Featured Article - Content is Still King
Web principles change every day. What hasn’t changed is that web content is still king. The difference in 2013 is how you deliver content. A web page with thick paragraphs of written text could be labeled a “wall.” A reader could “scale” the wall if they wanted to, but who has the time and effort to do so?
Your website manager must remember that although your website is a precious, unique place to you; to a user, a website is just one stop in a long line of pages to view. A smarter practice is to give web visitors the information they desire as quickly as possible. Your readers will love you for it. Don’t assume users will be impressed by everything they view on your site. Concentrate on content viewers will appreciate and then use to make quick purchasing decisions.
Even Google understands this. The well-documented 2011 Panda update exposed web page ranking in terms of quality over quantity — as in web content, not keywords. After this update, the value of the Internet finally swayed toward people, not machines. People may still use the Internet in ways different than we’d like them to utilize our own sites. Write enticing content for your visitors and you’ll get the results you desire.
To best understand our content writing tips, try to appreciate how and why users have logged on — perhaps by imagining your own browsing habits. With the techniques below, you will only improve the viewers’ experience on your website. It is as simple as remembering web content is still king!
Less is More
The social media statistics are astounding. There are a billion new Facebook posts each day, 60 new hours of video shown on YouTube each minute, and 175 million tweets daily. The Internet is saturated beyond comprehension. It is nearly impossible for any user of these varied networks to keep up on everything subscribed to, let alone managing content generated just by friends.
With all this information so easily accessed, “less is more” has never been more appropriate. So what exactly do we mean? Amid the clutter of graphics, pitches and slogans of every style, content that is logical, clear and relevant (and actually matches the search engine keywords it is listed by) will stand out like a rose in a snow bank. One of the best things you can do for your site is to simply cut down how much content you expect visitors to read.
How can you achieve this? Highlight the most important details on your website that benefit your viewers and remove everything else. Introductions like “Welcome to the…” are unnecessary. Unclear wording can be reconfigured into concise phrases. Forget about extraneous details that fulfill your idea of a well-sized webpage. Your content text should get your message across and say nothing more.
This is especially true for your home page as well as critical landing pages. You’ll want these pages to highlight your website, but information detailed on the landing pages should be kept separate. If your website is properly designed, visitors should have an easy time to locate the extra details they desire. A brief but helpful home page is the best way to encourage visitors to look further.
Apply the principles of “less is more” to your current web content. Content should always lean toward quality over quantity. In as few words as possible, describe a perfect representation of what your business is all about. You’ll soon find that cogent writing is not an easy task. Since owners have plenty they could say about their businesses, limiting page text to 50-200 words can be extremely difficult. At this level, each word should be scrutinized and evaluated for strength. Your reader has no interest in reading multiple paragraphs of text. Today’s web visitors prefer to skim, not read, their way through content.
You still need to get your important points across without being too brief and too vague. The recommendation to “cut your text in half, and then do it again” sometimes isn’t the best advice. Carefully revise and streamline your content by removing unneeded information, without losing the main point of your message. This editing process often shortens your text by half or more!
Follow these simple tips to help pare down your message. Use a thesaurus to find better word choices. Pick a single theme for each page of content. Replace empty or clichéd statements with enticing details about what makes your business special. Use as many simple sentences without commas, dashes or semicolons as possible. Follow these rules and your content will naturally trim down.
Planning Your Success
There is a correct way to organize content within each of your web pages. You will want to place your most pertinent information up front on your home page. Save details for elsewhere. This involves the “who, what, when, where, & why” concept often associated with journalism. Those five W’s normally show up in the first paragraph of written articles. That helps the skimming reader to easily find the essence of the message.
Do the same with your content. Determine the most important “theme” of each page. Place that idea at the top of the page where any casual browser is likely to glance first. Each new paragraph should contain less important content than the one before it. Your words will decide whether the viewer will want to read on or move to a different page. Do your best to simplify your message. Do not allow a viewer to leave any page out of confusion or frustration.
That doesn’t mean the message on the rest of your page loses importance. Any content should be there for a reason. Follow this outline for success. Introduce the main concept or theme at the top of the page. Proceed to details based around that theme. Although these are secondary elements, by having them clearly relate to the most important concept, you give ancillary information weight within the whole. This is what solid content writing is all about.
There are tricks to use when your text exceeds 200 or more words per page. Break up the “wall” of text with a picture, a sub-heading or a bulleted list. Bullets are the perfect vehicles to shorten complex sentences into precise points. Although overall word counts may not decrease, your “wall” construction of plain text has now become a more easily digestible “ladder” of information.
Be careful when changing the color and size of your fonts in sub-headings. Different font colors or styles will only make sense if carefully coordinated within the whole site. Don’t mix and match colors needlessly. It will be too hard for your viewers to read your text. Different colors everywhere won’t make design sense. The same goes for using too many font styles.
Be as judicious about adding photographs to your site as you are with content importance and length. Using professional photographs will make your pages more engaging, but you should still have a specific justification for each photo. Make sure viewers understand why you are using your photography. Web visitors appreciate pictures that tell a story. Compelling photography should not discount the importance of compelling content. Remember that pictures load slower than text.
Take the challenge to make content king on each page of your website. The ideal scenario is to present a simple overview of well-conceived content before giving more informative explanations. Construct your home page and all landing pages with quality, organized content. Carry page themes and styles throughout. Integrate quality photography with well-thought out intentions. Utilizing tips from this article will boost website performance and turn your website viewers into loyal customers.
