cork board

Archive for the ‘Online Copywriting’ Category

Putting prices on your website…good or bad?

Friday, July 27th, 2012

 After running two web-based businesses for more than six years I’m still wrestling with whether to post my web writing rates online.

It’s a thorny issue that’s kept me awake at night . . . well, not really, but it’s caused me enough consternation that I thought I’d float the idea out there and see what other web pros think. However, before I ask for your input, here’s my take on a few of the pros and cons:

Web Writing Rates

The Pros
1. Filtering out nuisance calls: No more Fivrr.com refugees
2. Pre-qualifying clients: Those looking for quality; not the cheapest supplier
3. Transparency: “This is the price; take it or leave it”
4. Answering the “what does it cost?” question upfront: “Let’s not waste each other’s time”
5. Differentiating yourself from the competition: “I’m not afraid to show my price because I know I’m worth it”

 The Cons

1. Commodification of value added services: One size does not fit all
2. Consumer suspicion: Admit it; you look for prices on other sites and are wary when they’re not there
3. Sticker shock: Totally unrealistic expectations
4. Bounce rate: How many visitors read your price and run?
5. Locking yourself in: Your pricing structure that may not work for every assignment

How I deal with it
I don’t have a dedicated web writing rate sheet on my site. Rather, I address it in the FAQ section as − you guessed it − a question, what is the basis for your web writing rates?  

My answer helps to provide visitors with a realistic price range and puts my service into context. Better, I believe, than a pricelist could. It also allows me to ask and answer other common questions that first-time callers may have: “How long does a project take?” “What’s your process?” “What’s your guarantee?” (I’m still not sure how to answer this one − suggestions are welcome).

It’s a personal choice for me
In my opinion, this is one of those questions that don’t have a clear cut answer. Me? I believe in selling on value. This means first, discovering a prospect’s needs. Second, determining if my service meets those needs and if it does, explaining how. And that often answers another common question: “What’s in it for me?”

Lastly, I quickly find out what (and/or if) they have a budget. While the prospect of dissuading nuisance calls and attracting better clients is appealing, the value I provide cannot be conveyed in a simple number so I continue to leave pricing off my site. But that’s just my 2 cents.

How about you?
How do you deal with this issue? Or is it an issue at all for you? I’d love to hear what you think and I’m sure others would as well.

Written by Ray Litvak
Ray gets his daily fix of Web Content Writing as the owner of Writing Web Words in Toronto, Ontario. He understands the art and science of Writing for the Web and discovers and places the right words in the right places on your website to increase rankings. 

Looking for higher rankings and conversion rates?  Let’s talk.  E-mail me or call (416) 226-8676.  You’ll be glad you did!

The Wrong Stuff: The danger of keyword stuffing

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

I love stuffing. My Thanksgiving turkey will be packed with it this weekend. But keyword stuffing – also known as keyword spamming – makes you a turkey in the eyes of Google and other search engines.

Any overzealous SEO Copywriter or website owner can easily make this mistake. It’s common that we think we’re doing ourselves a huge favor by stuffing our pages with as many keywords as possible. Unfortunately, doing so often hurts more than it helps. Here are three key reasons why keyword stuffing can hurt your bottom line.

1. It kills your readability. Last week, we discussed the “aural test” and how readability is crucial to your site’s success. A page overloaded with keywords has no shot of passing the aural test! Overstuffed copy is nonsensical, overly dense, totally unnatural and extremely unappealing to the eye.

Content overstuffed with keywords turns off readers, confuses them, and sends them running. In theory, the keywords may help you in search engine results and increase your traffic, but that traffic will rarely convert. Too many keywords means lower conversion rates and higher bounce rates. Keyword-saturated content may look overly robotic, less human, and will make it harder for potential customers to trust you. Looking “spammy” kills your readability.

2. Google isn’t stupid. The funny thing about keyword stuffing: in the modern search-engine landscape, it may not even increase your traffic. Search engines like Google care more and more about quality content these days, including relevant, authoritative and engaging content. There’s nothing engaging about nonsensical copy loaded with keywords. Coming across like a robot will hurt you in the rankings, not help you.

