Online Content: Finding the Right Length


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Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

As we write content to be published online, the question of “how much is too much?” comes up again and again.

There’s no right answer for any one channel, but thanks to some in-depth research and comparisons from BufferSocial, we have a better idea for what seems to work best.

Here are some of the findings for the ideal copy length by content type:

  • Tweets – 100 characters
  • Facebook posts – Less than 40 characters
  • Email subject lines – 28-39 characters
  • Blog posts – 1,600 words
  • Headlines – 6 words
  • Online seminar – 18 minutes

Do you see the trend here? For most types of content, it seems that shorter copy wins out.

Consider tweets. Each time we post something on Twitter, we’re limited to 140 total characters. It’s often hard enough to stay within that count and convey what we’re trying to say, so take away 40 of those characters, and it’s an even bigger challenge.

Or how about headlines? Suppose you write a very compelling article that covers a bunch of great information and you’re given the task of summarizing the piece in just six words. Not such an easy thing to do, is it?

But think of how people typically use the web today. They’re looking for information quickly … often scanning content on their handheld devices while on the go and skimming their news feeds for the topics they find most interesting or relevant.

Of course, as we write, not every piece is going to fit these guidelines, and some audiences may be less ‘sensitive’ to length than others.

Take this blog post as an example. In the end, it will come out to just over 300 words. We managed to get the headline down to the recommended six words or less, but didn’t feel that a 1,600-word post made much sense.

That’s the key … consider the suggestions for ideal length in your writing and then decide what is right for your readers.

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Case Study: BloomReach & the Red Dress


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Posted by Brenda Timm, Vice President – Strategic Communication & Online Services

Have you heard the story about a little quiz on a red dress that’s making its way across the web?

It all began with the BloomReach Personalized Discovery Platform, a product that combines different applications to understand what people are searching for online across various channels and devices, and then match them with the appropriate content.

BloomReach aims to understand how people see and talk about products, and to show customers how it does this, the company developed an interactive quiz built around a single red dress.

What BloomReach found in terms of engagement and results was pretty unexpected.

Launching a quiz via the ion interactive platform, BloomReach created a visual design for a red dress and then paired it with a bunch of questions that asked readers about everything from cut and color to fit and occasion. The quiz quickly went viral and had a huge participation rate after BloomReach used a multi-channel strategy of social channels, targeted email tactics and paid ads to distribute it.

With a 70% conversion rate, the quiz’s engagement rate was much higher than anyone could have anticipated; but what really came as a surprise to many who were following the survey was how differently all of the participants described the exact same item.

Consider neckline. While “square” came in as the top answer, others explained the neckline as “scoop,” “sweetheart” and “tank.” And when asked what occasion someone would wear the dress to, responses ranged from “birthday party” and “clubbing” to “gallery opening.”

To one, it was seen as fancy, and to another, it was casual. Interesting how people can have such varying interpretations, isn’t it?

While the quiz underscores just how captivating a simple visual can be in getting people to engage, it also shows how diversely consumers may be thinking about – and planning to use – our products.

The red dress project from BloomReach provides a great reminder: it’s essential to consider every perspective possible when it comes to marketing an item.

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The Upsides to User-Generated Content


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Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

Some of the most memorable ads we’ve been introduced to incorporate elements like high-tech special effects, complex video shoots and celebrity cameos.

But these costly campaigns are starting to be supplemented – and sometimes even totally replaced – with a different approach that is much simpler and a lot more affordable: user-generated content.

It’s a concept many big-name brands have been testing for a while now and one that they’re having some great success with.

A Trend with Traction
Consider Burberry. Back in 2009, the British fashion house first launched the “Art of the Trench” campaign that asked people to submit photos of themselves wearing their favorite trench coats from the luxury label. This remains a highlight section of the Burberry site five years later and still includes an invitation for visitors to submit their pictures.

Sure, the user-generated approach to content was a logical fit in the fashion realm, but it has continued to catch on in other industries in all kinds of fun and creative ways.

A few of the more recent examples include the “White Cup Contest” from Starbucks that asked customers to design their own coffee cups and post them to Instagram or Twitter as well as Coca-Cola’s current “Share a Coke” campaign that encourages participants to share their soda-loving selfies.

