Using Your Website As A Hub (and Why You Should Do It)

Engaging with consumers and potential customers through consistent and robust digital content is a must for any company in our increasingly digital, on-demand world. Every industry has consumers who have developed a dependency on being able to access any content they want at the touch of a finger. The catch is, with this ease of accessibility comes the expectation of efficiency and quickness. Consumers generally don’t want to spend a lot of time digging for information on a company, product, or brand. Part of being “on-demand” means they want to find it quickly, and when they do, it should be straightforward and uncomplicated.

You may be thinking this is difficult to accomplish: reaching an entire base of potential customers with thoughtful, thorough content that is easy to find and easy to absorb. After all, there’s no shortage of avenues for people to explore to find useful content, and different consumers have different preferences. You’ve got social media, of which there are many different platforms just under that category. There are, of course, blogs, which many find to be useful. Still, others prefer their content more visually, in video or infographic formats. However, through all of these developments, one constant remains. Your company or brand’s website is a representation of what they are all about. It’s a key resource that can combine all of these elements, but in a unified way–with your name, your look, and your feel. It should encompass the many facets of your brand or company and your digital marketing strategy. So, the solution here is staring you in the face: your company’s website should function as the hub, or home base, to all of your digital marketing and content efforts.

Integration, Not Separation

As websites have been around for a while now, they’ve become indicators of the quality to be expected from a company. Whether this is fair or not misses the point: to most consumers, that’s how they appear. Even if a website doesn’t directly sell products, it should be seen and considered as a storefront. A fresh, clean, easy-to-navigate site that offers information through different media to speak to different preferences stages of the buyer’s journey is much more likely to entice and retain customers than one lacking these qualities.

Because websites have become synonymous with a company’s image, they are typically the first place most consumers go to learn about the products or services offered. It makes sense. The content on a company’s website comes straight from the source and is presented how they want it to be.  It should be the first place people go, but what they do while they are there is just as important. Are there blog posts or eBooks for the more literary consumer (who maybe earlier on in the buying journey and wanting more thorough information)? Are there links to social media posts for that more interactive element? How about a place where returning customers can join an email list to get exclusives on upcoming products, events, or promotions? Having these, or any of the other digital marketing efforts you employ, in one place will reach a wider range of consumers, will make them feel more involved and engaged, will keep them on your website, and will make it as easy as ever for them to gather all the information they need to purchase with confidence.

Your Website Is Just That: Yours

With the onset of social media and the ways it has evolved to help businesses, some companies have developed a bit of a reliance on it. So much so that, for some, social media pages have taken the place of a business website. There’s no question that a strong social media presence is incredibly worthwhile and effective for business. However, how they operate, their interactive look and feel, and the policies that govern them are ever-changing and are beyond your control. If the goal is to be noticed and stand out from competitors, relying solely on social media is not the way to do it. Not only do the pages more or less look the same, but the algorithms that dictate who sees your content and ads also continue to change, and there’s no guarantee they’re reaching who they say they’re reaching.

Your company is unique, and your website is the one platform where you can flaunt this. There is a lot of value in having the freedom and control to create the user experience that you, and more importantly, your consumers, want.

Keep the Wheel In Motion

A hub is a perfect word for what your website should be. If you think of all your digital marketing efforts–email campaigns, blog posts, videos, webinars, whitepapers, press releases, social media posts, and infographics/charts–each as individual spokes of a wheel,

then you see that they’re all connected, and each spoke ultimately connects back to the hub. Share videos of product demonstrations or events on social media. Use your blog as a promotional tool to highlight your webinars or eBooks. Include infographics and links to your blog in your email blasts. Cross-promote. All of these spokes working and turning together will steer consumers to your website–the resting place and intersection where all of these spokes meet. It’s a two-way street: your website is a gateway, a portal for consumers to get the content they want, how they want it, but it also reaches out to them where they are (email, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) and guides them back to your website, where they are exposed to all of your great content and calls to action.

The best news is you don’t have to do this alone! Let Spencer Web Design help keep your wheel spinning toward success. We can help turn your website into a multi-faceted hub that will generate more visibility, more traffic, and more leads–all without compromising your creative vision for your company or brand. For more information on how Spencer Web Design can help get your website where it should be, contact us now.

Content Writing Hacks: How to Overcome Writer’s Block

This is a guest post from Cory Edwards, a web copy and content writer who works with Spencer Web Design. You can learn more about him at his website, coryedwardswriter.com

How to Overcome Writer's Block

Introduction

If you have an idea you’re trying to get across, a product you want to sell, or a service to explain, you’ll have to put it in writing from time to time. From web copy and content to letters and emails, you have to write in such a way that moves people to take action.

But writing can be painful. Some of the most famous writers who have ever lived — F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, and even Charles M. Schultz — have suffered from writer’s block.

In his groundbreaking work on creativity, writer Stephen Pressfield calls the force that works against all forms of creativity “resistance.” How do you fight it and win?

As a professional web content and copywriter, I’ve had days where just getting started on a project brings unreasonable anxiety. One thousand words on Title Insurance? Seven hundred words on Lighting Production? I open up my computer believing I’ll have nothing to say, that I can’t get coherent words on paper, and that I’ll never be able to do it again.

However, I’ve found several tricks to get me going. Time and again, following a simple task list I’ve created, I always find the words I need when I need them.

My hope is these tips will help you if you’re stuck on a project.

Step 1: Do Some Research and Take Notes

Before you start writing web copy or content,  do some writing-related tasks. Research is a great way to get started, especially with all the information you need so readily available on the web.

First, the Keywords Everywhere plugin can help you refine your Google search and your keywords. If you know what your topic is, look for high-volume search terms to focus on.

