Friday, December 2, 2011

“What’s In It For Me?” That’s All Site Visitors Want To Know

“What’s In It For Me?”
That’s All Site Visitors Want To Know

As a site designer, SEO, copywriter or some other someone working in the web world, chances are you have clients – clients who have objectives.

Some want to sell something, or lots of different things. Some want opt-ins for a FREE special report. Others want visitors to subscribe to their insightful newsletters or fill out a form. These are the objectives of the site owner – your client and person with the checkbook.

Naturally, these clients want their sites to meet their objectives. If the client is selling a vitamin supplement, her objective is to sell more jars of the product. If the author of a newsletter on precious metals publishes an “insider’s report,” he wants more subscribers.

If the site is soliciting donations, the objective is obvious – more donors, repeat donors, generous donors. Therefore, the site copy on the home page and landing pages is usually written to meet the objectives of the site owner and not the site visitor.

And the fact is, the objectives of site owners and visitors are distinct and, at times, even contradictory. The fact is that site visitors don’t give a whit about your clients, their web sites, their problems or their clever turn of a phrase. They want the answer to one very simple question:

What’s in it for me?

Let’s look at a couple of examples of site text with snarky, visitor comments inserted:

Acme Pest Control is a family-owned business (who cares, I got bugs) with deep roots in the Tri-City Area. (I said I don’t care. Bugs are eating my house.) We offer a variety of services to manage your pest problems (Can you get rid of my bugs?) safely, effectively and completely. (Umm, okay.)

We offer the latest in pest control technology (Huh?) and we guarantee our work. (OK, that part’s good.)

Out technicians are trained in the latest pest control technology, they’re certified and they’re friendly. (I don’t care if he looks like Quasimodo, I just want somebody so get rid of termites. Now.)

That little snippet of text is all about Acme Pest Control and closing another sale. Naturally, that’s the company’s objective, but it’s not necessarily the site visitor’s objective, which is to find a solution to a termite problem.

So, posture the text to meet the objectives of the visitor, NOT the site owner.

Got bug problems? (Why, yes, yes I do.) Want to get rid of them today? (That’d be great?) Want to keep your family and pets safe? (Well, of course. I hadn’t even thought of that.)

Tired of calling around trying to find a solution to your pest problems? (Oh, man, I’m so tired. Can you help?) We solve all of your pest problems quickly, safely and now. (How do I reach you?) You want to solve a pest problem, call us at (123) 555-1234. (I’m dialing, I’m dialing!)

We’ll be there today to help you. Guaranteed. (“Hello, Acme Pest Control…”)

In this case, the site text isn’t about the company (your client) it’s all about the visitor – solving their problems and serving their needs.

Unfortunately, even gigantic, global conglomerates use site text that’s designed to meet their global conglomerate objectives, not the objectives of the site visitor. I’ll bet you 99.9% of all 122 million web sites are designed to meet the site owner’s objectives. And that’s why so many sites crash and burn.

It’s blunt but true: site visitors don’t care about you, your site, your corporate history or you cool new headquarters. Those are the objectives of the site owners – to brag a little bit and “sell” the site visitor.

Forget selling. Provide solutions in your site text, focus on the visitors objectives not your objectives or the client’s objectives (this may take a little explanation and diplomacy on your part) but the results will be there in higher conversion ratios.

Don’t design a site to meet the site owner’s objectives. They’re different from the objectives of site visitors. Instead, write copy the simplifies achieving visitor’s goals and the site will convert, the client will make money and parades will be scheduled in you honor.

Stop by the web site. Who knows? I may be the copy writer you've been looking for. See you over at Let's talk.

Monday, November 28, 2011

10 Words and Phrases That Have to Go

Fingernails On a Blackboard

Like most web copywriters I spend more time in the 2-D world than in the 3-D world, aka The Matrix. So I see a ton of horrible (and I mean horrible) writing posted on big and small websites.

Now, I’m not a member of the grammar police and chills don’t run down my spine when a sentence ends with a preposition. But, folks, there are some words and phrases that are like fingernails on a blackboard.

So, my top 10 copywriters’ crutches that should never, ever be used again.

