Posts

5 Ways to Making Your Web Content More about ‘You’ and Less about ‘Me’

How much do you think about the needs, expectations and opinions expressed by your past clients while churning out new web content pieces created to support your promotional goals?

If it took you more than a couple of seconds to provide an accurate answer to this question, then perhaps you’re doing something wrong.

Maybe you’re boring your audiences to death with mundane “who-we-are” type of speeches, fluff talk, and empty promises. If that is the case, now would be the best time to rethink your strategy and kick your selfishness to the curb, for your own good.

Today, it is less about you, and more about them- your clients, the ones who keep you in business.

Companies that are currently working on a unique web content creation plan tailored to their short and long-term goals plan have to maintain a fine balance between crafting branded content and elaborating user-oriented content with no brand affiliation whatsoever.

5 Ways to be about you

Let’s work on appealing to “them.”

Why Your Branded Web Content Shouldn’t Be Only about You

Let’s face it: no matter how well-researched and informative branded content may be, it can still fail to reach its target, simply because it is promotional by nature. Savvy online visitors can read between the lines and separate a truly useful, reader-oriented piece created to entertain, educate or inform an audience, from a shameless sales pitch. Branded content can serve your best interest, as long as you put the needs of your potential clients first. How do you do that? We invite you to try not one, but five awesome tactics designed to boost the value and overall effectiveness of your content, make it resonate with your public and make your company seem a less self-centered and more inclined towards the happiness and fulfillment of its clients.

1. Try to Become Less Egocentric and More Empathetic

First of all, check out your website and analyze your content. What kind of feeling do you get after taking a closer look at your landing pages? If you are egocentric by definition, chances are that you have stumbled across many “we do this and that”-kind of sentences. In this case, you may want to consider investing in a complete rewrite. Frankly speaking, your prospects don’t care about your products until you give them a reason to do so. In other words, they won’t try your goods until you come up with a combination of incentives (better quality, smaller price tag, freebies, special promotions and so on) that could raise their interest. You don’t have to offer substantial cash rewards to keep your readers on your website. Even the tiniest perks triggering negligible costs (free eBook or white paper download or a discount code) can cultivate the loyalty of your future and existing customers.

2. Write with Your Prospects in Mind and Avoid Promotional, Heavily Brand-Focused Web Content

Promotional content can backfire, especially if it puts your interests above the ones expressed by your prospects. This threat is real, judging by the fact that one year ago, even Facebook considered tweaking the News Feed to reduce the amount of overly promotional content that was being served to its users on a daily basis. Web content, and especially the one meant to be distributed on social media platforms, should become the epitome of interactivity.

Engaging posts usually comprise a plethora of elements that catch the reader’s eye and make him click on links over and over again.

For instance, according to KissMetrics, photo posts get up to 104% more comments and 53% more likes than the rest. Question posts also receive up to 100% more comments. Furthermore, the length of your content appears to be another matter of great importance, considering that posts under 80 characters obtain 66% more engagement than longer ones. Therefore, write with these numbers in mind and tailor the substance and appearance of your posts based on the particularities of your audience.

3. When It Comes to Rolling out Branded Web Content, Make Sure It’s 100% Unique and Catchy

We totally get it: well-rounded, promotional web content can help you increase brand awareness, reinvigorate sales and attract new prospects. If you are planning on turning your branded content into one of the main pillars of your marketing strategy, at least do your best to individualize your writing and make it reflect your vision, expertise, tradition, relationship with clients and the uniqueness of your brand.

As Content Marketing Institute suggests, any business owner should start to think like everyday people, rather than striving to act like a CTA-oriented, old-school marketer. Self-appreciating content is anything but shareable, so work harder to get in touch with your buyer persona and gain insight into your public’s needs, demands and preferences, instead of trying to shove your products down your buyers’ throats.

4. Create a Community around Your Brand Through Engaging Content

Here’s another idea worth developing and implementing: start thinking like a customer.

Yes, you’ve got that right. If you were to shop around for a new detergent, what kind of selection criteria would you set up to make a great buying decision? Maybe you want to discover a formula that eliminates stains faster and more effectively than any other, or wish to spend less money on cleaning products. Or perhaps you want the best of both worlds and feel determined to go for a brand that fulfills your request.

At the same time, as a Forbes article points out, in order to craft engaging content, you should spend a lot of time talking to some of your customers.

Any feedback is much appreciated because it helps you make smarter changes when needed. Once you complete this phase, you should strive to catalyze connections. Socializing with your fans and followers is a relatively straightforward process; the real challenge is to stimulate them to bond with each other. The Red Bull’s success story revolving around a solid community of enthusiastic adrenaline junkies is only one example that may catch your attention.

An article signed by James O’Brien and published by Mashable provides the most logical explanation for Red Bull’s ever-growing popularity: this company is a powerful publishing empire that happens to promote and sell an energy drink. By generating content geared towards the passions and interests of a very specific audience, Red Bull manages to favor natural interactions between its fans and followers, while growing its influence (and profit margins) the easy way.

5. Identify the Perfect Niche/Players that You Can Work With to Promote Your Product from the Shadow

How do you promote your merchandise in an effective manner on social media (and every other online channel) without becoming annoyingly self-centered and redundant? Here’s the key to cultivating your empathy (and even faking a sense of modesty, if you will) while marketing your goods on social networking sites: create associations that make sense to you and your brand.

