When people think about words online, they mostly think about blog content – and there are hundreds of examples online where people talk about good blogs. We’ve done it ourselves! But blogging is just a small aspect of what could contribute to good written content.
Whether in complex industries, creative storytelling or just social media, words really matter. They don’t just help with SEO, but in 2016 the demands around online language are greater.
Words can help cut through difficult information, express a brand’s personality or simply entertain and engage. And the competition is tough these days. Using words well to express a brand or achieve a goal should be considered a core aspect of online activity.
With that in mind, here are four websites that are very smart in the way they use the written word.
Storytelling. One of the most engaging uses of language both offline and online. But the Guardian labs project is using storytelling as a fascinating marketing tool in itself. The language here is much more open and creative than for Gov.UK, because it’s doing something different. It’s about exploration and entertainment – immersion in the story itself. And by leveraging the big audience of the Guardian newspaper online, their labs experiment is doing this to promote brands in creative ways.
They’ve done things like use interactive storytelling to promote travel across the US, sending journalists on the road, and ran a ‘How to solve a murder’ true crime feature to promote an Amazon Prime series.
What’s particularly good is that the platform is not about advertising a brand explicitly. It’s forcing brands to earn people’s attention in a non-invasive manner, and one that benefits readers first. It’s content marketing in its purest and most entertaining form.
The government. This sounds like the most boring thing in the world, right?
But what GOV.UK has done online is to help millions of users navigate complex information by designing content to be around what users want, and not what a company or organisation wants to project onto people.
Although changes that were made on GOV.UK when it re-launched go beyond content and into UX, design and so on, everything is focussed on helping people find the information they need, on whatever device they’re using. There are lessons here for any big company or complex organisation.
If you’re a content geek like me, then it’s worth reading about their approach to writing content. All governmental departments who create content for GOV.UK use this guide – which means that there is a consistent, and consistently helpful approach to writing for users.
Simple sentences. Structured in a particular way. Focussed around needs.
What draws you to one shop over another? What makes one website your go-to destination, even though there are other competitors out there? Though there are dozens of things that influence ecommerce decision-making, having personality shine through is one thing. And that’s what Moosejaw do really well.
They create little puns on the corners of image, or say amusing things in product descriptions. For example, they describe a new jacket as “a touch sleeker, leaving you looking classy on the trails and in town, much less of the marshmallow-man.”
All of this helps communicate what Moosejaw want to say about themselves – they say they’re fun, they don’t take things too seriously. More importantly, it makes people want to use their website or spend more time there, where they will be tempted to make a purchase.
Finally, the Twitter feed for Innocent Drinks is highly amusing. There are many jokes.
A handy flowchart about pantomimes. pic.twitter.com/X9kzQ9w2zB
— innocent drinks (@innocent) December 17, 2016
Why is this smart? Well, it’s a good example of a company with a clear brand style for their writing, which manifests across multiple channels, from their website to their labels. It means customers get a consistent idea of the brand being full of life no matter where they encounter it.
On social in particular, humour like this leads to more shares, more follows, more brand awareness – and more sales. Words are pulling people into convert into long-term customers.