Archives for January 2015

The Art of Website Writing: The Top 5 Ways to Jump In

You’ve cleared your desk at least three times. There’s a nice cup of sweet tea sitting on the immaculate surface. You’re all set to write your website copy but you still have no idea where to begin. So, you get up and find something else to do.

Sound familiar?

As web designers, our customers often feel they can slap together some website copy. And it would seem to make sense because who else would have such a clear vision of their business.

Then, after a few weeks have gone by with no news or updates, we realize the disease has struck again. Another talented business person has come down with a bad case of writer’s block while attempting to write their own website copy.

In the spirit of finding a cure, here are the top 5 things that you might try BEFORE sitting down to write:

#5 Write the following on a post-it note

“Speak directly to your customer and show them you understand their pain.”

Stick this note on your tea cup. Apply this advice often while writing your website copy.

#4 Make a detailed list of your business offerings

This seems so simple, and yet who hasn’t attempted to mould themselves into what someone else wants them to be.

Well, businesses often make the same mistake. They lose sight of who they are and morph into what they think their customers want. All of a sudden, they’re selling what they don’t do best, just so potential customers will buy “something”.

You laugh, but you know it’s true.

Refer to your list of offerings while writing your website copy.

#3 Outline a description of your perfect customer

Having a detailed vision of the person who needs your products and services is very important. This imaginary person is called a “customer persona.” Give your persona a photo and get to know him, or her, like the back of your hand.

Refer to your persona often while writing your website copy.

#2 Help your customers realize their frustration

A good business idea fills a niche and soothes a person’s pain. This pain can be real, like achey muscles, or it can be in the form of a frustration… like not being able to access information quickly. Google spotted their niche early on when they realized that we humans wanted knowledge at our fingertips. That’s when Google put all their efforts into search engine technologies.

Your customers really want to blurt out their frustrations, but they may not even be aware of what they are. As every good shrink knows, it’s all about asking the right questions.

Refer to these questions often while writing your website copy.

#1 Jump into your website writing as if it were a cold lake!

It will be painful at first… but you’ll adjust quickly and soon become invigorated.

When you get stuck, refer to the work you’ve done above.

Remember that your website isn’t really about you. It’s about showing customers that they need what you have to offer.

Soothe your customer’s pain!

Once they get that your business can ease their pain, and can ease it better than anyone else, your job is done.

Remember this. Writing effective website copy always begins with simple honesty and ends with clear solutions that soothe frustration. Be true to yourself, do some of the work I suggested… and your website content will miraculously write itself!

My work is done here.

It’s Time to Overlook the Obvious and Clean Up Your SEO

Since my last post on building an effective website through blogging, a number of concerned business owners have asked about ways to clean up their SEO. Specifically, they understand the benefits of topical articles, but don’t see value in going after those less popular keywords.

To address those concerns, you first have to acknowledge that the technical landscape of SEO has changed dramatically in the last few years. No longer are there surefire methods to rank on the first page for your desired search terms. Google’s ranking algorithm is a moving target that becomes more advanced on a daily basis. Elements that were once a priority for on-page search optimization have been replaced with new factors that Google wants to see.

As a basic example, a year or two ago, the meta description (a short block of text hidden to visitors) was weighed heavily by search engines in their ranking formula. Today, however, many experts agree that it has very little weight, if any at all.

This example is truly indicative of what Google has always tried to do: give its users the most relevant search results possible. At its foundation, the concept of a search engine is to provide wholly unbiased information, prioritized by relevance for its users. The meta description, while useful for a long time, is easily manipulated by marketers… and that’s the opposite of what Google wants.

So, we’re really not talking about Google’s algorithm here. We’re talking about what led them to change it.

It’s Time to Acknowledge Your Competition

Face it, without all that pesky competition you’d rank #1 for whatever you want, right? So, if you can’t join ’em, you really only have 2 options for those highly competitive keywords:

Try to beat ’em

OR

Admit defeat

Obviously, you’re going to try and beat ’em. But, before you suit up for battle, think about the long road ahead. Attempting to outrank your competition for the most desirable search terms will usually end up as a demoralizing, fruitless endeavor. Unless your company provides an abnormally unique product, there will always be a bigger competitor, with more brand awareness, more clout with Google and more money to spend on marketing. So what are you supposed to do?

