Posts made in May, 2010

Dancing with the Stars

Posted By on May 29, 2010

I am so like my father. A week ago Friday, that 89-year-old participated in a dance contest at the retirement apartments where he lives. For two months leading up to the contest, he became so fixated on it, he could hardly talk about anything else. Very cute. I know this feeling. For the past two months, I’ve been fixated on a problem with this web site to the point where I was getting ready to move the whole site from the Windows IIS server to a Linux server. Today, I fixed it. I’m not so much dancing with the stars as dancing in the stars with happiness. I thought I had it fixed back in March but the solution turned out to be too complicated and didn’t work in all situations. The solution I was using, IsapiRewriter4, had to be installed on the server by my host service and required that I write a rule into an .ini file every single time I added a blog post or page to this site. I did this so that the rewriter would take URLs that look like this Sagebrush Solutions and make them look like this Writing, Editing, & Project Management Portfolio This is important because friendly URLs are easier to remember, easier to understand, and they’re good for search engine optimization. The problem bedevils many people who use shared hosting for a WordPress-powered web site on a Windows IIS server. There are a number of solutions on the web, most of them complicated and requiring knowledge of programming a bit over my fairly technical head. The solution was to install Andy Stratton’s rewrite plugin for WordPress, activate it, and put a .htaccess file in the root of my web site. This is incredibly easy to do. If you’re at all technical and can mess around in the css file in WordPress, you can do this. If you need help, see Andy’s blog or contact me. It’s funny what an incredible feeling of satisfaction I got out of fixing this. I just added this post and for the first time since building the site, the page just works without any special edits to a separate file. I feel like my weekend has been really fruitful. What small thing have you done lately that gave you a great feeling of...

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Wait, let’s start over. A freelance copywriter (designer, developer, lawyer, whatever) gives a longtime client a bid. The client gasps and says, “Why so much? This is only a couple of hours of work!” To which the freelance copywriter states, “Yes. A couple of hours and fifteen years of experience.” Can’t just anybody do it? I read a poorly-written article recently, mercifully short, that disparaged all copywriters as having nothing to offer. The author argued that anyone can be a copywriter by studying political pundits at the extremes of the spectrum. The topic was commercial copywriting. The stated wisdom in the article was that you don’t need to write copy that sells, you only need to write with passion. This ignores the fact that the extreme political pundits are essentially performers and are ranting to the already-converted. The converted aren’t reading to be convinced; they’re reading to have their biases confirmed. What’s your labor worth? If everyone who could type an email had professional communication skills, millions of writers would be out of work and this is clearly not the case. That doesn’t mean all those writers are good. It means all those people hiring them know that they don’t have the skills they’re hiring for. Commercial copywriting, like any profession, requires skill acquired over many years. Only those who don’t understand what it takes to do something can ever ask, “How hard could it be?” Freelancers in any profession hear this all too frequently. There are clients who get it and clients who don’t. The ones who get it feel they’re investing in services or products that will affect their bottom line positively. The ones who don’t get it feel like any business expense is a ripoff that they should get for less money. (This doesn’t apply to their product or service, of course.) Let’s make a deal In fairness, we all like a deal and hate the idea of overpaying. We forget the times we bought something on the cheap and were sorry. We say, “Well, you get what you pay for.” And then we go out looking for the cheapest deal again. So how do we learn to do a better job of valuing the services of the professionals we hire? We don’t have time to learn how difficult it is to do someone else’s job. We think of most jobs in terms of actual time spent. But the guy or gal who fixes the catalytic converter on your car not only had to get trained to do that, they had to fix a bunch of them for real and they had to buy expensive tools...

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Crack the Long Tail

Posted By on May 13, 2010

Keyword research is becoming a bigger chore. Why? Because the competition for popular search terms and phrases gets tougher every day. Unless you’re Sony, CNET, NewEgg, or a big box distributor, you simply can’t compete for words like “lcd tv” or “high definition.” That does not, however, mean you can’t compete in a space where your product is LCD TVs. There are 24,900,000 global searches for “lcd tv” every month. You might think that’s great because there’s enough for everyone. But there are 2,800,000 organic* results for that term of web sites with that exact phrase in the title. There are 52,000,000 results for the term altogether. In other words, lots of competition trying to get prospects to their web sites with that one. (*Organic results are those that are not paid for but are retrieved in the search because the pages are optimized for the search term.) What do you do when the most probable, common sense keyword phrases you’d expect to use for your web site are dominated by companies with lots of mojo on the web? You go for the long tail. Long tail keyword phrases are those that fit a niche within the larger ecosystem of phrases. On the web it means that if you can determine keyword phrases that have a larger search volume per month than there are organic results in the search pages, you have a much better shot at being competitive for those keywords. If you were a patent attorney, you might want to use the keyword “patent,” yes? There are 2,240,000 global searches per month on that keyword. There are 3,210,000 web sites competing with that keyword in their title. Not likely that you’re going to easily get to the top of the heap (page one in the search results). But you can use the free Google Keyword tool to find keyword phrases that don’t have so much competition. Let’s say you found that the phrase “patent farmed salmon” was searched for 2,200 times per month and only 70 web sites used that in the title of their web site. You could optimize a page on your web site for “patent farmed salmon” and compete very nicely for that niche. You could pay your mortgage with enough of these long tail keywords bringing you business through your web site. Wordtracker has an article that says this all with metrics:...

