s the deal. Good links have a few characteristics in common:

• They’re short – keep them down to just a few words
• They’re descriptive – tell your reader exactly what you want them to do!
• They’re punchy – use action words, and keep those words at the front

As a general rule, you never want to use “Click Here” by itself: it’s not descriptive enough, and you’ve just wasted an opportunity to get your reader to click. Tell them why they’re clicking, such as “Click Here to Join Now” or “Click Here for More Information.”

What to Say?

Now, here comes the technical stuff. When using teasers – or just short blurbs that describe a longer article – there may be some science in how you link readers to new information. In a MarketingSherpa study, the online marketing gurus found that certain words in your links receive better click-through rates.

What is it, you ask? According to MarketingSherpa, “Click to Continue” had the highest click-through conversion – 8.53% — compared to “Continue to article” (3.3%) and “Read more” (1.8%). 

The guys at FutureNow’s blog seem to have their own theories. They don’t seem to think any of the above suggestions are very effective since there’s no call to action.
.
They suggest that your hyperlink should be persuasive. So instead of writing:

Donate to Save the Sea Turtles! Read More.

They suggest you sell a little harder in your links, like so:

Donate to Save the Sea Turtles! See how much your dollars mean to us.

““

Baiting the Reader

Now, I’ve saved the best tidbit for last. There is a little trick that you can use that normally piques your readers’ interest, compelling them to click through – I’d even say that this works regardless if you use “Click to continue,” “Read more,” or whatever else you can think of. It’s an old trick, just watch:

Steve had been taking the new trial medication for two weeks, but he still didn’t feel any better. After a quick Google search, he realized that he might be in the “placebo” control group. Read more.

That’s not bad, but watch this:

Steve had been taking the new trial medication for two weeks, but he still didn’t feel any better. After a quick Google search, he realized … Click to continue.

See what I did? By cutting off the text in the middle of the sentence, I’ve left the reader with a question: What did Steve realize? And it’s a pretty irresistible hook. Next time, give readers only a little of what they need to know – make them click through to satisfy their curiosity.

Now, you can take that information and do with it what you will.