It’s Time to Overlook the Obvious

I know, ever since 5th grade, you’ve always been told “don’t ignore the obvious”. I’m not here to argue against that age-old wisdom. My point is, if you truly want to clean up your SEO, you need to take note of your most obvious search phrases, recognize the stranglehold that your more powerful competition has on those premium keywords, and then look beyond that glaring first level to a place that’s a bit less explored.

In other words, by modifying those very apparent search terms with appropriate adjectives, locations and less common synonyms, you can find and tap into small niches within the market. While you’re attempting to attract a much smaller group of people, you’re also much more likely to be found by them at all.

At its foundation, these markets are much more accessible to smaller businesses. Plus, if you take this technique and apply it to a variety of niches, what you’ll have is a well diversified and testable marketing campaign. A marketing campaign that can be as focused or broad as you and your team can handle.

In the near future, I’ll expand on the idea of using a diversified keyword portfolio to attract different types of people, and learn which are your best customers.

4 Website Design Features to Keep Your Visitors from Leaving

Don’t you just want to scream?

You’ve finally gotten some traffic to your website. You know this because you dilegently study your website analytics and, clear as day, your visitor sessions are finally up. You are so happy! You love traffic. You are in love with the internet.

But then, you make the mistake of digging deeper into your stats and you see that your bounce rate is really high, maybe even as bad as 90%. This is not good. Bouncing means that people leave directly from the page that they land on, without hanging around long enough to learn anything. You’re really upset. You hate the internet!

Calm down. We can fix this.

The first thing to do is figure out what happened…

  • Did your visitors get bored?
  • Were they confused by something you showed them?
  • Did you insult their intellegence?
  • Were they unable to immediately find the informational links they were looking for in the first 5 seconds?
  • Did your website load too slowly for their impatient brains?

For whatever reason, they didn’t even stay long enough to read all your excellent content!

Maybe it’s time to add some features that might encourage people to stay longer and click through to your other pages.

1. Be unique with a custom home page

Two choices here. Your home page can be structured like all your other pages …or it can be completely different. To make it different, you would deviate from the template and add elements that enable you to show off your product or services in a way that highlights the most important sections on your website. Of all the website design features available, this one will have the most impact on the longevity of the visit. A custom home page allows for an elegant overview of your business, while enabling the visitor to go off in the direction that interests them most.

Here is an example of a custom home page:

consumerspetroleum-screenshot

2. Stand out with slideshow

And now that you have your custom home page in place, be sure to hang a colorful slideshow on the wall of your entryway. Few things speak more clearly than a set of handpicked images. If one image can say a 1,000 words, imagine how well 5 images would be able to tell an entire story… your story.

Your images can be superimposed with titles to help them electrify your message, or at least clarify it. The photos themselves can be clickable and lead each visitor directly to the information they are looking for.

Well-designed slideshows require a bunch of visual, written and technical skillsets; they need to be timed, cropped, color-corrected and sized just right. Each image should be pleasing unto itself… but still play nicely with all the others. The images should relate to each other without being redundant, yet still repeat the style and tone. Be creative!

3. Sidebar your honor?

Another idea is to stick a creative sidebar on many of the pages that follow your custom home page. Sidebars are great when you want your visitors to see something specific, no matter where they are on your website. A slideshow of your clients’ logos, your Twitter feed, a list of your latest blogs, an email subscription box, links to your social media pages, promotions, organizations you support or are a member of, and who knows what else.

A sidebar frees up your header so only the most important things are displayed at the top. I feel sidebars tend to be more comfortable on the right side of each page, but they do work pretty well on the left in certain instances. Sidebars come with some mobile layout considerations, (because they become “belowbars”on phones) but a quality responsive website will handle all of that quite gracefully.

4. Navigation is about style, performance and clarity

Our lives are interspersed with wonderful moments we barely notice. A silent laugh, a big stretch, the sight of colorful flower outside the window. Your menu bar items need to be one of those moments. When your visitors click on your navigation links, there should be a nano second of that same happiness regarding how smoothly that link hovered, changed, flowed, and took direction.

A click on a link should never distract from the message. However, the user should be able to “feel” the click… and immediately know that something is supposed to happen while they’re waiting for the transition.

Implement these four website design features and watch your bounce rate go down.