Seven tips to build for meaning

What happens after I click on your Google ad?

I was thinking about great Squidoo pages (lenses) yesterday, and realized that many of them, along with many blogs, have the same goal: give someone a handle, a sense of meaning–context–so they can go ahead and take action.

You have a blog to turn a browser into a raging fan for your candidate or your product.
You have a lens designed to teach people what they need to know to confidently sign up for your tour.
You have a landing page to convert Google AdWords clickers into buyers.

With that in mind, here are a few tactical tips that might help if that’s what you’re trying to do online:

  1. Use numbers and bullets. People don’t read online, they scan.
  2. Give people a place to go. The web is incredibly efficient when it’s a road, much less so when it’s a dead end. The best meaning-building delivers the reader to a new place, in context.
  3. Use pictures. Back to the scanning thing. Pictures, properly chosen, communicate quality as well as large amounts of information. I’m not talking about product shots (which are important) as much as pictures that tell a story. (thanks, Benji)
  4. Have an opinion. Guides that bend over backwards to be fair rarely impart information. Context is built more quickly if people know where you stand and can plug that into their previous point of view. If you’re giving meaning, you’re also making an argument… one in favor of your point of view.
  5. Don’t be afraid to compare. Saying this is better than that helps me understand if I already have an understanding of that.
  6. It’s a brick wall, not a balloon. This is a hard one for many people. We try to build something quickly and get it totally complete all in one go. If we can’t, we get frustrated and give up. But great blogs and lenses are built brick by brick, a little at a time. You learn what works and do it more. Here’s a fine example.
  7. It’s okay to be long, if you’re chunky. The great lesson of direct mail was that long letters always do better than short ones. That’s because once you’ve sold me, I’ll stop reading. But if I’m not sold and I get to the end, you lose. The web is infinitely expandable. So go ahead and tell your story.