Then, click on the articles at the top of the search and start reading. Copy stuff you’d like to include in your article. Of course, you’re not planning on plagiarizing, but you’re not writing yet. You’re stocking your mind with ideas you’ll use later.

As you copy and paste your notes from the website into a document, keep links to your original sources, and type out any other ideas that come to mind.

Step 2: Interview an Expert

I love talking to opinionated and smart people! I’ve written articles for lawyers, real estate agents, audio engineers, physical therapists, and many others. My friend Sue Spencer has, as the saying goes, “forgotten more about web design than I’ll ever learn.” A good long talk with a subject-matter expert will fill out your knowledge on a subject long before you ever have to write a word.

When I talk with an expert, I usually just take notes because I’m a fast typist. If you’re not, you can use a journalism tool called TapeACall. Either way, interviewing a subject-matter expert will give you plenty of grist for the mill.

A note of caution: When interviewing an expert or doing research, it’s easy to jump ahead to structuring and writing your article. Don’t worry about structure now. Let the work go where it wants to. Ask questions when you’re confused. Figure out what you can research later. An don’t get nervous! It will all work out in the end.

Step 3: If You’re the Expert, Free Write!

In many cases, you’ll be the person who knows the topic you’re writing about better than anyone else. Set a timer for ten minutes and write down everything you know on the subject as quickly as possible. In this case, you’re merely taking notes for yourself, the same as if you did research or interviewed someone else.

These notes will likely not be readable for anyone else but you. For example, if you were writing this particular article, you might write:

  • Research
  • Notes from others
  • Notes from self
  • TapeACall
  • Free writing

This is not an outline, a finished article, or even something you’ll want to show a friend. These are merely notes you will employ when it’s time to outline and then write.

Step 4: Talk Through the Article with a Believing Mirror

Wherever you are in the process of writing an article, you’ll often find yourself totally stuck. You’ll need to find a person to talk it through with.

But don’t choose just anyone! Often, good friends or family members will be the last people you’ll want to talk to. You’re looking for a “believing mirror,” a term probably coined by creativity guru Julia Cameron. Believing mirrors are insightful and helpful people who know how to give great feedback.

Ask yourself:

  • Who in my life would want to talk about this topic with me?
  • Who believes in me and the work I’m doing?
  • Who will point out my poor logic?
  • Who can tell me when I’ve crossed the line and said something I’ll regret?

A conversation on the topic you’re writing about with a believing mirror can go a long way to helping you get started on a project you’re stuck on.

Step 5: Find a Good Template

In almost every case, the thing that you’re writing has been written before. If you’re writing your company’s about page, for example, you know you can find several other examples of compelling about pages in your industry within seconds. There are probably a couple of articles that provide a template for you as well.

I spent a good part of my career writing songs for others and myself. The first big realization most songwriters have, after quite a bit of struggle, is that songs are written within a few templates (verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus). Once a songwriter discovers song form, she doesn’t feel like she’s starting from scratch with each new song.

Find two or three examples of what you’re trying to write. Pick your favorite and steal the outline. Write the outline in a new document.

See? You’re working on the piece you have to write and still haven’t had to do any actual writing! Exciting, huh?

Step 6: Copy and Paste Your Notes into Your Template

The next step is to match the template you created with the notes you took from research, conversation, or your freewriting. Evaluate every note, copy it, then paste it into the place you think it should be in the template.

Voila! You have an outline!

Step 7: Write a Bad First Draft

It’s hard to tell whether the first or the second draft is more painful to write, but they both can require some deep breathing and a lot of patience.

Thankfully, your first draft can be bad. Actually, it’s going to be bad. Unreadable. Something you’d never share with anyone. This is good news because it means the pressure is off! (Read Anne Lamott’s encouragement from her book Bird by Bird, which is a slightly more colorful phrasing of this advice.)

Your first draft can be considerably longer than you need it to be. This is especially helpful when you’re trying to come up with a USP, tag line, or other kinds of short copy. Narrowing down what you’re saying comes in the next step. For now, just get it all out.

Step 8: Read It Back to Yourself

Often, it helps to do this out loud. If you read a sentence that doesn’t work, fix it. There will be a lot of them, but it’s not because you’re a lousy writer. It’s because every first draft needs work. Don’t be afraid of the process: read, fix, read, fix, get coffee, read, fix ….

This can be frustrating, but remember, no one sees the work you’re putting in at this point. No one is judging you. Fix what you can. Even when you’re done, you’re still not going to show this to the whole world. Relax. It’s not going to be perfect yet.

Step 9: Find a Good Editor

I used to bristle at the idea of working with another person. As a “creative,” I hated the idea of having someone critique my work. I told myself that I didn’t want anyone to destroy its purity.

The truth was a lot less attractive: I was afraid of looking bad in front of another person.

A good editor, however, is one of those “believing mirrors” we discussed earlier. He or she gets you, knows what you’re after, and can make suggestions to improve your work. This person, usually not a family member, is someone who either (a) writes a lot or (b) understands the subject.

Editors are your first audience. Because writing copy and content is communicating with other human beings, you must create a feedback loop at some point. It’s best to rely on an editor for this work.

Are You Struggling Writing Content or Copy for Your Site?

It’s the words on the website that sell your product, service, or idea. It’s the words on a website that tell Google what you’re all about. Along with quality web design and graphics, the words you use communicate the quality of your service.

If you’re stuck in the process, Spencer Web Design can help. We work with writers and editors who can either write the content and copy you need or help you edit it. We can serve as a “believing mirror” when you need it.

If you have writer’s block, give us a call or send us an email. We’d love to help!