How to Write Good Web Content

Well-written web content positively affects the bottom line. If website visitors can scan your website and quickly find the information they’re looking for, they’re more likely to remain on your site—hopefully leading to increased sales.

Help your visitors understand your content and increase your sales by making content:

  • Scannable
  • Concise
  • Objective

Make Content Scannable

Web users don’t read everything on a web page. Readers scan websites to find the content most relevant to their needs.

Important information should be highlighted so that it stands out when readers are scanning the page. Content can be highlighted by:

  • Using descriptive headings and subheadings
  • Using bulleted lists
  • Putting key phrases in bold text

Be Concise

Good web content is concise. Most website visitors are looking for specific information. Getting straight to the point makes it easier for users to find what they need.

Concise writing isn’t just short. It avoids complex sentence structure that may confuse the reader. Complex sentences force the reader to slow down and put more effort into reading, hindering her ability to find information quickly.

Concise writing should:

  • Use simple sentences
  • Use short words
  • Omit needless words and phrases
  • Avoid adverbs and adjectives

Be Objective

Avoid hyperbole and marketing speak when writing for the web. This will keep your writing concise and make it more authoritative.

Stating the facts is more convincing than a hyped-up sales pitch. Rather than describing a product as revolutionary or state-of-the-art, describe its features in a way that is clear and free of hyperbole or jargon.

  • DON’T SAY: The tablet’s state-of-the-art haptic touchscreen will make you feel like you’re truly connected to your device.
  • DO SAY: The tablet’s touchscreen is more responsive and easier to use than older models.

Final Thoughts

Good web writing should be scannable, concise, and objective. Research has shown that content meeting all three of these criteria is up to 124% more useable. That increased usability will ensure that users don’t leave your site without the information that they need and will be more likely to convert into paying customers.

This post was originally published to a private class website on September 18, 2013 for my Public Relations & Digitial Media class.

LinkedIn Dos and Don’ts

LinkedIn can be a difficult social medium to use effectively. It represents a cross between a resume/job search site and an online networking event.

As with in-person networking, you should behave professionally on LinkedIn. It’s OK to reveal a bit of personal information, but keep the pictures of your children and the connections to your college drinking buddies on Facebook (unless those drinking buddies are also professional colleagues).

When thinking about what to post on LinkedIn, follow the advice of news.au.com’s Claire Porter:

Remember that LinkedIn is a professional network, so don’t put anything on your profile or write anything in groups that you wouldn’t be willing to say in a meeting room of your peers.

Porter provides a number of other tips, as well as real life examples from those who have experienced challenging situations on LinkedIn.

Boston.com has a solid list of dos and don’ts, including:

  • Do make the headline at the top more descriptive than just a one-word job title. The more you describe yourself, the more likely your name will pop up in word searches by potential sales contacts and recruiters.

  • Do connect with online communities of people with similar interests. It’s a form of networking and allows you to get your name out to a wider number of people
  • Don’t treat the LinkedIn profile as if it’s a personal page. Keep the information you provide as professional as possible.
  • Don’t forget to update your profile when you get promoted, assume new job responsibilities, or move to ­another company.

Giving endorsements on LinkedIn

One tip that I haven’t seen in my research relates to endorsing your LinkedIn connections: don’t endorse people for skills you can’t verify.

LinkedIn now allows you to endorse your connections for skills that they list in their profile (and sometimes for skills that they don’t list). When you visit LinkedIn, it will often provide you a list of four contacts and a skill associated with each. You can then choose to endorse all, some or none of the individuals for the skills listed.

If you know that a connection has a particular skill, endorsing them is a way to quickly acknowledge their abilities and help them add credibility to their resume.

If you aren’t sure someone possesses a skill LinkedIn is asking about, don’t endorse them. Endorsing someone for a skill they don’t actually possess reflects poorly on you.

Similarly, if someone endorses you for a skill you don’t have–particularly if it’s one you haven’t listed on your resume–don’t accept the endorsement.

When you receive an endorsement, LinkedIn will ask you if you’d like to make it public. If you’ve been endorsed for a skill that you don’t possess, don’t post it. Doing so will reflect poorly on both you and the person who endorsed you.

For example, I was recently endorsed for having fundraising skills. With the exception of participating in bottle drives when I was a Scout, I have no experience in this area. It’s a skill I want to develop, but not one in which I have enough skill to accept an endorsement, so I didn’t post the endorsement to my profile.

Do you have any tips for using LinkedIn effectively? Share them in the comments!

Considering Agency Work

What kind of public relations work do I want to do?

During our Public Relations Fundamentals course earlier this week, our instructor spent some time covering the type of work available in public relations. This got me thinking about my practicum and my career as a whole.

I’ve been working in communications for about eight years. Not all of this work falls under the banner of public relations, but I have done some PR in both the public and private sectors.

I’ve enjoyed both for different reasons. There have also been times where I’ve hated both. In both sectors, I’ve always been an in-house guy. I’ve never worked for an agency.

Working for an agency

I’m seriously considering looking into agency work. Edmonton has some incredible agencies, any one of which I’d be thrilled to work for:

There are others, but those are the four local agencies of which I’m most aware.

There’s also Outside the Cube, an agency up in Whitehorse, Yukon. I’m impressed by their portfolio and would absolutely move north to work for them if the timing was right for me and my family. (They actually offered me a job at one point, but I turned it down for personal reasons.)

