Copywriting Workshop

Presented by Heather Lloyd-Martin

It's good to get an outside perspective on the copy on your site.

First site evaluation: catalog site

The company offers similar types of products, but targeting a wide range of customers. However, one audience niche represents a relatively large percentage of their business, so they want to focus on that audience.

They do have a site specific to that audience. Unfortunately, the first text on the home page of that site is a "dear customers" statement about how prices have gone up on two products.

Suggestion: focus on value statements for home page. The company may need to overcome a price objection at some point, but the price increase notification might be better placed on product detail page than on home page.

Another point from audience member: only existing customers will potentially even know about price change, so it might be better to simply send them an email or letter explaining the increase. Why alert new customers -- who might not know about the increase in the first place -- that prices have gone up?

The main headline on the page is currently "Welcome to [site]". This should be a stronger value statement. The headline is important from a direct response standpoint. "Welcome to our site" is kind of a 90's statement, from back when it was news-worthy that you even had a website.

Take a look at the kinds of headlines on things like Publishers Clearing House sales letters for examples of strong headlines. The headline should promote a strong benefit -- either something your product or service offers, or the overall corporate benefit (why customers would want to buy from you instead of your competitors).

Instead of just saying you offer the best customer service, show how you offer better customer service. In this case, it's a family-owned business, so you can tell people about how you believe your family's reputation is on the line with every transaction. Tell a story about the family behind the business and ways they've gone above and beyond for their customers, rather than just making generic statements about "great customer service."

Another thing to pay attention to: the page title tag. That's the clickable link in the search results, which makes it a headline whose purpose is to draw people in and make them click on your link. Same rules of headline writing apply to title tag as to on-page headlines. Needs to be more compelling than your competitors' title tags and state a key benefit (with a keyword focus for SEO).

The titles should be different for every page of your site, and should focus on what the page is specifically about.

Do keyword research before you start writing headlines or copy. You need to focus not only on phrases people are using in search, but that are used by people who actually buy something.

Don't make changes to your site without talking first to an SEO specialist. If you can't afford to hire them for a full-blown SEO campaign, at least see about consulting with them on a one-off basis, just to make sure your plans are realistic and you've taken everything into account you need to in order to maintain (or improve) your rankings.

Recommendation from Heather: Search Engine Marketing Inc. (by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt) is a book talking about the business case for search marketing. Can provide information and ammo you may find useful when trying to convince senior management of why search marketing is something the company needs to do.

Second site evaluation: professional services firm

Repetition of their location in the headers on the page seems repetitious. There also seems to be a lot of text, and a lot of target phrases on the home page. You don't need to optimize your home page for every search phrase you're targeting -- it shouldn't be a keyword dumping ground. Use interior pages for lower-competition phrases and focus your home page on the highest-competition "money" phrases.

In this case, the home page has lots and lots of text. The suggestion is to pare down the text on the home page. People aren't going to scroll down to read lots of large blocks of text. They need to be able to to scan.

Third party testimonials and awards can be helpful to establish trust in your website and your company, and this company has a lot of them listed on their home page. But you do need to test how to best present them for the biggest bang for the buck. For instance, is it better to present them as graphics? Describe them in text? Both?

This is a third-generation firm. Their home page copy should speak to how long they've been in business and how that's a testament to the good job they've done for their clients.

Also consider adding quotes from actual customer testimonials. Reinforces your value message and takes the focus off you and puts it on what you have done for your customers. The combination of accreditation and awards along with actual customer testimonials can be very powerful.

There was a suggestion from the audience to use Google Optimizer to test different versions of home page so you can learn which one converts better. There were a number of different layout options that all sounded good, but without testing there's no way to tell which one would work the best. Google Optimizer will allow that sort of testing, and it's free.

Third site evaluation: ecommerce site

Problems they face: not always obvious what they sell and not always obvious what their product does. What can they do to improve the home page?

One problem we saw: the home page is almost all Flash. There's very little text content there. They need to have copy that says "we understand who you are and what you need."

Suggestion from the audience to make their blog more prominent. They have one, but it's not obvious it's there. In fact, we didn't know it existed until the link to the blog was pointed out. Blog articles might be an effective way to reach their small-business audience.

They also need to make their contact information more prominent. The home page Flash is too big and obvious and takes attention away from the contact information.

The site may need more text content. There's a lot of Flash on the site, but the Flash pages don't have text content, which is a problem if somebody's surfing with sound turned off or in a place (airport, for instance) where sound isn't audible. Keep the cool videos, but give non-visual people some text.

They have some truly awesome testimonials and quotes on their home page. The problem is, they're "buried" in a Flash move and overshadowed by distracting large images of people (stock photos) and moving video of product images. Make these third party testimonials more prominent.

In general, they seem to be missing a call to action on videos and elsewhere in the site. Need to be more proactive in asking for the sale. Calls to action move customers forward in the sales process.

September 23, 2008

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Our ( Acquirelists) marketing and sales department invested a lot of resources in writing all the content for our web site but we just can’t seem to be ranking high enough in the engines, while our competition is on top. Do we have to re-write it all over again?

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