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Writing Right for the Web: Engaging Visitors and Improving Search Engine Visibility on Traditional Websites. University of Nebraska - Lincoln August 10, 2011. Today we discuss the optimal presentation of content on your “traditional” website…. C opywriting, basic content presentation, and SEO.

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Writing Right for the Web:Engaging Visitors and Improving Search Engine Visibility on Traditional Websites

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

August 10, 2011

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Today we discuss the optimal presentation of content on your “traditional” website…

Copywriting, basic content presentation, and SEO


Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

What we are doing today… 5 steps

  • Content… essential to scan quickly

    • Examples of easy-to-scan pages

  • Writing like a direct marketer

  • Web-friendly online publications

  • Displaying content on the page

  • Better search engine visibility

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Major reason people go to your website…

Complete a task

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

6 key truths about the Internet…

  • People are impatient

  • People are impatient

  • People are impatient

  • People are impatient

  • People are impatient

  • People are impatient

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Major reason people go to your website…

Complete a task

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

The Golden Rule…

5 seconds to connect

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Website is… A series of online magazines

Admissions, alumni, athletics, friends, donors…

Content, style, frequency will differ…

As it does for print magazines

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Web content editor and friends…http://www.bobjohnsonblog.com/web-content-editors/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

I must go to sea when:

–I'm depressed or melancholy

–I stop in front of coffin warehouses

–I follow funerals

–I have a powerful urge to knock people's hats off

Continue the adventure here.

Thanks to Kathy Henning, Communications Specialist, Seattle Pacific University

Not a place for great literature…Moby Dick on the web

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Step 1…Web readers are scan readers

If people can’t scan your pages, people won’t read your content…

Eliminate dense blocks of text…

Change big paragraphs to small paragraphs, add subheads & bullet points

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Not so engaging on this page…http://www.cofc.edu/about/index.php

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No unbroken text blocks here…http://www.cofc.edu/academics/index.php

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Too much content here…http://www.suny.edu/sunynews/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

New, improved version… http://www.suny.edu/sunynews/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Easy to scan blog-style news stories…http://www.tamus.edu/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Easy to scan annual giving report…https://apps.carleton.edu/giving/report/2010/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Easy to scan for brand message…http://www.smith.edu/about_whyissmith.php

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Easy to scan for top tasks…

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Web readers scan for “care” words…

Words that get attention & engage the visitor…

Write from the viewpoint of your audience…

What are the “Carewords” that get attention?

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Words people cared about…Top 25%

Advance your career

Balancing work, home, and school

Career advancement


Best school possible

Prestigious, well-recognized degree

Words that didn’t rank high…Low 25%

Accessible faculty

Experience of faculty

Corporate sponsorship

Shaping leaders

Class diversity (industry or experience)

Format of program

Carewords for Exec MBA prospectsUNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Carewords shape top content…http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/programs/emba/index.cfm

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Heading meets link expectations…http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/programs/emba/advance/balance.cfm

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Step 2…Write like a direct marketer on your website



Compelling and Persuasive

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

“Rolls-Royce has an obsession with quality appreciated by discerning customers”

Rolls-Royce campaign before David Ogilvy

Sounds like…

“Committed to academic excellence”

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”

Rolls-Royce campaign after David Ogilvy

Sounds like…

The real world

Must be true

Avoid old-style marketing copy…

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Can’t make claims like this anymore…(Names changed to protect the guilty)

  • “For more than 60 years, XYZ University has maintained a prestigious reputation for the quality of its engineering program. Today, the WXYZ University engineering degree remains the “gold standard” of excellence in engineering education. Students graduating with our degree will enter the marketplace armed with skills that are backed by the XYZ University heritage of unmatched quality in the academic preparation of engineering professionals.”

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Direct marketing style helps people scan…

  • Short sentences… 5 to 10 words

  • Short paragraphs… 50 words or less

    • One sentence paragraph is OK

  • Sub-heads…

    • Active words, not labels

    • Flow from the primary page heading

  • Bullet points

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Direct marketing style helps people connect…

  • Newspaper copy words…

    • “walk”… not “ambulate”

    • “confuse”… not “discombobulate”

    • “beat around the bush”… not “prevaricate”

    • “view”… not “purview”

  • Personal language style

    • “You” and “your” are great web writing words

  • Visible prompts to take an action

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Marketing style that works…http://www.wm.edu/about/index.php

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

High visibility action steps…http://www.waldenu.edu/Tuition-and-Financial-Aid.htm

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Repeat the call to action…http://www.mbaregis.com/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Words increase action…http://dustincurtis.com/you_should_follow_me_on_twitter.html

  • I'm on Twitter… 4.7%

  • Follow me on Twitter... 7.31%

  • You should follow me on Twitter... 10.09%

  • You should follow me on Twitter here... 12.81%

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

The web is an informal place, so make things as personal as possible…

The “you” word is fine…

Include a name for phone & email contact…

Use a name at the end of an auto response

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

“You”-friendly transfer credit page…http://degreecompletion.stedwards.edu/x157.xml

  • Write like this…

    • “Request a transcript from each college you’ve attended.”

