10 Tips for Writing for Mobile – Post Mobileggedon

Now that we are a few months past ‘Mobileggedon’ – how did your sites fare with the algorithm update? Back in February, Google’s Webmaster Central blog made this announcement:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices. (Full blog post here)

Luckily, none of my sites were impacted greatly in the search results.  When I first heard of the news, I was a bit concerned about this ‘deadline’ / ‘ultimatum’.  When I thought more on it – it just makes plain sense!  If you don’t already have a mobile-friendly site set up, you are causing your customers so much hassle (and lots of unnecessary scrolling, zooming & wishing for tinier fingers).  On that note though, having a mobile-friendly site is not enough to ensure a pleasant site visit.  One of the important factors you have to consider is that content consumption is different on a mobile device.  If you haven’t already explore Thinking with Google’s research on Micro Moments, head over now for some great insight. In short, mobile search is more purposeful – the ‘Is-it-worth-it moments’ to ‘show-me-how moments’ to ‘ready-for-a-change moments’ are all ‘inspired moments’ that are mostly on-the-go.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

If your business receives a lot of mobile search, you have to make sure the content on your site is mobile-friendly and conducive to the ‘moment’ your audience is conducting their search. A restaurant for example, might want to make their menu easily accessible on their website. Not only that, knowing site visitors might be visiting on their mobile devices, they might want to not make their menu a downloadable PDF file (just saying!) Here are a few more pointers on writing for mobile:

  1. Write a Compelling Headline – think of what your customers will be searching for and write headlines that satisfies their needs. This will draw them in to either make contact or dig deeper. Keep your headlines short – 55 characters or less as guideline.
  2. Use Sub Headlines – readers consumer content in chunks so guide them through the page with informative sub headlines. Even better if they make sense on their own!
  3. Deliver Content in Bite-Size Bits – each section under a sub headline should be concise as well!
  4. Make Your Content Skimmable – remember that smaller screens will make even the smallest paragraphs seem long winded.  After writing your content, edit and refine to make sure your content is as concise as it can be.  Use bullet lists, bolded or italicized text to bring focus to important points.
  5. Keep Your Most Important Information at the Top – according to Content Marketing Institute, users give 68% of their attention to the center and top half of a mobile page, and a full 86% to the upper two-third. Below that point, they tend to lose focus and concentration.
  6. Use Images Wisely – people love to look at pictures. When given a choice between images or text, most reader’s eyes will gravitate towards the images. Images also take up a lot of space (something you don’t have a lot of on mobile). So – before you add images alongside your text, think about whether it will be a distraction or enhancement to your content.
  7. Be as Concise as Possible –  Edit, edit and then edit some more! Writing for mobile is not just about using fewer words, it is about writing better. That means getting rid of unnecessary filler words and phrases.
  8. Leave Spaces Between Links – if you are adding links to your writing, be sure to leave enough room in between so that your users can accurately select the link they want. (Not all of us have tiny, delicate fingers…)
  9. Remember Your Keywords – SEO is still important, even if you are writing for mobile. Remember to include your keywords for SEO purposes.
  10. Don’t Rely on Design – with all the different phones we have out there, what is ‘above’ the fold on an iPhone 6 might not be in the same spot on a Samsung Galaxy. The point is, don’t rely on design to position your content where you want. It will be impossible to satisfy all the screen sizes out there!

If you haven’t thought about your mobile content – now is a great time to get started!

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7 Tips for Writing Headlines That Work

I think we can all agree that writing headlines is, by far, the most difficult part of publishing. After all, there is a lot of pressure to come up with headlines that are attention grabbing, yet short and to the point.

After all, as the great David Ogilvy, ‘Father of Advertising’ once said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.  When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”  I’ve been using this as a guideline for my print ad layouts – and making sure that the headline alone is able to communicate the gist of what the rest of the copy is about.

On the average, five times as many

I do a lot of writing in my current role – not just for websites and blogs but also for print.  While online content consumption is usually very different from traditional mediums, the one challenge they do have in common is the short attention span of their readers.  I once heard someone talk about a ‘trifecta’ formula to writing perfect headlines – how every headline has to contain three points of value that the audience would find useful.  But the more I think about it, the more I wonder – do we really have time to convey 3 facts in 1 headline?

