Author Topic: Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)  (Read 7227 times)

Ammon

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Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)
« on: October 26, 2012, 05:30:57 AM »
I promised some general help and guidelines for writing online with one extra reader in mind - the search engines.  This is my first post on that, and I'll happily answer any further questions as we go.

Objectives
The first and most fundamental lesson about optimizing content for search engines is to remember that there are two equally important parts to search.  The first part is the way the search engine recognizes the content of a web page and matches that to queries.  The second and just as important part is how people themselves use the search engines, and what they expect to find.  Effective SEO is never just about getting into the top of some search result.  Its about what you can achieve by doing so.  (This all ties back to the importance of knowing what we want to achieve, and how to measure the steps that lead to success along the way).

Our aims here then are:

- To make more people aware of the situation, and consider for themselves how they feel about what NCsoft are doing, and how they feel about it.  We especially want to create that awareness in Shareholders of NCsoft, potential shareholders of NCsoft, Gamers who may buy NCsoft products, and anyone that can help us spread the message to those targets.

- To create a situation where potential investment in NCsoft, and trust for NCsoft products or shares, is questioned in light of how they have handled previous games, our community, and current PR issues.

- To make NCsoft's own board reconsider their earlier assessment of costs and benefits of closing CoH, and reevaluate their decisions based on a new appraisal of the costs and benefits evolving now.

What this means is that we want to appear in searches that relate to the interests of such people.  Shareholders in NCsoft, Players of NCsoft products, and Journalists of gaming (and game business) issues.  The gamers are the easiest part of that - think about the searches you yourself make, and how you research games to try or buy.


Okay, so that's the foundation of context for what we are doing when we aim to have our content appear high in search.  It has to be effective in doing something for our cause, and should lead those who find it deeper into the story as covered in other media, these forums, and our campaign in general.


Let's now move back to the other part, about how the search engines work.  Originally, these just matched the things people searched for against a database of pages that included those words.  Its gotten a lot smarter and more clever since those times, but it is still important to actually use the words that people you want to attract will search for.

Page Titles
The page title is one of the most important bits of wording for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  This is because its the bit where the writer is summing up what a page is about in just a few words, just like how the search sums up what they want to find in just a few words of searching.

The page title is the bit that shows like a headline for each listing in search results.  Your title should be a bit like a classified ad headline - something that shows immediately what is on offer, and attracts someone to read further.

NCsoft games: Yet another game closed is an example of the kind of header that can grab attention of gamers who are looking up who NCsoft are in relations to games.  It has a good chance to rank high in results for "NCsoft Games" because those are two of the most prominent words of the title of the whole page.

NCsoft stocks tumble in PR nightmare is an example of the kind of headline that would just beg to be read by those who had, or were thinking of, invested in NCsoft stocks.

Important Note:
One note of warning that I want everyone to bear in mind is that you are responsible for not being libelous, or making untrue statements.  Be careful that you state clearly the differences between facts that can be verified, and your own opinions or the opinions of others.  You have a right to an opinion, which need not be legally true, provided you make clear it is a personal opinion, and not a fact.  It is perfectly adequately legal to state that "In my own opinion, NCsoft have been criminally negligent in their handling of their customer relations and publicity over this closure".  It makes clear that the allegation of 'criminal negligence' is merely a personal opinion (which you have a right to) and not an actual accusation of legal responsibility.  It is possible that NCsoft may threaten to sue a few people to try to put us all off fighting cheaper than selling off an IP - 50,000 for a law suit is a laot cheaper than losing a few million in a cheap sale, or spending hundreds of millions to fix their PR issues.  Protect yourself from that scare tactic.

 
Article Writing Structure
It has been shown in many usability studies that people read text from a screen 25% slower than they can read the same text from paper.  Combine that with short attention spans, a wealth of alternate information, and a need to win people over, and it is viatal that you get to the point quite quickly unless the readers are known to have a vested interest in being patient.

Use the format that newspapers have honed over hundreds of years - the inverted pyramid structure.

In a lot of writing, you lead in slow to lead people to a final conclusion.  In newspapers, and in SEO, you want to do the opposite.  You start with the conclusion - the end result.  Then work backwards into finer and finer detail over how the conclusion was arrived at.

