Copywriter Q&A: Diving into Company Blog Campaigns with Melanie Green

The Writers For Hire (TWFH) team member Melanie Green has more than 15 years of writing experience and specializes in digital marketing content. With TWFH, Melanie is the go-to expert on blog campaigns for businesses.

For this installment of Copywriter Q&A, we asked Melanie for her insights on the best practices for launching an effective blog campaign.

TWFH: We hear a lot of hype about blogs being an important aspect of company websites. In what ways can having a blog help a business?

MG: Blogs can help businesses in a lot of ways. A blog creates more content that can be found and linked to. It gives businesses more opportunities to utilize SEO keywords in an organic way that can help search engine rankings. It can even be used to answer common customer questions.

A blog gives credibility to the company and positions it as a thought leader or expert. It can also ensure that a business’s website comes across as up-to-date and relevant. Who hasn’t gone to a website to see that its last blog post was two years ago and questioned whether the company was even still in business?

TWFH: Those are some really compelling arguments for starting a blog! So, if someone is considering launching a blog campaign for their business, how should they get started?

MG: First, they need to have a platform available on their site to upload blogs on. I’m preferential to WordPress because of the plug-ins that are available, including the editorial calendar and Yoast. The editorial calendar lets you plan posts with a month-long view, and Yoast is a free tool that helps with search engine optimization.

Next, they’ll need to make decisions about who will write the posts, how frequently they’ll post, and what the topics will be.

TWFH: What is the best way to come up with a theme or topic for the campaign?

MG: I’m not sure that there’s a single “best way,” but there is a process that I follow. To find blog post ideas, I would:

  1. Answer common questions my customers have
  2. Provide information that would overcome sales objections from customers in the sales process
  3. Find frequently asked questions online related to my topic
  4. Review recent news to see if there’s anything that’s relevant
  5. See what my competitors are writing about
  6. Use topic generator tools like Answer the Public and Buzz Sumo
  7. Use keyword tools like SEMRush and Google Keyword Planner, aiming for relevant keywords that have high search volume and low competition
  8. Create variations of my most successful posts

TWFH: How frequently should blogs be posted? Is there a rule or best practice?

MG: Consistency is the key. If you can only commit to one post a week, then it should be every week, posted on the same day. It’s worse to post two in one week and none for three weeks.

Technically speaking, websites benefit the most from two posts a week. More can be better, especially for more competitive search terms. However, I always recommend that clients start by posting two posts a month and work their way up toward twice a week. Since quality is just as important as consistency, you don’t want to sacrifice quality.

TWFH: Do all of the blogs have to be new content, or can old content be recycled (if it’s relevant, of course)?

MG: The same content can’t exist in two places at once. So, it’s okay to update old blog content, but you wouldn’t want to re-issue it as a new post, even if the content has many little changes to it. This could hurt a website’s search engine rankings. If it’s a part of a monetization program, such as Google AdSense, having duplicated content can end the monetization agreement.

In general, it’s a good idea to only post new content to a business’s blog, while updating past posts for accuracy and keyword usage. Keyword performance changes over time, so this should be reflected in past posts.

TWFH: Should blogs be written in-house? Or is it OK to contract them out?

MG: I’m not sure that it matters where the content is written as much as who is writing it. If a business wants to invest money into hiring a staff writer with experience writing blogs, then it’s perfectly OK to have blogs written in-house. Writing is one of the most interesting fields, in that most people are capable of writing words down on a page. However, it doesn’t make them a writer. It’s still important to hire someone with experience that understands online writing and keyword usage and has the ability to turn work around to meet an editorial calendar.

For many companies, getting this expertise in the most cost-effective way is by contracting blog writers. Not all blog writers are the same, though. You can find a very inexpensive blog writer and end up with low quality or plagiarized content that you have to spend a lot of time to edit and fix. Finding the right set of writers can take time and you’ll need the budget to do so.

What often happens is that companies try to get blog content out on their own first before hiring blog writers. They’ll get busy working on other tasks and blog writing for their own site takes a backseat to other work. That’s when we’ll often see companies looking to collaborate with contract blog writers.

TWFH: What other components should a successful blog campaign have?

MG: Successful blog campaigns have 100% original blog posts of at least 500 words, consideration to keyword targets and usage, relevant pictures with alt-tags, and meta descriptions. The most successful campaigns are also well-advertised. Simply writing a post isn’t enough to drive traffic to it. It’s important to also share it with the world.

TWFH: What is the best way to distribute blogs?

