Does Your Website Content Pass the Help Test?

Old school copywriting is all “Sell, Sell, Sell!” But online, hype is out and “help” is in, according to website content maven Nick Usborne’s article “Help, Help, Help, Sell”.

When it comes to your website visitors he says, “You need to guide them, inform them, direct them. And, of course, at the same time, pre-sell them.”

Gerry McGovern concurs. In a recent newsletter he explains why trying to be creative rather than communicating clearly isn’t the best way to help people who are searching the web for solutions to their problems. To quote:

Think about it. There are lots of people on our website right now whose attention we already have. Will they leave satisfied? There are many more searching for things that we have. They don’t need to be convinced. They are already on a journey to complete a task that we can help them complete. Let’s help them be successful. It’s a massive opportunity.

The Best Ways to Reduce Duplicate Website Content

Google has never been a fan of duplicate content on a website (or multiple websites); however, it seems that Penguin has less tolerance than ever. Karen Thackson discussed this issue in her recent post on

She not only gives a little insight into why duplicate content is a bad idea, she has also collected a wealth of suggestions to actually improve your site’s content overall. A few ideas:

  • Consider hiring a pro copywriter
  • Use a variety of content
  • Tell your customers’ stories – not just your own

Find out more: 5 Easy Ways to Reduce Duplicate Content on Your Site

Does Social Media Marketing Really Work?

If you’ve spend thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to make social media marketing work for your business, this is the article for you.

Nearly every business has been scrambling to get its own Facebook page, and “Social Media Experts” have sprung up practically overnight. But does social media marketing really work?

Scott Tobin, President of Sector45, offers his perspective on the good, the bad, and the money involved in social media efforts. If you want to find out how to make social work for you, check out his article at SEOmoz: Dear Social Media, Your 15 Minutes of Fame Are Up

Unsung Website Heroes & the Power of Content Marketing: The Web Content Roundup

WebContentRoundupThis week in The Web Content Roundup:

  • The Unsung Hero Behind Every Great Website
  • Help Others to Spread Your Word
  • 3 Cases that Prove the Power of Content Marketing

If you want more useful links on on creating effective web contentfollow @thatcontentguy on Twitter.

The Unsung Hero Behind Every Great Website

Much of the success of your website hinges on one key person: the copywriter. This article from Inc. magazine takes a look at how four websites use great content to enhance their brands and drive business.

Help Others to Spread Your Word

Social media is the new word of mouth. And if you want your word of mouth to spread far and wide online, best heed these tips and tactics from marketing consultant Chris Dale. My favourite: make sure your business passes “the mum test”.

3 Cases that Prove the Power of Content Marketing

If you’re still sitting on the fence about content marketing this article by Heidi Cohen is for you. Three case studies show how content marketing can improve SEO, provides “rent-free” media (aka advertising) and support lead generation and sales.

Top Content Marketing Takeaways for Thanksgiving

Having trouble navigating the content marketing arena?

Never fear, because the good peeps at the Content Marketing Institute have done an impressive roundup of lessons learned over the past year, and how you can apply them in your own marketing.

Laid out as a Thanksgiving commentary, each team member offers a little tip about the content marketing methods that are working best for them, and why they’re grateful they learned those lessons.

You can check out the roundup right here: What We’re Grateful We Learned About Content Marketing

How to Create an Effective Home Page

The home page is usually the most popular page on your website. But most first-time visitors will spend less than 30 seconds reviewing it. So you don’t have long to convince them to stick around and explore the rest of your content.

A home page has several important jobs. It must communicate who owns the site and what it’s for. It must establish credibility and trust. And, most importantly, it must convince visitors not to leave the site.

Here are five tips for creating an effective home page that sets the scene for first-time visitors:

1. Welcome visitors with a positioning statement

Your home page is your introduction to first-time visitors. And usually the first thing they want to know is, “What do you do?” So don’t make them guess. The opening paragraph of your website should give a concise description of what you do and who you do it for.

But whatever you do, don’t actually write “Welcome to…” These cheerful salutations are old hat and a waste of valuable space. A prominent statement of who you are and why people should do business with you will work much better.

2. Emphasise priority content with feature links

Your home page should not be a site map giving equal emphasis to all content. It’s more like a magazine cover that draws readers in with enticing cover lines highlighting the best stories inside.

The 80/20 rule applies to website content. This means the majority of visitors will only visit a few key pages of your site (e.g. pages about your best selling products). These are the pages you should emphasise on the home page.

Feature links are like signposts to your best content. Their job is to present a compelling summary of the most interesting and important content that makes the reader want to click for more. They communicate the essence of what’s on offer and provide visitors quick access to what they need.

There are three ways to determine what your most interesting and important content is:

  1. Use web analytics data to see which pages are most popular
  2. Review sales figures to establish your best-selling products, and
  3. Editorially select the best pages.

One-line short cut links to your site’s most popular content are also helpful on the home page.

3, Minimise options

Often many interests compete for space on the home page (especially in bigger companies). This can lead to bloated pages with an array of buttons, banners, links and other tid bits scattered about.

But too many options confuse readers. They can’t decide where to click. A good home page usually contains only a few visually prominent feature links to the most important content.

Anything with a prominent home page link is guaranteed to get more traffic. But you dilute this effect with every additional link. So remove any information that doesn’t need to be on the home page and restrict feature links to the most important content.

