Archive for April, 2010
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
You can have a well-designed website. You can even have an optimized website that ranks high in the search engines for top keywords. But if you don’t have conversion-driven copy, it’s all for nothing. Simply put, your website copy is what determines whether or not a visitor becomes a customer.
The good news is writing web copy that sells is actually easier than you might think. The key is to avoid these common copywriting mistakes.
- Too much “we-we” talk—I hate to burst your bubble, but your customers don’t want to hear you rambling on and on about how great you think you are. Customers only care about one thing: What’s in it for me? With that in mind, you shouldn’t be saying “we, we, we”, but instead, you need to say “you, you, you.” Here’s a cool tool I like to use when writing web copy: We We Calculator. It grades your copy based on how custom-centric it is.
- The copy is difficult to scan—Eye-tracking studies show that users tend to scan online content rather than read it word for word. In fact, online readers scan in an F-shaped pattern. That means you need to focus on making your copy as easy to scan as possible. You can do this by using short paragraphs, bulleted lists, bolded phrases, and by putting the most important information at the beginning of each new paragraph.
- Weak headlines lose readers—Your headline should never be an afterthought. It needs to be something you put a lot of thought and effort into. Remember, this is the first thing a new visitor will see. The headline needs to suck them in. You can do this by focusing your headline around a unique benefit of your product or service. Keep it customer-centric!
- What’s the benefit?—Speaking of benefits, your copy needs to clearly explain the main benefits of your products and services. In other words, let readers know how your product or service will improve their lives. Just don’t fall into the trap of trying to cover too many benefits as it becomes overwhelming and too much to process. Narrow it down, and focus on the biggest benefits of doing business with you.
What are some other web copywriting mistakes you’ve seen? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!
Eric Brantner is a website copywriter who has helped hundreds of clients achieve online success. Beyond writing for the web, he also handles brochure copywriting and other print copywriting services.
Monday, April 19th, 2010
Infographics, or information graphics, have been around for as long as man has been able to draw. The earliest cave paintings are a form of infographic as they pictorially depict the life and activities of our very distant ancestors. Thousands of years later, we still readily understand them. The infographic underwent significant development in the 20th Century and an infographic, rather than written or spoken language, has been used in our first communication effort with extraterrestrials!
Infographics are widely used in our society, in mathematics, mapmaking, signage, news media, education, travel, medicine, politics and even religion. No aspect of our lives is untouched by the application of infographics.
So why are they so popular?
Infographics convey knowledge and advice, even mandatory orders, in a form which the human brain readily recognizes and associates with the information behind the representation. This is known as visualization.
Before man learned to read and write, he drew. Modern written language is itself derived from the development of drawings which became standardized into symbols and in turn, into recognizable letters and numerals we now recognize. Hieroglyphics from ancient Egypt are a good example of an intermediate written language which revolves around symbology and formed the basis for the development of vowels and consonants.
Graphical representation renders itself far more accessible and understandable by people; whether they understand the language of the designer or not. The reason why people accept so much information via infographics compared to text is explained by how our brains have formed over time. During man’s early development, we were not equipped with language, never mind the ability to read and write. Man primarily looked at the world around him, his eyes being the primary sense with smell, sound, touch and taste running distant also rans. Visuals are how our brains are “hard wired” to “read” as our default operating system – what we can visualize is our primary mechanism for taking in information as a consequence. A baby must learn to speak, must be taught to read and write but, they have no issue in drawing as soon as they can hold a crayon.
As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words, which is why, possibly, the most important infographic is currently aboard the Pioneer 10 spacecraft. Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972 and is currently journeying through outer space – the first vessel to leave the solar system. It contains the Pioneer Plaque (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_plaque); a pictorial representation of humankind, our planet and solar system and where we are located. This is a powerful testament to the universal understanding provided by infographics which are not restricted by language barriers.
Visual language is universal for those who can see; imagine your car journey without graphical road signs for instance. Graphical images can be very quickly assimilated by the human brain, and render a meaning which is clear without the need to read text. In part, modern infographics are so readily understandable because we have become educated by the basic grammar of visual language. We know, for instance, that a bar running through a left-pointing arrow means, “Don’t turn left” for instance. Possibly the most important development in road signs has been the stick figure drawings that represent people (originating from the Munich Olympics in 1972).
Newspapers have probably done more to lay the basis for our understanding and appreciation of infographics than any other medium. In the 1970’s, British newspapers started to develop a series of charts and graphical representations to convey information in an understandable format to readers. This was rapidly picked up by USA Today when it launched in 1982, and spread to other mainstream media publications such as Time magazine.