MG: The most obvious way is through social media. This is low hanging fruit and should always be a part of the process. It’s also helpful to embed links to posts on relevant Quora or forum questions and to ask other blog owners to include your post on link round-ups.

TWFH: How will you know if your campaign worked? What is the best way to measure success?

MG: The success of a campaign depends on your goals. Is it to gain new traffic? Measuring success could simply mean more page views with a lower bounce rate, which means that they’re more engaged and didn’t immediately hop off your page.

TWFH: This is all great advice! Is there anything else that you’d like to add about blog campaigns?

MG: If companies want to get started with more content marketing, blogs are a great way to go. There’s no limit on how many you have, and it adds to the value of the site itself.


WHAT IS A URL, AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Most people are familiar with the term “URL.” However, unless you are surveying a bunch of Google employees, few could probably tell you what each letter stands for, and what it actually means.

But if you use the internet with any regularity, it could be helpful to gain a better understanding of the term and its importance.

Start With a Definition

The term “URL” is an abbreviation for Uniform Resource Locator.

Which does nothing to help anyone understand what it actually means.

Basically, a URL is the address for a website (the “web address”), page, or file on the internet. Anything that can be stored digitally can be given a URL. For example, the URL for this website is https://www.thewritersforhire.com.

A URL is made up of three distinct parts:

  • The protocol
  • The domain name
  • The path

The following breaks down and explains these main components of a URL.

The Protocol

Also called the scheme, this is the very beginning of a URL. The most common protocols used are http:// or https://. The letters stand for hypertext transfer protocol; the “s” stands for “secure.”

The protocol is extremely important. It tells your browser how to communicate with a website’s server to send and retrieve information.

Unless you are interested in the minutiae of how data travels from one location to another, diving into the technical details about how the protocol works is really not necessary.

The Domain Name

The section immediately following the protocol is the domain name. It is usually the name of a website, such as “google.com” or “thewritersforhire.com.”

When someone decides to set up a website, it is up to them to choose the domain name. It is a good idea to choose a name that is easy to type, remember, and relates to the purpose of the website.

The last part of the domain name, such as “.com” is the domain suffix, or top level domain. While .com is the most commonly used, there are over 500 domain suffixes available. The most common ones are:

  • .com
  • .edu
  • .org
  • .biz
  • .gov
  • .net
  • .co

Many domain names used to begin with “www.” This was an abbreviation of the World Wide Web. It is usually not necessary to type in the www as you will be directed to the correct domain without it.

The Path

The file path (often shortened to “the path”) directs the browser to a specific page associated with the domain. If no path is specified, the browser will take you to a default page, such as a home page. For example, https://www.thewritersforhire.com/blog/ will take you to the main blog page of The Writers for Hire website.

The Parameter Stream and Anchor

Following the path, a URL can contain many more words, symbols, and numbers. These are often the parameter and anchor.

The parameter usually contains the “&” symbol and the anchor usually contains the “#” symbol. Both parts generally provide more specificity about where the browser should take a user.

One simple way to think of all these parts of a URL is to put it in terms of a mailing address.

  • The protocol is the delivery service
  • The domain name is the city
  • The path is the building
  • The parameters indicate the apartment
  • The anchor represents the person receiving delivery

How to Get a URL

If you are interested in creating a website, you will need to get a URL. The part that you need to focus on in this case is the domain name. You have control over what to name your website, and it will form the core of your URL.

In order to own a domain name, you will need to purchase it from a domain registrar (often referred to as “registering your domain”). There are many options available to do this. Prices may vary, and you should do your research to make sure you are buying from a reputable source before making a purchase.

You can check to see if the domain registrar is accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Registrars must meet certain criteria to be accredited. However, it’s probably best to do further research to make sure the domain registrar you use also offers good technical support and has many satisfied customers.

Most web hosting services will also offer to sell you a domain name as part of your web hosting package. Some will even give you a domain name for free for the first year. Just be aware that you will likely be charged for your domain name when the promotion is up.

How Does a URL Work

Destinations on the internet are actually identified by a series of numbers. These are called IP Addresses (Internet Protocol Address). They consist of 12 numbers separated into groups of three by a period, like this: 123.123.123.123.

It is possible to arrive at an internet destination by typing in the IP address. But imagine trying to remember a series of 12 numbers every time you wanted to visit a website. You might memorize a handful that you visit frequently, but it’s a terribly impractical system.

