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Good Web content examples and what makes them work

How To, Web Design | Jun 7, 2011

Web content can make or break a website – no matter how good the design is. Most designers know this from first-hand experience.

So it wasn’t surprising when WDD visitors who read How to spot and avoid web copy that kills websites demanded a follow-up showcasing good web content.

Whether you or your clients write content for your websites, or you partner with content writers (aka web writers, copywriters, SEO copywriters, etc.), the content needs to attract visitors, engage them, and ultimately entice them to take desired actions. Only then do you truly attain a winning website.

Here are good web content examples, and what makes them work.

 

Mailchimp

The folks at Mailchimp get right down to ‘monkey business’ with a clear explanation of what they offer: Easy Email Newsletters. No “Best-in-class automated information distribution system technology” rubbish here.

They get to the point, saying more with less. It fits with their mantra of making things easy. Headline, short and descriptive intro, ‘sign up free’ button and a cute chimp graphic – done.

They carry the straight talk throughout the inner pages. For instance, the ‘Forever Free Plan’ on the pricing page notes: Store up to 2,000 subscribers. Send up to 12,000 emails per month. No expiring trials. No contracts. No credit card required. Pretty clear. No confusing jargon or legal babble.

Lesson learned:
The Mailchimp crew went out of their way to organize information in a user-friendly manner to help visitors locate and process what they need quickly and easily. Web copywriters, designers and developers – not visitors – should do the heavy lifting, i.e. clearly defining and arranging key tasks and messages. These chimps deserve a banana break.

 

37 Signals

37 Signals offers popular “frustration-free” collaboration and productivity tools to freelancers and small businesses, and they keep their web content straightforward, too.

When visitors arrive to a site, they want to know if they’re at the right place. 37 Signals helps people determine that immediately by noting who can benefit from their solutions (designers, consultants, manufacturers, etc.). And they nicely segment their offerings and provide descriptive teasers for each tool, setting expectations on what to expect beyond each link.

For example, when you mouse over the Basecamp button, the text reads: Are you still managing projects with email? Are you still using Excel for your to-do lists? It’s time to upgrade to Basecamp. Manage projects and collaborate with your team and clients the modern way. They demonstrate they understand you and your pain, and offer a better way to work.

In addition to handy screenshots, 37 Signals provides third-party endorsements of its awesomeness through a seal that states, “Trusted by millions of people in over 30 countries,” along with a series of succinct, relevant testimonials. Providing ‘social evidence’ is an effective way to gain credibility and trust on the Web because people naturally take comfort in going with the masses.

Lesson learned:
Words brand your business, for better or worse. Take a page from 37 Signals; their content is kept simple, practical and friendly, which is consistent with their apps. They’re not just stating they provide frustration-free experiences, they’re demonstrating it.

 

Groupon

Like ‘em or hate ‘em, Groupon is deploying character to differentiate itself and stay ahead of the crowded deal-of-the-day market. Injecting color and humor into its ads makes Groupon a distinctive corporate persona that’s alluring to many people and fostering customer loyalty. The following examples prove ‘dull’ isn’t a part of their vocabulary.

Like German shepherds, human bodies demand treats before they’ll sit quietly for piano recitals or chase off nut-stealing squirrels. Reward an obedient exterior with today’s Groupon…

In today’s workplace, sleeveless, bicep-broadcasting business suits are a common sight, and deal-closing golf games are eschewed in favour of sweat-slicked cage matches. Get in shape to vault over the corporate ladder with today’s Groupon…

Tea has been used since ancient times to fight illness, overcoffeed caffeine rushes, and the letter U. Pay homage to leaves’ most prolific progeny with today’s Groupon…

As long as the writers remember they’re writing for the audience, not for their egos, the entertainment value could continue to make it exciting to watch for and review new promos. It makes the competitors appear pretty lame, and will likely help prolong Groupon’s shelf life.

Lesson learned:
Web content can conceive a personality, set a tone and create expectations. Does everyone in your newest client’s industry sound the same? They could take a chance like Groupon, shake things up, and arouse the market. Maybe you could, too.

 

Turning web content challenges into wins

Having written web content about everything from used construction equipment to medical diagnostics software for clients worldwide, our copywriters at Webcopyplus are able to serve up behind-the-scenes insights surrounding some recently completed projects.

1-800-GOT-JUNK: Key messages and keywords

Rapidly growing with 200-plus franchise partners in the US, Canada and Australia, this marketing-savvy company needed simple, accessible content that highlighted key points: they provide fast, convenient and professional service, and they’re environmentally responsible. So related messaging was woven throughout the site’s main pages.

Also, to promote organic presence on search engines, descriptive keywords were tactfully integrated throughout the content. Here’s an example of keyword-rich content at work: Got old furniture, appliances, electronics, tires, construction debris, or yard waste you need to make disappear? 1-800-GOT-JUNK? can take away almost any material we can fit in our trucks, without you ever lifting a finger.

