Monthly Archives: September 2012

Five mistakes that kill your web copy

A lot of people spend a lot of time, energy and money outsourcing web development and design, but then let it all go to waste by not thinking as seriously about the writing.

Let’s face it, you may have the most attractive design in the world, but it’s the written content that makes people decide to make a purchase (or ask for a quote).

Here are the five common mistakes people make when writing their own copy (or outsourcing to an inexperienced copywriter).

  1. It’s not about you: Customers don’t care about your story and they don’t give two hoots about your inner awesomeness. When they arrive at your website, and as they cruise your pages, they want to know what’s in it for them. This means talking about benefits, rather than features, and emphasising what the customer will experience with your product or service. Try and budget 50 words on features, 100 words on benefits and 150-200 on the experience.
  2. Burying the lead: Web writers could learn a lot from traditional journalism, where the main point of the story is never buried within the content, but right there in the first paragraph. Journalists learn about the inverted pyramid style of writing, so that if there story is cut from the bottom, none of the salient points are lost. The same applies to the web – in fact more so. You have less than 10 seconds to impress a visitor;  you need to make those seconds count.
  3. Weak meta-title and description: Most of the meta-tags are only seen by search engines, but the meta-title and description tells the visitor exactly what your business is about. The meta-title describes the subject matter of the page and visitors see it in their browser tab and in search engine results. It is the most important piece of writing that Google and other engines display. Meta-descriptions are the snippet of text snippet of text that is displayed under a link on a search engine results. It should include your company name and contact details.
  4. Too many words: It’s usually not a good idea to bore potential customers to tears. So keep the copy short, sweet and punchy.
  5. No call to action: You need to make it clear what you want your visitor to do once they get to your site. Buy a product? Make a phone call? Send an email? Book a consultation?  When it comes to the web, leading a horse to water is likely to make them drink. And your call to action should be on every page: “Book now and get a 10 per cent discount”; Call today to find out how to double your income”; “Click here to view our sale items”. I’m sure you get the drift.

If you want to avoid these mistakes in your web copy and turn your visitors to customers, call Direct Sites Online now on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com.au.

10 ways to spam-proof your email marketing campaigns

E-newsletters are a vital part of any marketing campaign, but if you don’t do them properly, your valuable marketing message will be sent to spam folders, unopened.

It’s important to do what you can to ensure a high delivery rate – and thus a high response rate – and these 10 tips will help

Send your newsletters regularly: This way, subscribers know when to expect them. So if you offer a subscription via your website or social media page, then let people know you will send monthly, weekly or quarterly emails. And stick to it. In fact, if you can be as specific as “First Tuesday of the month, between 2 and 3pm, all the better. This way, the recipient is less likely to mark as spam.

Slow down delivery: A lot of email spam filters recognise “instant delivery”, especially when an email has also been cc’d in to every man and their dog. So use a reputable online e-mail service, such as Mailchimp or AWeber, or ensure your in-house newsletter software meets anti-spam standards.

Use a recognisable subject line: Try not to be too clever, but rather stick to the simple “Widget Co News” in the subject line. By all means add the highlights or the date, but only after the identifier.

Use today’s date in the content: If the date isn’t mentioned, or it’s wrong, email spam filters are more likely to mark your email as spam.

Limit graphics and complex HTML-elements: Newsletters with too many hyperlinks, graphics, closed tags and structural elements also tend to attract a high spam score. Not to mention the popular email software, such as Outlook, automatically blocks images. Instead attract attention with killer copy.

Encourage recipients to add you to their whitelist: It never hurts to ask. All they have to do if your email lands in their spam folder is to mark it as “not spam”.

Choose advertisers and partners wisely: If you do want to take advertising or promote partners in your newsletter, make sure they’re not dodgy, because a newsletter with a link to a black-listed website gets a whole lot of spam score points!.

Monitor recent subscribers: Look out for addresses such as “abuse@”, “nospam@”, “postmaster@”, “marketerspam@” and delete them.

Verify subscribers: Make sure your mailing list has a double “opt-in”, which means when someone subscribes, they will get an email asking them to verify their subscription. This keeps invalid email address off your list and ensures you don’t send a newsletter to someone who has not meant to subscribe.

Test your newsletters: There are various sites that will check the spam score of your newsletter, so take advantage of them.

Direct Sites Online can bulletproof your email marketing campaigns. Call us today on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com.au.

Is your shopping cart sinking your sales?

If you have a web cart with a shopping cart, chances are you see a few people drop out of the conversion process once they start using the cart.

In fact, recent e-commerce studies have shown that almost 60 per cent of potential customers abandon their shopping cart.

If your site has a better than average drop-out rate – congrats, you must be doing something right. But if it’s worse than average, it’s time to look at your shopping cart and see what is making your customers leave.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Is the process linear? If people have to do too much switching between screens, or opening another screen, they will give up in frustration. And if your process has any backwards steps, and customers see a screen they have already seen, then they may think your website has a fault and leave.

Do your forms make sense? Let’s say, for example, you want a customer’s first and last name in different fields, then don’t’ write simply “first” or “last”, be instead “First name”, “last name”. Yes, yes, I know most people should understand “first” and “last”, but you know what happens when you assume.

