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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

A Quick Guide to Website Content

July 14th, 2013

Quick Guide to Writing Website Content

Writing content for your Website (or any marketing material for that matter) can be quite challenging. If I had to give one piece of advice it would be to keep your content as informal as possible so it’s not refined it into generic marketing drivel. What good is a Website that sounds like a million others?  I’ve found that it’s often the first pass at writing your content that can be the best at establishing that authentic tone that truly resonates with your visitors.

The Vital Elements for your Website

Effective communication on your Website can be compared to effective Interstate highway billboard communication — your visitors are going 70mph and if you’re not concise and clear they won’t bother slowing down to read your message. Research has established that visitors to your Website will make a judgment within a few seconds regarding the credibility and quality of your business (initially based on the graphic design) and then they will want these fundamental questions quickly answered:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Where do you do it?
  • How can they learn more or try your product?
  • Why are you the best choice?

This last item is called your Unique Value Proposition and is extremely important . . . in fact it should permeate all elements of your marketing communication.

The Front Page

The front page of your site is that “billboard” that needs to provide answers to these questions or a clear one-click path for your users to get those answers. Don’t make your visitors guess about these answers or which link to click to get them, otherwise they’re apt to just leave and look elsewhere. Website visitors tend not to be very patient.

Provide Proof

For those visitors who are interested in your unique value proposition, a vital supporting section is the proof section . . . it’s one thing to say you’re the greatest at this or that, but offering your visitors credible proof is going to carry exponentially more weight than you just saying so. Examples of proof sections include testimonials, portfolios and/or photos of your staff and or customers engaged in providing your products or services to clients.

Photos as Proof

MeAs the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and this couldn’t be more true on your Website. Visitors are not going to invest the time to read 1,000 words about how great you are (even if they did, they wouldn’t believe it) but they can’t help but seeing a prominently displayed photo that, if done correctly, can instantly and powerfully communicate your values and help establish trust.

The Web is cold, impersonal and untrustworthy by nature.  Avoid at all costs stock photos with cheesy models posing. The only thing you’ll accomplish is to make people wonder if your business is legitimate. Rather, make this an opportunity to develop an instant personal bond with your visitors which you’ll find is extremely potent towards establishing credibility . . . offer photos of you in an authentic setting, whether it’s a photo that provides some personal insight on your bio or photos that show your business making real customers of yours happy.

Even if your budget is low, consider hiring a professional photographer to work in conjunction with your Web designer. While you may spend a bit more on the project, you’ll be establishing a significant competitive advantage.

I’m still amazed that with all the material we offer on our site, and the myriads of photos of our past projects, I often have prospects and clients commenting on my profile photo which shows me with my family. People want to trust the firm they’re hiring and my willingness to share this type of photo is very effective in helping to establish that bond (as you might of guessed, that’s the photo on this page).

Google Update

May 28th, 2013

Last week Google updated its main search and ranking algorithm to what it calls Penguin 2.0. According to Google, there is no dramatic change to how one optimizes for Google however it’s important to take a look at the directions and changes that Google has made and what it might mean to your site. In short, Google is continuing to refine it’s ranking criteria to reward legitimate sites with real relevant content which offer real value to a community and penalize those sites which are full of cheap tricks.

To bring yourself up to speed I recommend this article on Website Magazine by Michael Garrity and the video from Google below.

Should you trade links?

May 2nd, 2013

I received a great question from an ambitious company. They asked about trading links with other sites to increase their visibility in search engines. It’s a question that’s not too uncommon so I thought it worthwhile to share my response here.

While I don’t know all the details of the link sharing that you have in mind, generally speaking, I strongly recommend not posting links to external sites unless it unambiguously provides value for your prospects and clients. The ultimate long-term determination of your site’s success, and coincidentally search engine prominence, will be the consistent quality of the content and resources you serve up on your site—not how many links you have traded.

In theory, trading links with another site does little, nothing, or is actually detrimental to your search engine rankings. You usually gain search engine prominence (called PageRank by Google) from getting links to your site and can lose it when linking to another site. So if you trade links your PageRank may cancel itself out and not much is accomplished.

Regarding incoming links, you want to be as selective as you can because back-links from some sites it can be actually be harmful:

“Google is known to actively penalize link farms and other schemes designed to artificially inflate PageRank. How Google identifies link farms and other PageRank manipulation tools are among Google’s trade secrets.”
(from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_ranking)

When sites advertise that they want to trade links a red flag immediately goes up in my mind that these sites might not be good company to keep from Google’s perspective. But even if they are, by trading links there’s not much to gain.

As a rule of thumb, the more links you can get pointing to your site from other reputable related sites the better, the fewer you can get leaving your site the better for maintaining your PageRank.

The basic principle to remember is, make your site for users, not for search engines. (This is a quote from Google)

Here are some good sites from Google with their guidelines.

Also, I’ve written a number of other articles on this topic you might find helpful:

Annie’s Homegrown – An Example of a Great Blog

April 2nd, 2013

As I continue to peruse the Internet for great blogs, I came across one today which in my opinion epitomizes a successful blogging strategy. Annie’s Homegrown Blog, a clean blog frequently updated with concise posts that focus on the the shared values that unite Annie’s Homegrown and its customer base.

One of my pet peeves is a blog or social media outlet that just pushes the company and its products. The quickest way to alienate a reader is to write about things that don’t interest them … things like how great your company is, how great your products are, your corporate picnic or your strategic initiative for the year. People are not interested in being exposed to more 20th century advertising tactics. What they are interested in are participating within a community that holds their same values. If your blog or social media outlet is not connecting emotionally with your customer base then it’s failing.

This doesn’t mean that your blog is just charity work. Going back to Annie’s Homegrown Blog, pay attention to the content and it’s easy to see how the writer(s) has masterfully leveraged connecting the product to the emotional sensitivities of their target audience. I would venture to say that in 8 of 10 cases, the typical Annie’s shopper relates to this content and most likely visits the site on a regular basis and buy their products.

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