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I have a client whose stated goal is to increase the conversion rate for his pay-per-click ad. His PPC ad already shows up on the first SERP (search engine results page) for a keyword phrase that is highly relevant for his profession. His competitor’s web sites are largely unremarkable and his site has much greater visual appeal. So why isn’t he converting traffic into leads and clients? Pay-per-click advertising can be an extremely effective tool for lead generation or sales conversion. Research shows, however, that few people even scroll “below the fold” on the first SERP. Even fewer click to secondary SERPs and beyond. If you’re using a PPC ad and you don’t show up on the first SERP, you’re not likely to pay much because you’ll get very few clicks. How to Start You begin PPC with search engine optimization (SEO)—associating the right keyword phrases with your ad. That’s the trick to showing up on the first SERP. Unless you’re targeting the right keyword phrases, people searching for what you sell won’t find you. SEO requires research in the keyword tools and a review of what your competitors are doing. You can do this on your own but if you’re not trained in SEO and don’t have experience with it, you’re shooting in the dark. Hire a professional and save some money in the long run. My client has good keywords for his ad but PPC management is not just about getting people to click your ad. That helps Google more than it helps him. It costs him money every time someone clicks his ad, whether they subsequently become a client or not. PPC Secret The secret to PPC marketing and getting conversions is the content on the landing page. Some web sites create a custom landing page for their PPC ad but this isn’t absolutely necessary. What is necessary is that you follow these rules for the landing page: The search terms the searcher used must appear on the page. The copy on the page much be relevant to what the searcher is searching for. The copy on the page must be compelling and written for human consumption. You can do an exercise right now and search on any term you like. Click on any of the PPC ads that appear in your SERP. Look at the landing page. Is it clean, concise, and relevant to what you searched for? Does it make you want to contact the company? Is it just confusing and entirely irrelevant to your search term? If you want to write superior copy for the web and get PPC conversions, study some of...

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What’s Wrong (B2B)?

Posted By on May 4, 2010

Business-to-Business. B2B. Back-to-back and belly-to-belly. It seems that many B2B copywriters think that because they’re writing about a company that serves other companies instead of serving consumers, they should write like for a non-human audience. But think about it. All of the decision makers in large companies are mostly human. That means they’re driven by the same fears and desires of others of their species (that would be us). I found this bon-mot recently: “[Company X] helps enterprises manage multi-enterprise data integration. Combined with the [Company X] data integration and data quality platform, these products support the expanding diversity of B2B data with structured and unstructured data transformation as well as complete data and process visibility.” The funny thing is that humans are still much, much better at parsing speech and natural language than computers are (so far). That paragraph above is an atrocity of word-mangling that requires a degree in corporate linguistics to decipher. Fortunately, I have such a degree and so will commence a rectification. (As an aside, such a degree is not conferred by a university but requires time as a writer or editor at a major corporation where they write and even speak in this sad manner on an hourly basis.) The writing in today’s example commits a first-order marketing sin: it does not speak directly to its audience. It vaguely states that it helps enterprises. This may surprise you but people who work in enterprises aren’t really looking to have you help the enterprise. They want you to make their lives easier. Having had clients in the data interchange business, I know this is multi-million-dollar software system that Company X is trying to sell with the copy above. It’s copy that is trying to sound smart but sounds very cold instead. Why not talk to the client, maybe like this? “You think your world is complicated now? Wait until you get a look at the data flowing into your system from your overseas suppliers. Don’t wait until bad data starts creating problems. Integration Manager creates a common data language on both ends of the supply chain.” Speaks directly to the customer about his or her pain. Offers a solution. All done in simple English that the C-Suite readers of the copy don’t have to use their dictionary to parse. What’s the worst example of unreadable prose you’ve encountered on the web or in your...

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