Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Are You Blinded By Love For Your Website?

One of the main reasons websites don't work as effectively as they might is because owners, and their internal designers/copywriters, look at the site through rose coloured glasses.

This is not to say that they believe they are infallible, and have created the perfect online sales tool. It's usually because they are too close to the business to make an objective call on what customers really need.

For example, throwing in as much relevant information as possible is not the same as presenting and organising content effectively.

Sometimes content is difficult to navigate, or the copy is written in industry jargon rather than everyday language. If there is too much information on each page, it makes it very difficult for visitors to absorb and act as want them to.

The content might all make sense to you and the people in your company, but it might not be clear at all to people outside your business. If not, it means you need to spend a bit more time stating the obvious and making important information easier to grasp.

See if your copy can be seperated into clear categories. You could use sub-heads to help guide customers through each step. There might be areas where you need to spell out how something works, or link to another page for further details.

You might also be including information that visitors don't need. This all comes down to your research and knowledge of the market. A simple way to get some answers is to ask a few people outside the company (no not your mum) to try a few things on the site and get their feedback.

Another option is to look at your competitors sites to see what they have included, and view their FAQ's. These usually give you a good idea of the things people are asking. of course, your business is unique, so don't base it all on what the guy next door is doing or you will suffer. If you have any existing site, analyse your customer service emails and phonecalls to see what people are asking your staff about. Is there something you could include or spell out more clearly on the site?

The time it takes to get this right is well worth the effort. Not only will your conversion rates and sales numbers increase but you'll spend less time answering questions from frustrated customers.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Is This The Ultimate Lowlife In Email Marketing Scams?

It's been a while since I've received any generous offers of wealth creation from friendly strangers in West Africa. Then this email arrived yesterday.

Obviously the conversion rates on the original sales letters have declined, so the parasites are now working on readers heartstrings as well as our lust for the riches of deposed leaders of third world countries.

"So what", you say, "using emotional triggers in slaes letters is nothing new". I agree, but when scam artists start using real deaths and tragedy to prop up their fiction, you have to wonder what's next.

Ladies and gentlemen, Nominee for Email Marketing Scam Scum 2006.

My Dear,

I crave your indulgence at this mail coming from somebody you have not known before. I decided to do this after praying over the situation. You should please consider the transaction on its content and not the fact that you have not known me before. I need not dwell on how I came by your contact information because there are many such possibilities these days.

My name is Mrs Andrea Thomas a nationality of New Zealand. I am married to late Dr. Evans Thomas who worked with one of the New Zealand High Commissioners in Africa for nine years before he died in a plane crash in the year 2003. We were married for twenty years with no child. He died along with the Lebanese plane that crashed near the Atlantic Ocean.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/en/doc/2003-12/26/content_293549.htm

When my late husband was alive we deposited the sum of usd$4.2Million (Four Million Two hundred Thousand U.S Dollars) with one of good banks here in Cotonou Benin Republic. Presently, this money is still with the bank. But recently my Doctor told me that I would not last for the next three months due to my cancer problem, though what disturbs me most is my stroke. Having known my condition, I decided to donate this fund to a credible person, either a New Zealand/Australian national, or better an American Citizen that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct here in. I am writing from my sick bed.

I have willingly decided to take this initiative looking for an honest person to whom I will pass the right of next of kin. I do not want a situation where my family hard earned money will be used in an ungodly manner. Hence the reason for taking this bold decision. You will apply to the bank and request for the transfer of the fund to your bank account after I must have authoritatively issued the order. This is on the condition that you will keep 25% of the fund for yourself, 5%
used for any expenses, while the remaining 70% will be utilised for the welfare of the less privileged people in the society. This is in fulfilment of the last request of my husband that a substantial part of the fund be used to carter for the less privileged.

If this condition is acceptable to you, you should contact me immediately with your full names and contact information so that I will ask my lawyer to prepare the authorization that will give you the right of next of kin to the account in the bank

I cannot predict what will be my fate by the time the fund will be transferred into your account, but you should please ensure that the fund is used as I have described above. You can have a close look at me as I attached my picture with my doctor to this mail.

I look forward to your early responds.

My regard to you and your family,

Mrs Andrea Evans Thomas.


Ok, maybe I'm being to harsh on Andrea. After all, it's not easy writing an email sales letter any time, let alone lying in bed suffering from cancer and a stroke, while trying to come up with an opening gem like "My Dear, I crave your indulgence...".

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Copywriting for Business Websites - Personality Counts

People often talk about the importance of using a friendly tone in blog posts. This doesn't necessarily mean you transform into some stuffy 19th century English professor when writing for your business website.

If your online business doesn’t have a physical shop front, then your website copy is the best sales rep you have. It needs to introduce your company, make visitors feel welcome, show them your products or services, explain their benefits, and ultimately, sell them your offer.

Without an engaging personality, you're audience is likely to say "No thanks, I'm just browsing" before making a quick click for the door.