10. FOR FREE!!!! It’s not the word. There are two problems. First is the use of the word ‘FOR’. It’s not FOR FREE. It’s just FREE!!! The second problem is the formatting. Copywriters generate enthusiasm through the use of exclamation points – the more the better!!!!!!!! (Do you feel more excited?)

9. Absolutely Free. A variation on the above. It’s either free or it’s not. Absolutely free is akin to ‘somewhat pregnant’. You either are or you’re not.

8. As we speak. This annoying phrase began to pick up steam with mainstream media during ’07 and now is in common usage. Couldn’t you just say ‘now’.

7. Leading edge and variants: cutting edge, bleeding edge, ahead of the curve, et al. Come on, everything can’t be leading edge.

6. Amazing, which can be tied to any number of words: Amazing Product, Amazing Results, Amazing, SECRET Formula. Ummm, I don’t care how good it is, hand cream is NOT amazing. World peace would be amazing.

5. Discover, which is grossly overused by web writers because it sounds better than ‘learn’. What would you rather do? Learn the Secrets of Investing Success or Discover the Secrets of Investing Success. Discover has the whiff of adventure.

4. Best Business Practices. This utterly meaningless phrase appears on a lot of coaching and consultant websites. What the hell are best business practices? Same for ‘Reputation Management’, ‘C-Level’ and ‘outside the box’. Biz babble.

3. Completely Unique. Please see #9 above. It’s either unique or it’s not. This one is everywhere and it’s usually FOR FREE!!!!!

2. “Who Else Wants To Make A Million Bucks Before Supper!!!!! The bane of every copywriter’s existence – the long form, Dan Kennedy sales letter. Page after page of endless hype, changing type fonts and “testimonials” from Delores M., Los Angeles. Yeah, try to track down Delores to verify the veracity of her endorsement. Good luck, suckers.
And finally, the absolute must-delete phrase is:

1. At this point in time. It’s either “at this point” or “at this time.” Redundantly redundant and intended to, somehow convey importance. All it conveys to me is smiles at some other hack using this brain-piercing, ear-poking phrase. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Take Care Of Those Who Hold The Checkbook

Managing Customer Care:
“It’s easier to keep a client than find a new one.”

Yeah, it’s an old cliché, but it’s a cliché because it’s true. The key to long-term site success is an expanding customer/client base – repeat buyers of your goods or services.

Chances are, she won't be back
Keeping the customer satisfied, especially for web-based businesses, isn’t a walk in the park but there are things you, as webmaster, can do to manage client care, keeping the customer satisfied and coming back for more.

1. Maintain an accurate order tracking system.  If you use a delivery service like FedEx or UPS, you’ll get tracking software with your account. But, if you’re trucking 37 ceramic figurines to the post office every day, you’ll need an order tracking system – preferably one that can identify “downstream” problems like: “Hey, you’re going to run out of hula girl bobble heads next Thursday. Time to reorder.”

2. Stay involved. You may be using a drop shipper to manage inventory storage, shipping and handling, and it’s not always easy during the rush of the day to check tracking data – even if you’re shipping out of a spare room. Track all problem orders yourself.

3. Provide updates to the buyer. An auto-responder as soon as the problem is identified with an opt out box to cancel the sale. You may lose that one, but your straightforwardness and ease of use will make a positive impression.

Federal law requires that orders must be filled within 30 days, after which the buyer is no longer obligated to pay. Don’t ship without renewed buyer approval.

4. Provide US-based customer support 24/7. In this global marketplace, someone is always buying, and someone always has a question. Also, empower telephone reps to accept returns with the customer’s receipts. This saves on call-backs and significantly lowers buyers’ stress levels.

5. Use dynamic pages designed specifically for each visitor.  Best example? Amazon. My home page is different from your home page based on our past buying histories. All of this data is stored in Amazon’s database and when I log on, I’m bombarded with recommendations based on items purchased five years ago.

But Amazon stills calls me by my first name. That’s nice.

6. Last key point. Overdeliver. If prudent, drop a personalized email or even make a telephone call. People are really pleasant when the company CEO calls and promises satisfaction.