Perhaps the company with one of the most exciting user-generated campaigns right now, GoPro is getting a lot of attention for its customer-created videos that are popping up online. The manufacturer of self-mounted cameras has even added its own YouTube channel where people can see clips of divers to snowboarders adventuring with their tiny cameras in action.

Why the Growing Popularity?
So why is user-generated content such a big deal these days? The answer seems to be a combination of things.

First, people can relate to this content and they like that it feels so genuine. There’s no scripted dialogue going on between actors, and consumers are captivated by the chance of getting a glimpse into someone’s real life.

It’s also cost-effective. Information reported on GoPro showed that the company increased its marketing budget by just $41,000 in 2013 and upped its net income by $28 million in the same year. How is this possible? A campaign focused on user-generated content can drastically cut expenses since much of the work – including production – is already done.

Plus, with all the latest technology available, we’ve transitioned to a time when the quality of user content has improved significantly and is much more functional.

How about your company? Are there any opportunities for you to take advantage of user-generated content and launch a photo sharing project, fun contest or other campaign?

If current examples serve as any indicator, you could have a successful strategy on your hands.

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Long-Form Content: Still Legitimate


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Posted by Brenda Timm, Vice President – Strategic Communication & Online Services

In today’s go-go-go environment, quick digital conversations have become the norm with things like abbreviated lingo and limited character counts commanding our typical discussion habits.

So does that mean long-form content (a piece with about 1,500 words or more) has gone out the window?

Nope, even with the many distractions readers face, this is definitely not the case.

If you factor in all that added “noise” and information overload we’ve grown accustomed to today, people are still inclined to read longer posts, articles and feature stories under the right circumstances.

There is a clause, though: the content has to be relevant and do a good job of telling a story. A quote from NewsCred sums it up pretty well:

“Content must be valuable, educational, less promotional, and more about adding to the conversation. If content meets none of those requirements, then it is safe to say that no one will read it.” 

Some evidence to show that long-form content still works? A study by NewsWhip analyzed a month’s worth of the top 10 stories shared on Facebook from various major publishers like The Huffington Post and The New York Times. The majority within the most-read category weren’t short, 500-word stories, but instead, pieces that averaged nearly 1,000 words or more. The top stories from The New York Times averaged a whopping 2,012 words.

Those are some pretty impressive numbers considering the huge portion of consumers who are now reading (and scrolling) on their smartphones or other handheld devices.

These findings aren’t to say that long-form content is always the answer. It is not.

In many cases, those 140-character tweets or quick, visually-compelling ads and posts are the perfect way to grab your audience’s attention.

But when you’re trying to acquire a commitment, give perspective on a complex topic or establish an ongoing relationship, long-form content can prove to be very effective.

No matter what format you choose as you write, one key thing to remember: pay more attention to what your customers are hoping to learn instead of what you are trying to sell.

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Advertising Case Study: Under Armour


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Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

If you haven’t seen the new Under Armour ad featuring ballerina Misty Copeland that first aired last week, the 60-second spot is definitely worth a watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY0cdXr_1MA

It’s a powerful clip with the narrator reading snippets of a past rejection letter – from “you have the wrong body for ballet” to “you are too old to be considered” – as the young woman glides through the air effortlessly, and we later learn she is now a soloist for the American Ballet Theatre.

Not only is Under Armour sending a powerful message here in this ad, but the brand has built a full campaign around this inspiring theme of female fierceness and determination.

This comes as a refreshing change in approach as Under Armour is often associated with the tough guy image where men are seen in its commercials lifting weights or hitting the football field to the tune of “Protect this House.”

Yes, women have had some starring roles in these clips, but the new campaign focuses solely on them and their remarkable achievements. The ads also integrate the brand’s original “I Will” motto and further strengthen it with the amended version, “I Will What I Want.”

Another plus with the new campaign? In addition to big-name stars like skier Lindsey Vonn appearing on screen, Under Armour shares the stories of lesser-known athletes like Copeland.

And along with capturing the resilience of female athletes, we have to give credit to the company for showing its own, too.

It was a rough start to 2014 when Under Armour faced some serious speculation that the suits it supplied for the United States speedskating team at the Sochi Olympics factored in to the competitors’ poor performance and lack of medals.

This claim was later dismissed by the US Speedskating executive director and the partnership renewed, but it’s likely that the less-than-stellar PR didn’t serve as a brand booster.

