Friday, October 31, 2008

If Your On-Line Business is Going Down in Flames…

…there’s a lot you can do to boost revenues, expand service offerings, drive more traffic to your web site – lots of cool SEO voodoo that can make you and your site high ranking on Google, Yahoo and other search engines.

But here’s the problem. During rough economic times (Anybody notice? Hands?), on-line and other small business pull the wagons in a circle, batten down the hatches and try to hold on 'til happy days are here again.

Don’t cut back on marketing and promotion…
The fact is, this is exactly the wrong strategy to employ in bad economic times, regardless of what product or service and demographic you’re selling. For example, on-line businesses will cut down on PPC ads because of those monthly bills that are impossible to quantify.

Brick-and-mortars cut back on newspaper and traditional media marketing. If your customer base is shrinking, does it make ANY sense to cut your marketing budget? The fact is, marketing for pay or guerrilla marketing (which costs nothing but your time) is the only way to maintain a client base. You may lose some of your regulars as they crash and burn but, if you can point to your successes, you’ll always have a steady stream of new clients, some of whom become regulars – the best clients you can have.

Introduce new service offerings
If you run a small tax prep service, what would it take to add outsourced bookkeeping? How about financial planning. You may view the new experts you hire as expenses in hard times but you can (and will) make money from your associates.

So hire individuals who enable your company to deliver more services.

Don’t rely on metrics alone.
I know lots of site owners who scour their site performance metrics for hours. I’m not sure what they’re looking for, and it doesn’t seem to be very productive.

First, metrics tell you what’s already happened. Old news and there’s no guarantee that the realm of ecommerce has a stable future. One client was #3 on page one of Google SERPs and fell, overnight, to page 33. It took us a month to figure out why and fix the problem.

The web isn’t stable. It changes constantly. Content and websites are ephemeral – here today, gone today. There are no axioms in SEO – no "a = a," for instance. In fact, SEOs can’t even agree on positive and negative ranking factors so there’s just as much art and intuition in metrics analysis as there is number crunching.

Don’t have a cow, man
Clear analysis is better than sheer panic at the drop in site visitors but panic isn’t going to solve the problem.

A lot of site owners call in site doctors to analyze and diagnose the problems. Okay, but guaranteed there are no guarantees. It’s trial and error.

So, increase your marketing, hire sub-contractors that equip you to expand service offers and take your cut and use your instincts and the knowledge of your market to pull out of that digital nose dive.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Small Business Owners Turning to Web

I've seen it and I'm a small payer in the e-commerce world but business, despite the downturn in other financial spheres, has been up for me.


I'm picking up local clients trying to reach their local market - 20-30 miles from the retail outlet. Suddenly, TV and print ads aren't pulling and these local business owners are scrambling for (1) an effective website optimized for local search and (2) new marketing channels that can be integrated into traditional marketing outlets. By adding that URL to print ads, invoices, business cards, tri-folds and bi-folds, potential clients will have a map to the website, which, in turn, provides a map to the local outlet.


It all fits together like an interlocking puzzle. Using all of your marketing outlets to drive traffic presents more avenues and opportunities to find you.


Matchbook cover, anyone?


Sunday, October 19, 2008

On-Line Ad Revenues Up, Up and Away

A recent article in the NYT's biz section predicted a 15% increase in on-line ad revenues at the expense of traditional marketing outlets like newspapers and periodicals, and electronic, i.e. radio and TV.

There are more buyers on the web each year and more ways to attract new clients and customers to your site. The dynamics change at lightning speed so what worked last year is search engine taboo now.

There's an on-going battle between SEOs who are trying their best to manipulate search engine activity for the benefit of their clients, and the math monkeys who create search engine algorithms based on an ever-changing list of ranking factors.

Thus, it's a constant (daily) challenge to keep any web site optimized, and, in fact, tactics employed as positive ranking factors a few years ago are now considered negatives in the eyes of bots spidering your site, i.e. stuffing headlines with keywords.

To attract site traffic your site should be optimized on- and off-site. Through the use of off-site marketing strategies, it's easy to create a larger web presence in just a few months.

Oh, and you'll be able to cash in on some of that web dough floating around.

Paul Lalley

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Client Retention: Fix It If It's Broke

It happens. Even to the best.

The job is completed; all deliverables have been delivered (and perhaps a few thrown in to build goodwill), and the client is still not happy.

