Tag Archives: design

The Plain Language Movement: The Importance of Simple Language in Content Marketing

content marketing tips

Please excuse my vanity for a moment but I like to think of myself as a somewhat respectable writer. I’m almost definitely never going to with either a Nobel Prize in Literature or a Pulitzer but when push comes to shove, I can confidently say that I could write better than the average Joe/Jane you find walking on the street. Even with all of my capability as a wordsmith however, I have the absolute confidence that I could never write as well as the kind of people that works in a corporate legal department. I have right now in my hand a by-the-numbers employee contract and I am amazed at how they could make something so simple sounds needlessly complicated.

If you’ve ever read an employee contract or any other similar form of legal documents such as the ubiquitous terms and conditions agreement, I have the absolute faith you know what I’m talking about here. Legal documents are some of the most obtuse writing the human race to the point that there’s an official government website in the United States of America dedicated to making government communique, especially legal documents, more digestible to the average public. This website is part of the larger plain language movement all over the world and it’s this philosophy that I believe is also relevant to content marketing services and other marketers.

Jargon-filled marketing

Have you ever read a press release or a company profile only to find that you have absolutely no idea what they’re trying to say? Join the club then, my friend because that is exactly how I feel about how most car companies handle their marketing in the past few years. I’m not exactly much of a petrolhead but I do like to follow what’s going on in the greater world of automotive and motorsport and as a result, I get to read a lot about what companies are saying about their new cars and all I can say is the words they’re using and how they use them is a lot which might sound like a good thing even though in reality, it’s kinda not.

Earlier this year, the American Automobile Association or the AAA did a study on the various driver assist systems available in the market and group them based on what they actually do. Based on their findings of 34 automakers in America, they found a total of 20 different variations for adaptive cruise control systems, a system that automatically adjust a vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead. The variations include “distance assist”, “high-speed dynamic radar cruise control”, Mercedes-Benz’s “distronic plus”, etc. A turd by any other name is still going to be a turd and having 20 different ways to describe what is essentially the same thing is just going to be confusing for customers.

The beauty in simplicity

There’s this webcomic that I infinitely love called Strange Planet created by Nathan Pyle that examines this issue in an absurdly humorous way. The gist of the comic is that there’s these humanoid beings not unlike ours that participates in the usual human behaviors but describing them in a strangely familiar way. One notable example is a parent tucking in their kid into bed but instead of saying “sweet dreams” like you would expect, the parent instead said “imagine pleasant nonsense”. On a purely technical level, these two phrases carry the exact same meaning but if the former is delivered in perfect English, the latter feels like having English translated into German which was then translated into French then into Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Spanish and back into English again.

I completely understand that as a writer, you’d like to showcase what makes you better than everybody else but the mark of an exceptional writer is not someone who sounds like they memorized the contents of every thesaurus known to man but someone who’s capable of conveying the complexities of life using simple languages. As a prime example, I would like to shine a spotlight on the winner of the 2017’s Nobel Prize for Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro. Among his contemporaries, Ishiguro is known for the simplicity of his prose. There are no obvious theatrics in the language that he uses and yet I’m comfortable in saying that at their best, Ishiguro’s work is an emotional tour de force.

The beauty in brevity

Another point I’d like to make is the beauty of brevity. I’m not saying here that you should make blog posts containing less than 1,000 words every single time but even when you’re doing an in-depth piece revolving around a subject, you want to be as brief and as straight to the point as possible. Purple prose, the act of using extravagantly flowery text characterized by an excessive use of metaphors, is a risky technique to employ in literature and they can be even more damaging in the world of content marketing as they’re wholly unnecessary. Try using less complex sentences and break them down to smaller, simpler sentences whenever possible.

That being said, don’t be afraid to use analogies

When used clumsily, analogies can add unnecessary burden to a text but for me personally, I find them to be an excellent tool when trying to explain a relatively complex subject or when I’m trying to prove a point. The whole philosophy of the plain language movement is to simplify obtuse text into something anyone can easily understand and what better way to do that than to use a common analogy as an illustration? Analogies can also be a useful tool for writers to try and inject some of their personality into the writing without having to add unnecessary complexity to the text.

Using conversational language in marketing

The final and most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to language in content marketing is to simply write how you talk. This is plain, simple common sense and yet I’ve lost count of how many supposed writers I know of that can’t even follow this one simple advice. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about the latest developments on Brexit or your thoughts on this year’s The Bachelor; all you have to do is make sure that your writing sounds equally natural. Try reading what you just wrote and if you feel awkward saying them aloud, that’s a surefire sign that your writing could use a little bit more time in the oven.