The whole point of quality customer care is to create word of mouth (WOM) viral marketing. Treat your customers or clients right, and viral WOM will do the rest in growing that client base bigger and bigger.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What You Don't Know About Google Can Hurt You

Making the Most of Google's SE

The world of e-commerce depends on Google. Even though there are more than 4,000 search engines available, including the biggies like Yahoo, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, etc., the name people know is Google. Even the word itself has become part of everyday speak, as in, "Let me Google that." (a verb) or "I want the Google on our competition." (the complete picture). So, as a site owner or designer, it pays to get the Google on Google - more specifically, how potential visitors to your site might use this mighty SE with over 100 billion pages currently in its data base

In addition, Google offers a lot of search options that will enable site owners to see their sites the way the Googlebot sees them. Something as simple as revising your site's title tag can make a significant difference in how Google's SE picks you up, views your site, ranks it and, subsequently, places your URL on its SERPs - all in one-tenth of a second.

Most users simply log on to the Google site, enter their query (in the form of key words), hit the enter key and wait to see what pops up. This is called a default search and it will deliver all sites in which the entered keywords appear as part of the SERPs available to the user. In other words, the user will get pages and pages of search results that are only marginally associated to his or her search topic.

By using common symbols, the more sophisticated users can narrow their searches, isolating those sites that are truly relevant. For example, by adding a minus sign (-) in front of a key word, Google's SE will NOT show the results of that key word. So, let's say you're looking for a recipe for apple pie. The last thing you want is 118 useless SERPs about Apple, the company. So, you might enter: 'apple pie -Apple computer' to eliminate pages of information about Steven Jobs. The tilde (~) tells the SE to search for the entered keywords and synonyms of the keywords. Add quotes to key words and only pages in which quotes appear around the key words will be delivered to the user's screen.

All of these basic search techniques improve the quality of search results for users, making users happy and Google shareholders even happier. But then there are Google Search operators - in fact, specified keywords that the SE recognizes as directions rather than words to be searched. And some of these operators will be extremely useful to the owners of e-commerce sites by enabling them to optimize their sites while conducting e-espionage on competitor sites - and it's all free.

Here's a for instance: want to find out how many inbound links are pointing to your site? Try this: Obviously, type in your site's name where it says 'yoursitename'. You'll get SERPs with all URLs pointing to your site. And as most site owners know, quality, non-reciprocal links are like gold when it comes to improving your PageRank. You can also identify links that aren't helping your site. In other words, this Google tool allows you to control inbound links - an ability that's grown in importance now that Google heavily weighs inbound links in its ranking algorithm.

Want to know what the competition is doing? It's simple enough. All you have to do is enter: and sites that are, in some way, related to yours, will appear. Not only is this a good means of tracking competitor activities, it's also a great way to find sites that might be interested in some link swapping - always a good thing, especially for the owner of a small or brand new site.    

Now, turning to the matter of SEO and how Google's search services can help determine if your site is, indeed, fully optimized. Check this out: try using the search engine to see how your site ranks when the SE is instructed to find keywords only in the title of your page. Enter: allintitle: fruit baskets (of course substituting any of your keywords in place of the example keywords, fruit baskets, unless you're in the fruit basket business). Chances are, if your site's PageRank tanks on this search, a bit of tweaking of your title tag just might be in order. If your title tag reads 'Rosie's Little Bit of Home", i.e., no mention of fruit baskets, your visitor traffic will increase by simply adding the words 'fruit baskets' to your title tag.

You can also check out your site's level of optimization by conducting the following Google searches:

1. To have Google search for keywords - your keywords - in the text of the site, type in:
            allintext: fruit baskets

This search will identify if keyword density and placement are sufficient to make the Google SE sit up and take notice. 

2. To ask Google to search for your keywords in URLs only, type in:
            allinurl: fruit baskets

A search of URLs will reveal sites similar to yours (since all sites will have the same key words as part of their address, i.e., and, of course, the ever-popular fruitbaskets'r' If these sites are ranking higher than your site, check out what the competition is doing better than you. E-espionage is legal, so do a little spying on the competition and learn from them.

3. How about a search of the anchor text of all sites that mention your keywords? Type in:
            allinanchor: fruit baskets

This will indicate sites that mention fruit baskets somewhere in their anchor text, which might also indicate sites interested in reciprocal links.