The small business owner relies on repeat business for long-term success and a disgruntled client is NOT going to build your client base. In fact, a dissatisfied client won’t recommend your services (the best sell in the world – a personal recommendation) but that unhappy client is going to bad mouth your company at every conference, seminar, luncheon and high-level business meeting.

You know that’s gonna hurt. So, can this relationship be saved? Indeed, it can. And as the company owner whose a$$ is on the line, you better get started ASAP.

1. Before the project, ensure that all parties (including sub-contractors) are on the same page. Client and professional team both know what to expect at the end of the business agreement.

Look, if one party or the other is searching through the files for the contract, you’ve already got problems. Somebody isn’t happy. At least a statement of work (SOW) produces realistic expectations.

2. Be proactive. If you discover the typos before the client, contact the site owner immediately. “We caught it. We’ll fix it. No worries.”

3. When the mistake is discovered, take over. If you’ve been using a client rep to manage things, getting the boss on the phone goes a long way to improving a bad situation.

4. Isolate the clients dissatisfaction. What, exactly, has his knickers in a twist? Get the client to provide examples that aren’t “right.” Then, find out why they aren’t right.

5. Ask the client how she would like you to resolve the problem. The objective here is to engage the client in the solution. Rather than just saying we’ll fix it, make sure the client has a stake in whatever changes are required.

6. Determine how much you can “eat.” If you’ve got a couple of hundred very expensive man hours tied up in a site design, development, launch and SEO, you can’t walk away with nothing. In this case, figure your bottom line, break even and court the client to return with his next project. You’ve just created a great salesperson, as well.

I’ve given content away. It didn’t take thousands of man hours, it wasn’t what the client was looking for (too conversational, too academic, not academic enough, etc.) so, instead of having someone giving me the digital stink-eye, “Take it. if you can use it, it’s yours. If not, toss it.” It hurts, but more often than not, those individuals come back with another project.

It’s happened more than once. And that’s not counting unsolicited referrals.

So, fix it if it’s broke. It’s far-horizon thinking and a proven pathway to business growth.

Make Your Website Your Marketing Bulls-Eye

Most SEO professionals have worked with small, brick-and-mortar businesses seeking to drive local traffic to the office or store front. So, the client site is optimized for local search, launched and, often, fails to live up to minimum expectations.

The local purveyor of goods or services in Topeka isn’t looking for business in Mozambique. The business owner wants clients or customers from the Topeka metropolitan area. Integration of marketing channels delivers local traffic.

Marketing Channels
How many ways can prospects reach your client’s business? Chances are, the local CPA advertises in the Yellow Pages, and maybe runs some small adverts in the local newspaper during tax season.

The CPA also has a four-color brochure that she hands out to clients, and of course, an embossed business card. In fact, this may be the extent of the small business owner’s business promotion. Disjointed and utterly lacking in focus.

However, integrate that CPA’s web site into other marketing collaterals to produce market channel synergies. And conversely, integrate the web site into existing, albeit, happenstance marketing to improve the effectiveness of traditional marketing instruments.

The Website Is The Nexus recently posted some eye-opening stats:

78% of web users agree that shopping online is convenient.

68% state that buying on line saves time.

13% of high-end buyers ($100K +) comparison shop on line.

44% of lower-income buyers are uncomfortable with the level of data security.

81% of survey respondents conduct product- and services-related research on line.

66% of web users purchase on line.

These numbers demonstrate that web buying has deep penetration across all demographics – 68%. However, 81% use the web to conduct product research and comparison shop before running off to the big box store to make the actual purchase.

By integrating marketing channels, the small business owner uses his web site as the nexus of all promotional activities through integration of marketing channels. Here are some examples:

The local business owner displays the site’s URL on all paper associated with the business: stationery, business cards, brochures, invoices – plaster that URL all over print materials. This enables a prospect to learn more about a business using the web site as a source of information and a call to action.

Print advertising in local media should prominently display the business URL with a call to action, to “Learn more at” The print ad – even a small classified – can pique prospect interest. The site should provide the information and access to close the sale.

If the business employs local advertising through the regional cable provider (as little as $5 a spot when bought in quantity), the URL should appear as a text burn throughout the 30-second promo. If the business employs radio advertising, mention the business’ URL a couple of times during the spot. Again, pique interest; make the sale on site.

