a. Who are we? What do we do?
- We are Online Marketplaces Group the company behind famous industry Property Portal Watch conferences as well as OnlineMarketplaces.com
- While OnlineMarketplaces.com provides the news and analysis to help industry leaders build better online marketplace business. Property Portal Watch brings industry leaders together to share ideas, start conversations and put faces to names.
- We have offices in both Madrid, Spain and Melbourne, Australia.
- Launched by industry expert Simon Baker in 2008, Property Portal Watch (PPW) and more recently Online Marketplaces (OMP) has grown to encompass rich news and analysis, regular international conferences as well as consulting and advisory work.
Writing Goals and Principles
a. What we aim to do
- The principle aim of articles on the onlinemarketplaces.com site is to inform and the ‘search intent’ for the majority of queries we derive traffic from can be classified as ‘informational’/ ‘know’ / ‘news’. Even if the tone of the content changes with the format, we must strive to always impart information first and foremost.
- Beyond the simple imparting of information, Online Marketplaces should aim to become a guide for its readership. The information we give ultimately has the goal of informing decisions made by our readership. We are leveraging the authority and experience we have garnered since 2008 to become the voice of the industry. For an excellent example of a website that has become the voice of an industry, see Property Industry Eye which can say with some confidence that it speaks for estate agencies in the UK.
b. How we do it
- If Online Marketplaces is to transition from a simple source of information to an industry guide and voice, it is essential that the reader trusts us to give fair, accurate and unbiased information. We must be like the BBC in that we do not publish something until it is verified. As we are global, we have no need to be first to press with hot scoops.
- We summarise and contextualise. Our point of difference is not that we break country-specific news or that we go into detail on finer points of these pieces of news. Our point of difference is that we contextualise these pieces of news within the broader scope of the global online classifieds industry. We must be forthright in telling the reader why the local is relevant to the global. We deal with trends.
Voice and Tone
- By nature, the subject of the content that we write about is highly relevant to relatively few internet users. However, our voice should not be esoteric. We should not assume that all readers are as intimately familiar with property, car and job portals around the world as we are. For example, which conglomerate owns which portal should be articulated, if possible, with a link to an article on onlinemarketplaces.com detailing the relationship.
- We speak from a position of experience at all times. Our writing should exude knowledge and certainty.
- Our tone should be businesslike rather than formal, TechCrunch rather than Forbes. We are part of the establishment but we are not prescriptive. Our tone should be tabloid rather than broadsheet, we are not dispassionate in tone like Reuters or the BBC but warm and close to the readers (some of whom we may know personally).
- We use contractions. As we can reasonably assume that we know some of our readers personally it makes sense to use “we’re” instead of “we are” and “you’re” instead of “you are” in our communication with them. It also adds a native feel to our language. It has been shown many times that readers’ prejudices come to the fore if they feel they’re reading something written by a non-native.
Layout & Length
a. Headlines & Teasers
- Titles should always be in title case. Conjunctions, articles and short prepositions should not be capitalised. Everything else in regular sentence casing.
- The headline should never reveal spoilers and should always encourage the reader to click. For example “Zoopla Ups the Stakes in the Portal Wars” should be preferred over “Zoopla Offers Agents Discounts of 30% if they Drop Rightmove”. Why would a potential reader click through on that article when all the relevant information is in the headline? In this example, if the reader is from a market other than the UK, they likely only have a passing interest in this story and the pertinent information for them is “zoopla…discount 30%…if drop Rightmove”. They are interested in how this information fits into trends in their local market.
- Do not use “teasers” in ePublishing. A headline and subheadline are sufficient and further breaking up of the text will only confuse the layout.
b. Hierarchy of Information
- Articles on OnlineMarketplaces should use the inverted pyramid principle of journalism: The most newsworthy points (what? who? why? how?) followed by relevant details and then the broader context in that order. Remember that the final part, the wider context, is our point of difference and readers should always be encouraged to read the whole article. For that reason, the word count for purely news-based articles should be kept short. Quotes, if used, should be kept short.