3. Time is money – and keyword stuffing takes time. Bloating your site with keywords means spending far more time and capital on SEO. Since the excess keyword research and work won’t even help your site in the long run, committing oodles of time and resources to keyword stuffing may make you lose money.

In a nutshell, don’t sacrifice readability for possible search engine rankings.  That said, being too conservative, as in using too few keywords, does you no favors. So, what’s an SEO to do? A good rule of thumb to follow: try for no more than one keyword phrase for every 100 words of web content.  Use synonyms, singular and plural instances of your keywords. Focus on sounding ‘natural.’  Doing so will keep your keyword total healthy and relevant while also preventing you from alienating your audience.

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. 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!

 

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.”

Five ways to become a more efficient web writer

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

If you’ve been around writers or business owners involved in search engine optimization and/or web development, you’ve probably heard by now that “content is king.” It’s a phrase so common that it feels like cliché now but it’s consistently used because it’s so true.

User engagement is everything these days. To impress search engines like Google and to keep users on your site, your content needs to be both fresh and relevant. In other words, you have to write often and you have to write well. The thought of accomplishing both scares some people, so I’d like to share a few tips on how to write efficiently and effectively (in random order).

1. Do your homework.

High-quality content is very much about coming across to readers as an authority on a given subject. If you already know a lot about your business or website’s subject matter, you’re ahead of the game. If not, do your homework. Read books, articles and forums. It will slow down your writing process at first but it will greatly benefit you in the long run.

Not only will your online copywriting be more authoritative and appealing to your audience, becoming more knowledgeable about a subject makes it far easier to write about it. If you’re an expert on something, you tend to have a million things to say about it!

2. Make your computer’s operating system work for you.

An overlooked way to increase your efficiency is to properly utilize your computer’s operating system. If you’re referring to other source material while you write, for example, it’s difficult to constantly click back and forth between windows.

New computer operating systems, whether you’re using a Mac or Windows 7, are designed to turn your computer into a real work station. They let you work in multiple windows side-by-side, giving you easy access to whatever research materials you need as you write. If you master your computer’s OS, you’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll save.

3. Good outlines help articles and blogs write themselves.

The actual writing of a blog post or article often isn’t the hard part. The key is formulating your argument and making sure your thoughts are organized. Once you build an outline, the rest of the work should flow easily.

4. Motivate yourself with a reward system.

If you have a case of the Mondays, feel restless or just don’t want to work, consider rewarding yourself for hitting critical junctures. For example, “If I get to 300 words, I get to take a coffee break.” Rewarding yourself can be a nice motivator.

5. Write often.

Practice makes perfect. The more you write, the easier it will become for you, the faster you will do it and the fewer mistakes you will make.

6. Don’t edit while you write.

I’ve debated this strategy with my copywriting peers for years. But, to me, the key is to do the heavy lifting first and the tinkering second. Get the bulk of your thoughts down as quickly as you can. Then, you can review and make necessary changes.

I’ve seen people try the reverse strategy, thinking that editing along the way saves time, and the results can be infuriating. If you keep second-guessing every sentence you type, you may never finish your work, as you’ll never be satisfied!

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based content and expert  web writer 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!

How to make keywords with negative meanings work for you, not against you

Friday, August 26th, 2011

A lot of what we discuss on this online copywriting blog falls under “SEO 101.” I offer many tips for new business owners designing their websites or details about SEO Copywriting that are simple but easily overlooked.

For a change today, let’s talk about a more intermediate or even advanced SEO tactic. How do you make keywords work for you, not against you, when the words you need to target often have negative connotations?

I recently stumbled upon the teachings of SEO Copy expert, Karon Thackston, who used the word “cheap” as a great example of the dilemma.

For instance, you want your users to understand that your product or service is cheap, as in affordable.  At the same time, how do you use the word in your web copy without making yourself sound “cheap”? So the first instinct is to avoid the word altogether and use more respected terms like “affordable” or “inexpensive” as your primary keywords. But the problem doesn’t end there. Ironically, even though users may not want a company that sells itself as “cheap,” they’re more likely to use the word “cheap” than “affordable” when keying in search terms.