Add a toll-free number above the fold on the business’ web site. This creates one of the most powerful synergies. Check the stats again. There’s a lot of comparison shopping and research taking place. That big ol’ toll-free number is mighty tempting – especially for those prospects reluctant to give personal information on line.

Use mapping software to provide a map to the business’ physical outlet. Buyers check prices and features on line, print out the map and make the purchase locally.

Individually, a single marketing channel may not deliver anticipated results. However, when all marketing channels are integrated, they each play off the others creating marketing synergies.

In this case, 1 + 1 = 3.

Selling To Seniors: Are You Ready for the Baby Boomers?

There’s a huge demographic bubble about to burst all over the web. The Boomers are coming! The Boomers are coming! Get ready or miss the herd as they pass by your site.

Seniors Don’t Use the Web the Way We Do
My father is 82 and in the past 10 years he’s had 11 different computers. He blows them up like M-80s and proudly proclaims “That extended service contract more than pays for itself.”

Well, maybe it does when there’s a good chance that dad’s system is going to lock up, shoot sparks out of the back of the box and delete important files “all on its own.”

The Surfing Habits of Seniors
Unlike Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and the Millennium Kids who grew up with mouses in their little chubby hands, seniors see computers with suspicion, distrust and a modicum of fear. They’re less likely to make an online purchase for fear of identity theft (even though the nice waiter at the four-star restaurant can swipe the credit card on a reader and have it posted all over the web by sunrise).

Seniors Follow Links
Older, less experienced consumers tend to follow links and are less likely to use search engines. It’s fun to look at my dad’s surfing history. Dementia has definitely set in. But that’s how many seniors surf. They bounce around like ping pong balls hoping to find the right site.

Seniors Rely On Guides
Seniors are often guided by everyone from the nice librarian to grandma’s eight-year-old little girl with 2000 downloads on her iPod, a cluttered space on MySpace (complete with pink unicorns) and even has her own website. These young ‘uns teach seniors the basics of site navigation.

Seniors Don’t Scroll
Or at least they’re less likely to than younger, more savvy users. That means that all critical information should appear above the fold of your site’s home page, with lots of body text to encourage the senior user to look below.

Seniors are Confused by Navigation
Many aren’t even aware of site navigation. Embedded text links help to direct the Gray Panther through the Plexiglas maze that is today’s feature-filled website.

Seniors Like Big Links
“Better to see you with, my dear.” [Little Red Riding Hood; pg. 8]

Clearly labeled, consistently labeled and always in the same spot – a navigation bar at the top of the page, for example. Older users are less likely to use a site map to navigate a site. Many don’t know what a site map is and those that do think it’s too much hassle, man.

Seniors Don’t Use Browser Buttons
Again, the web is alien turf to many seniors who don’t know what a browser is. So, they don’t know what browser buttons do. And they’re not inclined to experiment, unless you’re my dad who will click on any link on any site and in any email. Apparently, he’s going to receive $650,000 from the Nigerian Ambassador just for holding some assets in his name.

Savvy users employ next and back browser buttons with ease. They also use their browser histories to return to site worthy of a second look.

Seniors Will Not Read Day-Glo Pink on a White Background
Are you kidding me? Many of these senior prospects can hardly read black text against a white background. Think accessibility of content. How easy is it to read, how easy it to navigate the site for a newbie?

This tsunami of seniors is already knocking on your commercial site door, booking cruises, buying yoga books, comparison shopping for cars and getting fitted for a truss.

The easier it is for a senior visitor to make the purchase, the more purchases will be made. It’s that simple.

One final thought: add a telephone number to your home page for customer service and order taking. Those old hippies may not be comfortable giving a credit card number on a website, though they’ll gladly provide it over the phone.

Make it easy to make the sale, make more sales.
Paul Lalley

Hackers and Crackers: Barbarians At The Gate

Hate to tell you this but the barbarians are at the gate. Hackers, crackers and script-kiddies armed with dictionary software are poised and ready to hack your site and make off with all of that highly-sensitive customer data – oh, you know, names, addresses, CREDIT CARD NUMBERS. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who emails his customer base to cancel their credit cards and contact Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to flag their credit activity for the next two years.

Whether your MySQL is crammed with sensitive data, or your CMS is packed with sensitive, proprietary business information, you need to protect what you got, Jack, or you ain’t got jack.