Instead, domain names with words are used. When a URL is entered into a browser, it is then translated into an IP address by something called a Domain Name Server (DNS). So the browser is using the string of numbers to bring you to your desired destination. The DNS just makes the job a lot easier for us to do.

Secure URLs

It is important to understand the difference between http:// and https://. Previously, http:// was in widespread use. More recently, there has been a move toward using https:// because it is a much more secure option. The “s” indicates that any data sent back and forth is encrypted before being transmitted. Encrypted data is converted in such a way as to make it safe from interception by hackers. 

It is easy to tell if a website uses a secure protocol. In addition to the “s,” there will also be a padlock icon shown on the far left of the website address.

How to Design a Good URL

If you need to create a website, choosing the right URL is important. You should first just focus on the domain name and top-level domain, or suffix, when making your choice. 

Keep it Simple

Short, easy-to-remember domain names are best, but many of the best names have already been taken. Still, the closest you can get to meeting these two requirements, the better.

It is not necessary to keep your domain name to one word. Simple phrases, as long as they are easy to remember, work fine. Thewritersforhire.com consists of four words, but it is easy to type, and each word is fairly short.

Try to match your domain name to the subject of your website. Again, thewritersforhire.com serves as a good example. Anyone seeing this URL will have a pretty good idea of what to expect when they land on the website. Conversely, cryptic names or ones that provide no clues about the website are harder to remember and can cause visitors to become confused.

Try to avoid the use of symbols. If you must use a separator, a hyphen (-) is better than an underscore (_), largely because typing a hyphen doesn’t require using the shift key.

Using the .com Extension

Sometimes the domain name you wish to use is not available. In order to find out, you can simply type in the name you are hoping to purchase, such as domainname.com. The registrar will be able to immediately indicate if that name is available.

If it isn’t (and this happens fairly often), the registrar will usually offer some alternative suggestions. Often the suggestions will be the same core name with a different top-level domain, such as .net, .biz, or .co.

It is a good idea to think carefully about whether or not to use a different suffix other than .com. Obviously, .com is the most commonly used, unless it is for a specific type of organization, such as a government agency (.gov) or educational entity (.edu).

Most people will assume your domain name uses the .com extension. So, if you want to name your website mywebsite.com, but it is already taken, you could instead purchase mywebsite.biz. The risk is that when someone wants to go to your website, they may not remember yours uses the .biz extension, and instead end up at your competitor’s site with the .com extension.

You can try modifying your first choice by adding a descriptor and seeing if that is available. For example, if you are an author and want to use your name for your website, you might run into trouble if your name is somewhat common. For example, there is a pretty good chance that JaneSmith.com is already taken. In this case, you could try adding your middle name, such as JaneAnnSmith.com. Or you could add a descriptor, such as JaneSmithWriter.com.

Why It’s Important to Understand URLs

This post has kept the discussion of URLs to the basic concepts that would be most useful to anyone seeking a casual overview of the subject. Diving deeper into the topic would require a more sophisticated understanding of the inner workings of the internet, and is not really necessary for the average person.

But URLs are one of the most important foundational pieces of the internet. Taking the time to understand how URLs work, and how carefully designing one for your website is important, will allow you to make more informed decisions when it comes to your own website or business.

6 Free Templates to Get Your Blog Started

Blogging is hard. There! I’ve said it.

For some people, the idea of sitting down and writing a blog from scratch seems incredibly daunting.

For starters, how do you choose a topic to write about? And how do you format your blog so that it keeps your readers engaged throughout? These are things that even the most seasoned writers struggle with.

So, why bother with blogging? Is it really worth the time and effort?

According to the people at Lyfe Marketing, blogging is vital to the success of small businesses because it boosts online visibility and helps businesses build relationships with their target audience. And given the fact that the majority of internet users in the United States not only read blogs, but trust the information they get from blogs, it seems that blogging is really just a smart way to grow your business.

But, where do you start?

This fantastic article we found from HubSpot is a great resource to get you started. In the article, they provide templates for six essential types of blogs:

  • The “How To” blog
  • The “What is” blog
  • The “Newsjacking” blog
  • The “List Based” blog
  • The “Pillar Page” blog
  • The “Infographic” blog

All six of the templates are free to download, and can be used as a starting point for your blog. So, next time you find yourself staring at a blank screen, unsure of where to begin, you can rely on these great templates to break through your writer’s block and help get that blog written.