Choosing and using the right keywords pays off. Google terms like old furniture removal or junk removal, and you’ll likely see their site appear at or near the top of search results.


Uniserve: Cleaning up for visitors

Over the years, this Canadian telecom company accumulated three websites with contributions from several stakeholders, resulting in different and conflicting styles and messages. After fleshing out and prioritizing products and services, and defining key differentiators with design partner Beyond Media, content was revamped from top to bottom. In fact, 400-plus pages on three sites were streamlined down to one 80-page website.

To covey key messages clearly and provide visitors an effortless online experience, great care was taken to remove every word possible. Uninspired, long-winded messages were replaced with succinct, upbeat points. Following is some example banner content.


UBC: Catering to Visitors

When University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Conferences and Accommodations enlisted the services of an SEO firm, their traffic increased, but their bounce rate went through the roof. The problem: programmers merely keyword stuffed their content, with little or no regard for visitors.

While keywords remained an important part of the equation, descriptive content was carefully crafted to help reveal distinct qualities of each conference venue and accommodation option, in addition to the benefits of working with UBC’s knowledgeable staff. The enhanced content, created in partnership with Creative Engine, allows visitors to quickly and easily determine which product will suit their needs best, and helps overcome concerns (i.e. access to a kitchenette and high-speed Internet), which has lead to increased bookings.

 

Every word counts

Never forget that every word on a website can influence a visitor’s buying decision and loyalty. For example, a rewrite that removed words like “nasty spam” from a landing page’s fine print helped promotional gift company SwagLove improve its conversion rate by 385% (1.9% versus 8.9%). Content should eliminate roadblocks, not create them.

Carefully review the words on the websites you design. Are they helping or hurting your clients? Like good design, good content can clearly tell visitors how they’ll benefit from a product or service, provide guidance, and make it easy for them to take action. Quality content keeps website visitors – and your clients – happy, and coming back for more.


Written exclusively for WDD by Rick Sloboda. He is a Web Copywriter at Webcopyplus, which helps designers and businesses increase online traffic and sales with optimized web content. He speaks frequently at Web-related forums and seminars, including MarketingProfs and Editors’ Association of Canada, and conducts website content studies with organizations in Europe and the U.S., including Yale University. You can follow him on Twitter @Webcopyplus.

How do you approach web content with clients? Have you worked with professional copywriters? What have been your experiences, good and bad?


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  • http://www.ayomedia.co.uk Rob Mathieson

    I’m still waiting for someone to release brilliant “web content” document, that developers can use to manage content going into a site.

  • Anonymous

    We’re also to collectively starting to re-think our own public website, and MailChimp’s is actually a good one in my opinion. Friendly design, good copy and info. We actually use their product and have it integrated with our form creation tool, works fine.

  • http://www.snogglenews.com/ Snoggle News

    I mean I totally have to agree. Web content will make it or break it, man.

    We use MailChimp on our media company and it doesn’t really get much better. I love the place. And their UI backend just so so unique

  • http://twitter.com/Webcopyplus Rick Sloboda

    Thanks for the feedback!

    @Ray While I appreciate most designers have a firm grasp of what their clients’ businesses stand for, it doesn’t mean they can communicate effectively through the written word. Designers communicate through design, and copywriters communicate through words. These are two very different trades, each requiring unique knowledge and skills.

    @H. James It’s too bad you had a bad experience with a copywriter. Moving forward, check out a writer’s portfolio and testimonials, and make sure your budget is in line with your expectations. You’re not going to get compelling content for $4 per page, just like you can’t expect a professional logo for $50.

    @Rob Mathieson It would be great if you’d expand on what you’re looking for in a “brilliant web content document.”

    @fmester Indeed, Mailchimp is a favorite amongst many people who appreciate clarity and simplicity. They deal with all the messy stuff, so clients don’t have to.

  • http://twitter.com/Deepetch_com Deepetch.com

    wonderful article…thanks for sharing

  • http://superdit.com aditia

    what the difference between good web content words and marketing words? or good web content words is must be a part of marketing?

  • http://www.mediatownmarketing.com/ MediaTown

    Great post. As a marketer and web designer I often find that it is indeed, the web copy that pulls everything together. I find that spending a couple bucks to get proper succinct copy is always worth it and always improves site conversions (making our company look great).

  • http://vernacularninja.com Vernacular Ninja

    Glad you included MailChimp on this list … the bastion of doing more with less as far as I’m concerned. Content development is still very much an art just as it is a dedicated practice (one that requires a ton of work to hone), so it takes a special blend of strategy and skill to do it right.

  • http://twitter.com/annefgreaves Anne Greaves

    Writing web copy is a skill in itself and shouldn’t be done by designers or developers. I specialise in content because that’s where my natural skills lie and what I’ve trained in – I don’t try to design or build websites, I leave that to the experts.

    It’s great to see articles on web content, thank you! For an industry where the ‘content is king’ mantra is heard over and over again I’m constantly surprised at the extent to which content plays second fiddle to design and build.