Here are just a few tips to help that irresistable personality shine through in your business website copy:

Make sure your copy flows
Reading online is straining enough. Using jargon, formal language and trying to impress your audience with self-important words they need a dictionary to translate will only make them irritated and frustrated. They will soon be thinking about places, or sites, they’d rather be.

KISS
Remember the old adage Keep It Simple Stupid? Don’t patronise your audience, but don’t assume they know anything about your business or what you do. They have arrived laden with burning questions, “What are you selling?” “Why should I choose you?” “Where are you?” “How can I get some of this?” “How much is it?” Make it easy for them to find the answers.

One easy way to tell if your website copy isn't doing the job is to read the questions that visitors send you. If something stands out, maybe you need to reword that section of your site.

Appropriately tempt your audience
A lot of hot and personal activity goes down online, but it isn't the technology itself that causes monitors to fog up. The content is what makes things exciting. The Internet itself is just an impersonal two-dimensional screen. Good copywriting might not always be intended to get the heart racing, but it must connect with your intended audience to break through this impersonal barrier. Maybe your copy needs a little humour, sophistication, authority, personal touch, or yes, even something racy.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Beginner Web Copy Tips - Where To Start

Ready to unleash your amazing website idea? Then it's time to think about writing some copy that does it justice.

By now you should know who your target audience is, what gets them excited and the keywords they type in to search for products or services like yours. If not. Don't you dare start writing yet! Go back and find out or you are wasting your time.

On the other hand if you've done all your gruntwork here are a few tips to get you started on a basic page of web copy.

Brain dump features and benefits
Write down the features of your business and match them with the benefits you offer your customers. Include keywords where possible. Then build your copy around that.

Snatch your reader’s attention from the first line
Most visitors spent less than 30 seconds summing up a website before they decide whether to stay or go.

There is no time for waffling paragraphs about who you are, where you live, and how your wife makes the best apple pie. You have to get to the point as fast as you can.

If you don’t convey your key message in the first few lines, don’t expect many people to be around to read them further on down the page.

Keep your paragraphs short and sweet
Forget trying to win over your audience with long descriptive, romantic prose about the salubrious ambience of your pulchritudinous offer. They will only think you are stercorous (take my word for it, you really don’t want to be).

Short paragraphs and subheads are really effective on the web because they can be differentiated and skimmed at a glance.

But first...

Don't try this at home until you have read Why Knockout Headlines Are So Important

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why A Knockout Headline Is So Important

I’ve just realised why very few boxers make good copywriters, and most online copywriters make pathetic pugilists. We’re complete oxymorons (no pun intended)

During a world title fight the other night, one of the corner men told his boxer to, “Kill the body and the head will fall”.

As copywriters, we are always being told to keep our keyword phrases and content up, so it's easy to become completely focussed on the body copy and forget that it won't make an impact on the reader if we don't land a knockout headline up front.

In other words, before stepping in the ring with that business website, sales letter, blog post, or article, a copywriter needs to remember, “Kill the headline, or the body will fall”.

There's a helpful headline article on copyblogger that will have you ready to rumble.


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Monday, August 14, 2006

Cut n Paste Your Way To Internet Marketing Riches

Cut n Paste Your Way To Internet Marketing Riches

An interesting discovery along the road to finding authentic internet marketing schemes. Searching for an independent review I came across a site advertising “Get Rich Quick Schemes Revealed”.

The sales letter started out like this...
"Whether it’s real estate investing, selling by classified ads, stock market investing, internet affiliate marketing, or something else, we’ve all seen the fantastic claims people make about making tons of money, AND how they can show you how to do the same thing. I can tell you right now that 99% of these people are total frauds. You have even fallen prey to one of these scams artists, selling you their latest “get rich quick program. Me too. I’ve bought so many of these programs that I can’t even recall how many. I don’t know why but I tend to find the “good” in people, and I was “sold” by these marketing schemes time and time again, even after being scammed by another. Finally, after so many disappointments, I got FED UP. I decided to get to the bottom of this fascination we all have with get rich quick programs, and find out there really were any LEGITIMATE programs for making money. I literally contacted the administrator of every get rich quick website I could find. Posing as an investor, I managed to convince the owners that I was seriously interested in purchasing their entire website and business."

Wow, I thought. This guys sincere, honest, and he's even done the hard work, spent all the money, and outed the scam artists. Even better, he'd found programs that really worked, designed by good, wholesome, internet marketing folk...

"I was able to locate a couple of individuals that actually ran legitimate programs. The owners were everyday people like you and me that found a way to make extra money working from home on their computers. Their membership areas were impressive, with a good amount of quality information on how to make $100-$200 per day on your computer doing very little work. I even chatted with a few of their customers in several online forums, and they verified that they were making extra money through the sites. It was like I found a few diamonds in the rough. But don’t take my word for it, you can visit the three sites I found below. See what you think."

Out of curiosity, I decided to take a look at three other “Get Rich Quick Schemes Revealed” sites to see what they had to say. Suddenly I had an uneasy feeling of de ja vu, or as we call it in the copywriting trade, cut n paste.

Exact same sales letter, written by completely different people promoting completely different "legitimate" programs at the bottom.