Employee Spotlight - Lyles Armour
What do you do here at RezStream?
I am a Web Developer at RezStream. Most days consist of me building one of our many beautiful website designs. When I am not doing that, you can find me completing tasks for clients on their websites, developing mobile websites, assisting our support team and clients in creating unique themes for their booking engines, or cracking a joke to keep things light.
What do you see as Web Development trends for 2013?
2013 is a great year for content to come to life. I envision a stronger push for interactivity between a visitor and the website. Finding unique ways for visitors to interact with your website will help them become comfortable with your product or service to ease their purchase decision. Engaging your customers on social media outlets is only one way to
Is it true your dog is named Deion after the Dallas Cowboys player Deion Sanders?
Deion Rene Armour was named after the NFL great Deion Sanders. Deion is a mix between a Pit Bull and Rottweiler and is 3 years old.
What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod/iPad?
While I don’t have a #1 song, I do have several stations I listen to on a regular basis: Kid Cudi, Andre 300, Robin Thicke, and Ratatat Radio.
If you were reincarnated as an animal/drink/ice cream flavor, what would it be?
Animal: Deion (I know how much I spoiled him so life would be good)
Drink: I don’t drink often, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis
Ice Cream: Mint Ice Cream with Oreo, Extra Oreo
If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?
Achilles from the movie Troy. If you’ve seen the movie, you know why.
At the end of last year we re-engineered our delivery model from a single account manager per client, to teams of two account managers per client. Each team utilizes topic experts for support (content, links, and social media) and is backed up by our new Director of Digital Services. We are confident this new model will heighten client communication, deepen technical attention and improve overall client account coverage.
In early 2013, we introduced new client reports combined with enhanced internal reporting tools to achieve superior long-term SEO focus (annual rather than monthly). The need for this shift became apparent after our attendance last fall at PubCon 2012 (where all the industry gurus meet annually), as well as a paradigm shift in search engines towards quality/organic content over technical data scrubbing--hence our informative newsletter article, Content is Still King.
In January we launched our brand new RezStream website, leveraging our unique in-house resources in design, photography, video and content writing. We are no longer “a cobbler’s child without shoes.” Our highly visual website will improve rankings, usability and conversions.
This summer we will launch an exciting template website product, which will allow our clients access to simpler and lower-priced content management systems. We will also continue to serve our larger clients with our fully customized and unique CMS websites.
With over 20 years of experience in print, photography and video design, the RezStream design experts will launch targeted campaigns during 2013 to bring our broad base of design services to our clients’ attention.
In 2012 we upgraded our entire website hosting environment to achieve better performance and security. Client websites and booking engines deserve 99.999% uptime.
As I write this, we are helping transition all email-hosted clients to third party email solutions. Providers such as Google and GoDaddy are just better suited to serve your email hosting needs. RezStream recognizes its own strengths and weaknesses, and with that end, we steer our clients to the best business solutions available for them.
At the end of last year, we brought Kevin Guill back to RezStream into a newly established position as Director of Digital Services. Kevin will focus on enhancing our Internet marketing services. Kevin first joined RezStream in 2007 and was with the company for several years before a brief detour as an independent consultant. We are thrilled to have Kevin’s talent and enthusiasm for all things digital back at RezStream.
In 2012 RezStream decided to further invest into topic experts in the areas of film, content, link building and social media – a trend that will continue in 2013.
Cloud Reservation Software
We are making significant strides in the development of our new cloud reservation software. Initial promotion and feedback at the PAII Conference in January was extremely encouraging and validated our technology choices and user interface.
Going to the cloud will create tremendous benefits in terms of usability, mobility, security and performance. With 15 years of property management software experience behind this new cloud PMS, it will retain the quality of our client-installed PMS and online booking engine, while adding new features and improving overall usability.
The initial release will be directed toward less-complicated properties and is slated for release late this year. Once launched, our “agile software development” process (see wikipedia.org for more on this development method) will support regular product updates (typically every few weeks) with incrementally more complex features. Such on-going improvements will address self-customized reporting, multifaceted yield management, vacation rental management solutions, and more third party system connections. Given the cloud-based nature of the new reservation software, all updates will be completely automatic and seamless to users.
To paraphrase Jay Karen’s (PAII President & CEO) latest Innkeeping Now editorial, our cloud software will not be “all things to all people.” Rather, RezStream will stay true to its current client base and deliver solutions for smaller B&Bs and inns to larger boutique properties and independent hotels.
To ensure client validation of the new cloud reservation software, RezStream will commence formal product advisory sessions this spring. I look forward to facilitating that process.
In February we completed significant speed, theming flexibility, and security improvements to the new RezStream Booking Engine. Later this year we will relocate the entire booking engine infrastructure to an external data center and combine it with our cloud PMS hosting environment.
After a six-month campaign to convert the last 150 old-style RezStream Booking Engine users to our custom-themed, new RezStream Booking Engine, we finally see this process coming to an end in May.
We will continue to see more mobile booking engine users in 2013 as even the smallest lodging properties are recognizing the importance of the mobile-local trend.
In April we are replacing our current ticketing system (the software tool that supports every client interaction for PMS and BE support) with a new product named Zendesk. Clients will benefit from improved customer service, faster response times, better reporting and easier access to the knowledge base.
Staffing & Corporate Facility Changes
We hired additional technical support staff this winter and will expand our software development team in the spring. Our technical support group in particular will benefit from a more quiet and conducive environment at our new RezStream corporate office.