Five Common Web Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Web copy can be tricky to master: It has to sell, but it can’t feel too salesy. It has to be packed with useful, relevant information, but it needs to be succinct and easy to scan. It has to differentiate your company, product, or service — but at the same time, it can’t feel like it’s “all about you.”

We’ve found that there are a few common web writing mistakes that come up again and again with web copy. In this post, we’ll explore five of the most common ones — and share our strategies for avoiding them.  

  1. Mistake 1: Ignoring navigation

    It’s tempting to treat content and layout as two separate things, but we’ve found that the most effective websites begin with an integrated approach. When you have a solid grasp of your site’s navigation and layout, you’re better equipped to write content that fits into that navigation in an intuitive, seamless way.

    A few questions to consider:

    How will visitors navigate your site?
    What information will they be looking for on each page?
    How can you ensure that visitors can find what they need easily?
    Will your most important copy points appear “above the fold”?
    Can you use design elements like callout boxes and sidebars to highlight key points?
    Is your copy broken up in a logical way?
    Do you have too many pages? Too few pages?
    What action do you want people to take after scanning the page?

  2. Mistake 2: Super-long copy 

    Good web writing should tell your customers what they want to know in the first two sentences. Remember, website visitors come to a site to gather information. If they have to read paragraphs of unnecessary fluff to get to the “meat” of your product or service, they’ll probably move on.

    Here’s an example:

    “You need a car to get you to work. You need a car to take your kids to school, for trips to the grocery store, and for epic road trip adventures. You need a car to live your life – but you don’t need to pay top dollar for it. That’s why Two Brothers Used Cars specializes in certified pre-owned vehicles – guaranteed to save you money.”

    The above paragraph is long and meandering, and it wastes valuable real estate stating the obvious: Your readers already know why they need a used car. They want to know why they should buy a used car from Two Brothers Used Cars.

    Here’s a better option:

    “Two Brothers Used Auto has thousands of pre-owned vehicles at wholesale prices. Reliable. Affordable. And all used cars come with a year-long free maintenance package. Come take a test drive today.”

    Our advice: Resist the urge to “ease” in to your copy. Jump in, be bold, and get right to the point — your readers will appreciate it!

  3. Mistake 3: The “Wall of text”

    People read differently on a screen than they do on a printed page – their eyes flit around the page, scanning for information. Copy that appears too dense — also known as the dreaded “wall of text” can be a turnoff.

    In fact, if your web copy looks too dense, readers will likely give up and move on.

    Here are some ways to break down those “walls” and make your copy more scannable and web-friendly:

    Use bullets to highlight important points.
    Use bolded headers.
    Break up paragraphs (limit each paragraph to three to five sentences, max)
    Use visuals like infographics, tables, or photos
    Use callout boxes and sidebars to highlight information
    Use lots of white space
    Insert links to relevant pages

  4. Mistake 4: Wordiness and fluff

    One way to keep web copy succinct: Avoid filler fluff and unnecessary words. Some hard-nosed editing can help streamline your copy. Scan your draft with these questions in mind:

    Is there a single, better word that you can substitute for two words? For example, you could use “boring” instead of “not interesting.” You could use “to” instead of the wordier “in order to.”

    Can you eliminate any fluffy, meaningless phrases? Don’t tell readers that your sales team is “committed to excellence” or “dedicated to success.” It’s much better to say something meaningful, like the fact that your sales team has a combined three decades of experience or has completed hundreds of hours of advanced training.



  5. Mistake 5: Showcasing features, not benefits

    Emphasizing the benefits of your product or service is more important than emphasizing features – that’s because benefits persuade, features only inform. Benefits are relevant to customers, features aren’t.

    For example, let’s say your company sells high-end wristwatches: Details like “illuminated dial,” “digital alarm,” and “solar-powered battery” are features. But why should a potential customer care? This is where the benefits come in: The illuminated dial means you can tell the time in the dark. The solar power means that you never have to replace a battery. The digital alarm means that it can pull double duty as an alarm clock or a stopwatch.  

Top Six (Really) FREE Image Sites

With the Internet’s seemingly endless stream of images for any given subject, it’s hard to know which ones are free to use, and which ones are protected by strict copyrights.

Seeing a large watermark on an image is generally a good indication that the image you are looking at is copyrighted.

But what if there is no obvious copyright watermark? And what if you are able to click on the image and save it to your computer? Does that mean that you are legally permitted to use that image for your personal websites or blogs?

The answers to these questions are not always clear, and even when you think you are following the right steps to make sure you are using an image that is not copyrighted, images that seem to be copyright free are sometimes only copyright free in certain situations.