What does agency work look like?

Compared to an in-house shop, where I’ve typically been part of very small teams (or the only communications person in the organization), agency work is a different animal.

My impression is that the stakes and stress levels are higher—the need for billable hours tends to do that—but the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients is appealing, especially at the start of my career. The chance to work with so many other creative people is also a big draw.

I haven’t ruled out corporate or public sector work—there are tons of opportunities for government-related work in Edmonton—and there are aspects of each that appeal to me. But right now I am seriously leaning toward agency work.

I’ve got a few contacts who I should go for coffee with and talk about their experiences working for creative agencies. It’s a direction I hadn’t much considered until recently, so I’ve got a lot of questions.

Do you work for a public relations agency? I’d love to pick your brain. Leave me a comment if you’re interested in having a chat over coffee. I’ll buy!

How to Use RSS Effectively

When Google decided to kill Google Reader, a lot of people were upset. Even if it wasn’t a popular product, they claimed, it was heavily used by the influencers and communicators who drive the web.

Syndication

I was among those who were displeased when Reader was killed.

For a while, I managed to live without an RSS reader. But now that I’m serious about a career in public relations I can’t imagine working without one. There are too many blogs and news feeds to monitor without an RSS reader to organize them for me.

Despite Google’s claims to the contrary, RSS still matters. Here are some tips to help you use RSS effectively.

Find a reader that works for you

There are many RSS readers available. The death of Google Reader was surprisingly good for those in the RSS reader business. With Google out of the business there was more opportunity for smaller players to emerge.

I use The Old Reader, which mimics much of Google Reader’s functionality. Other popular options include:

Organize your feeds

Most RSS readers allow you to organize your feeds—either using folders or tags.

The Old Reader, for example, allows you to create folders by dragging and dropping feeds into your sidebar. Some of the folders I’ve created include:

  • Public Relations
  • Webcomics
  • News

Organize your feeds in whatever way makes sense to you.

Subscribe selectively

Once you realize the power of RSS, you may find yourself subscribing to a lot of feeds. Just before Google Reader shutdown, I made a conscious effort to cull my subscriptions.

I was subscribed to over 150 different feeds—most of which I didn’t bother to read. I cut that down to just 10 that I monitored regularly and slowly began adding more.

If I find that I no longer read a feed, or that I’ve started to dread checking my RSS reader, I know that it’s time to eliminate some of my subscriptions.

It’s easy to subscribe to too many feeds and overwhelm yourself. Only subscribe to feeds that are relevant and interesting to your work, hobbies, or personal life.

How do you use RSS?

What tips and tricks do you have for using RSS effectively? What reader do you use and why? Let me know in the comments!

What’s With the Fake Press Release?

Yesterday, I published a mock press release about my first day of school. This may have seemed strange or even self-indulgent, but the purpose was to practice my writing.

With this blog, I’ll not only be posting about my experiences as a PR student but also putting the things I’m learning into practice. So there will be mock press releases and other writing samples.

By putting my newfound skills into practice, I’ll be able to hone my talent as a writer and a PR practioner.

This blog will have three main purposes, at least while I’m in school: to chronicle my learning, to act as a “safe space” to practice my skills, and to share my knowledge or thoughts on things happening the field of public relations. If everything goes according to plan, there will be more sharing of knowledge and fewer mock press releases the closer I get to the end of my program.

The chronicling of my learning aspect of the blog will, hopefully, never go away. After all, PR is a contantly changing industry—especially as digital communications and social media continue to develop and grow in importance—so if I ever stop learning new things then it’ll probably be time for me to retire or change careers.

Snider Begins MacEwan PR Diploma Program

Adam Snider, a professional communicator seeking to improve his skills and enter the field of public relations, began working toward a diploma in public relations from MacEwan University today.

Edmonton, AB (adamsnider.com) September 3, 2013 — Professional communicator, Adam Snider, started the public relations diploma program at MacEwan University today. Mr. Snider noted his excitement, saying, “I’m looking forward to learning about PR from instructors who are working in the field. This diploma will build upon skills that I already have, provide me with new ones and allow me to increase my employability.”

Mr. Snider’s first day in the program consisted of a mandatory orientation followed by the first of many Fundamentals of Business lectures. The orientation consisted of the usual introductions, a review of academic integrity and an overview of what the next 10 months will look like for Mr. Snider and his fellow students.

The first Fundamentals of Business session saw instructor Keltie Gower provide an overview of the syllabus and a brief introduction to the Mission Possible project, which will see groups from all BUSN200/201 sections at MacEwan competing to raise the most money for a charity of their choice. “It sounds like a challenging project, but I think it’ll be pretty fun,” Mr. Snider said when discussing his first day with his wife earlier today.

With his first and only class of the day ending early, Mr. Snider headed further downtown and put in a few hours of work at the office.

About Adam Snider
Adam Snider is a professional communicator who lives and works in Edmonton, AB. He has experience in both the public and private sectors, having been employed as the Online Marketing Writer and LawDepot.com and as the Operations Coordinator at the Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association. Adam earned a Bachelor of Arts (English) from the University of Alberta in 2005 and is currently pursuing a public relations diploma at MacEwan University.

– 30 –

For more information, please contact:
Adam Snider: (780) 221-5394 or adam@kellysniderfamily.com