Archive for the ‘Website Development’ Category

Holiday Grab Bag: How Not to Name Your Website, Free Guides to Better Web Copy and a Few Laughs

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Now that we’ve all survived the Mayan apocalypse-that-wasn’t, here are a collection of links for a few laughs about the year that was and some guidance for online marketing in 2013.

From PR Daily’s Alan Pearcy:
12 best of the 2012 ‘best ofs’
Books, video bloopers, smartphone autocorrects and more. Enjoy!

From Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger, this guest post by Rob Henry:
URL Be Sorry! Google Cuts Back on Top-Ranking Exact-match Domains
Bottom line: Gaming the system doesn’t work. Quality content does.

And to help you create that excellent, search-friendly content, here are three free resources for improving your website or blog copy and content marketing strategy:

Content Marketing Institute
Content Marketing White Paper Library
Help with better web forms, nurturing leads, creating webinars and more.

Copyblogger
Copywriting 101: How to Craft Compelling Copy
SEO Copywriting Tips, Secrets, and Strategies
If you want to learn how to write better web or blog copy this year, these two collections of blog posts will get you started, and then some.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a prosperous, healthy and fulfilling New Year!

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Extreme Web Makeover IV: Music & Memory

Monday, November 26th, 2012

If you have any experience with a loved one who struggles with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, you know the great challenges and sense of loss for all involved. But what if there were a medication-free way to help your loved one reawaken to the world?

It turns out there’s a simple and elegant solution: personalized music playlists. Hearing personal favorites on a device like an iPod can tap deep emotional memories and enable many of those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and other cognitive challenges reconnect socially and feel more energized and upbeat.

I’ve learned all about this amazing process from Music & Memory, a non-profit based in metro New York that trains nursing home professionals how to set up and manage a comprehensive personalized music program for those in their care. For the past three months, I’ve been helping their great team revamp their website and create a professional, easy-to-navigate user interface designed to boost donations and subscriptions to their webinar training series. The new site went live on November 19.

Capitalizing on a Viral Video

Music & Memory’s challenge was an enviable dilemma: Last April, a video clip from a documentary about their work went viral. The clip told the story of Henry, a 94-year-old with dementia, who is non-communicative and doesn’t recognize his daughter. But as soon as he listens to his Cab Calloway favorites on his iPod, he awakens to his surroundings and can express himself quite effectively.

Nearly 7 million people have viewed the video, which has aroused tremendous interest in Music & Memory’s great work. The non-profit has sought and enjoyed extensive media coverage from major news outlets, including the New York Times, NPR and CNN, among others.

Converting from an Organically Grown Website to Strategic Web Content and User-Friendly Design

But Music & Memory’s website was a jumble of information and calls-to-action that did not effectively represent or explain the quality of their program. The site had grown organically, using a free template. Content was written from the organization’s point of view, rather than the user’s. Benefits were not clearly articulated. Navigation was cluttered and confusing. In addition, Music & Memory was in the process of switching over to Salesforce, a sophisticated contact management system that required a better web platform.

Working with the Music & Memory team and web developer Ed Booth of Insight Dezign, I took these steps to upgrade the site:

  • Defined key target audiences and established a hierarchy of calls-to-action, with donations and enrollments in M&M’s webinar training series at the top of the list.
  • Researched keywords that would boost search; salted these keywords throughout the site, in text, title tags, tabs, headlines and subheads, urls, ALT tags, search result descriptions and keyword tags.
  • Revised and wrote new content for the entire site, creating a conversational, unified tone throughout.
  • Reorganized content into a logical site navigation.
  • Selected the StudioPress Streamline theme template as the starting point for the new design; this template includes options for a hierarchy of multiple calls-to-action, essential for the site.
  • Selected images from Music & Memory’s documentary stills for the featured image within each main section of the site.
  • Laid out all page content within the template, unifying styles.
  • Integrated testimonial quotes throughout the site, including a rotating sidebar widget, a main Testimonials page and forms.
  • Using the Premise plug-in, wrote and designed a vertical sales page for the webinar series to expand the inquiry pool for this important revenue stream.
  • Wrote three Resource Guides—how to run an iPod donation drive, a guide for elder care professionals who wish to bring Music & Memory to their facility, and a guide to creating a personalized playlist for a loved one at home—that serve as free lead-generation downloads.
  • Served as project manager of the site build, in coordination with Ed Booth and Music & Memory staff. Oversaw completion of all details for the site visitor interface.