The Sticky Details of Copyright Laws

Unfortunately, image copyright laws can be complicated to navigate. And violating those copyright laws can lead to penalties and expensive lawsuits.

Sure, there is a chance that the image you use will never be discovered. But the reality is that whoever took that picture or created that image deserves to be properly credited and compensated for their work.

That is where copyright licenses, and the laws that protect them, come into play.

There is a huge array of different copyright licenses that control how and when images can be used.

Some licenses are very restrictive, while others allow open and free use of the image.  The trick is figuring out which license your image is covered by, and what that license allows and prohibits.

For example, Flickr images are protected under eight different types of Creative Commons copyright licenses. The particular license used for each individual image is up to the discretion of whoever created or owns the image.

So, when using Flickr images, it is important that you find out which Creative Commons license is applicable to the particular image that you wish to use.

Types of Copyright Licenses

While there are a number of copyright licenses out there, some of the most commonly found licenses are:

  • All Rights Reserved: With this license, the copyright holder reserves all rights provided by copyright law. This includes the right to make copies, distribute the image, and license or otherwise exploit their work; no rights are waived under this license.
  • Royalty Free: A royalty free license allows you to use the image without having to pay any kind of royalty. Royalty free images are generally found on stock-photo sites, where the royalty has been paid already through your membership to the site.
  • Public Domain Work: Images classified under the Public Domain have been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law. This means that the image is free to be used for all purposes, without needing to seek permission or pay a fee.
  • Attribution: If an image is covered by the Attribution license, it may be used for personal or commercial purposes, as long as the user gives proper credit, provides a link to the license, and indicates whether any changes were made to the original image.
  • Attribution-ShareAlike: Like the Attribution license, this license allows free use of the image with proper attribution. It also requires that if you change or build upon the image in any way, you must distribute your contribution under the same license as the original.
  • Attribution-NoDerivs: Again, this license follows the same rules as the Attribution license; however, if you make any changes to the original, you may not distribute the modified image.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial: With the NonCommercial clause to the Attribution license, you may only use the image for personal use. The image may not be used for commercial purposes.

Educating yourself on exactly what these licenses cover, and making sure you know which license pertains to your image, is imperative if you wish to avoid any possible copyright infringements.

Penalties For Copyright Infringements

Making the mistake of using a copyrighted image without permission can hold some pretty hefty consequences.

First of all, it’s never fun to receive a scary looking “Cease and Desist” letter or an “Unauthorized Use Report” email.

Even worse, though, is when those notifices are accompanied by a demand that you pay a license fee or face further legal action.

And if you think you can get away with ignoring the notice and fee demand, think again! Failing to respond to the cease and desist can cost you a fine of anywhere from $200 to $150,000, plus attorney fees and damages.

To top it off, the image owner can take it as far as using the DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to get your entire site shut down.

So, How do you Know if Images are Truly Copyright Free?

The only way to know for sure is to check into the license for the particular image that you want to use.

When using sites such as Flickr or Shutterstock, each individual image should have a licensing agreement that explains whether or not the image can be used, for what purpose it may be used, and whether or not there is a fee associated with its use.

However, if you are simply doing a Google image search, the license information is not always easy to find.

Often, it is nearly impossible to find out who actually owns the license for many of the images.

And although it is possible to set Google parameters to show only copyright free images, there is no guarantee that the images that are shown are truly copyright free.

For this reason, we recommend that you always choose your images from a site where licensing information is clearly posted and easy to understand.

While there are many different image sites to choose from, these are our top six favorite sites for free images:

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. https://burst.shopify.com
  3. https://www.reshot.com
  4. https://pixabay.com
  5. https://gratisography.com/
  6. https://pxhere.com/

Not only do these sites contain breathtakingly beautiful images, they all also clearly state that their images are available for both commercial and non-commercial use and that credit to the photographer is not required but is, as always, appreciated.

And the best part? Sticking to one of these sites for your image searches will ensure that you can have peace of mind in knowing that you will not be in jeopardy of unknowingly committing a copyright infringement.

 **Note: While the sites we recommend do have copyright free images, it is always important to read the fine print before using an image. Although the image itself may be free to use, some of the things depicted in the images (such as identifiable people, landmarks, or trademarked logos) may have other copyrights or trademarks that require consent from a third party.