For instance, Christian Louboutin (@louboutinworld) is featuring some of the best photos sent by happy clients wearing the iconic red sole shoes. At the same time, the giant brand doesn’t hesitate to team up with other powerhouses, such as Louis Vuitton, to enhance the desirability and luxurious appearance of its products.

After all, shoes, handbags or accessories introduced by these two popular brands in the same picture represent Instagram gold and a magnet for likes and reposts.

Can You Really Be Yourself Without Being Too Much for Yourself?

At some point in our lives, we may get the impression that we are being too much for someone- a family member, a friend, an employer or a client. This situation may trigger our frustration and make us reconsider our attitude.

But the other extreme can be just as dangerous, especially for new businesses that need to grow fast. In today’s market being self-absorbed is a crucial sin that your clients and prospects will never tolerate.

Therefore, if you want to preserve your competitiveness, it’s your job to become less self-centered and improve your branded content to highlight the best attributes of your brand without suffocating your audience with sales presentation-like monologues.

If you are at a loss for words or want to let an expert take control of your branded content, hire a team of professional writers and let them ignite a powerful, unshakable desire in all your potential buyers, fans, and followers.

Top 9 Companies That Nail Holiday Content

As retailers rush to prepare for the flood of holiday shoppers, marketing departments are working in full swing to develop creative Christmas marketing strategies for their customers. The holidays are a great opportunity to add a special touch to marketing campaigns, and there are certain companies that have truly nailed the holiday touch of web content for 2014.

Nine Companies That Hit the Mark on Awesome Holiday Content

What companies were really in the spirit this season? Here is a list of Christmas marketing campaigns that are sure to catch your eye.

 1. John Lewis – Monty The Penguin

monty the penguin

John Lewis is a one-stop shop for electronics, furniture, home décor, and more. This UK based company has created a Christmas marketing campaign involving a little boy named Sam and his best friend Monty the penguin. Their TV commercial tells the sweet story of the duo doing all kinds of activities together, from feeding ducks at the park to decorating the Christmas tree. Monty begins to feel empty because he’s looking for love, and he’s in store for a surprise Christmas morning. However, the viewer might be in for a bigger surprise.

This Christmas campaign is brilliant for three reasons: it connects to the viewer on an emotional level, it tells a story, and the penguin is adorable. See for yourself:

The story of Monty does not end with the commercial. On the John Lewis website, there is an entire section dedicated to Sam and Monty. The Monty section has a variety of interactive elements, including a 360-degree panoramic world of Sam and Monty. There are various scenes that kids can explore, with most of them stemming straight from the commercial.

explore montys world

Fans of Monty also have an opportunity to buy a book and a stuffed replica.

montys christmas

Monty: A Penguin That Tweets

Want to know what Monty is up to at every minute? You are in luck – Monty the penguin also happens to have his very own Twitter account. What is it exactly that a penguin tweets about? Find out by following him on Twitter.

monty twitter

There are a lot of great holiday campaigns, but John Lewis hits the Christmas marketing aspect from every angle possible. Few companies go as far as creating tangible items based on their Christmas campaign. There is a lot of competition here with John Lewis, and Monty the penguin (complete with his own hash tag #MontyThePengiun) is going to be a tough act to follow.

2. Kmart – Jingle Bellies

Kmart’s new Christmas ad featuring the ‘Jingle Bellies’ is a promo for Joe Boxer. Kmart had a similar commercial last year called ‘Show Your Joe’ that went viral on Youtube with over 18 million views.

This year, Kmart played off of the 2013 commercial with the new Jingle Bellies. This ad has a few guys drumming to the beat of popular Christmas music using their bellies, with a pair of silver Joe Boxer boxers making their debut at the end.

The ad has been posted on Youtube for about a week now, and it already has over 1 million views. Maybe the Jingle Bellies have a chance of going viral, too?

Bath and Body Works Nails Visual Merchandising and Display

If any retailer hammers home the holidays in their products, it’s Bath and Body Works. The soap and lotion retailer has a knack for visual merchandising in their stores, and their window displays really help lure you in to check out more.

bath and body works

Once you enter the store, there is even more holiday set up that grabs the eye.

bath and body works store

Bath and Body Works really works with the visual aspect of marketing, and it really works for their products in store.

However, Bath and Body Works also jazzed up their website for 2014’s Christmas season.

bath and body works website

They gave their logo a holiday overhaul by stringing lights through the latters of their name. The polar bear background also rotates to showcase more holiday product, where they play on words to emphasize the holidays.

bath and body works products

Lastly, Bath and Body Works holiday products always stand out in terms of visual appearance. They go big during the holidays with bright colors, metallic finishes, and some products contain glitter to give that true holiday sparkle.

4. Marks and Spencer – Follow The Fairies

British companies are upping their game this year with Christmas advertising, and Marks and Spencer is no exception. As a competitor of John Lewis, Marks and Spencer’s holiday campaign features fairies that dust an entire town with sparkle, helping people find lost pets, and bringing children outside to play in the snow. The campaign is called ‘Follow the Fairies’, and they are following in the footsteps of John Lewis by using social media elements (#FollowTheFairies) to tie their Christmas campaign together.

You can watch the video on The Guardian website.

Evidence of the fairies campaign exists on the Marks and Spencer website, but it does not have its own dedicated section like Monty the Penguin.

marks and spencer

Marks and Spencer adds touches to the campaign instead, adding the fairies to the gift finder section. I think they could have played up the fairies a bit more on their website, but it is still a cute concept overall.

