Volume 112: 6/1/05

Welcome Sammy!

Please join me in welcoming Sammy Jonathan Eisenberg into the world.  Sammy, dad Bryan, mom Stacey and big sister Hannah are all doing brilliantly.

This issue is dedicated to Sammy and the potential available to us all through the twinkling eyes of a newborn.

3 Tips for Great Web Content

I was talking to a Web person the other day about copy. I asked if his site incorporated important keywords in the copy and linked those keywords to relevant pages, these being tactics that benefit both conversion and search engine rankings. “Um, no,” he replied. “Our SEO guy is on top of things. And we’ve totally revamped our navigation system. We want to avoid the cheesy look.” To which I replied, “You do want to sell, right?”

Folks, this is not a print world, and your visitors interact very differently with your online content than they would if they had one of your brochures in hand. The critical concept here is INTERACT. And to promote interaction, you have to keep visitors engaged. You do that through relevance.

Gerry McGovern, an inestimable source for content smarts and copy savvy, gave us these valuable content tips on interaction and relevance for our recently released Call to Action (I blush to tell you the book has already made its mark on several bestseller lists!).

Gerry writes:

Tip 1: Web content means writing links

Web content is different from print content. Yet many websites have simply ported print content onto their websites. Or, they may have written content specifically for the Web, but they wrote it with a print mindset.

How is web content different from print content? A fundamental difference is that web content can have multiple links. In contrast, print content is linear, such that Page 7 is linked to Page 6 and Page 8. A piece of content on the Web can have many links.

Linking is absolutely crucial to successful web content. You should never write a piece of web content without also writing its links. A link is a call to action. It says things like:

  • Find out more details

  • Get in touch with a sales rep

  • Buy now and get a 10 percent discount

  • Subscribe to our free newsletter for more great tips

Tip 2: Write great metadata

Metadata is an awful word. It sounds incredibly boring. But it's vital if you want to publish quality content on your website. There is one piece of HTML-based metadata that is absolutely critical. It's called the Title. A webpage without unique Title metadata is not really a webpage.

Forget about HTML-based keyword metadata. Most search engines totally ignore it. What you need to do is get the appropriate keywords into the content you write. So, before you do any writing you need to figure out the proper keywords, and then you need to use these keywords in your text.

Tip 3: Avoid 40,000 ft statements

People come to your website to do stuff. They're in a hurry. They have absolutely no interest in reading long, meaningless sentences about your superior, deeply felt commitment to the enhancement of the total customer environmental experience and well being. Get to the point. Give them the facts. Then stop.

To Gerry’s third tip, I’ll add the following considerations.

  • Don’t clock your copy for word count unless you have physical limitations. Clock your copy for relevance! Remember our discussion of short versus long copy? Turns out raw length isn’t really a good indicator of potential success – longer copy very often out-performs shorter copy. Why? Because when folks start trying to cut corners on their messages to satisfy the Short Copy Myth, they often hack off the relevant stuff. Say what needs saying. If you can say the same thing in fewer words (here's where a good editor is worth his or her weight in gold), so much the better!

  • When you’re giving folks the facts, write those facts as benefits (not simply specifications). Don’t tell them a product has a 50 foot cord … tell them what that 50 foot cord means to them when they use the product. Copy that communicates benefits lets your visitors visualize their involvement and satisfaction. And that’s far more likely to encourage them to take the next step in your persuasive process.

  • That meaningless stuff about superior you? That’s all about not we-weing all over yourself. Touting your wonderfulness carries no clout with your visitors. And it doesn’t even begin to qualify as persuasive!  Play with our We-We Monitor to get an idea of your copy's customer-focus.

Short-stinting the attention you give to your content and copy is a reeeally bad idea. Don’t do it!

Oh, and don’t short-stint your business bookshelf. Your Call to Action, filled with great tips like Gerry’s and so much more, is waiting!