Nowadays, my formula consists of one topic in a catchy phrase, supported by a slightly longer sub-headline.  This formula has served me well for print headlines and even email banners.  Blogs and other pieces that rely on a single headline are harder and take more time to come up with.  I must admit – headlines are definitely not my forte!  Here are a few additional guidelines I have been using to help with the process:

  1. 50/50 Rule – I have read of a 50/50 rule which claims you should spend at least half of your time (and effort) developing and refining your headline
  2. Start with the Value – be clear on the benefits you want to convey and build a headline around what you want your audience to remember
  3. Use Sub Headlines – people tend to consume information in chunks so use sub headlines to bring my detail and structure (especially true for longer pieces)
  4. Be Specific – and avoid vague terms and blanket statements. This allows you to get right to the point without filler and other unnecessary words
  5. Be Compelling – this goes without saying! If you are in marketing, creating compelling content is at the foundation of what you do. It shows how well you know your audience and how much you can relate to them (or vice versa)
  6. Provide Urgency – when you have a compelling headline, you can urge your audience to take action. Communicate if the content is time sensitive (like a sale that is ending soon or an upcoming event)
  7. Edit, Edit and Then, Edit Some More – I often write headlines first before developing the content and use it as a guideline to what the content should talk about. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to go back and make sure the headline is still relevant, effective etc.

Hopefully with a bit more patience and practice, this process will become a much easier one in the future! Do you have any tips for writing strong and compelling headlines?  Share your best practices with me in the comments!

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Email or Phone?

Because we have a very ‘phone-driven’ sales process here at work, I often get asked – do people prefer to get information over the phone or by email when they are researching vendors?

I can speak from experience – I recently got engaged and have been in full wedding planning mode. We’ve just begun hunting for a venue location for our big day!  I’ve contacted quite a few vendors and it was easy contacting them through the emails they listed or the contact forms on their website.  Because I do most of my research at night and on weekends, it was the best way for me to make arrangements for site tours and visits.

Retro-saleswomanOf all the vendors I contacted, one decided to forgo email completely and call me instead.  Because he had called me during work hours, we could not chat long. He gave me a lot of information during our conversation and we arranged for a time to meet in person.  When the phone call ended, I realized the notes I took were scribbles and it took a while to decipher all the information I needed.  When we showed up on Wednesday at the agreed upon time for our meeting, he was not there because he had put the date down for the week after.

This made me realize that while getting on the phone can be a much speedier process for moving the sales process along, it can also complicate the dialogue when key information is missed or not conveyed properly.  I also like to keep my work and private life separate when possible so the phone call caught me off guard!

Of course, not everyone will have the same preferences as me so be sure to have different approaches if possible to fit your customer’s needs. For instance, if your sales process is phone-driven, have a pre-drafted email that you can personalize and send out in case your customer does not pick up the phone.  Maybe funnel them to an email approach where you will continue to gather key information.  If your sales process is web-driven, perhaps arrange for a live agent to be available through chat so your customers can still have the instantaneous feedback if that is what they want.  There is no one size fits all but insisting on one method of communication over another might do you more harm than good!

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How to Make the Most of Your Vehicle Wraps

Last week as I was walking to work, I passed by a man standing on the sidewalk starring at a van.  As I was approaching, the man took out his phone and snapped a few photos.  I thought it was a bit odd until I walked by the van myself and noticed a picture of a cleaning bison!

The bison was an illustration but he was fully dressed and using what looked like a carpet cleaner.  It was a cute mascot for the company and it did what mascots are supposed to do for branding – it made the company memorable and top of mind.

Days later, as I was searching online for this company, I remembered the cleaning bison and typed in just that into the Google search bar – ‘Bison cleaning services’.  I didn’t remember the name of the company but the image of the cleaning bison in a service uniform had stuck with me.