5. Old Navy

Old Navy usually has fun Christmas campaigns, and this year they are decking out their website to prep for Black Friday. Their header graphic features a count down to the days left to the biggest shopping day of the year, and their homepage is filled to the brink with deals for the big day.

old navy

6. Target’s Wish List App is Great For Kids

Target is another company that usually has decent Christmas marketing campaigns, and their website for 2014 is decked out for the holidays. Their holiday website design elements are on the subtle side, with golden stars adding a bit of sparkle to their homepage.

target

Target also offers a wish list app where kids can build lists directly on smartphones and tablets.

target wish list

When you open the app, pop ups appear on the home screen that announces deals and freebies.

target popup

The app is divided into two sections: adults and children. You have to enter the name of a child in order to create a wish list account on the app.

The adult view of the wish list is comparable to what you would see on the website. However, the child’s wish list account is a little more magical.

target wish list for kids

Kids can pick their own character, ranging from elves to gingerbread and snowmen to help build their wish list. Once they select a character, they move on to another interactive scene where they can build a wish list from the wishing headquarters and decorate individual rooms.

target wish list interactive

This app is a great option for kids building a wish list that enjoy gaming and interactive elements of Christmas.

Target’s Christmas commercial features Alice in Marshmallow Land, where a small girl goes through Alice in Wonderland inspired adventures, including falling through a Target logo rabbit hole and eating marshmallows to grow smaller. Target usually has great holiday commercials, and their 2014 commercial is perfect for the Christmas season.

7. Starbucks – Sparkly Holiday Gifts

When you think about Christmas shopping, most likely Starbucks does not pop into your head. However, similar to Bath and Body Works, Starbucks adds sparkle and shine to their products for the holidays.

starbucks

Starbucks’ home page features a graphic to guide you into their holiday tumbler and product selection. Their holiday collection shop is filled with metallic mugs featuring Christmas trees, ornaments, and gift sets.

starbucks website

Starbucks’ website presentation and graphics really hit the spot for extra holiday cheer.

8. Cardstore.com Candid Christmas Cards Contest

cardstore.com

Cardstore has a funny contest running right now called the Candid Christmas Cards Contests. Cardstore is looking for candid Christmas photos that capture the ‘real life’ aspect of Christmas – kids crying on Santa’s lap, holiday mishaps, and any other occasions that are candidly caught on camera.

candid Christmas card

Have any holiday photos like this? Cardstore might just make you a winner.

9. Petsmart’s Holiday Moments and Save a Life Campaign

Don’t forget your pets this holiday season. Petsmart has quite a few holiday elements happening on their website right now, and it is not just all about buying treats and toys for your pet. Petsmart has a Holiday Moment widget, where they feature customers tweeting holiday photos of their pets.

petsmart

Petsmart’s Pinterest is also decked out for the holidays, with a board solely dedicated to pet gift inspiration. One of their most popular pins features a Christmas wreath made entirely from Christmas dog collars.

petsmart pinterest

Of course, there is always the opportunity to save a life through Petsmart this year. Petsmart offers toys with proceeds helping homeless animals, direct options to donate, or even adopting a pet of your very own for the holidays.

petsmart donation

As the season progresses, there are bound to be even more companies that are putting out genius holiday content. There are always the companies that consistently put out great holiday content every year, such as Budweiser and Coke. However, there always seems to be a company that surprises everyone with a tearjerker campaign or something super creative. Who will that company be this year?

Featured photo credit: chestnutphoto / iStock

 

 

matt cutts

Is Matt Cutts Leaving the Google Web Content Scene?

Anyone having basic knowledge of SEO and website development is familiar with the name of Matt Cutts. A digital “friend” slash ultimate horror to many webmasters, Cutts has been the head of Google’s web spam team and a company employee for almost 14 years.

Matt Cutts surprised the online community in July 2014 with an announcement that held a little secret. A blog post informed the world about the break Cutts intended to take for a couple of months. In his blog post, Cutts wrote:

I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more. I know she’d like me to be around more too, and not just physically present while my mind is still on work.

The leave was initially scheduled to last through October but Cutts presented another surprise in the end of the month. That’s when the world learned his leave was going to be extended into 2015. There has been no specific information about when Cutts will return and numerous people have reasonably began asking the question whether he’s going to come back and fight spam anymore at all.

Cutts later took part in an interview and his answers suggest that a new professional direction could possibly be on the horizon for him.

Brief History of Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts joined Google originally as a software engineer. He has become popular through the numerous blog posts and videos about the best anti-spam techniques, particularly the ones addressing the latest Google updates (the Panda and the Penguin that shocked the SEO world starting 2012).

Cutts is listed as one of the inventors of the Google search engines and web spam patented technology. Since then, he has often been the “bearer of bad news” that informed the SEO community about PageRank downgrades and penalties that have affected the search engine positioning of so many websites.

Cutts has literally made hundreds of videos to answer the most common and pressing questions about algorithm updates, Google’s anti-spam policies, content creation and other news that have affected professionals in the field. He has also participated in a number of public initiatives and he’s also been a Ted speaker.

Are We Bidding Matt Cutts Goodbye?

After announcing the extended leave, Matt Cutts has provided a bit of additional information that has made many think he won’t be coming back.