Redundant layers of security are the norm in the corporate realm, but we regularly read that this university, this credit card company or this retail store data has been hacked and is now floating out there in the Ethernet. So, what’s a small business to do? A sole proprietor or a two-man dog-and-pony? How can they assure security?

The Number One Source of Hacker Attacks Is Some One You Know
Yeah, it’s not some 15-year-old in Bora Bora trying to access your MySpace account. The most likely threat is an angry business partner or sub-contractor or, sad to say, a spouse, a kid or your friendly Uncle Bob who comes over every Saturday to balance accounts.

Cures: Limit access to your business computer. It should not be a part of the home computer network. It should be a separate and distinct work station, password protected, off limits to anyone.

Bulk up your passwords, especially when keeping those who know you out. Forget Fluffy 909. An irate spouse’ll figure cat + birthday = password. Use signs, symbols and numbers to create passwords that can’t be defeated by someone you know.

Then There are the War Drivers, War Chalkers, Viruses, Worms, Trojan Horses, Key Logger Software and Zombie Computer Armies.

War drivers cruise industrial parks looking for leakage from an office network. All they need is a laptop, an antenna and networking software and they become a part of the office gang.

And all of that other nasty hacker-crap is out there. What can you do?

Protect your work station data and back it up automatically with an outboard hard drive.

Use a reputable host who maintains multiple layers of security hardware and software. Ask about access to the server room, ask where the servers are located and ask about on-site security. You can get good shared hosting for about $7.00 a month so we’re not talking breaking the bank, here.

Scan everything.
As an online entrepreneur, your inbox is filled every morning with every thing from the 14th penis enlargement spam this week to actual emails from customers and clients. Separating legitimate email from hacker missives isn’t always easy. However, any good email system will scan incoming, but if you have doubts, perform a separate scan on a piece of email before opening.

Use SSL Encryption
First, no savvy computer buyer is going to place an order if the little ‘s’ in ‘https’ is missing from the address bar of a site, and those that do jeopardize their identify, credit and your business

Maintain Your System Security
You don’t have to pay a bunch for site security software – good stuff. There’s even some OSS out there that professionals use. However, none of this software is going to do any good if it’s data and hasn’t been patched in three years

New bugs, viruses, scams and schemes are unleashed upon our sorry selves and there is no web police. It’s the wild, wild web.

Here’s what you want:

server side security and lots of it

SSL certification if you’re transmitting personal information.

An automatic back up system, i.e. an outboard hard drive

Quality system security software that performs a daily scan in the background and produces a log for review. Keep log data to track attempts by hackers to breach security.

A separate system, distinct from a home or office network. A stand-alone impervious to ware drivers, war chalkers and other ne’er-do-wells.

A hands off policy if you work out of a home office.

Security scan software – software that equips you to scan individual documents for malware.

Passwords on steroids. Let ‘em break :q##s6gr))1!sz+++. Never gonna happen.

Finally, stay vigilant. You never know where a security breach will take place and there’s no 100% guarantee that you can make your business impregnable.

But you can sure make it hard on hackers who are more likely to move on to an open door than try to figure out your redundant layers of server- and system-side security.

Trip-Wire Marketing: Go Guerrilla!

Trip wires are used by guerillas and regular military to set off explosives or warn that a parameter has been breached. The enemy breaks the wire hidden in the undergrowth, detonating a grenade strapped to a nearby tree. Or, the intruder breaks a trip wire to set of a warning bell.

Trip wires rely on two key elements: stealth and positioning. Both are important to the effectiveness of the tactic. If the wire isn’t properly hidden, it may be spotted by a sharp-eyed scout. And, if the trip wire doesn’t cross a well-beaten path, what’s the point, guerilla warfare-wise?

Trip wire marketing relies on the same two principles: stealth and position, and the tactic is useful in improving both SEO and conversion ratios.

Where’s the Message?
There’s no guarantee that a site visitor will come through the front door. Deep links, buried beneath several drill down screens, may serve as the access point for a visitor depending on the query words employed by the search engine user.

That means a visitor may never see that glitzy home page, and never read about the benefits of a site owner’s goods or services. If the primary explanation of service benefits is described in an article in the site’s archives, key sales information may well be missed by potential buyers.

Trip-Wire Marketing
Marketing and promotion are about pushing the right buttons and creating need. The guy in the $65K Jaguar needs the prestige and status. Otherwise, he’d have bought a Camry. The needs that drive purchases are broad. The need to love and be loved, the need to belong, the need for respect, power, money – just some of the human motivators that turn browsers into buyers.