The solution is to turn the negative term on itself, thus reversing its meaning. Instead of selling your barbecue as cheap, sell it as “Affordable without being cheap.” You keep the keyword without associating your business with its meaning.

A second example of negative keywords hamstringing web copy is legality issues. The dilemma particularly applies to medical products. For example, it’s illegal to claim that a product is a “cure,” or “remedy.” Unfortunately, someone with a nasty cough will commonly search “cough remedy.”

Again, the way to beat the problem is to reverse the meaning. Instead of claiming that your product is a cure, claim that the competition’s isn’t. “Tired of that cure for the common cold not working for you? Try our product.” You don’t lose the important keyword but you don’t break the law, either.

Just as it helps our kids to eat their vegetables, a little reverse psychology can go a long way toward conquering those tricky, and less than flattering keywords.

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your online 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. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page of results and have grown their business in return. 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!

Don’t blog for the sake of blogging

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

If you’re a regular reader of the Writing Web Words blog, you may have noticed that there was no new post last week. It wasn’t a coincidence. For whatever reason, I didn’t have a particularly important point to make, so I held off rather than just blog about nothing.

 Ironically, doing so called to mind a point worth writing about this week: having a point.

Are you still following me? While it’s important to keep your site relevant  with up-to-date and relevant content, which could include blogs, you have to be careful not to simply blog for the sake of blogging. If you don’t have an organized message or point to share, you may actually decrease your site’s user engagement and risk turning readers off.

So how do you ensure you’re giving your readers a quality message, not just quantity?

1. Use the inverted pyramid structure. Make sure you at least hint at the main point of your blog post in the first two paragraphs or blog summary. As you probably know, most journalists adhere to this standard (except when writing in-depth features that tell chronological stories). Bloggers should hold themselves to the same standard. Assume your users don’t have a ton of time and want to get the gist of your post quickly.

2. Have a clear – and new – message. Don’t repeat yourself. Make sure your blog post adds value to your site and its visitors by providing some new and relevant information.

3. Make sure your site addresses your target audience. Sticking with the word “relevant,” it’s not enough just to have an important message. It must be a message that matters to your target audience. I have plenty to say about the Toronto Maple Leafs but that doesn’t mean I should write about it on this blog, which focuses on web content development and online copywriting. It’s the service we offer, so we best be blogging about topics that fall under that umbrella!

4. Don’t forget about the call to action. Technically, you’re not making a sales pitch in your blog post but, if you have a message to give, you clearly want your readers to do something with it. Sending them off to go forth and prosper is a great way to end a post. In fact, I’ll do it now:

The next time you blog – take a good, hard, look at this list. It’s a major step toward ensuring that your target audience consumes quality content and it further establishes you as an authority in your given business sector.

Need an online copywriter?
Toronto-based web content and online 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. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page 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!

Promote your endorsements

Monday, August 1st, 2011

If you want people to know how wonderful you are, let other people brag about you.  And you can do that easily through sites like Yelp! and Google Places.

Just ask
If you’ve done great work that your client appreciates, all you have to do is ask and, typically, they’ll be happy to write a glowing review of your performance and post it on whatever review site you request.  Then all you have to do is provide instructions on how to navigate through the review site to get the endorsement published.

Think about it
Those reviews are like gold. Think about it. What’s more powerful: you extolling your virtues at a networking meeting or a valid third-party endorsement posted where potentially thousands of people can see it? The answer’s obvious, isn’t it?

Not just numbers
But it’s not just the number of people who read it that counts; it’s the power of third-party endorsement. People will trust the people who’ve actually used the product or service far more than they’ll trust the people who are selling it. And the more people you have endorsing you on Yelp!, Google Places and other review sites, the more your listing will stand out from others.

No time for modesty
Yet we usually let satisfied – even thrilled – customers slip away without asking them to share what they know about us online. And that’s a shame.  Because this is not a time for false modesty that will cost you in the long run.