Special Note:  You're in luck!  Gerry McGovern is coming to this side of the pond.  You can join him in New York (June 13-14), Chicago (June 16-17) or San Francisco (June 20-21) for his Two Day Killer Web Content Masterclass (complete with Executive Breakfast).  He will also be in Toronto (July 14-15) presenting the Managing Killer Content Masterclass.  Visit his site for summaries and booking information.

It's a Bestseller!

Here's a special toast to you, my faithful readers.  As of this writing, our newly-released anthology on conversion rate marketing, Call to Action, has made the New York Times Hardcover Advice bestselling list, the Wall Street Journal Business list (#4), the Wall Street Journal Non-Fiction list (#11), the USA Today Money list (#4) and has achieved the No. 1 slot on 800CEOREAD's Top 25 list.  We're tickled way more than pink (or even green)!

Our heartfelt thanks for helping us, as we carry on with our goal of helping you.

[Please note:  You must be registered with NYT and WSJ to view their links.]

The Blog Does Business

Wondering if all the hoopla about blogging really has anything to offer you, the serious business person out there in cyberspace trying to maximize your conversion potential? Then let me put it this way. Want to leverage the power of online content to boost your market exposure or augment your relationships with customers or improve your search engine visibility?

I asked Amanda Watlington, PhD, co-author of Business Blogs: A Practical Guide, to explain the blog-business-and-you connections that can help you make blogging a valuable channel for online persuasion.

So when is a blog more than the sum of its parts? Grab your imagination for this ride!

Blogs: A New Persuasion Tool for Business

Blogs are more than the ranting of political activists, the diaries of teenagers, and the musings of technophiles. Blogs have functional characteristics that promote and support business uses and can enhance your conversion potential.

Blogs:

  • provide simple Web pages that support frequent updates. Unlike formal Web pages that require extensive coding and custom graphics, blogs use simple templates. This means that they can be updated as often as you’d like.

  • are inexpensive to set up. This virtually eliminates entry barriers to having a Web presence. To blog, you need little more than a computer and Web access. The user provides time and imagination. This makes blogs especially useful for small companies (or even large companies) where Web resources are expense or scarce.

  • provide each content entry, or post, with its own unique Internet address. Search engines can spider and index individual posts, and other blog writers or readers can pass on links to individual posts thus expanding readership and search visibility for the blogger.

  • have lots of links. This creates online communities with similar interests. Quality content in a blog post becomes a link magnet. Not only will others link to the post, but they will add their own comments using the comment functionality, thus expanding the discourse.

  • are arranged in reverse chronological order. This places the most recent content at the top of the visible page and provides immediate access to the hottest, recent content on the blog.

  • use RSS, Atom or XML feeds that allow readers to subscribe to updates that can be rapidly skimmed with an RSS reader. Users can subscribe to blog content and easily read it.

  • are usually written from personal or individual perspective. This creates an environment where businesses can carry on more personal and informal conversations with customers and build the relationships that lead to return customers and increased conversion.

Beyond The Technology

How can you use these features to enhance your business? While writing our recent book, my co-author and I posed this question to over 70 business bloggers, from large organizations like IBM, Microsoft, SAP, MIT to smaller businesses like a restaurant, a commercial sign company, web design firms, and a regional winery. Several themes emerged that show how businesses are using blogs to enhance their conversion capabilities. Businesses can use blogs to:

  • Expand their market exposure. Buzz Bruggeman first used his blog, Buzzmodo, to gain greater market exposure for his software product, Active Words. He felt that it was a great product, had phenomenal reviews, but at the same time wasn’t getting needed traction. After starting his blog, his visibility mushroomed. The ActiveWords brand gained significant recognition.

  • Establish a thought leadership position. Judith Meskill writes two popular blogs, Judith Meskill’s Knowledge Notes and The Social Software Weblog; each garners thousands of unique visits every day. These blogs have provided an excellent form of indirect marketing for her consulting work, while continuing to establish her reputation in the marketplace. For example, she receives many more invitations for speaking engagements through her blogging readership.

