Monday, November 19, 2018

The Goldilocks Question: Too Much Content, Too Little, or Just Right?

The tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears has endured in various forms since the 1830s. It's pervaded popular culture to the extent that astronomers talk about "Goldilocks planets," planets that are neither too close nor too far from their sun to support life. (They're not too hot; they're not too cold -- they're just right.) When you're creating marketing content for your business, you may find yourself wondering where that Goldilocks zone lies for your purposes. What counts as too many words, or too few, or just the right number for the particular marketing channel you're working on? It's a question worth asking, so let's look at some answers.

Web Page Content

While the maximum word count on an effective web page can vary widely, there's little doubt over the minimum. Google has made it known that it considers 250 to 300 words the least you want to put on each page. Why? It's an SEO thing. There has to be enough written content for the search engine's bots to crawl and index the page properly. The content should contain an even, sensible, relevant scattering of keywords that you want Google (and its users) to associate with your business.

Beyond that minimum word count, the general rule is to include as much information as you need to convert the visitor -- and not a word more. The more complex or pricey your product or service, the more verbiage you'll probably need to apply toward persuading your prospective buyer. But keep in mind that people have better things to do than read long, densely-packed web pages. Give them the least they need to know to get excited enough to take action.

Article Content

How many words should your article contain? That depends on what sort of article it is. Many of my clients are happy with 300-word blog posts which deliver concise, digestible, entertaining content to their clientele. For press releases, I generally get requests for about 450 to 500 words. (Remember, space is limited in printed news formats.) Feature articles can run longer, but you have to know in advance what word count your intended publisher wants from you. On the other end of the scale, a detailed report or white paper may run thousands of words, not including the list of sources.

Print Marketing Content

Print pieces can be some of the most challenging things to write simply because you have so little free space. These pieces tend to be dominated by their visual elements, and rightly so. It's your job to find just the right words, and as few of them as possible so you don't overcrowd the design. Don't fall into the trap of writing substantial content for the small panels of a typical trifold brochure -- unless you're ready to shrink the text down to an unreadable size.

Direct mail pieces can be among the most challenging of all. You only have space for a few words, so make them count. Focus on grabby headlines and a few high-level points that maximize the excitement factor while conveying only the most critical information.

The most important step in creating any kind of marketing content is making sure that it delivers the necessarily results, whatever word count that may entail. If you need compelling writing that falls comfortably into the Goldilocks zone, contact me so I can help you get those words just right!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Boiling It Down: Keys to Simple, Clear Marketing Content

I see it time and time again as a freelance marketing copywriter, not just here in Austin and San Antonio but in all the markets I serve. A client will bring me content that "just needs brushing up," when in fact it needs a lot more -- and at the same time, a lot less. I'm talking about wall-to-wall industry jargon, gigantic blocks of text, processes explained in way more detail than anyone wants or needs, and other big obstacles that push readers away instead of inviting them in.

What does this kind of content need more than anything? Clarity and simplicity. We have boil the content down to its essence:

  • Here's who we are
  • Here's what we do
  • Here's how we make your life better
  • Here's what you need to do to make it happen

Honestly, that's about it. You might feel the need to add a certain amount of detail into your supporting points, especially if you're selling a complex product or service in a highly technical industry. But even under those circumstances, it pays to remember that you're writing to create excitement and inspire trust, not to expound on every little bit and piece of what you do.

You can convey a great deal of information in a small space if you really know what you want to say. After all, Albert Einstein distilled one of the most important of all scientific theories into E=mc2. Einstein also said, "Things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." In other words, say everything you absolutely must say to obtain your desired result -- and nothing else.

Minimalism doesn't come easily to us in a society of chatterboxes. I've had clients who feel uncomfortable withholding even the least important details from their marketing content. That's when I remind them that it's marketing content, not informational content. (Yes, there's a difference.)

Fewer words and more room for the imagination can do wonders for a dense, convoluted website or print marketing piece. I remember drastically paring down the content of one home page by about three-quarters. The client's comment: "You didn't do very much. " My reply: "You see all that white space? I did that."

Boil it down. Keep it simple. Be clear. Use smaller, more potent words and clear, readable sentences. Focus on bottom-line emotional impact, not justifications and explanations. If that jungle looks too thick to hack your way through, hire a copywriter to swing the machete.

Clear enough?