Quote
Hero Firefighter Saves 5
Heroic firefighter, Chuck Waters, saved a family of 5 from a blaze yesterday - in his time off.

Chuck, 42, of Greentown, MI was simply a passerby when he heard cries for help from Mr Smith, who's wife and three children were trapped upstairs after a fire broke out ...

You see how the headline kind of tells you the whole story, then the leading paragraph adds in more detail, and as you read on, the article gets into finer and finer detail.  This makes it easy for the most important message to get through, and not bore people with more detail than they want.  Its easier to skip and skim through, and far easier to pass along.

Additionally, and this is the SEO part, it places all the most important facts prominently up front, while also repeating them in more detail throughout the piece.  But it never looks to be repetitious, because we are well acquainted with the format.  This is exactly how you should present most content for SEO.

Most people never read more than about 10% of a newspaper, but you never hear them complaining that it was too long.  That's because the inverted pyramid structure, and clear headlines, let you get the gist of a story quickly, and make it especially easy to engage and disengage with the content at any point.  Instead of faffing around with pagination (splitting articles into longer pages) this is the first step in presenting content online without it being dull or seen as 'too long'.

Sections and Sub-headings
This is another part of adding readability.  Letting people easily skip to the bits that interest them, and letting them skim through quickly to find where they can act.

Treat sub-headings as being almost as important as the page title, but mainly aim them to allow people to find just the bit they need.  Again, its a way you can repeat important key words, and get them more attention (weight) in how search engines view pages and which words are important.

Images and Video
Search engines don't have eyes.  They are basically just a method of analysis of text and code, that can take context in other things from how the text and code is presented.  Search engines cannot 'see' a picture, but they can read the title, alternate text, and links and filenames.  Images in your articles make it more interesting to people, but they won't help the page itself that much to rank higher in search.  I'll talk about SEO for images and image search another time.

For now, just make sure that any images you use are for human readers, and that you have alternative ways of getting the message across to search engines, the blind, etc.  Use captions, titles for images, and meaningful image file naming, etc.  Its what is in text that will count for search engines.

Links and References
Search engines can tell how important or relevant a page is, even before it is indexed by that engine, partly from who links to it, in what context, and how often.  For this reason, linking your articles to other important pages and articles will help those articles to rank higher, and help give further context about both your page, and how they relate to pages you link to.

The important parts of a link, for search, are many, but especially the words of the link itself (avoid 'click here' as link text because it says nothing about the destination, or what it is about).  The words in paragraph around the link also matter almost as much.  Then there is the words in the structure of the URL of the link.  Finally, there is co-citation, meaning that when lots of people put the same links together, there is an implied relationship between those links. https://www.google.com/search?q=related%3Ancsoft.com shows other pages that Google knows are related to NCsoft's own website, mainly because they are often cited (linked to) alongside links to NCsoft's own site.

Links are not just for SEO, obviously.  Links show readers that your article is researched, and connected to other materials.  It shows it is in context and gives the reader further information.  It shows you know your stuff, and are more aware of the other coverage of the subject.  Links are good. :)

Right, I'll stop there for now, as that's enough to be starting with, and its been an epically long post, regardless of how I've tried to use headings and subheadings, and how its a post that my audience are likely to stick with.  But here's some further links for the interested:

http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-seo A great guide to what SEO is, with plenty of further links.  This may be like jumping down the rabbit-hole though, so wait til you have some time to really explore.

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/10-super-easy-seo-copywriting-tips-for-link-building Similar to my simplified version here, but with images and some further points.  It is aimed, however at non-beginners to an extent.

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-seo/ For those of you who blog with Wordpress, this is one of the better plugins for improving the basic SEO functionality of your blog.

http://www.seomoz.org/beginners-guide-to-seo Incredibly detailed guide, but a lot to read, so only for the seriously interested.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2012, 07:09:05 AM by Ammon »

Cinnder

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Re: Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2012, 01:49:04 PM »
I'd like to thank you for an amazingly clear and meaningful post -- chock full of info, yet still easy to digest.  Even if I hadn't seen your other posts on this forum, this one alone proves you know how to write effectively for the internet.  I think your input is going to have a significant effect on this project.