  • Introduce new products and services. Pito Salas, head of BlogBridge, a blog and RSS reader development company, writes a blog and maintains a Web site. He finds that his blog provides a place to discuss the development of this product offering. He links from the blog to the BlogBridge site and from the Web site to his blog. The two communication channels complement each other. The blog offers longer, more informal conceptual pieces. The site offers facts and other self-contained product information. As his thoughts become more formal, he migrates them from the blog to the Web site. This use of blogs is not limited to IT firms. Rosa Smith is a weight loss coach who runs the paid subscription Web site, Mind Over Platter. She was at first concerned about providing free information on new products through her blog, ThinkingThin. She wondered if it would adversely effect paid subscriptions. She was pleased to find the reverse. Her blog complements her Web site and drives more traffic to it as potential customers get a better understanding of her thought process.

  • Enhance customer relations. Microsoft has actively supported blogging by individual employees. Robert Scoble is the best known, and he noted that blogs are one of the best ways to build relationships with lots of people across the globe. He can link to other bloggers and share traffic with them. He can point out interesting technologies. He can dialog with and get feedback from customers and developers in real-time. Microsoft has created a portal that provides customers with a single place where they can find bloggers who address their specific product questions, greatly improving the customer experience and the impact of employee blogs. SAP’s Net Weaver group also offers a central place on their web site to find bloggers. One of those listed is George Yu, marketing manger, who sees his blog as an essential part of his job. Until now, he could only get customer feedback in live presentations. Now he gets ongoing feedback through his blog.

  • Provide another direct sales channel and acquire new revenue streams. An increasing number of blog writers review products and services, making money on subscriptions and/or advertising. For example, Mark Johnson’s Hotel Chatter offers no-hold-barred reviews on hotels and has developed into a viable business, as well as a trusted source.

Provide Content That Counts

An insight gained from all the bloggers interviewed for the book was the importance of providing meaningful content for readers. A purely commercial, sanitized “voice of the company” will be immediately sniffed out by the blog reading public and spurned and scorned. So too will the fake blog. For example, Captain Morgan rum was resoundingly criticized for its fake blog featuring Captain Morgan. Do not even consider creating a blog for a mascot or brand image unless you want the controversy. Blogs are expected to have a point of view – an authentic voice of the blogger.

Blogs succeed because they are interesting and offer the reader information not readily available from other sources. As you shape your content include an array of content and lots of links. Your content does not have to be long elaborate pieces. It can be a simple as a few valuable links with a brief commentary, a pointer to an interesting site, your comments on an event or a longer more clearly thought out piece. Long pieces should be serialized or blocked into chunks so that the posts are not too long. Remember that your readers will be reading your work online and will not be printing your blog for offline browsing. A varied mix of content will keep your readers returning.

Measuring Success

Blogging takes real time and a strong commitment. Many of the bloggers interviewed for Business Blogs: A Practical Guide did not set specific goals for their blogs – they had a desire and a means to communicate. Although many bloggers have chosen this approach, I strongly recommend setting goals for the blog. Is it to increase product awareness or garner new sales? Whatever the goal set, traffic metrics can provide a hard measure of the results; however, most bloggers gauge their blog’s success on the relationships built and the connections made.

Blogs are at heart a social-networking medium. In a business world where marketers are expected to be in conversation with their customers, blogs provide an ideal medium.  It's a potential we are just beginning to tap.

P.S.  Amanda also performed the herculean task of editing Call to Action for us.  Great book.  Get it here!

Train to Increase Your Conversion Rates

New Services

We've been busy bees over the holidays.  Check out our services page - new services have already been launched and more are coming!

New Publications

You'll also want to keep an eye on our publications page.  We've been working on creating resources that will help you put many of our principles into practice more easily and more efficiently.  We're just about to release several of our newest products, including Which Sells Best?: A Quick Start Guide to Testing for Retailers and The Conversion Experts Handbook.

Volume 112: 6/1/05


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