  • 16 times…

    • Use of “you” or “your” on this page

  • Abolish…

    • “The student must…” language

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Step 3… Major print publications as PDFs or “flip tech” challenge natural law…

If you can read the text, you can’t see the photos

If you can see the photos, you can’t read the text

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

The “Big Three” mistakes…

Alumni magazines…

Annual reports…

Admissions viewbooks

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The PDF format doesn’t work well…

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

An example of getting it right…http://magazine.uchicago.edu/

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Every university can do it…http://alfredmagazine.alfred.edu/... http://magazine.biola.edu/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Resist calls to “flip” technology…http://issuu.com/umson/docs/university_of_maryland_nursing

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Step 4…Putting content on the page


Font type and size…



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Special attention to the first sentence in a paragraph…

The first sentence can stand alone…

Craft the first sentence to capture attention…

One sentence paragraph is OK…

Keep paragraphs to 50 words or less

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Strong first sentence stands out…http://clas.uiowa.edu/students/handbook/restart

  • “ReStart is the academic forgiveness policy of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.”

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Black text on white still works best…

Black text on white (or very light) background is best…

Avoid low contrast between text and background whatever the color combination

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Serif or sans serif?

Sans serif is easier to read quickly…

Verdana, Arial, Calibri are popular sans serif fonts

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Font size?

10 point or 12 point… Don’t make people squint

Fonts are different at same sizes… (Verdana)

Fonts are different at same sizes (Arial)

Fonts are different at same sizes (Calibri)

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Or let readers pick their font size…http://www4.esu.edu/admissions/index.cfm

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Scroll or don’t scroll?http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html

OK to scroll when content of continuing interest is unfolding…

When topics change, might be time for a new page

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Writing links that work…http://bit.ly/2dxRHt

  • Place the link at the point of action…

    • Often at the end of a paragraph

    • Sometimes at an item within the paragraph itself

  • Make the link obvious…

    • Underline the link like this

    • Use blue as the color

  • Make sure link expectations are met

    • A list of academic majors

    • Not text about the majors

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

After content block, call to action link…http://www.susqu.edu/admissions/default.asp

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Easy to scan links within a paragraph…http://www.usfca.edu/about/why/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Step 5…Writing for search engine visibility

The most important element is relevant content that people want to find…

“Organic search”… fix your website first

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Important Google change in 2011…

  • “Panda” raised the value of web content editors everywhere…

  • For example…

    • “Removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content.” (http://bit.ly/k2uUZX)

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

23 “high quality” questions to ask…http://bit.ly/k2uUZX

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Especially for web editors…

  • “Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?”

  • “Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?”

  • “Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?”

  • “Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?”

  • “Would users complain when they see pages from this site?”

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Key metrics for “quality” content…

  • SEO specialists are watching two measures of “quality” content…

    • Time spent on website pages by individual visitors

    • Number of pages visited on a site

  • Recommendation for high education sites:

    • Check & compare “bounce rate” from entry page to academic program content

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Find the “Top Landing Pages”…

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

4 simple steps to success…

  • “Eternal” SEO success points:

    • Good title tags on your pages

    • Good body copy

    • Great content

    • No barriers on your website to block the search

      • No broken links

      • Links lead to the expected content

        • Danny Sullivan, editor, SearchEngineLand.com

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Write for the person visiting the site, not for search engines…

Use keyword words that real people use…

Add content carewords that people want to read

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Don’t “stuff” keywords…

The page title and description, primary headline, one subhead, twice in the text…

More and the page won’t seem well written

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Tips for success…http://bit.ly/ayzqPH

  • Title tag:

    • 8 to 10 words – 50 to 80 characters

    • Main key word at or close to the start

  • Different title tag on every page

    • If not, Google may think content is the same

  • Meta tag:

    • Write for the person visiting the page, not for search

  • Primary heading (H1)… one per page

    • Write a “carewords” headline for the visitor first

    • Then try to work in a primary keyword

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Try this to help with keywords…http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/

  • Check these results:

    • Distance Learning

      • 5,630

    • Online degrees

      • 2,471

    • Online accredited degrees

      • 1,404

    • Online college degrees

      • 1,097

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Results for “Online MBA degree”…

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

An “Online MBA program”…http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/iMBA.shtml

  • Title tag

    • “Penn State – Online MBA degree program”

  • Page heading

    • “Penn State’s Online MBA”

  • First sub-head

    • “The Penn State iMBA”

  • First sentence

    • “Penn State’s online MBA degre…”

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Change headlines on press releases…http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4879230.stm

  • Print version

    • “Tulsa star: The life and career of a much-loved 1960s singer.”

  • Website version…

    • "Obituary: Gene Pitney.“

      • Steve Lohr, "This Boring Headline is Written for Google," The NY Times

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Keywords with Google…http://bit.ly/dAdAD4

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

In summary…

5 second scan rule…

Write in direct marketing style…

Use words people care about…

Limit PDFs and “flip” technology…

Write for people… search engines will find you

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

The Yahoo! Style Guide…http://styleguide.yahoo.com/writing

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Highlighting the “Carewords” path…http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/nt/class/web-writing.htm

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

“Writing Right” on my blog…http://www.bobjohnsonblog.com/writing-right-for-the-web/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Usability test results…http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Books to keep moving forward…

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Thank You!Bob Johnson, Ph.D.PresidentBob Johnson Consulting, LLC226 Chauncey CourtMarshall, MI 49068 248.766.6425 bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.comCustomer Carewords Research for Online Marketing Success: http://www.bobjohnsonconsulting.com/customercarewords.html

Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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