4. When Google discovers your site (or you submit your URL for spidering), the SE takes a snapshot of every indexed page and places them into a cache. To search the pages in your site's cache, type:

To further refine the search of cached pages, you can also conduct a keyword search within the cache. Simply type:

And finally,

5. On of the most useful tools Google offers for no-cost marketing research is the info search. This will provide whatever information Google keeps on your site (or any other site, for that matter). Type:

This will produce a general profile of your site and the sites of your competitors, at least from the Google perspective. Much of this information - everything from inbound links to meta tag text - can help you (or your web designer) deliver more visitor traffic and  a higher conversion rate because visitors are actually looking for your product, not something like your product. In short, better results all around.

Google's objective is to deliver the highest quality search results to its users, which is one of the reasons they offer this variety of search tools for knowledgeable users and, of course, site owners. Your knowledge of how the leading SE views your site and compares it to similar (competitive) sites is a critical aspect of making adjustments to everything from key word density to fresh anchor text.

To learn even more about the tools Google offers, click on the links below and get  your site Googlized. (See, another new word!)

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Monetize Your Site – Fast!

Are you there?

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.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Easier It Is To Find Information, the Higher Your Conversion Rate

It’s What A Web Site Is All About

Accessibility, when discussing web sites, includes a number of factors: easy navigation, understandable site text, no dead ends requiring a browser back click to escape (lots of users don’t even know browsers HAVE a back click).

Let’s start with the bottom line- yours: the easier it is for a site visitor to perform the most desired action (MDA), the more times that MDA will be performed.

Let’s Start With Navigation
Whether you go with a navigation bar at the top of the screen or a menu list in the first column far left, your navigation must be:

  • simple
  • unambiguous
  • truthful
  • always available
  • always in the same location 
Avoid numerous tabs, drop-down or flyout menus. Keep it simple. If visitors are faced with too many choices too soon on arriving at the site, chances are they’ll bounce.

Keep the navigation unambiguous. It’s routine to have a "Contact Us” page on a web site. If you label the contact link “Company Authority,” visitors are going to be totally confused. And again, bounce.

Truthful is just what it says. If the link says “Product Descriptions,” don’t make the visitor read through another landing page of sell copy. Deliver what the link says and go directly to the products.

Always available is an aspect of keeping visitors on site longer, and the longer they stick around, the more likely they are to perform the MDA. So, the navigation bar or menu should be available from every page so the visitor can surf at will, unencumbered by what YOU think the visitor wants to know.

Finally, keep the nav tabs in the same place. Don’t move them from bar to menu and back to bar. The last thing you want is a visitor trying to figure out how to return to the contact page to make contact.

Keep it simple. The fewer clicks required to get the visitor to perform the MDA, the better. So, go through the process and eliminate every unnecessary side road, dead end and yet another landing page.

Accessible Content
If your client site is for a professional medical dispenser, you can assume that the visitors have some knowledge of the subject, i.e. you don’t have to start from square one. But you still have to stay on target pointing out the benefits of buying the client’s medical products.

On the other hand, if you’re writing text for a hearing aid retail outlet, accessible text is understandable by the reader. So first, toss the thesaurus. Find the simplest, shortest way to say what needs to be said about products and services.

Be helpful and supportive to the new visitor. Make things simple to find, simple to learn and simple to bookmark. Returning visitors are gold. Eventually they buy something so earning a bookmark is a very good thing.

Skip the hype. Educate the visitor using simple terms, no jargon and listing benefits rather than features. This is the stuff site visitors want to know.

Finally, lay out the text so it can be scanned rather than read. No big, long paragraphs. Visitors scan from upper left to lower right so put your most important info upper left on the screen.

The easier it is to buy something, opt-in for a newsletter, or to complete a form, the more often those MDAs are performed. So make it as simple as possible (why do you think Amazon offers a one-click checkout? How easy can it be?).

