Wordsmithing for Russell Lands
When I was an intern/part-time employee at Blue Ion, I’d done a lot of little copywriting/editing jobs–guest blogging, adapting existing copy for new use, writing headlines and title tags, etc–but nothing major. So, you can understand how PUMPED I was to have the opportunity to be the lead writer for my first major project, Russell Lands on Lake Martin. Here’s a picture of their original homepage:
This was a really unique project, because Russell Lands isn’t really just one specific thing. They sell premiere real estate on Lake Martin Alabama, they have a town center complete with shops and restaurants, they have a couple awesome wedding venues, a really cool golf course on the lake, and they do a lot of events within their community (among other things). The fact that they have so many facets made writing for their site a bit trickier, because there are so many reasons people would be coming to the site, and I had to do my best to appeal to all of them. Here’s a picture of their new homepage:
The first step in the process was doing a content audit. This is where I went through the whole site and organized everything in terms of What We Have, What We Can Kill, and What We Need. This helped to shape the wireframes and figure out what new pages we needed on the site. We’d also run some surveys on the site for a couple of weeks, asking people what information they were looking for, if they found said information, and what they thought we could do to improve. I used these survey responses to help fill in the “What We Need” section, based on what people were looking for. I also used Google analytics to see what pages had been receiving a lot of traffic and what pages people were not really visiting so much to help determine what we could kill or condense:
From there, Chris and I worked with Brian and Zach to come up with wireframes for the new site. Once they were approved, I was able to start planning out which sections I was going to have to write copy for and Josh could start designing everything. Luckily for me, the current Russell Lands on Lake Martin site already had a lot of content, which made my job a lot easier. All I had to do was take that content and reformat it, based on the tone of the website and for what information people were looking. For the couple of new pages we created for the new site, I worked directly with Jeff at Russell Lands (in conjunction with some pretty intense Google searching) to come up with the new content. Here’s one of Josh’s original sketches for the new site so you can see how things evolved over time:
I think the section that I’m most proud of is the new Weddings on Lake Martin page. Based on the responses to our survey (and the fact that I’m a girl myself, and therefore I have a general idea of what girls are looking for when planning a wedding), the current weddings page left a little something to be desired. I worked with Josh and Zach to build an entirely new weddings page basically from the ground up. I drew out an idea of how I wanted it to look, and Josh and Zach made it happen. It was a really amazing experience, watching my idea come to life. Here’s the before and after (the after is a lot longer of a page… for the full effect, click on the link at the beginning of the paragraph):
I was kind of spoiled in the fact that Jeff from Russell Lands was very amenable to my ideas and suggestions, and was just as excited as I was to work on the new site. I feel like we were in constant communication throughout the entire process, which basically went like this:
- We all wireframe each page.
- Send wireframes to Jeff for approval.
- Something changes. Retool wireframes.
- Send them again to Jeff for approval.
- Josh starts designing the different pages, so I have an idea of what I need to write.
- I begin to work on a page by gathering all the information on the current site and starting to rewrite it to fit with the new site.
- I need more information, so I email Jeff to ask for it.
- He emails me back or calls me on the phone to talk through it, and I use that to finish up what I’ve written.
- I send it to him for approval.
- He sends it back with edits or suggestions, which I use to revise the document (sometimes steps 3, 4, and 5 would be repeated a couple of times).
- Jeff approves the final copy
- I send it over to Zach to upload into the beta site during programming.
In addition to the general site copy, I also wrote 2 downloadable PDFs for the site: 10 Reasons to Buy a Home at Russell Lands, and The Lake Martin Bucket List (or 20 Things To Do At Lake Martin Before You Die). I’ve also been doing most of the content for the Russell Lands blog. This consists of generally the same process as earlier, only I tend to skip the approval steps, now that I have a better grasp on what they want. I really love corporate blogging, as I can take on the personality of the company I’m working for and write as if I’m them. It’s a bit of a challenge separating my inner tone and personality and writing like someone else, but it’s fun!
I could talk about what I did to make this site a reality all day, but then this post will be a thousand pages long (approximately), so I’ll stop here. I’ll leave you with this: Whenever someone asks me what I do at Blue Ion, I happily pull up the Russell Lands site. Being able to say “I wrote pretty much every word you see on this site” fills me with a sense of pride and accomplishment that’s hard to put into words.