Cleaning BisonI found the company (it was the first listing on the SERP). I clicked on the website but unfortunately did not see any cleaning bisons!  I immediately left the website thinking I had clicked on the wrong company.  After further research (because I am persistent), I could not find any other cleaning service providers in my city that referenced a bison so I concluded that the first website I visited must have been the one I was looking for.  Yellow Pages confirmed my suspicions when I saw the cleaning bison in one of their listings for the same company.

This made me realize – while it is useful to brand your company vehicles with promotional decalling, it is equally important to make sure all your other pieces in your advertising mix are consistent and carry the same messaging or look!  When you only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention as they are driving or walking past your vehicles, they will likely not be able to retain a lot of information.  What they do retain, you have to make sure they will be able to easily make the connection to your website or easily locate your contact information on the web.   This applies to other outdoor advertising as well such as billboards, bus benches and refuse bins for example.

If you are looking for new business, you want to make sure your customers are reaching you when they are searching for you on the web!  (Not everyone will take a photo like the man I walked by on the street!)

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On Repeat – Lord and Taylor’s Handkerchief Dress

Lord & Taylor’s latest campaign will have you seeing double… or 50 times to be more exact.

Last weekend, Lord & Taylor debuted its handkerchief paisley dress from its new Design Lab collection.  The dress didn’t debut on Lord & Taylor’s Instagram feed though. It showed up on the feeds of 50 influential fashion bloggers that were hand-selected to help with the announcement.

I am a regular user of Instagram. Something about the easy, image-focused format makes the app so addicting!  Personally, I love using the app for inspirations on photography, quotes, news and of course, fashion. In the world of fashion blogging, what sets each fashion blogger apart from others is their own sense of individual style.  So imagine my surprise when I saw several bloggers wearing the same paisley handkerchief dress from Lord and Taylor on my feed!

 

 

Perfect weather for a day at the beach in my #DesignLab dress exclusive to @lordandtaylor #ad

A photo posted by S H E R Y L (@walkinwonderland) on

After a little digging around, I realized it was a concerted effort by Lord & Taylor to get the word out on their new Design Lab Collection.  The company had selected each of the bloggers for their unique sense of style and of course, their fan base! Each of the bloggers selected had sizeable follower counts – anywhere from 50,000 to 1.4 million followers.

This got me excited about #thedress (haha) but even more so, about the marketing!  In taking this unprecedented move, Lord & Taylor had found the perfect way to reach their target market of 18 – 35 year old fashion conscious women, bringing exposure to the brand in a bold, new way.  Whatever your perception of the brand was (or lack of, in a lot of cases, I bet!), Lord & Taylor had successfully attached itself to some of today’s most respected and followed fashion bloggers in America. This must have injected some new energy into a brand that has  been around since the 1800’s!

I read through some of the comments on the paisley dress photos.  Some followers were genuinely interested in the dress. Others were not so amused – there were a few people who expressed disappointment that their favourite bloggers had ‘sold out’ and received compensation for a a very sponsored post.  But overall, the way I see it – Lord & Taylor is ready to fight for this coveted consumer market and it has entered into the fight in a very bold way! So far the strategy seems to be working, as the sold out within a week!

This has been an interesting campaign to follow! Does this affect the way followers consume these blogger’s editorial content? Will they be more leery now to these fashion ‘collaborations’? or has it been a mutually beneficial exercise for the bloggers and the brand?

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Dare Greatly

I caught this commercial from Cadillac a few weeks back and it left me completely speechless! Not many commercials have left such an impression. See for yourself:


This commercial is part of the ‘Dare Greatly’ campaign by Publicis for the 112 year old iconic brand Cadillac.  The campaign is part of the effort to revitalize the brand and reposition it as an alternative to its German competitors.

The campaign is bold and enlists the stories of today’s innovators, game changers and movers and shakers.  The stories of Steve Wozniak, Jason Wu, Richard Linklater, Njeri Rionge, and Anne Wojciciki are stories that we know and through them, we are able to understand what Cadillac is trying to accomplish.