Accommodating All Five Types of Web Visitors

There are five different types of online visitors, each with unique reading and learning styles. In order to write effective copy, your website needs to reach each of the different types of readers and give them the information they need in the way they want it. Let’s take a look at each of the types of online personalities, and some best practices to get them hooked, make a sale, and convert them through your online copy.

Group 1: Information Gatherers

These folks want to know as much as they can before they make a call or place an order. They want to know your pricing, they want to read about your guarantees and warranties, they want to know how your product works, and they want to know your credentials — they want all the information they can get their hands on, really.

These are the people that will be reading your copy attentively, so all of the standard copywriting rules apply: Be clear. Be concise. Be specific. Be benefit-oriented. Remember, the golden rule of attracting Information Gatherers is to never make them guess.  

Group 2: Visual Learners

Visual learners hate to read. When they come to your website, they’re looking for a few pictures or charts where they can quickly grab the info they need to make a decision. You can accommodate visual learners by adding graphics — like a flow chart about how your business or service works, or a table comparing your prices to your competitor’s prices. There are also lots of web tools out there that can also accommodate visual learners, including:

  • Test results
  • Process charts
  • Labeled diagrams
  • Infographics

Group 3: Doers

Doers don’t want to research your company or read your website. Period. They want to get it done and move on. They want to find your action statement — and they want to find it fast. Doers literally read your headline and then scroll to the bottom of the page to place an order or fill out your contact form.

If you want to keep their attention, you’ll need to give this group something to do: Every page of your website needs to have a call to action — whether it’s “Print this Coupon Now for a 15% discount” or “Sign Up For Our Newsletter.” And remember: This group doesn’t want to dig around for information. Make sure that your call to action is clear and easy to find. Don’t bury it in a bunch of copy — highlight it, make it bold, make sure it’s in a prominent position on your website.

A few other ways you can capture (and keep) doers’ attention:

  • Put contact information on every single page
  • Allow for multiple methods of contact:  phone, email, forms and even chat

Group 4: Speed Readers

This name is a little deceptive, because “Speed Readers” don’t actually read your website — they skim it. The opposite of Information Gatherers, Speed Readers figure they can get everything they need by reading the headlines and a few bolded points. To make this group happy, your web copy needs to be broken up and easy to scan.

A few other ways to keep skimmers happy? Use bullets, big headlines, and bolding to guide them to the main ideas.

Group 5: Listeners

These guys would rather see and hear it than read it. They love videos and voice-overs. This is the group that will want to check out your company’s YouTube channel right away; they’re huge fans of things like product demos, unboxing videos, and video testimonials.

Unlimited Combinations

Most people are some combination of these five basic types. For example, Speed Reader/Information Gatherers skim your content for the important stuff, but if they like what they see, they’ll come back later and scan each page in-depth. Some people are Doers when they’re in a hurry — but when they have enough time on their hands, they’ll go into Listener mode and scour your site for video testimonials and demos. 

This is why it’s important to accommodate all types of visitors.

By tailoring your content to each type of audience, you’re ensuring that people can interact with your website however they want. Tweet this

This is also why redundant content is acceptable — and even desirable — in web writing. People are going to skim, scan, and skip around. By including things like key points and contact info on each page, you’ll ensure that nobody misses the critical information.

Microcopy: Small Words with a Big Impact

When it comes to communication, few things are as important as the words we choose. Especially in written communication.

And although most writers pay close attention to how things are worded when writing web content, there is one kind of writing that tends to get overlooked or downplayed as being less important.

That is microcopy.

Not only is quality microcopy vital to making sure that your content is understood, it is also an important factor in engaging people and increasing both the usability and likeability of a website.

This interesting blog from Prototypr gives a great explanation of what microcopy is and why it is important. It also gives some fantastic tips for improving the microcopy on your own website.

Your Website Migration from HTTP to HTTPS

If you have browsed the internet lately, you have probably noticed that when you attempt to access HTTP sites, you get a scary-looking warning about possible security risks.

You have also probably noticed that more and more companies are switching from HTTP to HTTPS.

But what is the difference? And why is it such a big deal?

Well, we found a great article from online.marketing that explains everything you need to know about HTTP and HTTPS.

In the article, they explain the differences between the two, the security risks you are taking when you are accessing an HTTP site, and how moving from HTTP to HTTPS can influence your site’s SEO and Google rankings.

They also provide detailed instructions on how you can move your site to HTTPS.

How to Make Your Website 60% More Effective

  1. It’s no secret that shorter paragraphs on web pages makes for easier reading.

    But, did you know that shorter webpages are nearly 60% more usable?

