Website Writing Tips

Relevant Content for Your Landing Page

If your landing page or main page doesn't provide the information your visitors need,

the website itself provides little value no matter how easy the site is to use. Cogent Text can help you write content for your website or landing page.

When writing for a website, use familiar words and avoid jargon. Ensure that abbreviations and acronyms are clearly understood by users and defined on the page.

Make the first sentence of your paragraph descriptive of the the rest of the paragraph. Be brief in each paragraph and follow a logical structure to present your ideas. Use uppercase and lowercase letters appropriately, write in active voice, and limit the amount of text on each navigation page.

Clear Writing: the Key to Relevant Content

Cogent Text can help you use plain language to extend the reach of your small business by making your writing

    • targeted to its audience

    • clear

    • concise

    • task-oriented

    • scannable

    • hyperlinked

    • SEO enriched

How To Write A Good Advertisement

To define what constitutes good print advertising, we begin with what a good print ad is not:

    • It is not creative for the sake of being creative.

    • It is not designed to please copywriters, art directors, agency presidents, or even clients.

    • Its main purpose is not to entertain, win awards, or shout at the readers, “I am an ad. Don’t you admire my fine writing, bold graphics, and clever concept?”

In other words, ignore most of what you would learn as a student in any basic advertising class or as a trainee in one of the big Madison Avenue consumer ad agencies.

Okay. So that’s what an ad shouldn’t be. As for what an ad should be, here are some characteristics shared by successful direct response print ads:

    • They stress a benefit. The main selling proposition is not cleverly hidden but is made immediately clear. Example: “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

    • They arouse curiosity and invite readership. The key here is not to be outrageous but to address the strongest interests and concerns of your target audience. Example: “Do you Make These Mistakes in English?” appeals to the reader’s desire to avoid embarrassment and write and speak properly.

    • They provide information. The headline “How to Stop Emission Problems—at Half the Cost of Conventional Air Pollution Control Devices” lures the reader because it promises useful information. Prospects today seek specific, usable information on highly specialized topics. Ads that provide information the reader wants get higher readership and better response.

    • They are knowledgeable. Successful ad copy reflects a high level of knowledge and understanding of the product and the problem it solves. An effective technique is to tell the reader something he already knows, proving that you, the advertiser, are well-versed in his industry, application, or requirement.

An opposite style, ineffectively used by many “professional” agency copywriters, is to reduce everything to the simplest common denominator and assume the reader is completely ignorant. But this can insult the reader’s intelligence and destroy your credibility with him.

    • They have a strong fee offer. Good ads contain a stronger offer. They tell the reader the next step in the buying process and encourage him to take it NOW.

All ads should have an offer, because the offer generates immediate response and business from prospects who are ready to buy now or at least thinking about buying. Without an offer, these “urgent” prospects are not encouraged to reach out to you, and you lose many potential customers.

In addition, strong offers increase readership, because people like ads that offer them something—especially if it is free and has high perceived value.

Writers of image advertising may object, “But doesn’t making an offer cheapen the ad, destroy our image? After all, we want awareness, not response.” But how does offering a free booklet weaken the rest of the ad? It doesn’t, of course. The entire notion that you cannot simultaneously elicit a response and communicate a message is absurd and without foundation.

    • They are designed to emphasize the offer.

Graphic techniques such as “kickers” or eyebrows (copy lines above the headline), bold headlines, liberal use of subheads, bulleted or numbered copy points, coupons, sketches of telephone, toll-free numbers set in large type, pictures of response booklets and brochures, dashed borders, asterisks, and marginal notes make your ads more eye-catching and response-oriented, increasing readership.

Why? My theory is that when people see a non-direct response ad, they know it’s just a reminder-type ad and figure they don’t have to read it. But when they see response-type graphic devices, these visuals say to the reader, “Stop! This is a response ad! Read it so you can find out what we are offering. And mail the coupon—so you can get it NOW!”

    • They are clearly illustrated. Good advertising does not use abstract art or concepts that force the reader to puzzle out what is being sold. Ideally, you should be able to understand exactly what the advertiser’s proposition is within five seconds of looking at the ad. As John Caples observed a long time ago, the best visual for an ad for a record club is probably a picture of records.

