Web sites & online

Use a style guide for consistency when writing for print or web sites

We’ve been doing a lot of proofreading lately, which brings to mind just how useful a corporate style guide for writers can be.

It’s quite common for businesses and other organisations to have visual style guides, but the actual content is often forgotten until a proofreader points out all the inconsistencies.

A style guide can be as simple or as complex as you want: covering basics from always writing brand names in capitals – or not – to whether specific words are hyphenated.

Once simple rules are written down, it’s much easier to remember them when you come to write a word and think “company policy is to hyphenate this word” or “we write that with a capital”.

The result is greater consistency, more effective communication and less time spent ironing out inconsistencies every time you want to publish a brochure or web site content.

Does your writing sell your products and services online?

So you have a web site and a blog, but why? What do they do for you?

Most businesses have a web site as a brochure to showcase their products, as a shop to sell their products or as the actual product itself (eg entertainment or other content).

Apart from personal web sites which could have any purpose, most business web sites are created to sell products or services. They can do this using hard sell or very softly, building relationships, which the blog approach is well suited to help.

The test of whether a business web site is successful is not how much traffic it attracts, how many page views or even how long a visitor spends on the site, but whether it leads a target group of potential customers to take a specific step to buy. This could be sending an email or making a phone call. These are the actions we aim to achieve, as we are selling services which we tailor to each specific client’s needs.

In the past weeks we have received such contact from potential clients precisely matching our target profile, which has led to meetings, quotations and ultimately, we hope, actual business.

What sells us to these clients? The words on our web sites. They persuade the client that we are credible and lead to that all important contact so that they approach us rather than thousands of other suppliers also promoting themselves online.

Taking the process forward, meeting, negotiating and quoting depend on our inter-personal skills, but without that initial contact we wouldn’t have these leads.

Preparing your web site so that it not only persuades potential customers to contact you, but ensures they are the customers you want to attract (and not time-wasters) is critical to selling products and services successfully online.

But you have to know what you are setting out to achieve before you start.

Zarywacz client Two Rivers Travel to increase Reading coach trips

Zarywacz client and newly established Reading coach operator Two Rivers Travel is now preparing a comprehensive programme of coach day trips, short breaks and holidays for 2009.

To keep customers up-to-date Two Rivers Travel is launching an online newsletter with details of its 2009 Days Out programme as they are announced – you can sign up and have the chance to win tickets for a Day Out at its coach day trips, short breaks and holidays web site.

That’s a very long page – yawn!

One of the main uses of web sites is to sell – everything from expensive property and high cost business services to things you want to get rid of on an auction site.

There are many different approaches to writing sales copy and, as a copywriter, I prefer the concise approach. Yet I have to concede that single-page web sites filled with text that seems to extend for many fathoms under my computer screen must be effective or businesses would not use them.

This doesn’t mean that I like or approve of them. Personally, when I am looking to buy something, I don’t like being treated like an idiot. I look for specific information, e.g. details of the product’s specification, price, delivery options. I do not want to be told 20 times that the product is “fantastic”. After all, I write marketing copy and I wouldn’t describe anything as fantastic, because the term has been over-used.

When I come across these long single-page web sites, I leave them unread. Perhaps the product is good, perhaps it isn’t, but the selling message has turned me away.

What does this mean? That different writing formats work for different people, so it’s important to address your target audience in a way to which they will respond. The wrong approach could alienate them.

I still won’t write text for long single-page web sites. At least, there are plenty of other formats I am happy to write and which keep me busy.

Robert Zarywacz

O is for original. Content is satisfaction

While there are considerable arguments for recycling natural resources where viable, I’m not so keen when this is applied to writing. Too much of the content of web sites, newspapers and magazines is recycled.

How much value to visitors is there from a bought-in or free newsfeed on a web site? If I am looking for detailed information on a specific topic or am shopping for a particular item, I don’t want to be distracted by international news stories. If I want news, I get it from a news site. In fact, I usually ignore much of the rubbish at the periphery of web pages and when I do notice it I wonder why it is there before moving on.

If sites add this type of content to earn money from affiliate schemes and other paid incentives, it’s understandable why they do it, although it still doesn’t enrich the visitor experience.

As a writer, I’m biased: I want to see original content every time. But even I realise that I can’t write it all and I don’t want to. On many occasions, I’ve read about the ‘democracy’ created by the internet and this is one instance where there’s an opportunity for all web site owners, whether professional writers or not, to make their own voices heard.

So let’s cut the recycling and see more original content. I’m sure it will satisfy a lot more people.

Robert Zarywacz

Do you feel you’re living in another age?

Zarywacz is very pleased to launch the brand new official web site of Ilfracombe Victorian Celebration at www.ilfvc.org.uk.

Ilfracombe is a charming seaside town in North Devon which grew in popularity as a holiday resort in the Victorian era.

To celebrate this, Ilfracombe Victorian Celebration stages a week-long programme of Victorian-themed events every year. During the week, townspeople and visitors dress in Victorian costume, as you will see from the photographs on the site.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the celebration and the week of 9th to 17th June 2007 offers a packed programme of events and activities for everyone.

Full details of events will be published as they are confirmed.

Zarywacz is very pleased to be associated with Ilfracombe Victorian Celebration.

Robert Zarywacz

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