Are the instructions ambiguous? For example, just writing “continue” may make the customer wonder if you mean “continue to checkout” or “continue shopping”. It’s better to use phrases such as “check out now” or “shop more”.

Is the checkout secure? Shoppers want to make sure their credit card details are secure. It’s not enough that they are secure; it’s important to make this very clear with bold letters, red fonts etc.

Do you need a billing and a shipping address? Given that most customers have things sent to their homes, it’s better to make the billing and the shipping address the same by default. This will mean fewer fields for the customer to complete, making the process simpler. Simply having a tick box for “is this the shipping address” would suffice. If the customer ticks “no”, then have the shipping address fields appear.

Is registration optional? A customer should be allowed to make a one-off purchase as a guest without having to register their details. Many, many people are put off by the registration process and will go to a competitor who doesn’t force them to do it.

Is payment simple? Do you have more than one payment option? At the very least, you should allow customers to pay either by credit card or Paypal. Some people are worried about given out their credit card details online, while those that don’t have a Paypal account will be put off by having to register their as well.

If you want to check the process and see how user friendly it is, ask your friends and family to try it out.

Direct Sites Online can build you a shopping cart that works. Call us now on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com.au.

Watch out for SEO snake-oil salespeople

If you have been following along with this blog, you will know that Search Engine Optimisation is a key part of marketing your website. If Google can’t find you, you may as well be invisible.

But did you know that there are two types of SEO – good (or white hat) and bad (or black hat). Good SEO takes time and will see your website slowly creep up in the rankings, while bad may get you immediate results, but it is also like to raise Google’s ire, which will likely mean the search engine blacklisting your site, resulting in you having to build a new site – with different content – from scratch.

Some examples of the kind of things that black hat SEO providers engage in include:

Hidden text: White text on white background that can’t be seen by a human, but can be seen by the Googlebots. The text is usually just keywords repeated ad infinitum.

Cloaking: This is where coding shows human beings one site, while Google sees another key-word stuffed one.

Keyword stuffing: Google’s latest Panda update can see when a word (or words) is used to excess, and ignores it.

So how do you if the SEO “expert” you are planning to engage uses black hat techniques? There are a few dead giveaways.

Too-good-to-be-true guarantees

If your SEO person tells you they can get you to number one in a week, then run away. This is the biggest red flag. Google is very secretive of the algorithm it uses to determine rankings and a good SEO expert knows this, so will not offer a guarantee (Direct Sites Online’s guarantee is that we use techniques that we know work on standard sites). If your SEO “expert” does offer a guarantee of a meteoric rise in the rankings we can guarantee he or she won’t be using legitimate strategies.

Link buying

Natural, organic links on directory sites, through blog commenting, article writing or guest blogging, are a great way to build backlinks to your site. Buying links – or using software to automate link-building – is not.  For one, Google does not like the practice (it recently banned an entire site – Build My Rank – created purely for the sake of backlinks) and bought or automatically generated links are often poor quality.

Client base

A reputable SEO consultant will have a good solid client list of established companies. So do your research.

Direct Sites Online offers genuine white hat SEO. Call us now on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com.au.

Four questions your homepage needs to answer

When people land on your webpage, either organically or through keying in your URL, the place they most usually land is your home page.

And given you have fewer than 10 seconds to capture their attention, this page needs to answer the common questions most visitors are seeking the answer to.

1. Where am I and why?

Naturally, your home page needs to let visitors know who you are and what you do. So, a well-designed logo and copy that makes them choose you over your competitors are essential. The writing content needs to be clear, concise and cut straight to the point – using keywords where appropriate: “Welcome to My Biz, where you will find the best available widgets at the most competitive price with customer service that is second-to-none”. This is where your USP (unique selling proposition) comes to the fore.

2. Can I trust this business?

Your website visitors want to know there is a human being behind the scenes that is professional and that they can trust. Again, the copy plays a big part in gaining this trust. Keep it friendly and free of corporate gobbledegook and jargon and your visitor will feel relaxed – a bit like if they walk into a bricks and mortar shop and are welcomed by a cheerful salesperson. The professionalism comes across through error-free copy and choosing the right fonts and colours to portray your business. And while keywords are important, the copy needs to flow well and be easy for people to read – not just for Google to see. Finally, make sure there is a real contact number and email on the home page – don’t rely on your visitors to fill in a contact form to reach you. People like to feel that they are welcome and that you are not hiding anything.

3. What’s in it for me?

After wowing them with your USP, it’s time to keep their attention by focusing on what’s in it for them.  I’m sorry to break it to you, but customers don’t visit your site to learn about your business; they come because they want to know what you can do for them. So the copy needs to show the benefits of your product or service, rather than the features. It should also address the customer directly. “You will be amazed at the time you will save by using these state-of-the-art widgets”, rather than “We are proud of our state-of-the-art widgets, which we know offer the latest in widget technology”.

4. What now?

This is where your call to action comes in. Do you want your visitors to purchase something? To join your mailing list? To ring a phone number? To visit your bricks and mortar store? Whatever it is, it needs to be made clear to the visitor.

Does your website answer these questions?  Direct Sites Online can make sure it does. Call us no on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com.au