The key to boosting sales is to position trip wire text links along the well-beaten paths of the web site. Metrics analysis will reveal access points by popularity. Trip wire links to sales and ordering information should be placed within sight of all access points.

Visitor activity will determine where to place trip wires. For example, a visitor may access the site through a side door, read the informational article listed on the SERPs and decide she wants to learn more. A trip wire link, right there, pushes the right buttons in the right place on the site, linking the visitor to the appropriate page.

Thus, a site owner must not only understand the motivations that drive sales, s/he must also have the opportunity to push those buttons and encourage the most desired action (MDA).

SEO Benefits
Spiders follow links. However, bots don’t always crawl each site page the first time through. In fact, Google provides a look at what pages are in its index and which have been missed.

Trip wire links provide crawling spiders more avenues to explore, keeping them on-site longer, leading to more complete and accurate indexing faster.

It’s not just what your site text says, it’s where the text is positioned that delivers maximum benefit. Well-traveled site paths should employ trip-wire marketing tactics to improve conversion ratios and encourage crawlers to stick around a little longer.

Monetize Your Site - Like NOW

If you rely solely on the sale of goods and services to generate revenue from your website, you’re missing some nice money-making opportunities that are easy to implement, and deposit cash into your business account every month.

Let’s look at some different ways you can generate cash from your online business.

Pay-Per-Click Programs
The most popular are AdWords and Adsense. By enrolling in a PPC program, you agree to allow the search engine to place paid-for links on your site. Now, you can arrange these little blue cubes in a skyscraper on the right side of the page, place them below the fold, above the fold. You decide.

When you enroll, you’re given a letter/number string to insert into your HTML code that identifies you as the source of the click. And that money is added to your account. It’s a one-time sign-up and automated revenue. Those are the positives.

The negatives are (1) you have no choice which ads are placed on your site, though you can stipulate no direct competitors. If you’re placing PPC ads, you're subject to a variety of click fraud schemes, including legions of workers in poor countries who earn a penny a click depleting your marketing resources. So whether you’re placing ads or renting space for ads, there are pros and cons.

Affiliate Programs
The small site owner’s best friend. You become an affiliate of a larger company. You provide a link on your site (you choose the size) and for every click-through that leads to a sale or some other desired action, you make money.

For example, if you put up an eBay link on your site, eBay will pay you a flat rate for each sign up plus a nickel any time one of your sign ups places a bid. Get a couple of hundred active bidders and the numbers add up quickly.

To learn more about affiliate programs, visit Commission Junction at and open an account. Choose affiliates that will appeal to your ideal site visitor. For example, if you’re selling porcelain figurine collectables online, a link to a car tire web site won’t generate much in the way of affiliate cash. Instead, sign on with other collectible affiliates to tempt visitors to clink on one of your affiliate links.

Choose affiliates with care. Too many and your site will be viewed as a links farm offering little in the way of useful information to visitors. Five or six well-chosen affiliate programs should up your site revenue quite smartly.

Hosted Content
You can rent space on your site to another site owner – a page where the site owner posts an article with links back to his or her site. How much you can charge depends on things like your reach, traffic rank, page views and so on.

This provides a couple of benefits. First, it provides fresh content for your site, though it is important that you know what appears on your site. It also generates monthly or weekly income.

Advertise your site space on SEO blogs, site designer blogs and other places where web denizens dwell.

Paid Advertising
How would you feel about a Coke banner across the top of your web site? Would it detract from the look, the impression you’re trying to display t the world?

How about small graphic links that take your site visitors to related sites. For example, if you run a cruise booking service, chances are those travelers would be interested in other vacation opportunities – opportunities available with a click off your site. This paid advertising doesn’t rely on the clicker to perform a most desired action. Paid advertising pays either by the click or by a flat rate.

Further, the advertising will change in many cases. It may be a Coke banner for a week followed by a banner for Hertz car rental. Unfortunately, you can’t control the space you rent out – other than opting out of the paid advertising program altogether.

There are other money making opportunities using a website as a base. A subscription newsletter; monthly reminders of upcoming birthdays; outsourced services and other ways to wring some more cash out of your site.