I loved the part of my job that dealt with keeping an eye on what important news was happening related to Google, but, it’s not clear that having me as a lightning rod for unhappy black hat SEOs, or something, is the best use of anybody’s time compared to working on other things making the world better for Google…so we’ll see.

This is a big change from his original statement. In the first announcement, Cutts made it sound like he wanted to dedicate more time to his family. The next time he addressed the situation, there was some additional information connected to his Google work.

Some more information was shared during a web chat show called This Week in Google. During the show (around 9 minutes and 50 seconds), Cutts said that everyone on the Google anti-spam team was doing exceptionally well since the start of his leave. The leave allowed team members to try new things and approach problems from a different angle.

Cutts also said that the Google team encourages members to rotate between different departments and it’s rare for one professional to remain on the same position for an excessively long period of time. During the interview, Cutts said that he has a big number of other interests (computer graphics and commodity hardware being two of those) and would love to get involved in such an alternative project.

To sum it up, it seems that Cutts has gotten tired of addressing the complaints of blackhat SEO professionals and bringing all of the bad news to such individuals. Though it’s a speculation, his comeback to the Google anti-spam team appears to be highly unlikely. If this prediction comes true, it will mark the end of a crucially important era that has changed the world of SEO and online content creation forever.

It’s also interesting to note that the news about the extended leave was presented at a time during which a major layoff was announced by Microsoft. The latest Microsoft layoff affected Bing Senior Product Manager Duane Forrester. Just like Cutts, Forrester was a very popular professional and a representative of the Bing team who often made key announcements and interacted with webmasters.

Forrester was a member of the Bing team for four years and his layoff indicates that two of the world’s most prominent search engines are facing the task of coming up with new visible personalities. Microsoft justified the layoff with corporate structure changes that affected several prominent Bing teams.

Don’t Panic and Know Where Your Towel Is

Yes, we just did a reference to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Webmaster forums and blogs have been buzzing with information and reactions about the extended leave. Some have been quite happy about Cutts being gone, others worry about the implications of having somebody else in the driver’s seat.

Google’s algorithm policies have been going in a consistent direction over the past few years and one professional change isn’t expected to have significant impact on the course of events. Sticking to quality content, avoiding spammy techniques and working on increasing audience engagement will certainly continue contributing to effective SEO.

There are some speculations about the latest Penguin update and whether it would have been rolled out differently under the guidance of Matt Cutts. It’s all a learning process, both for the Google anti-spam team and for optimization professionals. Only time will tell whether the Google policies about spammy practices are going to head in a completely different direction in the years to come.

Photo credit: www.ted.com

 

 

drowning in crappy content

Are We Drowning in Crappy Content?

The ocean is enormous. It’s made up of five separate bodies of water, but there is really only one ocean broken up over the planet. In fact, as of 2013, it takes up approximately 71 percent of the Earth. It’s pretty amazing too because it houses about 99 percent of the biosphere and is home to some of the grandest geological features on the planet. But it’s also made of saltwater, something that isn’t all that awesome for humans dying of thirst. I don’t know about you, but if I were stranded in the middle of the ocean dying of thirst, I’d look out across all that water and say, “Well, this is downright crappy!”

If the Internet were the ocean and you were dying of thirst for quality content, you’d find yourself in the same predicament because we are literally drowning in crappy content! Yes, it looks like the web is flooding with content, but instead of, “Oh no! Too much content!” going on, there’s actually a dire lack of quality and an overabundance of non-quality content. It’s like searching for a fresh water oasis (quality content) in the middle of mile after mile and gallon after gallon of never ending saltwater (low quality, crappy content).

“Dollar Days” Have Produced More Saltwater vs. Freshwater Content

We wrote a piece on LinkedIn that received over 300 views in a few days called, The Dollar Days of Online Content Are Gone. The response from the professional community has been intense, and the comments we received validate our belief: we’re drowning in crappy content.

Years ago, it was commonplace for Webmasters to hire the cheapest writers on the Internet (and perhaps the planet) to “write,” and we use this term loosely, their content. The process was simple:

  1. Locate the writer who would accept pennies on the dollar pay averaging $1.25 to $2.00 USD per page, article, or blog.
  2. Send said writer a list of keywords to cram into the content.
  3. Receive said content and publish.

I so badly want to sing the Sesame Street song that says, “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong.” But to tell you the truth, NONE of these things belong.

Webmasters and business owners have been so driven by profit margins that they’re gung-ho about skimping on the fundamental staple, the ultimate moneymaking tool that sits so ready at their fingertips: content. Now, it’s understandable that business budgets aren’t what they used to be. After all, economics and the economy affect every last one of us. But the fact that a talented, professional writer (not one these non-English speaking yahoos with zero educational background, no relevant experience, and a complete lack of understanding of even the basics of English grammar) is considered a waste of money is absurd, not to mention more than a little insulting.

I apologize for being so blunt, but the Great Quality Content Depression and subsequent flood of crappy content is a direct result of the hiring of underqualified and often completely UNqualified fakers wielding the title of Writer. As a result, the rest of us are trying to turn the tide on misinformation, a terrible reputation, and a world that scoffs at the idea of writing being a legitimate, demanding profession!

The ‘Anybody Can Be A Writer’ Idea

So you think you can be a writer, do you? It’s easy, right? I mean, everybody writes. We all went to school. We all wrote essays and papers. We all know how to spell and write complete sentences. Writing is easy! It doesn’t take skill, talent, or technique. Hell, it doesn’t even take a lot of time.

