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Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

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!

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!

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.”

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!

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!

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!

 

The great PageRank fallacy

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Imagine two bigwig CEOs at a summer barbecue, bragging about their accomplishments.

The first CEO trumpets, “Did you see the Super Bowl ad for my product? It got 100 million viewers. The most watched ad in history.”

“That’s great,” the second CEO says. “Mine only got half that. But how are your sales?”

The first CEO shuffles his feet awkwardly. “Well, our product is defective. And our ad didn’t really tell people much about what it does. So sales aren’t good.”

“Well, fancy that,” smirks the second CEO. “Barely anyone watched my ad but we told people exactly where to get my product and people love what we do, so my sales are through the roof!”

Maybe that analogy is a little elaborate – but it applies to the fallacy of PageRank in web content today. So much of search engine optimization is geared toward trying to rank as high as you can in organic search results. To an extent, the principle makes sense. If you want business, people must be able to find you. Ranking at or near the top of search engine results is important.

But it’s only half the battle – at most. Too many business owners and website copywriters think their work is done when they achieve the lofty No. 1 PageRank slot on Google. But patting yourself on the back at that point means you’ve forgotten the true purpose behind everything. It’s about conversion rate. Three core principles are as important if not more important than PageRank if you want your website to truly be a successful extension of your business:

1. Conversion rate

What is more important than conversion rate, or the percentage of visitors to your site that actually “convert” or consume your product? You can have all the traffic in the world, just as CEO No. 1 had, but it won’t matter if no one buys your product or service.

2. Bounce rate

If your site is unappealing – out of date, difficult to navigate, slow, boring, or so on – it may “bounce” users from your site, or send them away as quickly as they arrived. If you don’t put work into your site to make it relevant, current and interesting, your potential customers will leave before you have a chance to convert them.

3. Clickthrough rate (CTR)

There’s still a crucial step between finding your site atop organic search results and actually visiting it: clicking. People still have to click your link. You thus can’t take title tags, headlines or any attention-grabbing information for granted. If searchers don’t know exactly what you’re offering in a few lines, they may drag their mouse (mice?) below you and click the second option.

I’m not saying PageRank isn’t important. It most certainly is. You can’t worry about the other three items on the list if no one finds your site in the first place. But the point is that people give PageRank too much clout. The truth is that it’s one quarter of four components that are crucial to a website’s success.

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!

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