Just one question: isn't your example a "normal" pyramid, since the smallest bit (the "point" as it were, which is a double-meaning I quite like in this example) is at the top and it gets wider as it goes down?

Ammon

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Re: Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2012, 02:46:19 PM »
Thanks for the reply, and compliment.

I think they regard the normal story structure as a pyramid because it starts small and gets bigger as you go on down.  It expands as it goes.  The same with scientific papers which start out with objectives, and methods, etc, and eventually work down to the big result.  This structure is called the inverse pyramid because it starts with the biggest bit - the conclusion.  In other words it works backwards, giving you the end first, and then working its way back to the smaller and smaller minutae of the story.

Personally, I don't think it matters what we call it, as long as we all know what we mean.  I just include the accepted name of the structure for those interested.  I rather like your alternate version though, where we start with the point, and work down to the foundations as being a normal pyramid. :)

Terwyn

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Re: Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2012, 04:07:06 PM »
Thanks for the reply, and compliment.

I think they regard the normal story structure as a pyramid because it starts small and gets bigger as you go on down.  It expands as it goes.  The same with scientific papers which start out with objectives, and methods, etc, and eventually work down to the big result.  This structure is called the inverse pyramid because it starts with the biggest bit - the conclusion.  In other words it works backwards, giving you the end first, and then working its way back to the smaller and smaller minutae of the story.

Personally, I don't think it matters what we call it, as long as we all know what we mean.  I just include the accepted name of the structure for those interested.  I rather like your alternate version though, where we start with the point, and work down to the foundations as being a normal pyramid. :)

You've basically described the reason for the existence of the executive summary. :P

I've noticed that a great deal of business-related documents focus on the inverse pyramid.
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.
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Segev

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Re: Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2012, 04:48:04 PM »
Business, at all levels, is about selling something. Even if it's selling your point to your superiors so they'll do what you deem wise for the project.

Ammon

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Re: Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2012, 10:05:11 PM »
You've basically described the reason for the existence of the executive summary. :P
The executive summary is meant to address the same issues, but it is a slightly different and less successful formula. 

Usually, the Executive Summary is simply tagged on to the front afterward as a sort of 'reader's digest' version, before the rest of the article then goes right back to starting with the trivial minutae and working logically through to the conclusion.  Not so much an inverse pyramid as simply sticking a miniature pyramid on the top of the main pyramid. 

It is less successful because it tends to cause readers to disengage sharply right after the summary, while the inverse pyramid lets each reader work to the point of decline of interest - just how specific about the finest details they want to be.  When you want to give everyone more than a small sumary, the inverse pyramid works far better.

Victoria Victrix

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Re: Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2012, 11:58:31 PM »
I've copied this to a .doc on my desktop.  This is a real keeper.  I think I will be applying the lessons I am learning here to a lot more than merely pressing the taser into the underbelly of NCSoft.
I will go down with this ship.  I won't put my hands up in surrender.  There will be no white flag above my door.  I'm in love, and always will be.  Dido

Ammon

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Re: Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2012, 04:51:20 PM »
Thanks, VV.

To all, please, do feel free to ask any further or specific questions you may have.  I tend to play team-oriented and support characters in the game much as I am one in life.  Feel free to call upon that support wherever it can help the team effort.

Victoria Victrix

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Re: Writing online for effect (Online PR tips)
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2012, 12:22:44 AM »
Thanks, VV.

To all, please, do feel free to ask any further or specific questions you may have.  I tend to play team-oriented and support characters in the game much as I am one in life.  Feel free to call upon that support wherever it can help the team effort.

There's a reason why two of my three most beloved girls are a Fender and a Troller.  The third is a fire tank...but I play her as to be the defensive wall between the team and the enemy, so I kind of play her like a troller, and applied all the lessons I learned from being a troller to being a tank.
I will go down with this ship.  I won't put my hands up in surrender.  There will be no white flag above my door.  I'm in love, and always will be.  Dido