Ed built the site and added in many modifications to the template, enabling Music & Memory to fully realize their vision. Working closely with M&M tech pro Melody Ward, he integrated all forms with Salesforce. As always, he worked his magic on every technical challenge and request for greater functionality that we threw at him. He also patiently fixed whatever broke or jammed, all the inevitable problems that arise in a complex site build and launch.

Promoting the New and Improved Website

Whenever a site goes live, it’s always a thrill to see it in action. We coordinated the site launch with a year-end appeal letter that is scheduled to arrive in people’s homes today, November 26. Next steps for Music & Memory include an emailed site launch announcement tied to the annual appeal and a targeted email campaign to drive elder care professionals to the webinar training landing page. We’ll be following Google Analytics results to see how the site performs and making any needed modifications in the weeks and months to come.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to help such a great organization strengthen their ability to attract more donors and reach many more people who can benefit from this affordable, uplifting form of personal care.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Why Bother with a Website If You Have Good Word-of-Mouth?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I know a small business owner, a specialist in computer repair and Internet security, who doesn’t have a website. Ironic, he admits, to be in the business of helping others have safe and effective communication online while lacking an on-line presence. But he does great work and has an excellent network of person-to-person referrals, and he’s been very busy.

The problem is this: Last year, someone across the globe pushed a scam over the Internet using the name of his company. If a potential customer looks up his business online, the first thing they find is the thread of warnings about the scam. You have to know him and type in his name to get to the real information about his business on his LinkedIn profile. Last time we spoke, he was planning to create his own website, but I have yet to see one.

Maintain Control of Your Message

Now, just because you don’t have a website for your business doesn’t mean you’ll end up with this kind of dilemma about your good name. But the point is, just about everyone checks you out online these days before they try to contact you to do business. And you want to be sure to have the upper hand in controlling what they read about you when they do.

According to Google, 97 percent of consumers go online to find local businesses. So if you’re relying on word-of-mouth for your business, like my friend, chances are you have a clientele that is primarily local and possibly regional. If people hear about you from trusted sources, they may call, but they probably will look you up, too. If they don’t find you online, this is what can happen:

  • They won’t fully understand your work and the range of options you offer for helping them solve the problem that’s brought them to you in the first place.
  • They may make assumptions about your qualifications that aren’t true.
  • They may make assumptions about your pricing that aren’t true.
  • They may wonder if you take your work seriously.

At the least, answering any of these questions or doubts can cost you time, having to explain yourself and your work in detail whenever you get an inquiry. At most, your lack of a web presence can cost you more business.

Expand Your Referral Network

While it’s wonderful to have a strong word-of-mouth network, you expand your odds of getting more business through your website. As any solopreneur soon learns, there are unpredictable cycles of feast or famine. If you’re just relying on a local personal network for business, you can find yourself without work at the most inopportune moment. Building a strong referral network online begins with a solid web presence that is your main reference point.

Clarify What You Do and Why

One of the great benefits of creating a website for your business is that it forces you to clarify for yourself what you do, the value of your work and why you do it. You may already have good answers for all of the above, but until you sit down to put it into words, you won’t realize what you’re missing from your pitch and how you could make it better.

Simply put, even if you have a strong personal referral network, a professional website that presents you and your great work in a way that resonates with those you hope to reach is well worth the time and investment to ensure you that you’ll continue to have all the business you need.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

What Goes Where on Your Home Page?

Monday, October 15th, 2012

There’s a lot of important information to include on your home page: your brand, site navigation, search, email sign-ups, main content, links to social media, your blog roll if you have one, testimonials and other social proof of the quality of your work. The list can go on and on.

So, how do you know what goes where?

A good place to start is with a proven template. I’m a big fan of StudioPress, if you’re on a budget and can’t afford a custom design. These templates include the underlying Genesis framework, which takes WordPress one step better and protects your site from hacking—a liability of WordPress open-source code. With the help of a good web developer, you can customize the templates to your own taste. But the basic structure provides a sound foundation.