Communal Living: 4 Reasons Businesses Should Stay Away from Shared Hosting

web hosting tips

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the cheapest option is rarely, if ever, the best option. I would even go as far as saying that the cheapest option is unlikely to even pass the threshold of being merely good. For example, carbonated beverages and junk foods are typically one of the more economical options when it comes to a full meal and while I don’t deny that they can be fulfilling when you’re in a pinch, they’re not exactly what I would call nutritious. I do indulge in junk food from time to time, usually when I’m strapped for cash, but I make it a point to avoid them whenever possible.

You can apply this axiom to life in general and nine times out of then, it’s still going to hold up. I’m not exactly saying that the money you’re spending is always proportional to what you’re going to get but there’s definitely a correlation there and this can also be seen in the world of web development. When trying to determine which web hosting services you should pick for your business’ website, the term shared hosting is definitely going to pop up often. As the most economical option available for web hosting, you’re going to have to properly take shared hosting under consideration but as I’ve pointed out, there are also plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t.

Digital co-living with shared hosting

Those inside the industry tend to think of shared hosting as living in an apartment but that’s too generous of an assessment as in an apartment building, you at least have some personal space reserved for your use only, however limited. No, the more accurate description of shared hosting would be like living in a 4-bed room commonly seen in backpacker hostels. Sure, technically, your bed is your own but pretty much everything else is fair game so if one of your roommates decided to take up the annoying art of manspreading (apologies to men beforehand) and snoring within the vicinity then I’m sorry to say but you’re just going to have to deal with it.

In shared hosting, multiple websites are hosted in a single server and the resource of that server is divided among the websites hosted on that server. The server’s bandwidth, space, computing resource, the maintenance costs, etc are all shared among the tenants. Unlike in VPS (virtual private server) hosting however, where the server is at least digitally partitioned to ensure that each website is isolated from the others, there are no such divisions in a shared hosting plan. This lack of technological complexity is what makes shared hosting cheap but would also lead to several complications you might want to be aware of before committing to a shared hosting plan.

Lack of customization

The very first thing that’s going to come to mind with shared hosting plan is that you have very limited control over the actual server your website is hosted on. In a VPS hosting plan, even if you’re technically sharing server space with other websites/customers, you have complete free rein over the space you’ve been allocated. You’re free to choose your own operating system among other customization options for example, which can be quite useful if you consider yourself to be the more technological-minded. In a shared hosting plan, you’re merely allowed to use the resource provided by the server in lieu of the server itself and that can be quite limiting.

Lack of security

The biggest and most primary concern of course is the lack of security. If your apartment building is the site of a break in, chances are only one of the tenants has to suffer from the fallout but if a 4-bed dorm room gets broken into, every tenant staying in that room suffers equally. In a shared hosting plan, if just one website gets infected by a malware or is the victim of a data breach, there’s a high probability that every website hosted on that server is going to have to suffer from the consequences. In essence, a chain is quite literally only as strong as its weakest link.

It would invariably be inconvenient if you’ve worked hard to make sure your website is as secure as possible only for your lousy neighbor to ruin it with their lack of an SSL certificate. Also keep in mind that since the physical server is still mostly controlled and maintained by the web host, you’re going to be extremely reliant on them to keep your website safe and that’s not a good thing as businesses have to be as self-sufficient as possible. Given how ubiquitous ransomware, malware and data breaches are these days, shared hosting plan’s lack of security is pretty much a dealbreaker.

Lack of compartmentalization

Other than ransomware, malware and data breaches, one other threat modern websites have to watch out for is a denial of service (DoS) attack. Essentially, a DoS attack is a situation in which a website is excessively flooded with superfluous requests in order to overload the system and prevent genuine user requests from being fulfilled. DoS attacks can be quite simple to execute and is capable of taking even the biggest of websites with even Wikipedia playing the victim once. In a shared hosting plan, since you’re sharing a common space with other websites, a DoS attack to even one website would be capable of bringing the entire service down.

Lack of customer support

I’ve been on the other side so trust me when I say that while you’re guaranteed some measure of customer support for your website, you’re just going to be treated as another number compared to if you’re on a VPS or dedicated hosting plan. Because the number of customers on a shared hosting plan is considerably higher than other plans, it’s quite likely that you’re going to have to open a support ticket first and be greeted with generic questions and responses even if your problem is actually pretty unique. Depending on your luck, you might have to wait for several days before getting a respond which can get pretty annoying if your website was rendered suddenly and completely inaccessible.