From the looks of it, though, Under Armour is back on track and moving forward with a marketing campaign that is stronger than ever.

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The Domain Name Game


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Posted by Brenda Timm, Vice President – Strategic Communication & Online Services

Think back to when you registered the domain for your website. Was it a fee of somewhere between $10-$40 or closer to $300,000?

Yep, you read that right. In a public auction being held this week, the going rate for “SEM.com” – short for “search engine marketing.com” – is at $290,000. That’s quite a contrast to “discountvinyl.com,” another domain currently listed, with a minimum asking price of just $2.
But this is precisely how the game of domain names goes.

How does the pricing process work? When a domain name expires and its registrant doesn’t choose to renew, the domain often goes to auction through sites like GoDaddy or Sedo. In the case of “SEM.com” listed on Heritage Auctions, the name was expected to be so sought after that an email campaign was even sent to announce that it was up for grabs. Depending on demand or the lack thereof, domain costs can vary significantly.

So how do you avoid paying the big bucks when choosing a domain while still securing one that is a good, logical fit for your website?

  • Do your homework – As one of the first steps in website development, research the main domains you’re interested in to see if they’re available and what they will cost to register. But be careful – rather than using domain search services, we often recommend simply typing the desired domain name into your browser URL bar as if it is an actual address and see if anything comes up. There are instances of ‘squatters’ monitoring domain searches and purchasing them before YOU get a chance to. If certain names are already spoken for, find who owns them through Whois and see if a purchase is negotiable and affordable.
  • Choose accordingly – Your domain should tie to your organization name and align with your branding efforts. If the two are totally unrelated, think of how much this could confuse visitors.
    Consider the extensions – Out of all the extensions available today, .com is still the most popular and universally recognized, beating out .net, .org, .co, .biz and others. It is typically a good idea to purchase both the .com and the .org (or other preferred extension(s)) all at the same time. There are several reasons to do this; one is to help keep competitors from snapping them up and directing your traffic to their websites.
  • Keep it short – An important rule of thumb is to keep your domain short so it’s fast and easy to type. Avoid a long string of words pieced together and terms with multiple spellings. That being said, sometimes a slightly longer domain with recognizable words can be more intuitive and easier to remember than a very short acronym from those words.
  • Keep it simple – The simpler your domain is, the more memorable. Extra characters like hyphens, numerals and underscores can be difficult to remember.

There are a lot of things to consider when selecting the right domains for your website. Here’s one more tip: it’s easier – and much more cost-effective – to secure the best names up front than to try and alter all of your marketing materials later.

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Search Engine Traffic: Quantity vs. Quality?


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Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

A leading site for estimating web traffic, Alexa reports that Google still commands the #1 position for “Top 500 Sites on the Web” globally and also remains the most popular in the search engine (SE) category.

Not a big surprise, is it? Here’s something you might not know, though: other SEs may be bringing in more engaged visitors.

A recent article MarketingProfs published on a study by Shareaholic showed that Google is driving a lot more traffic numbers-wise, but the visitors who come from some of the less popular SEs are often more connected.

How so? When looking at several SEs, organic search data from more than 300,000 sites and 400 million unique visitors was analyzed for a six-month period. It showed that searchers who land on sites through Ask.com, Bing and Yahoo! average longer visit times, navigate to more pages and have a lower bounce rate (leaving a site after viewing just one page) than Google.

The report showed that visitors arriving via Google average just over two pages per visit. Plus, these visitors have a 61.26% bounce rate once they reach a site, meaning they are very likely to make a quick exit if they don’t find the information or answers needed right away.

While AOL comes in as the search engine with the least engaged audience post-click according to average time spent on site, total pages reviewed and bounce rate, Google has the second lowest overall percentage in the study.

So why are these findings so significant to us marketers?

As the clear leader in search engine usage for so long, Google has become the engine many tend to cater their online efforts to since it sends 17 times more traffic to sites than the other SEs mentioned – AOL, Ask.com, Bing and Yahoo! – combined.

However, this research shows that it’s not just the quantity of visits we should be paying attention to as other SEs may be worth consideration when it comes to the quality.

In any case, this data certainly raises some thought-provoking questions when evaluating search engine strategy and tactics, such as why engagement levels seem to differ between search engines, and the like. It’s a topic that’s worthy of a deeper level of analysis than this single study provides.

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