At about this point, someone from DDB will stand up and object: “Wait a minute. You said these are the characteristics of a successful direct response ad. But isn’t general advertising different?”

Maybe. But one of the ways to make your general advertising more effective is to write and design it as a direct response ad. Applying all the stock-in-trade techniques of the direct marketer (coupons, toll-free numbers, free booklets, reason-why copy, benefit-headlines, informative subheads) virtually guarantees that your advertisement will be better read—and get more response—than the average “image” ad.

I agree with Howard Ruff when he says that everything a marketer does should be direct response. I think the general advertising people who claim that a coupon or free booklet offer “ruins” their lyrical copy or stark, dramatic layout are ineffectual artists more interested in appearance and portfolios than results.

This article appears courtesy of Bob Bly's Direct Response Letter.

Becoming Your Own Editor

by Moira Allen

Writers speculate a lot about what editors really do. Some firmly believe that editors are the final barricade between writers' excellent manuscripts and publication. Others seem to believe that the job of an editor is to clean up after writers and tell them what to do next.

To a certain extent, the latter is true. When a manuscript comes along that is so magnificent that no amount of typos can detract from its impact, many editors will clean it up, and gladly. Usually, though, they must weigh whether such "clean up" time will be justified by the final product. More often than not, the answer is no.

You can avoid this answer, however. If you follow these four easy steps, your editor will be able to judge your work using the criteria that really count: Its content and style. Better yet, you'll never have to wonder again about what an editor does, because you'll be doing it yourself!

Step 1: Get to the Point.

The first thing an editor wants to learn from your manuscript is its purpose. What is the story you are going to tell, and why? Why is it important? Don't shroud your purpose in three or four cleverly written but pointless opening paragraphs.

If you're writing a story about Old Sam, a three-legged border collie who was the most unforgettable dog you've ever met, don't start your article with this kind of opener:

"When I got out of college with a few courses of animal science under my belt, I had little idea how bleak the job outlook would be. I wandered from clinic to clinic, but no work was to be had. Then my old buddy Joe, who owned a sheep ranch out on South Fork Road, offered me a job as a stablehand..."

This sort of opener may ramble on just like buddy Joe's ranch before the author finally gets to the point: "And that's where I met Old Sam." All of this information may be important, but it isn't the point of your story. Old Sam is.

If, on the other hand, your opening sentence is "Old Sam was the most unforgettable dog I ever met," your editor might not think you have the world's best knack for opening lines, but he will know what you plan to talk about up front, and be more inclined to read on. If that background information is really necessary, find another way to work it in.

Part of getting to the point is explaining to the editor, and the reader, why he or she should spend time reading what you have to say. Why are you writing this particular article? Why are you writing it now? The answer may lie in your credentials, your personal experience, or simply in your ability to express important ideas to the editor's readers.

Let's say that you want to write an article about a new virus in cats. Why should the reader hear about this from you? The answer could be that you're a veterinarian who has handled several cases of the virus and can enlighten cat owners about it; or you might be a cat owner who learned about this disease, and you want to share the information you've gathered. Or, as a writer with a "nose" for a good story, you might choose to interview both veterinarians and cat owners about the disease and its effects, providing an article that combines human appeal with expert information.

The approach you choose will depend upon your market and your audience, but you should make two things clear from the beginning: Why this topic is important, and why the editor should accept you as the best person to write about it. Then let your story tell itself.

Step 2: Get Organized.

While I was editor of a pet magazine, one of my associates told me of a trick she had learned to help her organize her thoughts while writing: "Think in subheads." Just about every magazine or newspaper story of any length is broken into smaller chunks, each set off with a subhead. Those subheads make the page look better visually, and lead the reader through an organized series of ideas.

If you look at your article carefully, you'll probably find that it breaks down into three or four major component ideas. Thinking of subheads for these ideas gives you a chance to organize your thoughts into the appropriate categories, almost like creating an outline for the article after it has been written. You may find during this process that you need to flesh out one of your ideas in greater detail, cut back on another, or add yet a third. Your subheads don't have to be cute or catchy; their primary purpose is to help you organize your material (and to demonstrate that organization to the editor).