Think On Your Feet: The Issue of Agility in Marketing

SEO tips

When I landed my first job right after college, I remember being told by my then-manager that to have a successful career with the company, I have to be able to quickly come up with a solution on my own. The professional world generously rewards quick, independent thinking and I’d have no hope of progressing if I’m incapable of thinking on my feet. Or at least, that’s how the thinking goes. From my observation though, I think that philosophy applies more to certain field than others.

In the field of finance for example, independent thinking isn’t always necessary since you’re typically operating within a rulebook where diligence is of utmost importance. In other fields, such as technology where progress is made on a day-to-day basis and in marketing where trends evolve as fast as the public’s attention span, the rulebook gets rewritten at a pace so rapid that you’re going to have to be able to reorient yourself every now and then. This is why for marketers and SEO services, the word agility is of the utmost importance.

Agility in SEO

SEO stands at the crossroad of technology and marketing. As SEO deals heavily with search engines and their algorithms, any progress made in search technologies would no doubt have an impact on the practice of SEO and since it’s not like the likes of Google will ever stop tinkering with their search algorithms, SEO services will never be able to rest on their laurels. At the same time, as SEO falls under the general umbrella of digital marketing, SEO still have to abide by the whims of the public and current trends, making it impossible for you to succeed if you’re content just staying in place.

Agility then comes into play as businesses doesn’t just require the foresight to predict where society is heading next but also be able to react quickly to something that’s unexpected. Avengers: Endgame being the total hit that it is now can be easily predicted, which is why it shouldn’t be hard for your business to come up with marketing materials that subtly references the film. But what about something awesomely unexpected like the bottle cap challenge started by taekwondo instructor Farabi Davletchin where he kicked a bottle cap off a bottle in slow motion over Instagram?

That viral craze began somewhat predictably, with Davletchin challenging several notable figures such as Jason Statham into performing their own version of the bottle cap challenge. As with any viral craze, the challenge soon began to delve into absurdity when the diva we definitely do not deserve Mariah Carey, jumped in by removing the cap not with her feet, but with her impressive vocal range. These viral crazes are pretty much the norm now and it would take clever thinking and swiftness of mind to turn it into something uniquely yours the way Mariah Carey did.

Start with a flexible and immediately actionable plan

The thing with trends is that they leave as fast as they come and as our attention span grows shorter and shorter, making a long-term marketing plan is pretty much pointless. For example let’s say that you were there firsthand when the bottle cap challenge craze started to go viral. Instead of responding however, you went to the drawing board and sit on it for weeks trying to figure out the best way you can capitalize on this trend. By the time your preparation’s ready and that you’ve earn the needed approval to execute the plan, the world has moved on to a new trend, like the 30-50 feral hogs thing from a couple weeks ago.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t rely on a rigid, long-term plan for marketing. Setting a long-term goal is acceptable but you should always be flexible in how that goal is reached. Marketing can sometimes be more about being reactionary than it is about foresight and you’re going to be relying on your responsiveness more often than not. Marketing can also takes an iterative form as you might find when your current strategy isn’t working, it might best to tweak them rather than starting from scratch all over again.

Focus on your team

Flexibility and an open mind isn’t a trait that’s possessed by everyone which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as sometimes, being rigid and uncompromising can be useful. The world of marketing however, the latter is a cardinal sin as you’re going to have to be able to see everything not from your point of view but from potential customers. What the public find interesting might not always line up with your preferences and businesses need to find someone who can easily reconcile with this contradiction to handle their marketing efforts.

Take advantage of data

You have to understand the difference between what’s popular and what’s trending. At any given moment, holiday-related hashtags will always have traction even if there are months in which they’re used more. On the other hand, trending hashtags are marked by a meteoric rise over a short period of time and that’s what you want to capitalize on as there’s only a limited window where the public’s interest is at an all-time high. One way you could differentiate between these two points is by the use of analytics.

Numbers, to the dismay of those who hated math in school, help make sense of the world and the can be hugely invaluable in the world of marketing as long as you know what to look for. Looking at a bunch of data isn’t particularly useful all by itself but when interpreted by someone who can translate those numbers into a model of human society, they’re practically golden. Just as you need people that can react to whatever society is up to these days, you’re going to need someone who can actually tell what society is up to.