Blog: Content writing and content strategy insights

Tip: Remember your web content is data

Your web content (and everything else you write for business) is treated as data. Therefore:

  • Write headlines and page titles that describe the document or give its key message.
  • Write a summary of the document straight after the headline.
  • In link-text, put key information about the page people will jump to (not "Click here").

Virtually every time you write a business or professional document, it exists in electronic form. That electronic document is electronically labelled and stored in various electronic ways—not in a metal filing cabinet. And it will be treated as data, so that other people can find the document when they search.

The internet is hyperspace, with multiple dimensions, and that's where your document lives.

  • Entire web pages are lump of data that can be re-used in many places.
  • Headlines and summaries are crucial bits of data that can appear in many places.
  • Other data that's obviously re-usable: contact details, share prices, corporate information, news items, photographs, slides, information... I could go on all day.

That data can be used and found in 1,000 places simultaneously (not just on the original piece of paper). For example, it could pop up in Google search results, on other web sites, in spreadsheets and PDFs, in Google Docs, online newspapers, on FaceBook and Twitter.

Writers, these fundamental facts about modern communication mean we need to write in a particular way. Picture your words in hyperspace—or at least in a different context: they should still make sense.

The Queen may talk proper online soon

I was amused to read last week that Queen Elizabeth II has commanded (well, contracted, I suppose) Tim Berners Lee to fix her web site. Nothing but the best! is pretty stuffy at present. Take a peek while you can: the new version will appear on 12 February. Video clips make the site more exciting than it was 10 years ago, but they're shown in the YouTube context, so you have the delight of seeing QUEEN jostling The Queen.

The current site has been added to... and added to... and added to. Inevitably, navigation is a shambles.

But if I remember correctly, not much else has changed — including the mean little font and the pompous language. Words are emitted into the ether from a great height. One supposes that one would expect one's monarch — or rather, her communications staff — to err on the side of formality when addressing the hoi polloi. Still, let's hope the makeover includes a few pronouns, especially "you" and the plebeian "we".

Here's a taste of the de haut en bas tone:

The British Monarchy Media Centre is managed by Buckingham Palace Press Office.

It is intended to provide a dedicated resource for members of the print, broadcast and online media in the UK, Commonwealth and worldwide, and to aid members of the public interested in the daily programme of members of the Royal Family, speeches by members of the Royal Family, or seeking information about previous Royal engagements.

How kind. Shame about the grammar. But that's what you get when you launch into a 55-word sentence. I hope Tim will tell you that.

The Queen herself is said to be driving the revamp:

Now, at an age – she is 82 – when many of her contemporaries are turning their backs on new technology, the Queen is determined to make her website – first launched 12 years ago – more user friendly and relevant to modern-day society.



A crime wave to be proud of

This morning's Dominion Post delivered two stories that amount to an electr(on)ic crime puddle seeping through New Zealand. First,

A thief stole three Oral B electric toothbrushes worth more than $300 from the Cuba St Farmers. He was chased into The Dominion Post building but escaped. The toothbrushes were recovered. Do you recognise this person?

A splendid photograph of the offender accompanies the report. Mouth is closed, perhaps to hide neglected teeth. The shame! Life is cruel: no doubt he only wanted to improve oral hygiene of his nearest and dearest.

And how about this riveting headline? Cybersquatter changes mind over jet website. Naughty Mr Twigge had registered two days after OzJet airline announced that it would start trans-Tasman flights. Asked Ozjet for $5000, then for free flights to a theme park for a terminally ill child and his family.

A contrite Mr Twigge, of Palmerston North, said he raised money, which he then donated to charity, by buying and selling domain names.

He has now quit the practice and issued a public apology for causing offence. He now says [...] he crossed the line in terms of ethics, though the practice is legal. [...] "I'm a Christian, but I probably haven't walked the walk. I screwed up."

Lovely Mr Twigge, where were you when we were searching domain names for a new venture? Domain tasters without a trace of Robin Hood snatched some of our best choices the moment we noted them as possibilities. Such meanies! Eventually we just bought any domain name that looked halfway OK. We don't want them. Nor do we want the hassle of changing ownership. Anyone for,,, poneke.dom? Wait 11 months and they're yours.

P.S. I'm sorry to say New Zealand does have real criminals and horror crimes, besides quaint peccadilloes. We don't skite about those.



A marketer who understands Web 2.0

Big sectors of the marketing industry are determined to ignore all the implications of today's internet scene. Heads in the sand, they still create sites that are all sound and fury, signifying nothing - hype without facts, visions without detail. The Web is the world's greatest tool for comparison shopping, yet too many marketers still believe we will be seduced by assertions and ego-massages, and run straight to buy the product.

Not so with Michel Fortin, the Success Doctor. On his site is a free white paper, "Death of the Salesletter". Cunningly he explains the advantages of blogging as a marketing tool compared with the old model of a long, long salesletter, the one that won't let you go until it's told you every benefit and bonus, and answered your every objection.

A marketing blog can break down the structure into bite size sections and serve them up separately. The separate points of a salesletter stand alone, and readers can respond, get involved, and even assist the seller.

By contrast, the traditional long salesletter doesn't let you get a word in edgeways. Michel Fortin gets the web.

Michel Fortin

Blogging in Fakaofo

Computer-talk figures in the imaginative games of Celia (10) and Max (7).

'This is Lizardcom and the old country is Lizardmania,' Celia quickly explains. Max's lizard is attacking Lizardcom in an army truck.

'Watch out! The upgrade has been cancelled and Sir Lord Scratch is no longer indestructible!' High drama. There's no sign that playing computer games has diminished their power to play old-fashioned hardware games. It's just expanded their vocabulary.

As the family is on its way to Tokelau for six months, I bullied Geoff and Rebecca into starting a blog. (You can lead a horse to water...) In fact I started one for them and commanded the family to watch while Celia wrote her first entry. Then she said, 'I already got a blog six months ago.' Oh? She had never written anything in it, but she remembered the password and name (yo2you) and sure enough, there it was. She's right: neither the why nor wherefore of blogging should need any justification or explanation, especially when you are about to travel to a remote tropical island with the improbable name of Fakaofo.

Using the Web to persuade

Interested in how Web 2.0 services persuade people and change their behaviours? Then this message from the renowned BJ Fogg, Director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab is for you.

'My Stanford students have created short videos (averaging 2 minutes) that show how Web 2.0 services persuade people and change their behaviors. The videos are interesting -- and sometimes funny. I'm inviting you to help evaluate some of these videos before December 4th. You can rate one video or twenty. The choice is yours.

'The videos with the highest rating will be featured in the Captology Film Festival on December 7th at Stanford. You're invited to join us at that event. For more info, see .

'To watch and rate the videos, go to:'