Don’t rely on sales alone. Develop as many revenue streams as you can (without making your homepage look like a carnival midway) to enjoy max financial benefit from all your hard, online work.

Adding Value to Site Content

I recently finished a job that changed the way I view what I do. The assignment was to revise operating manuals for a mainframe computer software company. For resource material, I was given the old manual and a summary of updates, upgrades, new procedures, and all of the new information that had to be included in the revised manuals. (Stay with me, this does have a point.)

I mean, everything I know about mainframes fits in this sentence. After I reviewed the old manuals to learn the jargon, I was able to write the new manuals using standard IT-ese – an arcane argot filled with mystery words, trouble tickets and dire “downstream consequences.” To anyone outside the IT business (that includes me, big time), the new manuals were gibberish, developed by identifying nouns and verbs and substituting new nouns and verbs from the update summary. (No, really, there’s a point, here.)

Any way, as I was rewriting these tomes of troubleshooting steps and default, remote input protocols, it occurred to me that what I was writing would only be useful to a small, select group of insiders – the IT crew – and wouldn’t it be great if this information was understandable to all stakeholders in the company – from the CEO, to the VP of Marketing, R&D, Accounting, to the guy on the loading dock? If everybody involved understood what, why, how and so on, the information in those manuals would have more value.

So, how do web copywriters add value to their product – words by the pound? Some suggestions.

Utility. The more useful the information to more readers, the more valuable the content. If your client site sells refurbed, high-end calibration gear, it’s not reasonable to assume that the reader understands the tech specs of that electron microscope on sale. The reader may well be the organization’s purchasing agent, or even the head of the hospital who has an MBA not an MD.

To increase the utility (and therefore value) of content:

Avoid the unnecessary use of jargon, and if insider jargon is required, provide a definition, example, case study or something to clarify what an angstrom is. This doesn’t mean copywriters shoot for the lowest common denominator (an 8-th grade reading level, really). But it does mean a careful examination of the role of the reader of your text to ensure that the “downstream” stakeholder fully understands choices, options, consequences, benefits – in plain English.

One way to increase utility of information is through the use of pie charts, bar graphs and other visual aids. These devices take a great deal of complex information and present it in an easier format for non-insiders to understand.

Reliability. I received a list of statistics from an associate to support her argument regarding the cost of “poor communications” within business. I’m not even sure how you develop hard data without first defining the term “poor communication.” Is that communication that isn’t understandable to the receiver? Is poor communication filled with lots of typos and grammar gaffes? How do you even define the terms to develop reliable data?

More about this bullet list of stats: there was no citation, no source given, no details about the study (did they study five people or 5,000?), no study guidelines – just a bullet list of so-called facts. With a cited authority and the means to verify the “facts” that appear on site, value is added. The information becomes more credible.

I’m not suggesting that each fact receive an APA formatted citation but by providing additional resources, interested readers can dig further.

Clean. Nothing says amateur night like site text that’s loaded with typos. I recently ran across a site for a “sucess coach.” Throughout the site, in 20-point type, “sucess, suceed, sucsessful” and every variation was misspelled, and no, I’m not a member of the grammar police. But if you’re a success coach, at least spell success correctly.

Truthful. Is there anyone over the age of 10 who believes the hype in long-form sales letters? I edited one the other day – 33 pages of 100% pure tripe, but the mortgage was due (and to those who stumble upon this mega-hype, I apologize in advance) so I took the assignment.

Most well-trained chimps can spot hype, and outright lies. Fake testimonials, bogus promises and unverifiable “facts.” A 33-page lie in full color with clip art, handsome charts and graphs and even a Flash clip of the company “President.”

There may be other ways to increase the value of information, but this is not yet a fully-baked idea. It’s half-baked. Understood.

Site text has to be pithy, on point, optimized for SEO and higher conversion ratios, and, of course, it must have real utility to the reader. That much I know.

Still working on other ways to add value to site content – things like information velocity, relevance, writing quality and other factors.

How to Talk to Your Copywriter: What We Need to Know

As soon as search engines became relevant, copywriting changed. Maybe you didn’t notice it. Content quality took a back seat to SEO and today, copywriters have to understand the basics of SEO/M so the content they produce appeals to spiders and humans.

A lot of SEOs sub-contract this facet of a job to professional copywriters who can produce optimized copy that doesn’t sound like spider snack gibberish. Keyword placement in headers, density of 1-2%, judicious use of bolded, underlined or italicized text and you have yourself some fine, SEO text. No sweat, right?