Accessibility benefits both site owner and site visitor – a win-win. Also a no brainer.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

5 Web Writing Tips That Pay My Bills

Writing Web Copy That Works

Writing web site text ain't easy but you can do it.
Whether you work from home as a web writer, or you go to the big corner office each day, web writers need to understand the science of search engine optimization and the art of writing to attract the attention of a human being – in 6.4 seconds, the average time a site visitor takes to evaluate the usefulness or interest of your client’s website.

That’s not much time. But, the fact is the web consumes content at a remarkable rate. Websites are launched, blogs need up-dating three times a week and somebody is going to make a million with another e-book download on making a million.

So, here are five tips that’ll improve your writing, make you more successful and help build a steady client base – the best thing a freelance web writer can ever have. They’ll also pay some bills.

1. Half the job is the headline.
Like I said, site visitors have the attention span of two-year-olds, bouncing from site to site based on this or that whim.

To catch a surfer’s attention, create a big, honkin’ headline that intrigues or informs or at least makes the attention-deprived web user stick around to read a little more about the site.

2. The three things that all readers will read about.
Personal health, family and money.

These topics are read more than any other in the 3-D world of print and on the W3. If you can work the headline to fit one of these three categories, the information is more likely to get read.

Which would you read?

Swine Flu Cure a Distant Objective (yawn)


Five Tips to Protect Your Family From Swine Flu NOW!

That’s a grabber.

3. Stop selling.
A sell, or the performance of the most desired action (MDA), is the objective of the site owner. It’s not the objective of the site visitor.

Develop content that educates. This will more naturally lead the site visitor to perform the MDA. Hype doesn’t sell. Facts sell. Benefits sell. Frame your copy in terms of what’s best for the site visitor, NOT the client with the checkbook. (This may require a little diplomacy on your part but it is in your client’s best interests to meet the best interests of his or her clients.)

4. Write at an 8th grade reading level.
The military standard (take it from someone who’s written for the military).

This is sometimes hard to do when the words are flowing like effervescent champers (bubbly Champagne) but you don’t have to dumb it down. Just keep it simple, use simpler words and avoid big blocks of text. Web surfers scan; they rarely read.

Consider your own web use habits. You’re a typical web user. What keeps you on a page?

5. Keep it short.
It’s the attention span thing, again. The web is like a carnival midway – lots of bright, shiny colors, noise, hustle and bustle. So, keep your writing short and on point.

A blog post should run between 600 and 1200 words – no longer, that’s a fact. An article on small cap investing might be worthy of a 250-page book but your job is to cut to the chase, and cut that 250 pages down to 1,000 words.

These simple tips pay my bills (sometimes), and they can help pay yours whether you’re working in your favorite fuzzy slippers at home, or wearing a $2K suit in a large ad agency.

Follow these simple tips and improve your web writing and your clients’ conversion ratios.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


How To Talk to Your Copywriter:
Here’s What We Need To Know

Copy Writing
Shouldn't Be a Puzzle.
Just Tell Us What You Want.
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.

Stop by for more tips on how to get the most from your SEO copy writer. Advice is always free.

Friday, April 1, 2011


SEO Client Retention:
The Key to Long-Term SEO/M Business Success

An Unhappy Client Ain't Comin' Back
Building a successful SEO/M consultancy is hard. There’s a lot of competition and a lot of snake oil, SEO voodoo floating around the web, so building a solid reputation – one that leads to referrals and repeat business is essential to long-term business growth.

Once you have a client, you have to keep that client coming back because of the quality services and opinions you offer. You have to build a client base of happy clients. They come back for more. They’re also your best salespeople.

Here are some suggestions for keeping the customer satisfied.

1. Go through an extensive discovery phase. Determine such things as the target demographic, market competition, unique selling position, client objectives, challenges – a top-down analysis of what needs doing. A few hours more at this stage will save days of re-dos in the weeks ahead.

2. Prepare a written SOW. A statement of work describes the work to be undertaken (usually in chronological order), approval milestones, payment schedule, who’s going to do what. The more complete the SOW the more accurate the client’s expectations. Clients hate surprises so get on the same page early.

3. Give a stake to the client. No client is going to quibble with a strategy or design that s/he proposed. Instead of presenting finished pages and data analysis, engage the client and incorporate his or her suggestions into the final product. As best you can, let the client “own” the project.