- We should always try to contextualize news stories in the wider picture of what is happening in online marketplaces globally. The final paragraph of all articles should attempt to do this and if possible link to some other page example within the onlinemarketplaces.com domain.
c. Structure of Content
- Paragraphs should be kept short. No more than four lines on a desktop screen.
- Where possible, use ordered and unordered lists rather than colons or comma-separated values to structure information. These formats are much more google-friendly.
- Bold keywords and pieces of information that are integral to the article. Our readership may not have time and will almost certainly be accustomed to skim reading for their business news. A good example of how this is done effectively is Business Insider.
a. Language Neutrality
- We have a global readership and we should respect this. Readers understand that a publication might vary between either US or UK English when it comes to spelling, but not when it comes to lexical idiosyncrasies. Words like “often times” and phrases like “a couple times (missing the ‘of’)” should be avoided.
- Regarding regional words and abbreviations such as “BHK” in India, these should be explained, either in parenthesis or italics as (bedroom hall kitchen).
b. Sentence Structure
- The active voice should be preferred to the passive where possible.
- Things should be happening rather than not happening. “The government has decided not to introduce the planned tax increase on petrol and diesel this autumn.” should be instead: “The government has abandoned plans to raise fuel taxes this autumn.” News is more engaging if it describes something that is happening, rather than something that is not.
- Use double quotes at the start and end of a quoted section, with single quotes for quoted words within that section. Place full points and commas inside the quotes for a complete quoted sentence; otherwise the point comes outside – “Anna said: ‘Your style guide needs updating,’ and I said: ‘I agree.’” but: “Anna said updating the guide was ‘a difficult and time-consuming task’.”
- Grammarly is an excellent plugin and if we all use it, we can ensure uniformity of the basics.
- The Hemmingway editor will compare your writing with that of the great author himself and any truncated, convoluted or otherwise unclear passages of your text will be highlighted. Aim for a score around 9.
- I don’t want to go into too much detail about every possible grammar query that could come up. If you find yourself with a doubt, the best place to get the answer is the excellent guide from The Guardian.
- There really is no secret to SEO anymore. Ever since the incorporation of Google’s BERT technology into their algorithm, Google can understand the subject of content as well as tangential topics without us as content creators having to modify our language. Write for your audience, not for search engines.
- Internet axiom #1: The more interesting and the better written the content, the more search traffic you’ll get. The relevance for us is that 1 piece of well researched content that is meticulously edited and correctly curated and disseminated will certainly be more valuable than 10 hastily written pieces of news.
- Controversy = interest = traffic = revenue. We don’t need to be the new Murdoch Empire, but we should not shy away from controversy and pointing it out where it exists. If we have as many indignant posters as PIE we can count it as a success.
- Avoid repetition or any guide that mentions ‘keyword density’. If referring to a person several times in an article, the first time should be that person’s name “Jane Bloggs”, subsequent occasions should not use the whole name directly, but a combination of the following: their title “the Dublin based CEO”, their surname “Bloggs explained that…”, something they are known for “the serial investor added…”. The same goes for companies.
- The keywords we get traffic for are proper nouns; names of companies and of the people that run them. If we can have these in the headlines and in meta titles then this will benefit us.
- Section to be updated as and when I go about re-structuring the Taxonomy for the tagging system.
- Always use the option “_blank” when linking. This way the URL linked to will open in a separate tab on the browser and not close the article being read. Also please use rel=”noopener” in the relationship box.
- Do not link to the competition, and if you absolutely have to, use the nofollow attribute. Even if we are effectively writing up something that another news site has got to first, links are very powerful and we don’t want to give any to other news sites.
- Linking to the portals we cover is good. If in doubt, link to their homepage. Make sure to send a quick (possibly templated) email to them. It’s also a good idea to @them when tweeting out a piece of content about them if it’s positive. Same goes for Linkedin. Our analytics shows a clear link between social shares and traffic.
- We need internal linking. The more links an article has pointing at it, the more important Google will consider it to be even if those links are from our own domain. Given this, and the fact that our USP is the contextualization of news stories, internal linking where relevant is key. Any time you can link to something we have already written which is relevant and contextualizes the content you are writing, please do so. Even if this means searching through the annals a bit, it’s worth it.
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