A recent post from NTEN provides some great guidance on writing and editing for the web, and offers a useful reminder that content is still the most important part.
Specifically, Brett Meyer at NTEN points out how “Gerald Marzorati, Editor of The New York Times Magazine, has revealed that “‘contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s our longest pieces that attract the most online traffic'” and also that “NTEN’s own web analytics show that, by and large, our carefully considered, better written, longer blog posts yield much longer time-on-page.”
The main takeaway, I think, for nonprofits is that when you shouldn’t be afraid to tell a full story when it’s compelling; Meyer aptly sums it up:
“We read what interests us, even if it happens to be on the Web. The problem, as I see it, is that conventional wisdom is leaving us with less of interest to read. The more it becomes accepted that we need to write for people to scan, the more we strip things down to facts and figures, bullet points and sub-heads, the more we may be moving further away from what our audiences actually want.”
He goes on to lay out some good considerations for when you want to take your time in telling your story and how to do so effectively. And he also notes the important caveat that still “there’s a lot of value in knowing how to use white space and paragraph breaks and subheadings to capture people’s attention.” I think the layout of his own post on the topic illustrates that point pretty clearly.
An important thing to consider is what the purpose of your content is, and what the easiest way is for that to be achieved. For example, I wrote recently that I’d like to see Governor Patrick’s campaign use more of those cliche writing-for-the-web tactics of bullets, bolding, and short content. The goal of sharing that content is to inform supporters and request their support. The easiest way for supporters to complete that goal is to be one-click away from contributing.
There’s certainly an argument to be made that the (long) content of their fundraising appeal was compelling enough to hold the reader’s attention and compel the reader to click the contribute link when they finally get to it. However, some bold headings would help guide the skimming reader through the text, and putting the link to contribute farther up in the email would make it easier for contributors to give and accomplish that goal. If the email were a short summary with a good teaser, the content could drive the reader to the website where the reader could read the full post with a contribute box and links to sign-up for volunteering readily accessible.
There’s no need to cut out good content, but it’s important to consider the most effective way to use it to maximize your conversion goals.