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Killer WEB Content - Book Review

1 February 2013
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

The book "Killer WEB Content," by Gerry McGovern, 2006, unmistakably highlights McGovern's expertise in crafting compelling website content. In this book, he generously shares principles and tips for planning and writing impactful content that sells and enhances company sales.


Indeed, effective writing should be accompanied by sound thinking and cannot thrive in isolation. The principles and tips are relevant for both the planning (thinking) and writing (content creation) stages.


The book covers the following topics:
  • Planning

    • Target audience

    • Principles of Web Planning

    • Care Words

  • Content writing

    • Menus and links

    • Titles and content

  • Orientation

    • Search and site navigation

    • Exploring the site


The book is easily understandable and provides a fresh perspective, even for individuals who consider themselves experts in editing and content writing. It comes highly recommended!


Planning

Target audience

The initial step in planning any website involves concentrated thinking about the target audience and adopting their perspective in writing. While this may seem like a conventional approach, the reality often reveals a significant gap between what organizations believe the target audience desires and what the audience truly wants.

To facilitate thinking from the standpoint of the target audience, consider the following tips:

  • When dealing with multiple target audiences, it is beneficial to concentrate on the primary ones (20:80). This approach is generally more satisfying, and consciously deciding which audience to prioritize can be strategic. Attempting to cater to all may result in more harm than good, not to mention the resources required to establish and maintain such a site.

  • Choose several representative types that embody the primary target audiences and provide illustrations, including names and scenarios.

  • Refer to these groups as the "target audience" or, preferably, address them by their specific names, such as "doctors" or "engineers." This personalized terminology helps bridge the gap and fosters a deeper understanding of their needs than the generic label "users."

  • Acknowledge that the end consumer may only sometimes be the direct target audience. For instance, when marketing children's medicines, the target audience is likely the parents or pediatricians. Align the approach accordingly.

  • Consider that the profile of the target audience you encounter in person may differ from the one engaging with you through the site, especially on non-organizational sites. Be mindful of this distinction and focus on both groups appropriately.

  • Shift the mindset from seeking the target audience's attention to actively paying attention to this crucial audience. While the difference may seem subtle, it is substantial in practice.

  • Delve deeper into understanding what the target audience genuinely desires, what is novel, and what excites them. This perspective often diverges from the organization's assumptions. Comprehending the content that resonates with the readers of the target audience is crucial.


Principles of Web Planning

When planning content writing for a website, consider these general tips: The target website audience is typically in a hurry and focused on a specific goal. It is crucial to understand this and plan the site accordingly, ensuring it can swiftly, conveniently, and efficiently fulfill the task for which users entered.


Reading habits on websites differ from those of printed information or documents. Users tend to scan keywords and read the first sentence of each paragraph, deciding whether to continue reading or leave the page.


On Hebrew sites, the initial focus should be on the right half of the top half of the page (a quarter page). Subsequently, readers move on to the surrounding content to the left and below before exploring the rest.


Ensure the site encompasses all the knowledge and actions required to accomplish the user's task.


Minimize using numerous frames and panels on each page, as they can hinder readability.


Collaborating with other organizations and their sites is advisable. Collaborative writing tends to be more effective than individual efforts, highlighting the organization's benefits while omitting unrelated areas.


And three concluding tips:


Testing:

  • In the process of planning and writing according to all the rules, it is imperative to conduct testing

  • Tables, in particular, demand close attention during testing to avoid overlooking errors

  • Changing the workspace during testing is recommended for a fresh perspective

  • Refrain from substantial corrections toward the end of the review and editing process

  • Working with defined schedules is recommended to prevent the examination from becoming endless.


Maintenance:

  • Ensure that the website is set up for maintainability, considering the available human resources for action

  • Site maintenance should primarily focus on eliminating broken links and outdated information. Additionally, it can involve refreshing and expanding content.


And most importantly, ensure that the user derives value from browsing/using the site. The site should impart knowledge the reader did not possess and motivate the customer to act based on this newfound knowledge.


Care Words

Care Words, translated literally as "words you care about," is a term recommended by McGovern to replace the concept of "keywords." These words form the core for crafting content, encompassing headings, menus, links, and the body text. When correctly defined, target audiences will search for what they want based on these words, making the site "attractive" and encouraging them to stay.


Site planners should identify the right Care Words in any field and language. However, for many non-organizational sites, it's essential to recognize that people often seek convenience and speed. Depending on the industry and company, consider adding related low-cost words.


A fundamental principle in thinking about Care Words is acknowledging the natural barrier between individuals and organizations when connected through a website. Care Words aim to bridge this distance.