    Additionally, tweaking your copy and re-writing it to be more concise, scannable, and objective can increase the usability to 124%!

    According to this interesting article from Wylie Communications, by simply cutting down on the amount of words you use and getting rid of some of the unnecessary clutter, your readers actually retain more information and are far more likely to read through your entire webpage.

    The article also gives some great pointers on how to make your webpage more Web and Mobile friendly.

The 1,000+ Page Website Overhaul…How to Undertake a Massive Website Rewrite

Much has been written about crumbling infrastructure throughout the United States.

If it’s not roads and bridges, then it’s internet networks and dated telecommunications infrastructure.

But not so much has been written on the effects of aging on internet content.

The internet has been around long enough that many sites have compiled years of content and supplemental pages.

How do companies and universities manage updating and creating content for huge, often unwieldy sites?

A large content production or migration project can appear daunting at first.

Anyone who’s worked on one of these projects for the first time inevitably has come out the other side with a laundry list of learnings.

From architecting new structures to staffing a writing team large enough to complete the project in a timely fashion to hand-holding subject matter experts and ensuring an efficient workflow, large content project managers will have had to work through the bottlenecks common to such large-scale projects.

Preparation

A proverbial analogy for today’s large-scale content production projects might be different takes on “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

If we consider the content as the “baby” and the platform as the “bathwater,” you can see how the various iterations of these projects might look:

  • If you chuck the baby, then the scope of the project involves producing all new content to populate your current platform.
  • If you chuck the bathwater, then you’re looking at a content migration project where the biggest challenges become identifying content you want migrated to a new platform and new content you want produced (an example being your company’s desire to migrate your content and data to the cloud).
  • If you’ve chucked it all, or perhaps have no baby or bathwater to begin with, then your challenges multiply.

Obviously, there are subtle variations to each of these scenarios.

And while there are plenty of marketing firms that can handle large-scale content management, when it comes to actually producing the living, breathing content that your users will consume, the task of creating compelling and cohesive content on a large scale can prove challenging without a well-honed writing team in place.

Assembling Your Team

Even if your company employs a third-party marketing firm to handle content production and management, many marketing firms don’t staff a large enough writing team for such large-scale projects.

So, the first issue that needs tackling is ensuring coverage of the sheer manhours required to produce large amounts of high-quality content while maintaining an attentive focus on cohesion.

It’s not enough to simply hire 10 or 15 writers and divide up the work.

Those writers need to form a fluid team that works well together, understands the broad scope of the project, and can converge to meet a common goal.

Project managers will be the critical hub for these types of large-scale projects.

Not only will they be involved with staffing a cohesive writing team, but they will also be instrumental in attaining consensus for the style guides that need to be produced, in drafting training materials and process documentation, and in assisting through the decision on what to repurpose and what to scrap.

Project managers are also key to keeping a project on budget and on schedule.

Wintress Odom, Owner of Houston-based The Writers for Hire, says “To ensure the project stays within scope, each individual writer needs to understand how much time they have allotted per writing task, else ‘small’ overages on individual tasks can add up to hundreds of extra work hours.”

Extra works hours can equate to budget overruns and missed deadlines.

Oh. And, of course, you need an editor.

At the risk of going over the top with the proverbs, when it comes to editors, you might consider that too many cooks spoil the soup.

Odom says, “For large projects with multiple writers on a team, it’s important to have a single editor.”

She qualifies this by explaining that a single editor will have the entire vision of the project within their scope, and by introducing multiple editors, there’s a good chance the rate of inconsistencies in tone, content, and style grows exponentially.

Together, the project manager and editor will oversee the writing team and ensure stuff gets done on time.

Ramp Up

At project inception, one essential key Odom identifies is in ensuring the initial architecture takes into account not only the form the project is to take, but also in preemptively constructing a chain of command that will streamline the decision-making process and save time and headaches down the road.

For such a large-scale project, everyone involved has to be on the same page.

This is done by documenting workflow and review processes before a single word gets written.

Process documentation can range from the bare minimum to quite extensive.

On a large project, you might find the need for some or all of the following:

  • Project workflow guides
  • Content guide
  • Chain of review roadmap
  • Stakeholder responsibility definitions
  • Writer and stakeholder training on project-specific software

Odom stresses the need to have most of this in place before starting a project. “You are bound to tweak processes as you go along, but starting a major website overhaul without key procedural documents is a costly mistake.”

The one exception?  Surprisingly, the style guide.