4. Go proactive. In everything. Offer suggestions and counsel beyond the expectations of the client. If you discover an error you’ve made, call the client to let her know you’re on top of it. 

5. Communicate. A lot. Not just approvals, though they’re essential to increased productivity, but also discuss implementation strategies, guerilla marketing tactics and opportunities for future growth of the client’s business.

6. Fix it. If the client ain’t happy, fix it. Period. A happy client will talk you up through his network. An unhappy client will bad mouth you to anyone who will listen. Rely on your SOW only as a last resort. Keep the client happy – even if it’s a loss leader for you.

Growing a stable of regular clients takes time and trust building. It’s an on-going process. But once your regulars are making up 75% of your work time, you don’t have to constantly worry about where the next job is coming from.

Need more suggestions for building a successful on-line business. Stop by for more on web-based success.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Content Spam 2.0:
What This Means to SEO

Weird email requests lately.

One guy wanted a bid on 1,000 articles – all about apartments. I doubt there are 1,000 things you could even say about apartments, much less write 1,000 articles on the subject. And if tasked with such an assignment, any self-respecting copywriter would gouge out her eyes with a spork after a day or two. Tops.

Another request wanted a price for a weekly newsletter on work-at-home jobs. Didn’t care what I wrote as long as it contained this list of 25 long-tail keywords. This isn’t writing. It’s a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces are gray.

The move to content-driven sites, and the endless need for green content, has been good for word grinders who can crank it out by the pound. But there’s something in the ether-sphere. A change in the digital wind. Lots for Cheap
I’ve been getting writing assignments through Elance for a little more than four years. And in that time there’s been a rather dramatic shift in what buyers in the writing and translation category want.

“500 articles on pig farming. Willing to go as high as $1 per article.”

“200-page ebook download on FOREX strategies – Budget > $500”

“30 press releases; various technical topics – Budget > $250”

Occasionally, buyers are actually more concerned with quality than quantity but those buyers are a shrinking pool. And this despite Elance’s behind-the-scenes efforts to improve the quality of its job posters.

Still, those cr@pfests of work get bids – out sourced to word factories where text by the kilo is produced by (1) machines (virtually unreadable) or (2) non-native English speakers who get paid in canned goods (humorously unreadable). A client sent one of these outsourced pieces for review and in it was the following quote: “American corporations are up to the business of the monkey.”

I read that 10 times before my wife figured out that the writer (or machine) had interpreted “monkey business” as “business of the monkey.” So, the sentence, when reconstructed would read: “American corporations are up to monkey business” and even that totally sucks.

Content Spam 1.0
Sure, this kind of junk has been around for years and there have been bottom feeders on Elance since the site started operations. So, admittedly, the use of content spam has been around since search engines (1994).

But early content spam was simplistic. Cram the words sex and porn into every keyword tag and you’d show up. Keyword dense gibberish (“Can you give me a 40% keyword density across the site?”) could be ground out like hash (and not the good kind).

But now, because search engine algorithms have gotten more sophisticated, content spam has taken on a new look.

Content Spam 2.0
The days of stuffing “blue pill” in between real text are over (except for that guy in the Philippines, and I’ll get you, you bastard!). Today, search engines want solid, informational content – something of substance, of use to the search engine user. The problem for copywriters is simple. Search engines know informational content. But they don’t know good content from a steaming pile of verbs and nouns.

This limitation has led to a huge number of posts on Elance and other freelance sites for words by the pound. Quality doesn’t get any extra credit. It’s sheer volume and plenty of it.

The Impact on SEO
This content spam 2.0 is used by site owners and SEOs to create sign posts that point back to the mother site – the center of the marketing bull’s eye. So the content ends up on blogs, on content syndication sites, on content-based sites, on sub-domains – it’s like putting up posters on construction site walls in New York City.

And though SEO has always involved creating identifiable targets for bots and eyeballs, this off-site aspect of SEO seems to be growing in importance. Why else would some guy want 1,000 pages on apartments? He’s going to place that content spam every place he can – or you are.

Based on the number of requests for content spam posted on Elance and showing up in my inbox, I suggest that SEO is going to employ a great deal more off-site activity in the future.

Anybody know anything about apartments?