Cheeky buggars!

Not to judge the people who built these sites. After all, the hard sales approach, promising everyone $50,000 in their first month of business is losing it's shine. And writing an effective sales letter isn't an easy thing for most people. So if this works, good luck to them. Who knows, the programs they mention may well have been legitimate.

But before you take up any offer online, it's worth keeping in mind that the highest qualification of most internet marketers and copywriters, is a Masters degree in cut n paste.

Warning: The sales letter excerpts shown in this article were cut n pasted by a professional copywriter. Do not try this at home.

Disclaimer: No words were hurt during the writing of this post.


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Friday, August 11, 2006

Website Audiences – The Copywriters Speed Date

Website Audiences – The Copywriters Speed Date

A thought struck me the other day. Copywriting and going on a first date have the same prime objective – seduce, or at least attract, your target audience. If so, does that mean Internet copywriting is like a speed date?

Think about it. Playing musical chairs with a room full of love vultures is hardly the perfect environment to deliver your best line, or paragraph. Presumably the online reader is sitting in a more relaxed setting, but monitor resolution, colours, and glare, can distract all but the most intrigued from your sweet-talking copy.

Similarly, neither audience has the time nor inclination to sit and listen to long winded tales of heroism, gallantry, and product features. They’d much prefer to scan through your sub-headings, clicking on your hyperlinks, and jump between your pages, before slipping between your sheets.

Then you have to remember that most of your audience knew what they were looking for before they arrived. Now they want some damn good reasons why they should pick you amongst all these potential suitors. If you can't impress them in the first thirty seconds, someone who can is just a click or a table away. Even if you do sound like a pretty good catch, chances are they are going check out all the options before taking your number.

So what’s the moral of the story? Whether you are copywriting for a business website or trying to impress the cutie across the table, make a big first impression and leave them panting “I bet we’d be good together”.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Internet Marketing - Is The Truth Really Out There?

A sudden bout of internet marketing sales letteritis has convinced me to add another theme to the internet marketing side of the blog. Snake oil salesmen

I spend a lot of time helping customers market their business online. It might be web copywriting, site look and feel of the site, improving their search engine ranking, writing articles, eBooks, or email newsletters, etc. The stuff to get a physical business idea up and running effectively.

But there is another side to internet marketing. Miracle get rich products, affiliate programs, mini sites and the like. Complete cyber businesses. I've been spending some time looking over these internet marketing business ideas and methods. Obviously a lot of other people do too. The sales letters all sound very enticing. You want to believe they work because it all sounds like easy money. Usually it's not. Trouble is, how do you know what works and what doesn't work?

Be fun to find out. Thoughts are welcome


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Did you hear the one about the copywriter who tried to start a blog?

Ok, so I've followed rule 1 of blogging for success, “Pick a topic that you’re passionate about, and write in an informal tone.”

We'll I'm passionate about lots of things, but most are not appropriate for family viewing. The not so serious web copywriting and internet marketing tips idea sounded safe enough.

Before I started my business Get There Writing Services, I was a copywriter and marketing manager for some of Australia’s most successful e-commerce companies and wrote two of Australia’s most popular email newsletters, and…

Hang on, rule 2 of blogging for success says, “Don’t hard sell your product or service, that’s what your business website is for. If you do, visitors may become rather irate, burn your blog to the ground, have their dog mark out it’s territory on the smouldering remains, before disappearing forever”.

And here I am starting my blog sounding like an infommercial.

But wait, that’s not all. The first 100, 99, 98 people to view my blog will be subject to whatever inane thoughts are running around in my head absolutely FREE!

Anyway, rule 3. This is my rule. It's about having fun. I do way too much serious work everyday so I'll leave the serious copywriting blog to someone else.

Cheers
Simon

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And This Guy Calls Himself An Internet Copywriter?

Hi,

I'm Simon Hillier. I run a copywriting and internet marketing business
Get There Writing Services, based in Sydney, Australia.

It's more than ten years since I first started writing and marketing on the web but this is first blog I've ever owned.

Until recently I was under the impression that blogs were just a place for people to spew out the kind of mindless thoughts that even close friends go all glazed eyes listening too. Sort of like the babble you're reading right now.

Apparently, I'm wrong. THEY say, "Blogs are a must for any online business".


I've alway wondered who THEY are. Do THEY own a blog? I'd imagane so. THEY seem to have an opinion on everything.

Anyway, I thought a blog could be a great avenue to help people trying to get their heads around web writing and marketing. We'll see.

Cheers
Simon copywriting and internet marketing strategies.


There's so much information and jargon, so many theories and experts, it's enough to make the most avid internet junkie's head spin, let alone people who don't know where to start or have other important things to do to get their business up and running.

The best way I can share my knowledge, is to try and cut through the sales speak, and make it fun and informative. Sound like a plan?

Hopefully I'll get the hang of blogging a lot faster than it took me to surf my first wave. In the meantime, apologies for the lack of structure, and welcome to Simon Writes.

Cheers
Simon


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