If you were lying on the floor dying of a heart attack, what’s the one thing in this world you would want above everything else? Think hard. You would want a paramedic. Why? Because they are highly trained and skilled responders, capable of keeping their cool and doing whatever it will take to keep you alive while rushing you to a medical facility. Why would you want to be rushed to a medical facility? Because there are dozens of trained professionals there who can and will do everything possible to save your life. Thanks to their training, chances are they’ll succeed.

  • Did you know that a well-researched, properly written, engaging, and emotionally moving piece of content sometimes takes hours to write—even for the professional writer who writes 5 days a week, 8 hours per day?
  • Did you know that while some people wrote essays and papers in school that barely squeaked by with a passing grade, others wrote A+ papers that actually moved the teacher and left a lasting impression—one that 10 years later the teacher remembers like yesterday?
  • Did you know that there’s more to writing than spelling and complete sentences? Can you spot misuse and errors involving subject-verb agreement, clauses and phrases, pronouns, prepositions, ellipses, and confused words? Can you confidently explain what any or all of those terms truly mean in practical working fashion?
  • Did you know that storytelling is the art of using the written word to craft mental pictures, tickle the five senses, and connect with readers on such an intimate level that each reader believes the content was written just for them?

Anyone can be a writer? Writing is easy? It doesn’t take skill, talent, or technique? If all of this is true, then you don’t need a paramedic or even a heart surgeon. Anybody will do!

You see the point. Writing is no less demanding than any other profession, and writers are not entitled to mere pennies on the dollar for high quality work. Crappy content, that’s what you pay a couple of bucks for. Quality content comes with a price because it’s quality—just like YOUR quality product or service. You get what you pay for.

How to Levitate Above an Ocean of Crappy Content

Thanks to the dollar days of content, the Internet is crawling with downright scary bad content. When is the last time you took a good, long, hard look at your content? Are you part of the saltwater infested ocean, or do you stand out as engaging, compelling, and fresh-water?

Business 101: In order to succeed you must stand out as different. Something has to be unique. How can you levitate out of the Crappy Content Ocean and make it to the Quality Content Clouds where you will be seen both near and far? Get yourself an Industry Copywriter.

As a business owner and/or webmaster, you face a tricky challenge. How do you create a strong online presence, reach your target audience, AND appease the great Google gods? It’s a tall order. You might have tried keyword stuffing, but we all know that thanks to Google’s array of algorithms, those days are gone with the wind. Maybe you use redirects and link building tactics. Are you—perhaps without full knowledge—using black hat SEO techniques? Such techniques only inundate the web with more crap content. STOP!

Google’s goal is focused and singular. They are creating the best possible experience for the user, whether they are mobile or in front of a desktop. Who is the user? The user is every person on the planet who pulls up Google and googles. They want legitimate, relevant, well-crafted results. And they’re only going to see you if your voice is stronger than everybody else. The best way to achieve this is through quality content.

Quality content isn’t just landing pages and website content. It’s sharable content, from blogs and PRs to Tweets and G+’s. It’s media for the busy audience like videos and podcasts. It’s SlideShares and social media re-shares. It’s all those words from big to small, and the word and character counts that have to encompass it all.

Don’t throw you money away by being a cheapskate and hiring the “writers” still trapped in the dollar days! If you think that will save you money, just wait until the content has to be rewritten by a professional because it’s riddled with errors and shunned by Google.

Industry Copywriters – Your Best Investment

Industry copywriters are experts. They are specialists with proven, tangible experience in YOUR industry. They are the combination of an industry expert and a skilled, talented writer with up-to-date copywriting knowledge. The benefits of hiring a professional copywriter far outweigh the woes of not.

Sure, you can hire that so-called writer who’s coming to you live from the cheap pricing of a third world country, but why would you put yourself through that headache? When it comes to the business of online presence and search engine rankings, here are some words to live by: Quality over quantity and return over initial cost.

Writing ain’t easy, folks! It takes a professional to know when to fudge the rules versus when to hold fast to them. And it takes an industry expert to craft copy that appeases the almighty Google whilst drawing in your ideal clients and supporting conversion. Will you continue to drift in the saltwater or levitate above as a sparkling, freshwater oasis?

web design and content

Websites of 2014: 12 Great Designs and How They Work With Content

Image credit: Life of Pi movie website

 

We’ve taken a look at how poor web content writing can destroy a well-made website but we didn’t explore the other side of it: the look and feel. Making sure that your content is fantastic is one thing, but creating a design to match can really elevate everything that’s being done to a whole new level.

Without visual flair visitors will be hesitant to eat your fantastic meal that you’ve prepared for them because it looks like brown and gray sludge. It doesn’t matter how delicious it is. When you put it all together in a visually appealing way, and still keep the deliciousness, then no one hesitates to eat it and everyone tells their friends.

Here are some of the top 12 sites to beat in no particular order.

 

#12: Life of Pi

This movie came out in 2012. We’ll admit that. But the site was ahead of its time. It is doing a lot of tricks that some designers are just now picking up. As you scroll down you get a little adventure the whole time, much of it in video. At some points, (again, you only have to scroll down to experience all of this seamlessly put together), you’ll see facts about the movie come onto the screen, allowing the content and design to come together in complete harmony. Essentially, you can look at the entire experience as an enhanced preview. In a time when most movie websites look barely better than what people were putting up themselves on GeoCities in the mid 90s it’s refreshing to see this kind of attention paid to marrying content and design.