Well, that depends. The more the copywriter knows about the SOW, the smoother the content development. Here’s what a copywriter wants to know from any client, you for example:

What is the purpose of the content? Content can be used to explain, clarify, persuade, inform, direct, motivate and, on occasion, even inspire. What is the MDA after the reader has finished reading the words?

To whom is the text targeted? Experts don’t need explanations. They talk the talk so the content can contain “insider” references that create a feeling of “us” as in you and the site visitor.

What is the product, service or message? If you can provide a good copywriter with a product spec sheet or a web page recommended by the SEO’s client, the writer can convert specs and hard data into client or consumer benefits, and that’s what sells. How does this make me more productive, successful, richer, more famous…more anything.

What is the USP? The unique selling position (also sometimes called the UPS – unique positioning statement within a market sector) is what sets the SEO client apart from the competition. A good copywriter researches the competition and “steals” the best ideas. Ideas can’t be copyrighted.

What is the site’s content architecture? If you’re a copywriter, you don’t want to blow your wad on the home page and have nothing more motivational on deeper pages. A good copywriter ensures that informational content is spread liberally across a number of site pages.

Consider your copywriter a valuable asset in content architecture development. These men and women understand the “need-to-know” flow on site so visitors never encounter content that hasn’t been explained.

Can the content be used in more than one way? Home page text may make great text for a four-color tri-fold with a couple of word changes. The copywriter – a good one – can add value to the SEO’s consultation by producing content that serves more than one purpose, thus amortizing content development costs.

Finally, remember: copywriters are highly-caffeinated, neer-do-wells who want the project to go smoothly. These sellers of “words by the pound” want in, out, done. Hey, that’s the same thing the SEO wants.

When you find a good copywriter who can transcend audiences and topics – from the mundane to the highly-technical (quark theory?), keep them on a leash.

We tend to wander off.
When you find a good copywriter, keep him happy!

Is Your Blog Worthy? Get the Most from Your Post

If you don’t have a blog, build one. It’s easy using blog modules that plug in to your existing site. Then start posting content. Then get listed in blog directories. Then keep it fresh. Oh man, that’s a lot of work – especially when this is your second job!

Blogs build traffic and keep it coming back. However, too many site owners either don’t maintain a blog or don’t promote it for maximum benefit. So, here are some tips from your web host provider on maximizing the usefulness of a blog.

Post Your Thoughts on Topic-Related Sites
One way to get noticed, especially by those in the know, is to make posts on other topic-related blogs. You can provide your URL so that readers who find your astute insight are able to follow the trail back to your blog archives.

Blog Archives
And speaking of blog archives, keep a good one. Sort each blog post by date and general subject, i.e. conversion optimization. Unless you’re a great writer with plenty of time on your hands, good content is expensive to develop. Think of blog content as a commodity. An asset for you and others interested in what you have to say.

Stay Focused
And speaking of what you have to say, stay on topic. If your readership (whether 10 or 10,000) turns to you for certain information, meet expectations. If you occasionally go off on a tangent expressing your political views, for example, you’ll lose readership.

Keep It Unique
A change in the Google algorithm will be the topic of the week, and virtually every webmaster blog and forum will be crammed full of erudite opinions on the affect this change will have. In other words, they’ll be so much written on a major topic, you can afford to cover something else. And get noticed.

Make it Attractive
It’s human nature to become bored easily on the dynamic web where things change faster than you can say “keyword stuffing.” So, paragraph after paragraph of text is going to bore even the most dedicated reader or subscriber.

Add some relevant images. Charts and graphs. Eye candy to maintain the reader’s interest. Skip the endless pages of “just” text.

Perform Regular Blog Analysis
Good tracking software will tell you which posts are popular with visitors and which get passed over for whatever reason. Use these metrics to more specifically target the wants and needs of your readers.

The things you want to measure regularly are: number of page views, time spent on site and the source (link) and destination of the reader after leaving your site (do they go to the site or bounce off to another site?). Regular metrics analysis will provide concrete data to demonstrate whether your site blog is performing to expectations.

Write Like You Talk
This is the best advice any blogger or writer will ever receive. Something happens to people when they sit down at the keyboard to write the next blog entry. They become walking thesauruses. They use big, impressive words and long, run-on sentences. Don’t. That kind of writing is great for a master’s dissertation but it does nothing for the readers (except bore them).