You also should keep your home page as short as possible to minimise scrolling. Only 50% of readers will scroll below the first screen.

4. Tell them what’s new

A latest news section on your home page gives your site a sign of life. It can include links to new products, your latest article or case study, a favourable media mention, or your new downloadable special report or white paper.

This is also a good place to highlight special promotions and sales. A news section doesn’t have to be long. A couple of descriptive sentences with links to more information is adequate.

5. Group company information

Group links to company information – such as media releases, job vacancies, stock prices, mission statement, about us, etc. – in one small section.

Great Advice for Anyone Who Wants to be a Better Writer

Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

And while I don’t believe mastering copywriting is as difficult as writing great literature, writing copy is still a great struggle for many people. (And sometimes even for me!)

Here’s some great advice from veteran copywriter Demian Farnworth on how to write well:How to Become an Exceptional Writer

I particularly liked his 7 strategies for building knowledge. His last point is also very important: remember to enjoy it!

Headlines That Work & Mind Mapping Tips: The Web Content Roundup

This week in The Web Content Roundup:

  • A 5-Step Plan to Improve Every Blog Post You Write
  • Big Buckets of Value – Finding the Headline That Works
  • Top 10 Mind Mapping Productivity Tips for Content Marketing Success

If you want more useful links on on creating effective web contentfollow @thatcontentguy on Twitter.

A 5-Step Plan to Improve Every Blog Post You Write

If your blog posts aren’t getting the results you want, this step-by-step plan is for you. A must read for every writer who wants their posts to stimulate comments, be shared and inspire action.

Big Buckets of Value – Finding the Headline That Works

In this article, SEO copywriting vixen Heather Lloyd-Martin shares her framework for choosing the perfect headline. As if that wasn’t bounty enough, she also explains how to find the best value proposition for the selling pages of your site.

Top 10 Mind Mapping Productivity Tips for Content Marketing Success

According to a recent study by Innovation Trend’s Chuck Frey, mind mapping immediately and significantly enhanced most users’ productivity. In this article Roger C. Parker explains how to leverage mind mapping for your content marketing – either on paper or using mind mapping software.

6 Inspiring Definitions of “Marketing” to Get You Motivated to Grow Your Business

“I hate marketing,” a friend of mine told me recently.

Selective focus on the word "marketing". Many more word photos in my portfolio...
Selective focus on the word “marketing”. Many more word photos in my portfolio…

Despite owning two successful businesses my friend has a vehement distaste for marketing. I’ve found this attitude is quite common amongst small business owners. Many of them think marketing is either sleazy and dishonest, or ineffective and a waste of money.

I think these attitudes arise because there’s a misunderstanding of what marketing is. Hopefully this article will help set the record straight.

Here are six inspirational definitions of marketing from some of the world’s foremost experts on the topic:

1. Authenticity + Value

“Marketing is sharing with authenticity about the value that you offer to the world”.

By Robert Middleton, the creator of InfoGuru marketing.

2. Making the Best Case for Your Product

“My definition of ‘marketing’ is putting your product or service in its best light so that it persuades others to investigate and hopefully buy it.

“I think that marketing is basically a replacement for door-to-door selling. If we could all afford to knock on everyone’s door and put forward the best case for our product then we would, because one-on-one conversation is pretty hard to beat.

“But because that’s not possible, we come up with marketing that will, at the end of the day, be a replacement for what we would have said if we were having a chat.”

By Australia’s most respect advertising expert, Siimon Reynolds, from the book Secrets of Male Entrepreneurs Exposed!

3. An End-to-End Process

“Marketing is everything you do to promote your business, from the moment you conceive of it to the point at which customers buy your product or service and begin to patronize your business on a regular basis.

“The key words to remember are everything and regular basis.”

By marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson from his seminal book Guerrilla Marketing.

4. Making the Sale Easier

“Marketing is everything you do that makes the sale easier.”

By Stephen Fairley, small business coach and author of Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching.

5. It’s Not Just About Spending Money

“Marketing is not about spending money on such things as advertising, direct mail and PR. Those are just tools. Marketing is about growing your business – its revenues, profit and valuation.”

By Mark Stevens, from his provocative book Your marketing sucks.

6. The Circle of Marketing

“Marketing is a circle that starts with your idea for generating revenue and completes itself when you have the patronage of repeat and referral business.”

From The Guerrilla Marketing Toolkit by Mitch Meyerson and Jay Conrad Levinson.

How Do You Make Your Website Credibile to Visitors?

A couple of weeks ago web copywriter Nick Usborne queried readers of his (excellent) Excess Voice e-newsletter about what makes a website credible. The question was: “If testimonials are somewhat unreliable as a means for establishing credibility, what DOES make you trust a site and believe in its integrity?”

While the results may not be statistically reliable they raise some interesting issues for web copywriters. The respondents’ biggest credibility buster was lack of a physical address and contact telephone number. This is also Jakob Nielsen’s 8th biggest web design mistake of 2005.

Even if your business is conducted 100% online it’s crucial to include your full contact details. Prospects will feel more confident about doing business with you if they know you have a brick and mortar office and you can be contacted by phone if necessary.

Other factors that improve credibility according to the survey are a guarantee and return policy, testimonials, independent product reviews, and good writing that’s not too hard sell. To that I would add professional and attractive design, good usability, complete information about products and services, a prominent privacy policy and sensitive use of email.

Read the full results of the survey