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Archive for the ‘Web Writing’ 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!

How Press Releases Can Keep Your Content Fresh

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Search engine giant Google has updated its algorithm and determined that it will reward sites which provide fresh content with higher rankings. What does this mean to you? Sites which provide visitors with timely information are more likely to show up in the first page of search engine rankings.

One way you can keep your content fresh and be ranked higher on Google is by using press releases. Once written, they can be posted on your own website or submitted to distribution services. If you are posting press releases on distribution sites you will want to make sure you have a link back to your own main page to drive traffic to your website.

What kind of content can you put in a press release? You can share anything that your customers or readers will find interesting. If your company has won an award or been recognized in some way, you can include this information in your press release. If your company has conducted a survey or a study, you could release the results in a press release. A change in personnel, a product launch or a special promotion can be covered in this manner as well.

Since the goal of writing a press release is to share something newsworthy, plan to use this strategy regularly. (It is extremely frustrating for visitors to your website to click on the News page and find that the last entry was in 2007.) When done properly, issuing press releases regularly can be an effective way to drive new visitors to your website  as well as increasing the likelihood that you will achieve a higher search engine ranking.

Find out more about how press releases can help your business by calling (416) 226-8676 today.

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!

Add a News Feature to Your Site for Ongoing Fresh Content

Friday, December 16th, 2011

One very effective way to keep your content fresh and relevant to your site visitors is to include a news feature and updating it regularly with relevant/industry content. The demand for information is continually growing and people want to be able to access it quickly and easily. Rather than waiting to find out about current events by reading the daily paper or watching the nightly news broadcast on television, today’s consumers are accessing information quickly and conveniently through their desktop computers or from mobile devices.

How can adding news to your web site benefit your business? For one thing, the regular updates give them a reason to bookmark your site and come back to it. Spending time on your site helps the visitor to develop a relationship with your business, and people are more likely to buy a product or service from a company that they know and trust.

Another advantage to adding news to your site is that you now have multiple opportunities to promote your products and services to your site visitors. You will want to make sure you are taking advantage of the boost the news feature will bring to your web site traffic by posting specials or offering discount coupons online.

Offering news and regular updates on your site means that it will be indexed more often by search engines. This strategy can help you improve your ranking and make it much easier for Internet users to find you online. People looking for information online are not likely to go through several pages of results to find what they are looking for. Ideally, you want your page to show up on the first page of results for your keywords, and providing news as part of your site offering can help you achieve this goal.

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!

Great Content Takes Time to Create and to Catch On

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Creating great content can be compared to baking your own bread. The process cannot be rushed; if you simply slap together a few ingredients (words) and hope for the best, you won’t get the results you are hoping for.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Crafting great content takes time and some effort to produce. It involves much more than just putting a few words together and publishing them online. There is so much “noise” competing for your audience’s attention that you need to make sure that what you post online stands out.

To continue with the baking metaphor, you will get much better results if you use high quality ingredients. Not only does your content need to be structured carefully, you will also need to make sure that you are choosing language which speaks to, not at, your audience.

Give it Time

Ideally, you want your great content to be something which will create a lot of interest online. This is not a situation where you can expect to get instant gratification; your content will take time to be appreciated by Internet users and come into its own. It will take some time for your content to be indexed by search engines, but you can help the process along by making sure you share it through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites.

If you consistently post great content on your website and blog, you will establish your brand as one which your readers can trust and this strategy will ultimately lead to increased readership and revenue. Like your home-baked bread project, it takes time for great content to rise in the rankings and to be appreciated, but the results are well worth it in the end.

Great content speaks to the Internet user and provides value to the reader in some manner. It needs to be prepared by an expert craftsman, and Toronto-based content and website copywriting expert Ray Litvak is well versed in how to make your content great. Contact Ray today at 416-226-8676 for a free, personalized assessment of your content needs and how to distinguish yourself from the competition through great content.

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!

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!

 

Improve your call to action – TODAY!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Note the headline. I’m commanding you to make a subtle but important change to your website design. It’s a call to action – one of the most overlooked and crucial elements of web content development today.

Have you ever walked into a relatively empty store and seen the owner/operator acknowledge you with a nod, then return to his or her newspaper? It’s an infuriating feeling, right? The reaction is “Gee, doesn’t this person want my business? Where’s the love?”

Lacking a proper call to action in your site design is the equivalent. You’re showing your product and service but not encouraging anyone to actually use or consume it. It’s a big sales no-no yet a common mistake. In fact, you could argue that the call to action is the central purpose of having a website. You’re looking for actual conversions and to sell your product or service, so it’s essential that you tell customers what you want them to do.  Otherwise, your users become browsers instead of buyers, using your website to window shop instead of commit.

Calls to action come in many different forms, including phone numbers (call now!), requests for donation, actual checkouts for online purchases, downloads, registration forms or request forms.

Some general rules of thumb I like to follow:

1. Clarify the benefits. “Call now” won’t do unless the users know what they stand to gain. “Call now and get a free quote on your barbecue repair” makes it very clear.

2. Be concise. Calls to action can go from useful to inconvenient for potential customers in a hurry. Linking the word “buy” in your call to action tells users they can complete their transaction quickly and immediately.  Linking from a “click here” hyperlink without a benefit statement is a lost opportunity.

3. Above the scroll. It’s no different than a newspaper or magazine. Don’t make your call to action a last-minute footnote. Make it prominent and visible to users without making them scroll down the page.

4. Put them on key pages, not every page. It’s great to stay consistent and have a call to action on key pages – home, product and service pages. However, you don’t want to saturate your site and make it appear spammy by placing one on every page.

If you don’t create a proper call to action, it’s a shame, as you will have wasted many valuable resources. Imagine spending oodles of money on a pay-per-click Google AdWords campaign, attracting lots of great traffic, then forgetting to show them how or what to buy!

Let’s take a cue from the masters and give car salesmen and furniture retailers their due. Their TV ads may be tacky but they always have a big “CALL NOW” flashing on the screen. It’s a call to action.

Now go fix your own call to action or find a good web copywriter that can – today!

The ranking of your business, service or product in Google’s search results is critical to your success. Toronto-based Content Writer and Local SEO 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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