 

#11: Lexus

We’ll tell you right now that one of the phrases that will be used a lot in this article is “parallax scrolling.” Parallax scrolling isn’t a new concept. Well, it seems to only be a new concept for website design. It’s been used in cartoons since you were a kid. See how confident we were in saying that? It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s been used. It has even been used in video games for decades (Super Mario World had it). But now it’s come to website design fairly frequently.

Lexus makes amazing use of it and allows users to essentially navigate an entire world of landing pages without loading anything or moving to another page at all. Even within the parallax scrolling body are smaller sections of the site that are independently interactive. For a good example of this, head to the site and go to the “Journey” section. While plenty of sites are using parallax scrolling by itself, Lexus is one of the few that is using it in tandem with already-established practices for even greater effect.

 

#10: Blocklevel

Most of our English-speaking readers won’t know this (unless they use Google Translate) but Blocklevel is a company that designs websites, Facebook games, and all kinds of other web-oriented things. But the specific content isn’t why we’re here, although you can tell that the content is hard-hitting and concise (it is).

The design of the site draws inspiration from the flat design trend that’s been overtaking everything from Apple’s new iOS to indie video games (Thomas Was Alone) to smartphone applications (Taasky). It’s the exact opposite of parallax scrolling. There is no illusion of depth, just bold simplicity. It’s easy on the eyes, easy to navigate, and allows your content to be the star of the show by pulling your eye right toward it. They both do wonders for enhancing content but Blocklevel is one of the examples of flat design gone right.

 

#9: Theory Design

Sidebars used to be all the rage but they didn’t always work on every browser with every setting. Sometimes necessary content got cut off to the side like a bad photographer cutting off your heads in a holiday family photo. All that’s left is ugly Christmas sweaters.

Nowadays it’s all about the header that scrolls down with you. This may not seem different at first but you lose the risk of having content roll off the side. It’s easier to position all of your content smack dab in the middle of the screen and there’s no problems with cutoff. In fact, that middle position brings your eyes, again, straight to the content rather than having two sections of text that, depending on the positioning, bring your eyes back and forth or even pull your eye to the blank space between the two pillars of text.

 

#8: Realtii

Have you noticed any similarities about any of these sites yet? That’s right; they’re all long scrolling websites. Most of their content is on one continuous page. Even if each of the sections are connected to a different web address, they are blended together so they are effectively one page. Most of the buttons, if the site even has them, cause the site to scroll down quickly rather than open a page. This reduces any load time and reduces wait time because your visitors aren’t clicking on things for design, they’re clicking on things for content. Easy design just grabs their attention and keeps them around.

 

#7: Paper Tiger

I’m going to ask you to please bring out your cell phones for this next one because “responsive design” is the name of the game for this site. When you go to the site on your PC it looks gorgeous. Some parallax design elements, some wonderful typography, easy-to-digest content. But when you open it up on your smartphone is when it gets really interesting. Without even having to direct you to m.papertiger.com you see a perfectly formatted site.

The parallax scrolling and header have been eschewed for a fully functional, flat design that just brings you content with no frills and minimal loading time. The buttons are massive and bold, making them perfect for even the clumsiest of thumbs and easy to see when you’re walking around or bumping up and down on the bus.

 

#6: Goldee

The first thing you see on the Goldee site is a button that plays a video. When you watch it you immediately answer the questions:

  • What is Goldee?
  • Who runs Goldee?
  • What’s Goldee’s mission?
  • How does Goldee work?
  • What can Goldee do for me?
  • How can I get Goldee?

 After that, if you still have questions, you can scroll down through simple content and a sight design that illustrates what Goldee is setting out to do for you.

 

#5: Tool

When you open up Tool’s website you are greeted by a background video and your eye is directed right toward “View Reel.” This is going to sound counterintuitive, but bear with us for a second. The video that it leads you to doesn’t tell you much if you don’t know what the business is. If you know what Tool is, then it’s impressive. If you don’t, then you immediately are curious about checking out those header buttons.

Speaking of the header, it’s not intrusive at all. It doesn’t take up a quarter of the screen or distract the eye, but you know it’s there when you need it.

 

#4: NASA Prospect

This is not a site for any particular product or service but more of an art project that was done by several students for the Humans in Space Project along with NASA. It illustrates a lot of the aspects of parallax scrolling and various situation-specific changes to the site as you progress.

 

One thing it has that hasn’t been touched on so far in this article is story telling to build emotional connections. And writing  Although this isn’t for a brand, it illustrates the point beautifully. If you’re thinking of making your site interesting it can help to bring a story into it.

The first time you load this site up you are curious about why there is an astronaut floating alone in space (without David Bowie singing “Ground control to Major Tom…”). As you scroll down further and further you get more of a narrative and new things to discover.

“Why shouldn’t I just have a paragraph on our ‘About Us’ section?” some of you may ask.

The reason that you shouldn’t do that is due to pacing. Some of the above sites pace their content so that it’s read and absorbed at a certain speed (though most of it isn’t story-related content). Stories absolutely thrive on pacing and this is one of the first times that stories have been able to be presented in this way. With a good story, the content and design can enhance each other and get the visitor more invested in what you have to say and more curious to see what you have up your sleeve.

 

#3: Dangers of Fracking

Fracking is an incredibly divisive issue… and we’re not going to talk about it here. Leave your politics at the door when you’re visiting the site because we’re talking about how design enhances content.