Infographics have not been without their critics. Newspaper critics and traditionalists deride the “chart junk” which populates papers and the media. They argue that infographics demean the information being conveyed. At the same time, the idea that infographics are artistic has also received derisory comments from the art world. The idea that an infographic is where “art meets science”, is not widely accepted in the journalistic or art world, but nevertheless, the reading public clearly appreciates the graphical, and sometimes comical, representation of information.
What of the future? A notable exception to the long list of infographic applications is in television. Television has only recently embraced the notion of the infographic for transmission of frequently complex and large volumes of data in a visual fashion. Perhaps this is because television itself is a visual medium relaying information in real-time, i.e. without the need for a fast data burst to our brains. This does lead to the question – how much more powerful could a televised infographic be in relaying information to people? The televisual infographic is under development at this time, but how successful they will be we shall have to discover for ourselves as they start being broadcast on our screens.”
Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
Small businesses are seizing online social media as part of their efforts to establish a niche and engage a wider prospective customer base.
Social media is not a fad – it is here to stay.
The issue is how to gatecrash someone else’s party with a commercial message that doesn’t get you thrown out of the door as soon as you walk in!
This is the conundrum which established, mainstream social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace are trying to address as they seek to monetize all those surfer eyeballs spending minutes, hours and days on the internet. While this may seem like someone else’s problem, it is in fact every business’ problem – how to engage potential customers as part of their recreational time online.
It is important for businesses to understand that while Facebook, Digg, Reddit, LinkedIn and the rest of the big players in social media, may be grabbing the headlines with multi-million dollar valuations and financing, they are not the only party on the block.
So let’s take a look at three sites you may not have heard of, but they are bubbling under the top division in the social media league.
Kirtsy (kirtsy.com) caters primarily to women and it’s a good social media site for businesses looking to attract women as their prospective customers.
The site is primarily user-content driven with a substantial amount of third party content added by the users themselves for comment, education and simple fun. Kirtsy focuses on female friendly topics and issues, but they do include forums and self-help groups for dealing with more than just relationships and the site lends itself to infiltration by businesses with something positive and constructive to say on issues such as technology, especially if it addresses a female experience with the issue.
Kirtsy is well laid out, simple to use and makes it easy to register – it stands out because of its focus on women.
Small Business Brief
Small Business Brief (smallbusinessbrief.com) is a good example of how to develop a blog into a social media site – Small Business Brief is primarily a blog, with content centering upon small business issues, however, it has developed beyond a blogger writing posts.
The site/blog stands out because of the quality of the posts and information which is included – it is obviously written well and by people who really do know what they are talking about based upon experience. What makes SBB stand out though is the opportunity for users, eg. your business, to interact with solution provision. If you do have a genuine B2B solution, then SBB has a platform for you to hold forth. If you are a B2C company, you have a community of tens of thousands of small and medium sized business owners for you to tap into, to bolster your own knowledge and experience base.
SBB has some way to go in getting its format better developed, but it certainly shows how powerful even a simple platform can become in the social media niche.
NowPublic (nowpublic.com) is a social media platform powered by citizen journalists who either write, or more usually, share existing content with the rest of the site community. News items are voted up or down, depending on popularity pretty much the same way as we see on Digg or Reddit.
NowPublic stands out because of the diversity of issues which are covered – there is a well organized format which effectively replicates the content of a serious newspaper, and there is a very active community of users and a vocal commentary on stories of consequence.
Consider NowPublic to be an evolution of Digg and Reddit, with a greater degree of organization, much more user-friendly and a very lively community which is not primarily made up of internet nerds, but Joe Public with a passion for issues.
Of course there are dozens of other great niche social sites that can help your business, but the key is finding one that you enjoy and are passionate about. Better to be heavily involved in one social media site than a lurker in many. Who knows, one day you may find you are using social media for more than just promoting your business, you’ll also use it to promote yourself.
Thursday, April 1st, 2010
Google has always added their fair share of April Fools shenanigans to the popular search engine. In years past they have made fun of Yahoo and Microsoft. Currently Google has renamed itself Topeka in honor of a return gesture the Kansas town made to acquire a special Google project.
As part of the ongoing Google April Fools jokes they have adjusted the the search time from seconds to a host of odd units for measuring time.
You can see the full list below in the screen shots. Look to the right to see the time unit. The first one is my favorite, from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail Fame, “times the velocity of an unladen swallow.” Other time units used include microweeks, microfortnights, jiffies, parsecs, centons, centibeats, epochs, nanocenturies, hertz, warp, and 23.00 skidoo
Click each image for a larger view.