“If a company doesn’t already have one,” says Odom, “trying to create one before the project is somewhat ridiculous.  You can’t possibly anticipate all of the nuances you’ll run into, from capitalization preferences on company trademarks to oxford commas.”

Odom suggests recording preferences – building a living style guide – as the project progresses.  Then, completing a front-to-back edit just to implement style guide decisions right before launch.

One last invaluable tool for allowing the writing process to flow much smoother is the key messaging platform.

Most larger companies have this valuable marketing tool already.

It’s a master marketing message document, covering the company’s branding as a whole as well as each individual product and service the company offers.

The key messaging platform provides cohesion across all marketing mediums and ensures not only consistency in branding and style, but also a roadmap to avoid multiple content producers from having to reinvent the wheel.

Thankfully, the internet makes available a wealth of prompts and tools for creating effective key messaging.

Workflow

Throughout her career, Erin Hanson, Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk in Northern California, has had to learn many lessons through trial and error.

Earlier in her career, Hanson was charged with the daunting task of overhauling content for the entire University of California at Berkeley extension course catalog, a project which ended up taking over two years.

To give you a sense of what one of these large-scale projects looks like, consider just a handful of the tasks Hanson had to manage for the university’s site overhaul:

  • Drafting and distributing requests for proposal for third-parties
  • Gap analysis for requirement gathering from student information and records
  • Gathering information on each field of study’s course descriptions and certificate programs
  • Creating and managing content hubs for each of those fields of study
  • Conducting student interviews—one in each field

“The bottlenecks,” Hanson describes, “were everywhere. To begin with, there was a lot of data, old systems that needed to be shut down, migration to plan out and the need to get sign off from academic stakeholders.”

For Hanson, now at Autodesk, the reliance upon technology to manage large scale content cannot be understated.

She uses a wealth of technological trappings such as digital asset management software and other browser-based search tools to manage an immense workflow.

Odom agrees on the use of technology in workflow management and recommends using a task-based workflow process to track the current status of each website page.

This type of system means that a stakeholder can see any page’s progress at-a-glance.

The system also makes it easy to see where pages might be held up – scheduled for a subject matter expert interview, waiting on technical content review, or stalled due to an unanswered question.

A proper workflow management system will also allow for per-task conversations, feedback, and communication.

The alternative is corresponding and trading files through email or a less sophisticated file-sharing system which Odom dismisses as “a total mess.”

Working With Subject Matter Experts

Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

High-level subject matter experts aren’t always in great supply.

Realistically, the ones in your company likely have some of the best and most relevant insight into the content you’re producing.

However, relying on in-house subject matter experts to produce content may represent a general misalignment of goals.

Consider:

  • SMEs don’t have time. A subject matter expert is likely fully immersed in their job responsibilities and may not prioritize their assigned content production duty.
  • SMEs are not always good writers. These folks may be the best at what they do, but when it comes to articulating that for the rest of us, they may not be good enough writers.
  • SMEs have different goals. Marketing department and corporate bonuses are often built on key performance indicators, many of which are deadline driven. SMEs, on the other hand, may have an entirely different set of KPIs, in which case they’re not incentivized to work within the timeframes your content production project demands.

As an alternative to relying upon in-house subject matter experts to produce well-written content, try using those SMEs as mini-editors.

It takes far less time for an SME to make themselves available for a brief interview, and to review and comment on content created by someone else than it would take for them to sit down and craft new content from scratch.

When interviewing SMEs, Odom recommends modifying communication styles and setting clear expectations.

The discourse style of an enterprise developer is bound to be markedly different than a financial advisor, for example.

When working with SMEs, Odom has found that “Some people just don’t do well with pre-call preparation. They need to react to your questions off-the-cuff.  Others want prep questions and campaign briefs to feel comfortable.”

Finally, one of the most important elements of creating large amounts of content quickly lies in being able to shepherd those SMEs through the writing and editing process.

Relationship building becomes paramount as there will inevitably be the occasions when a SME is dragging his feet in getting back to you.

Conclusion

Whether you’re migrating and repurposing large amounts of content or you’re charged with scaling a new project which might feature tens of thousands of pages, you’ll want a clearly defined plan of attack and a staff of qualified writers. Tweet this

But perhaps the greatest dividend to having completed a large-scale project is that you now have a team in place that’s fluent in your culture, your subject matter, and your goals.

Odom agrees.

After working on a large project, “We now know how all those departments work, we know all their key messaging. We just happen to be offsite.”