On the campaign page, Cadillac’s president, Johan de Nysschen
 tells us:

“To once again become the standard for excellence around the globe, we cannot follow any of the examples set by the luxury market “establishment”, nor meekly succumb to preconceived notions about this great brand, or even, perceptions about our rivals. We respect each and every one of our competitors, but Cadillac will chart its own course, and we will speak our own truth.

Cadillac is on a mission to shatter the status quo. Cadillac will lead with highly aspirational products packed with advanced technology, superlative craftsmanship and distinctive design. And a brand character that symbolizes quality and respect. We don’t aim to be the biggest. We aim to be the best, the highly aspirational domain of the few.”

Dare Greatly comes from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 ‘Citizenship in a Republic’ speech – “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Dare Greatly Cadillac

Cadillac pulls inspirations from figures past and present for their big revival and produces something great and daring!  While these stories resonate so powerfully, I wondered about how they were selected.  Richard Linklater, Anne Wojcicik and Steve Wozniak as we know are all American. However, Jason Wu and Njeri Rionge are Taiwanese-Canadian and Kenya respectively. I wondered if featuring all American stories would not have helped the brand showcase their all-American heritage even more!  Check out the rest of the videos and the letter from the president here.

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Movie Watching: Chef and the Use of Social Media

Chef Movie Jon Favreau

I just finished watching Chef – a feel good movie about a chef who loses his restaurant and bounces back by starting up a food truck.  As with every good movie, there is a journey and chef Carl’s takes him from Miami back home to Los Angeles. Along the way, he finds his passion again, regains his dignity and reunites with his family.

But why am I writing about it here?  Well, in the movie, chef Carl has a very public breakdown after being called out by a food critic.  The breakdown is captured by nearby by-standers and made worse by going viral on the Internet. When he attempts to respond on Twitter (without understanding fully how Twitter works, I might add) he accidentally starts a (very public) war with the food critic that results in him losing his job at the restaurant.  The marketing nerd in me was very amused by how Twitter was incorporated into the movie.  Later, he has an opportunity to take over a food truck in Miami, thus beginning his ‘journey of self-awareness’.  His 10 year old, tech-savvy, marketing genius of a son, Percy decides to join in on the road trip, along with Carl’s sous chef/good friend, Martin.  They re-invent themselves and El Jefe, the Cuban food sensation / food truck was born. Throughout the road trip, which takes them from Miami to New Orleans to Austin and finally home to Los Angeles, Percy tweets, vines, and uses a Facebook page to promote the food truck and saves his dad’s bruised reputation.  The marketing nerd in me loved the idea.  Percy was an absolute little marketing genius! He posted real moments captured on the trip and allowed the public to get to know the chef – offering the real human side that people didn’t know before he had his breakdown.  He tweeted live updates to let the crowds know where they were and what they were doing.  He made Vine videos to capture the moments and in the end, compiled an edited video of 1 second clips captured throughout the trip.  What amazing content to do marketing with!  Throughout the movie, I was reminded of how important it is to be real with your customers.  After all, as Seth Godin says “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

Consumers now a days are so used to advertising and so skeptical to marketing ‘lies’ and half truths. Even when they are not lies, consumers just assume the worst. That is why it’s so important to find other ways to speak to your customers – such as using testimonials or showing results.  But what’s also interesting for consumers too is understanding the ‘why’ behind why you do what you do, sell what you sell, etc. Letting them know your vulnerabilities, your passions makes your brand more relatable, more human even and therefore more trust-worthy.

Anyway, it was a fun movie to watch. A bit long at times but with Sofia Vergara playing Carl’s ex-wife, John Leguizamo as the trusty side kick / sous chef and Jon Favreau as the chef you can’t help but root for, it definitely was a light-hearted, fun watch.  Plus, as I was looking up the links for this movie, I found out that Jon Favreau actually trained with real life chef Roy Choi to prepare for this role.  The duo even brought El Jefe to life and served the truck’s signature ‘Cubano’ sandwiches in LA! There were even plans to open up an El Jefe restaurant too – the ultimate marketing move for cross promotion!

Here’s a chef Carl getting a lesson on Twitter from his son, Percy:

 

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