Step 3: Get rid of the clutter.

When you break your article into subheads, you may find that you have some ideas that don't belong under any of the categories you've roughed out. This may mean one of two things: You need another subhead, or you don't need that material at all. The information might serve as a basis for another manuscript, but will only clutter this one.

It can be painful to look at a stack of notes and realize that, even though it took you hours to get that information, you can't use it all in your article. But part of your job is precisely that: Deciding what is most important about the information you've amassed, and presenting that--and only that--to your readers. If you leave it to an editor to pluck the gems from the clutter, he may simply pluck a rejection slip from the drawer instead.

So read through your work again. Once you've organized it, you'll find it easier to spot ideas that are only tangential to the main subject, or identify background material that is interesting but doesn't contribute a great deal to the basic idea. Try pulling some of this material out of the main text and presenting it as a sidebar.

Suppose, for example, that you are writing about cancer treatments at a particular clinic, and you've found some interesting information about another clinic or another method that seems promising. If that information doesn't belong in the main body of your piece, write it up as a complementary sidebar. If the editor likes your sidebar and has room for it, you may even get paid extra for it. But if not, you won't have jeopardized the success of your main article by cluttering it with extra information.

Step 4: Keep it "clean."

Whenever an editor receives an all-but-illegible manuscript, filled with typos, the first reaction is that the writer doesn't care enough about the magazine or its audience to present the best article he can. The editor will be prejudiced against such an article from the beginning, and the writer will have to work twice as hard to prove that the content of the article outweighs the sloppy presentation.

Unfair? Maybe. But if a writer doesn't check for the typos and grammatical errors--the easy stuff--an editor is bound to wonder whether that writer was any more careful where it counts. When a manuscript is littered with misspellings, what assurance does the editor have that the writer has checked facts, verified every phone number, and doubled-checked figures and the spellings of names?

Editors also get irritated by the idiosyncrasies of computer printouts. While computers have come a long way, remember that if you are asked to submit an electronic copy of your article (particularly in text format), your editor may have to deal with weird characters that creep in where you've specified formatting commands (such as underlining or italics). Editors also don't care to deal with the weird spacing that results when you justify the right margin. Leave that sort of formatting to the magazine; when submitting your manuscript, do as little formatting as possible.

Be careful, also, of errors that creep in when you make corrections or changes. It's easy to miss duplicate sentences, or half-sentences, or bizarre formatting problems that result from careless corrections. Don't just hope the editor can figure out what you meant to do; do it right the first time.

Finally, editors like to know that you know they exist, and that you know what is going on with their publications. When an editor receives a manuscript addressed to his predecessor's predecessor (it's happened to me!), he can't help but wonder how recently the author has examined a copy of the magazine.

The penultimate sin, of course, is to leave out your self-addressed, stamped envelope. Make sure that you've put enough postage on your SASE; I've known writers to slap a single first-class stamp on a 9 x 12 manila envelope that would require additional postage to mail even if it were empty. (The ultimate sin, of course, is to allow your manuscript to arrive with postage due.)

So take another look at that manuscript you're about to put in the mail. Did you read it through with an editor's eyes--the eyes of someone who has never seen it before and doesn't know in advance what you're trying to say? Is your print clean and dark? Is there enough postage on both envelopes? If you've answered "yes" to all of these questions, congratulations! You've begun to think like an editor--and removed another barrier between you and success.

Copyright © 2001 Moira Allen

This article originally appeared in The Writer.

More Marketing Tips for Your Business

A few months ago I heard a radio commercial for McDonald's.

I'm not a big fan of general advertising, but I thought this

commercial was moderately clever and effective.

In the commercial, a guy walks into work late carrying a cup of

McDonald's coffee.

The irate boss berates him: "You're late because you stopped and

bought a cup of McDonald's coffee?"

"Nope," the worker replies.

"What do you mean, nope?" the boss says, irritated. "It's right

in your hand."

"But I didn't BUY this cup of McDonald's coffee," our hero

corrects him. "I got it FREE when I went to McDonald's and

bought a delicious breakfast meal."

What they are selling, of course, is not the brand or the food.

They are selling the offer: buy a breakfast and get the coffee


Read More.

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