Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Web Words: engage readers AND search engines with Lisa Manfield

How can a magazine's website, or any website, keep your attention?

Magazine and web consultant Lisa Manfield gave workshops in Calgary and Edmonton on how a magazine's website can satisfy both the human reader and the bots that crawl your website.

Whether you're a magazine, or trying to sell a service, here are a few quick tips on what you can do to maximize your online presence.

Know how people read online
In print, people are generally content to pore over copy and devote time to reading. Online, people are specifically looking for information. People scan a page in under 10 seconds and if they don't see what they want, then buh bye, they're onto the next website.

Websites are not the best place to put content that couldn't fit into a magazine. In fact, Lisa says that the opposite is true. The web is so vast and attention spans so short, that the content has to be relevant, easy to navigate and engaging at first glance--there are no second chances.

How to write for online
Magazine writers and editors are so fond of crafting clever headlines in print, but this does not work online! Text has to be broken up into sections with clear headings and subheadings so people can scan for information quickly. While narrative arc is the hallmark of good stories in print, computers cause eye fatigue, so chances are, you'll lose your reader at hello if they don't see what they want right away.
  • use bulleted or numbered lists where possible
  • stick to one idea per paragraph
  • cut your word count in half from what it would be in print
  • make it easy for readers to find what they want
  • use the inverted pyramid style (most pertinent information up top)
Search Engine Optimization: what it is and what to do
Your site is being constantly crawled by bots sent out by search engines. These bots evaluate your content to gauge how relevant it is to a search (search engine indexing).

Some things that affect your site's ranking include:
  • the age of your URL (seniority is good)
  • the frequency of site updates
  • the size of your site
Make your site easy to find by:
  • using keywords
  • place keywords in: titles/subtitles, body text, links, photo and video captions, anchor links (embedding a link into a keyword)
Think like a reader and test your site
Conduct a Google search on your site like a reader would. Does it show up on the first page of search results? Or the 10th page? You can analyze search results using Google Adwords to see if your keywords work.

These are just some of the things you can start to do. If you want more (and trust me, it gets a LOT more detailed and specific), contact consultant Lisa Manfield.

Happy surfing!

Communications Specialist, AMPA