How to find Care Words:

  • Through interviews and questioning people from representative target audiences, emphasizing the importance of not prolonging the questioning to capture intuitive words

  • Consultation with sales and marketing personnel in the organization (for non-organizational sites)

  • Research the organization's existing website and the common search words that lead to it

  • Conducting a comprehensive study using Google or an equivalent search engine to examine the popularity of terms related to the site's topics

  • Competitive research to identify the Care Words of competitors' websites


Tips:

  • Care Words are typically shared by most people across cultures and geographies

  • They represent what the target audience wants to achieve from the website

  • Care Words for the target audience differ from those of the organization

  • In cases of two synonyms used by the target audience, it is recommended to choose one for headings and links while incorporating the other in the body of the text


Content writing

Menus and links

Some critical tips for menus and links:


Menus:

  • According to McGovern, the link is considered the most crucial element of the site

  • Avoid multiplying options for the user that demand time or thought in the decision-making process.


Links:

  • Place links wherever there is room for action; refrain from embedding links within the body of the text itself

  • Plan the locations of links with the same consideration as the heading rules.

  • Avoid using generic link text like "click here" and strive to convey the specific action being performed.


Titles and content

Headers:

  1. Ensure headlines are attractively written, incorporating careful words

  2. Start headlines with necessity, not the organization's name

  3. Formulate headlines as phrases rather than complete sentences

  4. Fun fact: website users typically read headlines first before looking at pictures. Consider this in your approach.


Summaries:

  1. Write summaries in a familiar tone

  2. Address and answer essential questions about who, what, where, when, and how in the summary

  3. The concluding line in the summary should pack a punch

  4. Keep the entire summary concise, within 30 words


Body of Content:

  1. Prioritize quality over quantity; it's better to write less. Remember: BETTER KILLER THAN FILLER. Create a "stop doing list" to filter out unimportant or incorrect information

  2. Ensure appealing content (details in the Care Words section)

  3. Maintain clarity by writing in a language easily understood by the audience.

  4. Write briefly, starting with the need and swiftly reaching the central point. Aim to lead to action for the target audience.

  5. Focus on the target audience rather than self-complimenting the organization.

  6. Verify correctness, even for quoted/copied content

  7. Edit calmly; recommend editing at least three times after writing, not immediately after


Additional Recommendations:

  1. Consider using a blog as part of the site for its advantages in humanity, authenticity, and search engine benefits. Be mindful of potential disadvantages.

  2. A newsletter is highly recommended as a complementary tool, fostering interest and trust in the organization.


Orientation

Search and site navigation

Optimizing for Search Engines:

Write to attract search engines and direct interested target audiences to your site in a world flooded with information. Studies indicate that about 20% venture beyond the first page of search results, emphasizing the goal of securing inclusion on this critical page.


Search Queries:

  • People typically use 1-3 search words in the engine, avoiding the Advanced Search page


Connectivity:

  • Ensure each site page has both inbound and outbound links for optimal connectivity.

  • Prioritize quality links over quantity; links to similar/related sites are valuable.

  • Invest in obtaining, maintaining, and refreshing relationships for improved site ranking

  • Base links on Care Words to enhance relevance

  • Be cautious with outbound links, as each link is a potential departure


Additional Tips:

  • Page tags (title, description, and tags) significantly impact search engine results; refer to the book for specific tips

  • Consistently using Care Words influences search engine prominence

  • Avoid using FLASH, as it hinders both user and search engine experiences

  • Building the site as static HTML aids search engine detection

  • Refrain from combining documents, except for printing and extra-long content

  • ALT TEXT FOR IMAGES (ALT TEXT) aids accessibility and search engine optimization

  • Lastly, avoid excessive focus on search engines; short-term gains may not translate into long-term success


Exploring the site

Internal Search Engine:

  • For smaller sites (less than 500 pages), reconsider having an internal search engine Verify its quality by comparing search results with external engines like Google

  • Regularly maintain, test, and improve the internal search engine

  • Ensure the interior search window accommodates 25-30 characters to align with current search trends

  • Include a straightforward SEARCH or GO button next to the search pane

  • Position the search panes at the top of the page on the left (or right for left-to-right language sites)

  • Set the default search to cover the entire site

  • Index the site frequently to avoid outdated search results

  • Consider incorporating synonyms in the search engine and address singular/plural variations


Categories and Tagging:

  • Design a suitable category tree based on Care Words and accessible language

  • Begin planning from the top level and expand to additional levels cautiously to avoid over-leveling

  • Tagging site content may be tedious, but crucial for content quality. Avoid relying on automatic tags for accuracy.


*Note: The book was written in 2006, and while it offers many details, it frames, organizes, and innovates comprehensively—a valuable learning experience.

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