Who Are You?
Stephanie Hay, Former Viget
Coming up with words to pitch services or products can be tough. When you have so much to offer but so little time to explain before users potentially lose interest, finding the right words is imperative.
More often than not, clients choose to tackle writing content for their sites in order to save time and money; however, because they're so close to their messages, this approach sometimes can be counter-productive. What comes back can range from text that's too cumbersome for making a quick impact to ambiguous content that's jargon-heavy.
My best advice to clients -- aside from hiring an objective (but informed) copywriter -- is to not think too much. Well, at first, anyway.I've found that circling around-and-around on various one-line introductions or explanations ends up being a slippery slope. So, when I'm challenged to help a client tackle this important element of a site, I always start by writing a stream-of-consciousness style paragraph about my perceptions of the client's offering -- what it is, how it can add value to my life, why it's different (and better) compared to competitors, and what I should do to experience it for myself. In other words, I write from consumer's vantage point. More often than not, writing as the consumer inevitably introduces keywords that the client might not naturally have thought about. Those keywords are natural descriptors that might strongly resonate with other users like me; and, by extension, provide superior fodder for the search engines, too. On the flipside, we also learn what doesn't seem to work -- such as (arguably) over-used terms like "easy" or "no hassle" -- and find ways to filter them out while adding unique identifiers elsewhere. After this initial brainstorming is secured, then I consider the other personas we've created to determine whether they'd find our tactics appealing. I take the tweaks borne from this exercise and present my refined text to others who fall into our target demographic -- do they consider the text concise and approachable? This last stage can repeat several times as we ensure our personas (and the real people representative of that target audience/s, ideally) are primarily being considered. Once we're confident with our work -- and the text meets stakeholders' preferences for style, tone, and messaging -- we're off to a great start. And I say "start" because we'll ideally continue refining those keywords and messages in association with how the site's content is performing in the search engines and against various other metrics we're analyzing. Sure, ultimately, our aim is to get it "right" the first time, but that mentality can cause content paralysis. Fluidly tackling the process above is a great way to capitalize on the flexible nature of the web to learn what works and what could be improved.