Blogs as Linkbait
Some posts are better than others. Market your best posts only. Posts can be tagged and show up on human-based search engines like and – sites where readers determine how good you are. Don’t oversell every blog entry you write. You’ll start to pickup negative user feedback when readers have seen your post everywhere, or it’s a so-so post.

Blogs make great linkbait (a reason for another site to link to your site) but your efforts to “sell” your content to expand your presence may blow up and backfire with readers and search engines alike.

Use High Traffic Days to Build Your Reputation
When one of your posts is front page news on or, you’re going to see a lot more blog traffic that day sniffing out this high quality linkbait. Use these days, when your traffic jumps 100%, to build on a good thing. Immediately follow up with top-of-the-line posts – as good as the one tagged by enough readers to make it to the top of user-driven search engines. This will establish you as an authority, and your site one worth visiting for the latest.

Don’t Hide Your Blog
Your blog is designed to create stickiness and/or to provide something to subscribers. So, make it easy for users to access your blog. All tags, of course, link to the blog. But, do you have a big, well-labeled blog link on your home page? Is there a BLOG button on the navigation bar? If not, there should be. Make it easy to find your blog and more visitors will find (and read and return because of) it.

Don’t Host Your Blog on a Separate Domain
Some site owners do this to keep things simple. Business side. Blog side. But they’re missing a critical benefit of maintaining a blog (in a subfolder) as a sub-section of their primary domain. Blogs attract all kinds of good stuff. Links, improved PR, “buzz,” new readers and customers (showing up as more traffic in SERPs) offers to contribute to other blogs and so on. Maintain your blog as a section of your main domain to get all of the benefits that come with maintaining a blog.

Start the Conversation
Blogs should generate discussion among readers. They should provoke readers to add a comment – good, bad or indifferent. But what if your posts don’t elicit any response? What should you do?

Shill. Fake it. Salt your posts with a comment or two. Many readers are shy about leaving the first post but will happily jump in once they see what other posters have said. There’s nothing deceitful in starting a conversation – one that grows your site’s popularity.

An up-to-date blog – one that contains useful information for a particular market segment – is a great way to build site traffic and to maintain customer or subscriber interest. But, there are certainly things that every blogger can do to increase readership and squeeze out a few other benefits from blog building. After all, it’s time consuming. You might as well get all you can out of the time you invest.

SEO Voodoo

Before you write that big check to some SEO poobah who's just sold you a bunch of SEO snake oil consider the following salient point: SEO is NOT a science!

With legitimate hard sciences you can measure, compare and contrast and draw conclusions. Not so with SEO. The numbers change by the minute. So do the yardsticks. When search engines first hit the scene in 1994, keyword HTML tags and keyword desnity were the top determinants of page rank.

Then, all the yokels got on board, stuffed keywords everywhere, thus diminishing the value of the SERPs. So a new set of criteria are developed - one that won't be so easily circumvented. Inbound links. The more inbounds from quality sites (sites that rank higher than yours) the higher your site ranks.

Problem is, there are very few rules in this game of "Who's Tops?" There are no axioms (a=a). There are now laws, though there are plenty of ways to shoot yourself in the foot by using black hat or gray hat tactics.
Want to learn more about what the experts feel counts for and against websites. regularly publishes it's ranking factors based on input from SEO experts.
Consistantly, there is no single rating factor that all practitioners of the SEO arts agree. NOT ONE.
So, all SEO pros are guessing at what search engines are looking for, just like you.
And because SEO lacks empirical data, you can be sure that you'll be hearing excuses from that high-priced SEO about why you're site is still buried in the backwash of SERPs.
Paul Lalley

The Slow Death of SEO

There are lots of people earning good livings selling SEO services and, to an extent, SEO still has relevance. 48% of my site visitors find me through Google so I listen up when the 800-pound gorilla sneezes.

But here's the thing, more then half my site visitors find me through other means - usually links from other sites. This off-site marketing has significantly increased my web presence in a few months and, more importantly, has generated new business for my company.

Yes, SEO has its place for accurate and complete indexing within search engines but bots and spiders don't buy stuff and they never request services, no matter how good you are.

I think new site owners would do well to spend at least 50% of their starting budget on post-launch marketing. After that, adjust accordingly.

Paul Lalley