PetSmartCharities.org reaches readers online
More than 400,000 dogs and cats find homes each year through PetSmart Charities’ in-store adoption programs and events. In fact, the organization grants more money to directly help pets in need than any other animal welfare group in North America.
But how to get the word out?
Online communications manager Heather Vana and the other smart folks at PetSmart Charities recently rebooted PetSmartCharities.org to more effectively reach readers online. (Disclosure: I developed templates for and edited the animal welfare professionals site.)
Here’s how they did it — and how you can do it, too:
Online visitors view most web pages for 10 seconds or less. Fewer than one in 10 page views extend beyond two minutes — and that includes those left open in background windows.
To reach impatient online visitors, get to the point faster. PetSmartCharities.org accomplished that with clear — not clever — headlines, blurbs, buttons and other display copy:
2. Chunk it up.
Want to help web visitors find, read and understand information online? Break web copy into short pages and hyperlink those pages together.
PetSmart Charities, for instance, doesn’t deliver a single long page with all of the details about each type of grant it offers. Instead, the site divides and conquers, moving details about each type of grant to a separate page.
3. Write it tight.
Web visitors process only about 20 percent of the words on a page. But add more words, and that percentage goes down. Shorter is better.
So do all of the things you do to make your print copy clear and concise, only more so. Make web copy hyper-crisp for the hyper-world.
Online, “readers” don’t read. They scan. In fact, half of all web visitors don’t actually read the paragraphs, according to The Poynter Institute’s EyeTrack07 study.
So how can you get the word out on the web? Lift your ideas off the screen with display copy.
Vana’s team used lists, subheads, bold-faced lead-ins and other display copy to lift ideas off the screen:
5. Cut the fluff.
Web visitors are looking for specific facts more than 95 percent of the time. Why, then, do we lard up our web copy with hype and marketing fluff, burying our data points under a layer of fat?
To make your web page more than 25 percent more usable, increase the facts and cut the fluff.
To do so:
Avoid adjectives, adverbs and other modifiers and hyperbole.
Deliver concrete, tangible evidence through:
- Startling statistics
- Analogies, metaphors and similes
- Fun facts, juicy details
- Examples, for instances
- Stories, narratives, anecdotes and scenarios
- Testimonials and sound bites
PetSmartCharities.org uses specific, tangible details — not vague, hyperbolic chest-banging — to tell its stories through passages like this:
6. Make it friendly.
Visitors like websites that have the personalities of … well … people — not the personalities of organizations.
So go ahead: Loosen your tie.
To do so:
- Activate the passive voice
- Write in the second person
- Drop the jargon and bureaucratese
- Make it conversational
- Bring your personality to work
PetSmartCharities.org comes off as a group of people, not an institution, with copy like this:
Pictures help too. After all, it doesn’t get much friendlier than this:
What approaches can you steal from PetSmartCharities.org?
How can you refresh your website using these best practices in web writing?