Ask for the endorsement
Maybe I shouldn’t mention this, because it never happens, but I was fortunate recently to receive an endorsement from a client of mine – Public Speaking Coach and Trainer, Thomas Moss – in the form of an entire blog post that I didn’t ask for and wasn’t expecting. You can check it out here. But remember, that very rarely happens  If you’re in business, you know you have to ask for the sale. Well, you have to ask for the endorsement or online review too.

Promote your reviews
And when your customers say “Yes”, and they usually will, yell it out from the rooftops, take out a full page ad in your local paper or, better still – and infinitely less expensive – make it a part of  your online copy and marketing efforts by creating a ‘Testimonials’ section on your website. Mention and provide a link to the review on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Remember, happy customers are almost always glad to provide glowing testimonials.  In most cases, it’s simply a matter of asking.

Just do it!
One last point: I know some people won’t ask for reviews because they’re afraid the client might say something negative. That very rarely happens, particularly if you request reviews from satisfied customers. And if for some strange reason it does happen, the impact will be minimized if it’s surrounded by glowing words of praise from other satisfied customers.

Need an online copywriter?
Toronto-based web content and online 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. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page 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!

Spelling is a lossed art

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

The header is for fun but…never have I been more nervous about a post on this blog. It has to be perfect. If I make a single typo, it will undermine everything I’m about to tell you. You’ll laugh me out of the room. You’ll declare me incompetent and an unworthy online copywriter. You’ll even be less likely to enlist my services.

It’s the truth. Spelling is far more important in online copy than many people realize. Some folks may disagree, claiming that worrying about spelling is pretentious and that the actual quality of products and services a business offers is what really matters.

Regardless of whether or not you feel that way, your web visitors don’t. To them, spelling, grammar and punctuation matters. The reason: whether it’s fair or not, errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation connote certain negative characteristics about a company that can seriously damage their reputation and conversion rates, such as:

1. Untrustworthiness. Would you buy a car from a company whose sign was misspelled outside the dealership? Would you click an e-mail rife with bad grammar? Many of us wouldn’t. We see spelling and grammar mistakes as a sign of laziness or worse. Conveying a certain amount of authority and respect toward customers is even more crucial in an online space because you don’t get the opportunity to win them over with a smile or friendly voice.

2. Incompetence. This is the most obvious problem to me. Any enterprise that can’t properly spell the very items and topics in which it’s supposedly an expert will appear like it doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Will you let a dentist put you under and drill holes in your mouth if his or her website advertises high-quality “Route Kanals?” I don’t know about you, but that misspelling would send me running. I’d think, “These guys don’t know what they’re doing! They can’t even spell root canal!”

So how do you avoid making the dreaded spelling mistakes? While no one is perfect, I find these strategies work well for my work as an online copywriter:

1. Use spell check – but not just spell check. There’s nothing wrong with using spell check. It’s great for correcting any words you legitimately don’t know how to spell. However, it’s your funeral if you decide to rely solely on spell check. A computer doesn’t have the semantic understanding to correct improperly used heterographs (i.e. there, their and they’re; you and ewe; bear and bare). Make sure you read your work over once you’ve spell-checked it.

2. Bring fresh eyes to your edits. If a second set of eyes is available to you, have a peer edit your work. It’s sometimes hard to see your own mistakes. If you don’t have the luxury of another editor, walk away for a bit. Eat lunch, go for a walk, get some air, then return to your copy. The break from your screen should help you spot errors you otherwise would’ve missed.

So that’s it, folks. Follow my steps. Here’s hoping I haven’t made a typo. If I have, I deserve any conversions I might lose!

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based content and online 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. Many of Ray’s clients consistently rank on Google’s first page 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!

 

Article Writing | Business Blogging | Content Analysis | Editing | Keyword Research
Learn Web Copywriting | Metatag Optimization | Press Releases | SEO Copywriting
SEO Services | Web Content Development
Writing Web Words
Writing Web Words Writing Web Words Writing Web Words Writing Web Words