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Archive for September, 2011

Does your web copy pass the aural test?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Even though web copywriting is about appealing to users’ eyes, the key to success may be your ears.

Putting SEO and keywords aside for a moment, let’s think about what constitutes good web copy. It should be current, original, informative and authoritative.

Take The Aural Test

Unfortunately, ignoring one major area will undermine your copy even if it has all those traits: readability.

One of my biggest pet peeves in web writing is overly technical or even academic language. Writers often get caught in the “good spelling and grammar” trap. While you absolutely want everything spelled and phrased correctly, it doesn’t mean you should follow every rule that you followed when writing a university essay on Paradise Lost.

Overly dry or academic content may be worded perfectly, it may contain brilliant arguments, but it will fail you if it isn’t easily readable for searchers. If it’s too technical, too dense, it could even turn off your readers. They’ll feel alienated by the language and seek a competitor who offers similar products, services or content but speaks to them in a more accessible way. In other words, unreadable content will spike your bounce rate and lower your conversion rate. Not good.

This is where the “aural test” comes in handy. By reading your own content out loud, either to yourself or to a friend, you get a stronger sense of how your content affects your web users. If it sounds robotic and distant, that’s because it is. The best way to attract readers online is to speak in a way that really connects with them. Keep it punchy, conversational and introductory. If your content is interesting and welcoming, you should hear that tone when you try the aural test.

The good part about this suggestion: it doesn’t even mean you have to dumb down your writing. You’ll be making it shorter and choppier but, in many cases, that also involves searching for especially descriptive and relevant words, which are cornerstones of great writing.

Keep it simple and natural and you’ll keep your readers on your site longer. If you don’t trust my word, maybe Albert Einstein’s will do:

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”

Why the “contact us” page is crucial for conversions

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Why the “contact us” page is crucial for conversions

My favorite web development tips are often those that help you solve problems right under your nose. They’re the easiest things to fix yet they can significantly impact your website’s performances. One such example: the “contact us” page.

Imagine bragging to your friends about that great girl or guy you met the other day. You hit it off, had a wonderful conversation, and you knew right away that you were destined to be together. You were looking your best, you were at your most charming, and you couldn’t have made a better impression.

“That’s great! So, did you give him/her your number?”

“Oops…”

Failing to bridge that crucial gap from customer to business owner online with a contact us button is just as bad as forgetting to give your love interest your phone number. Unless you operate a fully automated retail website with a full online purchasing and checkout system, you won’t convert customers if they don’t find you.

It’s amazing how often businesses make this mistake. They spend a huge number of resources on beautifully designed websites, artfully crafted content and well thought out web marketing initiatives, but often give little thought to contact information. Either it’s non-existent, barely visible, buried in a mystery section (i.e. in an About Us page instead of a separate Contact Us page) or included in too few places.

True story: a client I encountered was pulling out all the stops, dropping $2,500 a month on Google AdWords, but the business’ conversion rate remained horrible. The simple, fixable reason: the home page had NO contact information! Even if people were impressed with the company’s services, they had no idea how to receive those services as they didn’t know whom or where to contact.

Assuming you want customers to contact you via information found on your website, consider these simple tips:

1. Put a “contact us” button on your home page, above the fold. Let users know exactly where on your site they can find your phone number and/or e-mail address. Make it possible with a single click.

2. Include your phone number on your home page, above the fold. If you can get away with it, it’s even more effective to prominently feature your key contact info on your home page, not in lieu of a contact page, but in addition to it. If you have a bricks and mortar location, include your physical address.

3. Sprinkle contact listings or buttons at the bottom of pages, too. If you have a page discussing a specific service, it never hurts to remind readers at the end about how they can learn more. “To learn more about [our services], contact us at…” It works! To learn more about this idea, contact me at 416-226-8676! Ask for Ray.

The contact us principle stems from the call-to-action principle. If you want people’s business, tell them exactly how and where they can purchase whatever product or service you have to offer.

Learn more about contact us page best practices.

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based content and website copywriting expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business online. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

Google beefs up local reviews with purchase of ZAGAT

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Google has bought successful restaurant/entertainment review publisher ZAGAT.

The move is likely to make Google Places an even more trusted authority for local, user-generated reviews. Google Places scours the web for any information it can find about every business with a mailing address. It pre-populates information like pictures, descriptions, addresses, telephone numbers, etc. With Google’s purchase of ZAGAT, all of that content is likely to find its way on to Places (if not upcoming Google+ brand profiles).

ZAGAT was founded in 1979 and published its first guide on New York City dining. On their website a note from founders Nina and Tim ZAGAT states that Google and ZAGAT plan to “optimize the potential of the ZAGAT brand while offering ‘new ways’ for consumers to ‘express their opinions’ and ‘make informed decisions.'”

This underscores the importance of reviews for local business owners. Clearly Google found that there are not enough reviews out there, and purchased ZAGAT to kick-start a push for quality reviews to make their way to the web.

What’s interesting is how ZAGAT and Google will offer consumers new ways of expressing their opinions. The possibilities are endless, but surely mobile will play a big role in populating this content. Imagine taking a picture of your meal, adding a video about how great it was and then rating it based on food, décor, service and overall value.

In the meantime, take this as inspiration to ask your customers for a review on Google Places, even try offering an incentive. A little word of mouth goes a long way.

If you can publish it on the web, you can optimize it

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Arguably, most people with a decent understanding of search engine optimization associate the process primarily with “typical” web content. To improve your PageRank, you embed relevant keywords in your web copy, you work on your title tags, you engage in link building campaigns, and so on.

But, sometimes, we forget that anything publishable online can be optimized. Because these types of files – like PDFs – are more difficult to manipulate than others, we often overlook them when it comes to SEO. Don’t! Using PDFs as an example, let’s explore how and why you can make any publishable web file work for you in the search results.

As Google explains, though it encounters non-HTML files like PDFS (or spreadsheets), it still incorporates them into its algorithms. The modern incarnation of Google is more about finding relevant, engaging content than anything else. Even if it takes more effort, Google will seek out any quality content – even from alternative sources like PDFs.

So how do those robots do it? As Google explains, “The general rule of thumb is that if you can copy and paste the text from a PDF document into a standard text document, we should be able to index that text.” Any PDF without password protection or encrypted copy can be indexed.

Though images in PDF files aren’t indexed, links are. The algorithms treat links in PDF just like HTML links and factor them into PageRank.

To maximize your PDFs’ effectiveness in optimizing your site, I recommend that you:

1. Avoid duplicate content between PDF and HTML. Google much prefers a single copy of a given piece of content. Naturally, some sites or businesses need two copies to cater to different types of readers. If so, it’s a good idea to at least include a preferred URL in your Sitemap.

2. Work to influence the title shown for your document. Make sure the metadata pertaining to the PDF and any anchor text pointing to it are up to date and reflecting the title you want shown with your PDF in search results.

Make non-HTML files like PDFs and PowerPoint part of your web content strategy! Understand that they can be your friend, not your enemy, and they can help your SEO just as much as any content.

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based content and website copywriter expert Ray Litvak understands the art and science of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and using the right words in the right way to increase your rankings. Discover how greater exposure on Google can drive more traffic, increase leads and grow your business. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business as a result. You can do it too – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Call Ray locally at 416-226-8676 for a free assessment of your specific needs today. You’ll be glad you did!

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