Everyone has seen those crisp, cartoony infographics that have been popping up everywhere for the past few years. This is a larger version of that concept. As you scroll downward  (with parallax scrolling, no less) you are treated to a story, pop-up facts (or “facts” depending on your political stance), and a seamless website from top to bottom.

In years prior this site would have been made into a video, slow-loading flash site, or, worse yet, separated into multiple pages (yuck!). Now it’s just simple, clean, and bright with small amounts of text that convey content clearly and easily. It even adds most of the bullet points to the header as you scroll downward, creating a mobile header as you go.

 

#2: Pack

This is a little site about dogs and the people that love them (if the huge words on the homepage weren’t enough for you). Aside from the long scrolling, the header, and the small sections of content that is easy to digest, it remembers one other thing that makes you love the content that much more.

That thing is that no one wants to read Comic Sans, Curlz, or Papyrus. It’s been shown that you can discredit yourself with fonts so this may be one particularly important piece of web design, even beyond all the technical prowess and HTML5 magic.

With the Pack website you can see, very simply, the emotion of the website just by the font. It’s playful and kind of raucous and full of energy (like a dog). Even the name of the company, Pack, has something about it that is a little laid back. It’s sans serif, making it a little less formal, but it doesn’t have that serious look of Ariel or Helvetica. It’s more laid back because of the rounded edges on the corners of the letters. It’s like the weekend version of Gill Sans. Just, y’know, like whatever… I’m gonna go play with my dog.

 

#1: 24 Hours of Happy by Pharrell Williams

This is at least 360 music videos in one. This is one of the best marriages of design and content because the design is the content. It’s a continuous 24-hour music video of Pharrell Williams’ song happy. You can watch Pharrell sing the song or watch various people dance to the music. Simple design, good typeography, content at the forefront, and no need for tutorials to navigate the site. Just a laid back song on a laid back site that might make you want to pick up the new Pharrell album.

 

Great content and product may bring people to your site but a great, streamlined, and intuitive design will keep them there and keep them coming back. It’s absolutely vital to join the two so that you can attract the attention of your established base as well as maybe winning some converts in the process because, if all things are equal between you and your competitor’s products, your design may be able to tip the scales in your favor.

 

 

contagious content

5 Secrets for Creating Contagious Content for Social Media & Web Content

You know those few liners or single paragraphs that make your fingers itch to go buy the product being sold? Whether it’s a raspberry soda, a set of office pens, or a new Starbucks coffee: contagious content is all around us, selling us daily on purchases we make decisions on instantly. So how do YOU create it for YOUR brand and your customers and clientele?

 

Going Viral with Contagious Content

 

Let’s face it; everyone wants his or her site to go viral at least once. It is the new stardom, the new celebrity power. Getting your website or content to go viral means becoming someone with a bit of Internet power and that is pretty cool. By having something you posted reach thousands or millions of viewers means your site is being shared and viewed more than ever and people want to know who created this viral post. Here are a few secrets to creating that contagious content!

 

1. Let’s Be Positive, Shall We?

Positivity is very important when it comes to creating that content contagion. With all the negativity in the news, people want to read something optimistic. According to Social Triggers, the way to craft contagious content and make a post positive for a reader is to invoke happiness, awe, or surprise. People like to learn interesting tidbits of information in constructive ways. They are also more likely to share something that they have learned from or found useful, as long as it is something that is positive. This is something we will discuss further on in this post.

  • Get Happy! People want to feel happy when reading articles online. They get enough of the gloom and doom by watching television. It seems that so much of what people hear these days is filled with which country is having an uprising, which politician is the lowest person of the week, or how many people have lost jobs. This is all very important to people, but they just do not want to read it or hear it every hour of the day. Become the positive beacon in a world of darkness, and people will share your site with friends.
  • Inspire Awe. We also like being in awe. Before and after pictures online are intriguing because they show a drastic change in an environment. People are apt to share these photos or stories with their friends. “Look at this! Can you believe it?” they will say. Positive awe-inspiring content is important when gaining clicks and becoming viral. Give little tidbits of interesting information or create a post that lists some really interesting life helps, or as the kids say, lifehacks.
  • Most Excellent, Dude! Surprise them! Exceed their expectations. In this instant society, people are more likely to make a knee-jerk assumption based on past experiences. While it is not the coolest thing, it happens far more than anyone wishes to admit. Knowing this can help you when try to go viral. Make that first impression count. Create a web design that is outstanding, with a quick loading website. Spice your content up by being unique enough to get attention, but not too unique as you may scare readers away. Do something that will completely catch viewers off guard. When they are caught off guard, they will instantly tell someone. Facebook and Twitter have made it simple when it comes to instant sharing of websites or a really nifty post, so make your post shockingly sharable.
  • Negativity: Stop It! As the classic Bob Newhart MadTV sketch says, “Stop it!” Stop negativity before it gets too far. Media is full of negativity and posting something negative will add to the cacophony of undesirable posts, getting lost in the smorgasbord of negativity and will not garner enough visits or likes to get you viral. Sure, we see a few negative posts getting attention but not many. Generally the negative posts being shared are from news sources about bad things going on in the world. Focus on creating a positive environment and you will find that more people will like and share your post.

