Repel visitors with easeBy Rebekah Donaldson*
(*Note: To develop this article, I took Writing Web Content for the Online Reader by Cris Rominger and turned it inside out.)
Websites have been a standard business marketing tool for more than a dozen years, and yet some folks still don’t know how to present material well on the Internet.
People don’t look at the computer screen the way they look at the printed page, or even the television set.
The web demands its own approach if you want your content to grab the eye and get attention.
With that in mind, you may be headed for a B2B website disaster if you:
Get stingy with hard facts
Business-to-business buyers are information hounds. They spend a lot of time researching, evaluating, and compiling information online because it helps them make decisions. According to Enquiro research, a full 92% of respondents turn to online resources in the early stages of the buying cycle. What b2b folks don’t like is promotional fluff, mission statements, and other marketing blah blah.
Throw giant blobs of text at your visitors
As information seekers, we’re goal oriented, impatient and critical. We scan rather than read. People have a hard time dealing with more than 100 words in a solid block, according to Crawford Killian, author of Writing for the Web. (Also check out Killian's fiesty post How not to write for the web -- I'm e-swooning.)
If you have more to say, break the chunk into two or three paragraphs, each with a subhead, all surrounded by lots of white space.
Avoid transitional phrases so your content chunks can stand on their own. Information on the web works best in modular rather than linear style.
Take your time getting to get to the point
Heat maps and eye tracking studies repeatedly show that headings grab our eye. To leverage their impact, use descriptive phrases that tell the reader what the content is about.
Place information carrying words at the beginning of headings to quickly convey meaning and use language your readers understand. If they "pick up an information scent" (Cris' term), they’ll drill down. And if they find relevant information that serves their needs or interests, they’ll read.
Write in a flowery style
Use strong verbs. Write in the active voice. Get to the point. "Marketing prose" does more than slow readers down. It annoys them.
Make readers work for information
Help the reader learn what the paragraph is about by using boldface type for information-rich keywords.
But don’t go overboard. Too many bolded words are distracting and hard to read. Use bulleted and numbered lists when appropriate. They rank right next to headings as the most-scanned areas of a page. Bullets are a great place to convey key benefits.
Consider tables for voluminous information. Tables or matrices can quickly convey and compare information that is easily lost in text.
Make the page too gray
Use photos, graphics, and captions to guide the eye and reinforce your message. They are called anchor points. They are the places where we start looking at a page.
Don’t worry about the design
A sloppy or confusing design hides your message. A good design instills confidence and trust. The right visual segmentation and hierarchy will help readers see how to interact with you.