 

2. Be Useful and People Will Come

We all like for people to see how smart we are. We also like feeling as if we are part of a community. We really appreciate it when people value our opinions or thoughts. It is Psych 101. Knowing this can help you as you begin creating contagious content. Create posts that people will share because they feel it will help them look knowledgeable in an area. Something like this infographic shared by Who Is Hosting This is really great when it comes to learning facts and passing them on, making the sharer feel knowledgeable. In fact, this very infographic states that the top articles shared from the New York Times website were science related topics! People love science, people love learning, knowing, and sharing. Especially in the current climate of nerds being kings and queens of the world.

  • In the Know. According to the New Yorker, being “in the know” is really important to people. It is a way to belong to a certain group and feel accepted. It does not necessarily go along with being knowledgeable in the area such as science or math, but is part of being astute about what is going on in our social world. Knowing what is current. Staying up with existing trends is a must in this rapidly changing society, if you keep posting “outdated” things, people will begin to ignore you. Know your audience and the current social climate when you are making social media and web content, especially if you want to go viral.

 

3. Emotions for the Win!

As stated earlier, emotions are what get your post shared the most! We have discussed some emotions evoked by various viral content such as joy, awe and surprise. According to Social Triggers, other emotions conjured by viral content are anger, anxiety and fear. These are generally emotions you want to avoid when sharing content; because the majority of people do not like posts such as these. The occasional post that arouses these types of emotions might be beneficial, but not often. Make sure to research everything before posting something that could create an undesired emotion.

  • Negative Emotions: Stay Away. People do not want to feel negative emotions. People will leave your social media site ignore it if you post constant negative updates. They will not share pessimistic updates because they understand pessimism is not something their followers want to see. It is important to note that some negative emotions may provoke a slightly positive response; an example of this would be righteous anger.
  • Seeing Red. While it might not seem like it, people really do not like feeling angry. They do not want to see seemingly endless postings that conjure up feelings of irritation. They will stop following sites that make them feel that way. Again, feeling righteous anger can be acceptable occasionally, but it is not something people want regularly.
  • Anxiety and Fear. It is easy to understand that people do not like feeling anxious or fearful. Many people Google “how to cut down on anxiety” in order to get over any undesirable feelings of anxiety they already have. Posting a startling update is something that may be shared if it is important to daily life, for instance, finding out what chemicals are being used in bread or other food, but most of the time people will not share something terrifying because they do not want to acknowledge it. Stay away from anxiety and fear producing posts when making updates. If you want to amaze people, make it nice.

 

4. Everybody Likes a Story

Stories create our culture; they create the world we live in. People love hearing stories that captivate them, stories that make them feel a certain emotion, or teach them an important life lesson. Using a story is one way to get your content to become viral. Make the story one that is powerful or has a life lesson. When drawing on emotions, stories can draw on a various amount. Some stories can pull on the reader’s heartstrings. Though they might feel sad while reading it, there is something consoling and powerful about stories such as that. Stories that make people laugh can be another way to get your content viral. People will share stories they find hilarious. Funny stories should always be about something relevant to current society and culture.

 

5. Hit the Books!

Research the social and cultural trends. You might come up with a great idea to share your content in the form of a meme, but is that meme still relevant? (An example of a meme is Grumpy Cat.) Trends change rapidly and what was popular last week may no longer be popular this week. It is tough to measure what is still current, but one way is to go to your personal social media profile and look at what your friends are sharing. This is a great way to see what is up-to-date and what people are interested in.

  • The Who’s Who in Social Media. Learn who is popular in the social media culture. It seems that many people are following former Star Trek stars. Those stars post some pretty hilarious things. George Takei and Wil Wheaton are great examples of popular social media individuals who make content go viral quickly. Both of these stars also illustrate the differences in generations. Mr. Takei tends to garner an older audience and reaches a wider group, whereas Wil Wheaton has a massive fan base of younger people. Watching what they post is a great way to get a feel for what is relevant in social media and which age groups are more likely to be affected by certain types of posts.
  • Let’s Be Chums. We all prefer to follow businesses that relate to us. We do not want to follow a business that constantly advertises or to follow a business that makes us feel small or inadequate. Keep this in mind, as you create content for social media. People want to feel like a business is treating them as a friend. In a post on how to create a winner’s social media strategy, we talked about the process behind making something or discussing how something is done is better than outright advertising your product. It makes people feel “in the know” and as we mentioned earlier, people like feeling that they have the inside scoop. Creating this feeling of camaraderie is a great way to get your content to go viral and is a great way to engage with your followers. People like feeling as if they are part of something.

 

Final Thoughts

What makes a post sharable on social media sites? Many elements go into making a post something people want to share. As we have already discussed people are likely to share something that makes them look as if they are on the leading edge of a trend or that reflects positively on them. According to Marketo’s eBook Contagious Content: What People Share on Facebook and Why They Share It, people share content is company giveaways, giving advice on various things, warning people, amusing people, inspiring, amazing, and uniting people. All of these ways have been shown to be very successful for companies looking to make their content viral.

Creating contagious content is not as daunting as it may seem. People like to share things with friends and family members online and will always share things they find interesting or that give them helpful tips. By following these 5 secrets, you will be able to create social media and web content that will become contagious. Try implementing these techniques the next time you create a post and see what happens. Do not give up if you do not go viral right away, sometimes it may take awhile for people to warm up to the idea of sharing your company’s content. Give it time and one day you will check your social media statistics and realize you have gone viral. Get your happy dance on!