Whether you choose an existing template or work with a designer, here are six key points to keep in mind for home page design:

  1. Place your brand in the upper left corner, unless you have a good reason to do otherwise. Users tend to look at the center of the page first, then the upper left corner. Web usability studies that measure eye tracking show we spend a fraction of a second glancing at the middle of the page, then move to the upper left. This has a lot to do with what we’re accustomed to finding: a logo in the upper left that identifies the site. There are other viable options for logo placement, as long as your brand is easy to spot at the top. Some web designs are now using full banner headings, like a newspaper. On my own site, my logo stands out from a clear field of white across the top of the page.
  2. Put the most important information at the top. Users look for a hierarchy of information, going from top to bottom. This just makes sense. When a page loads, you see the section “above the fold” first—the top chunk of the webpage, just like the top half of a folded newspaper. So decide what’s most important and be sure that’s at the top of your homepage. Use consistent styling of headlines and subheads to help users determine priorities.
  3. Place navigation in a horizontal bar across the top of the page. In the past, many websites vertically stacked the nav bar in the left-hand margin, but this set-up is not as flexible as a horizontal navigation with drop-down tabs. Whatever you do, never use vertical navigation with sub-navigation that shoots sideways across the web page. It’s clunky, blocks important content and is just plain confusing.
  4. Explain what your site is all about, front and center. When visitors come to your site, they want to know, within a few seconds, what it’s about, whether it’s what they’re looking for and what’s in it for them. Don’t make them search for this information. Key messaging, with informative, skim-friendly headlines and subheads, should make up the bulk of your homepage above the fold.
  5. Use compelling graphics, but don’t overuse them so they compete for attention. Just as you establish a hierarchy of text with headings and subheads, do the same with images. Your most important graphic should be the largest. Other supporting pictures or icons should have some uniformity of size and placement so the user intuitively understands their relationship to the text and relative importance.
  6. Place supporting content and links in a side column or in multiple columns below the fold. How you do this depends on the template you’re using. Again, however, think in terms of priorities. What do you want the user to see first? second? third? That’s the order of placement. If everything you want to include seems equally important, take a step back and rethink your priorities. Who is your ideal client and what’s most important to her? For example, do your latest blog posts establish your expertise, or would your visitor rather see testimonials from clients about your work? Put yourself in her shoes to determine your hierarchy on the page.

For more about good home page design, check out these links:

6 Design Tips That Will Have Your Audience Licking Their Screens—Copyblogger

Design 101| 7 typographic Resources, and 1 Type Joke—Big Brand System

F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content—Jakob Nielson’s Alertbox

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

How to Get Found Online with a Tight Marketing Budget

Monday, August 6th, 2012

For many service professionals, especially if you’re just starting a new practice, marketing dollars are limited. But you know you need an online presence. Just about everyone who considers coming to your for legal advice, medical support, counseling, accounting services, or whatever your professional specialty, will go online to find out about you before they call.

Here are several low budget options, and their pros and cons:

Paid Profile in a Professional Directory
This is the equivalent of a yellow pages listing online, except you have more space to describe your services, include a picture and all of your contact information. Therapists, for example, can buy a profile listing on Psychology Today’s directory. Design options are limited to the site’s generic template, so the quality of your written profile and photo are key factors in attracting clients.

The advantage of listing with such a service is a boost in search from the main site’s SEO. The disadvantage is that you’re competing in a directory with similar professionals from your region, because site visitors will inevitably search by geographic location. Referrals are mixed, and often not qualified potential clients, just people fishing around for information.

Subscription Website on a Professional Portal Site
Here you’ll get a website template, hosted on the portal site, for a monthly subscription. Therapists.com, for example, charges about $60 per month; multiply by 12, and you’re paying more than $700 a year—over the course of a few years, you could easily pay for a custom site and get something much more effective and tailored to your needs. You get some search boost from the portal site, but your money can go farther with other options.

Free Website Templates
Be careful when choosing a free web service, as many will require you to post ads as the true price of admission. Weebly.com is the exception to this rule: its user-friendly interface enables you to build an attractive site using a nice selection of professional templates. Their free package hosts your site as a subdomain on their platform, but you can upgrade your package to an annual subscription to use your own domain name. As with all free services, there is a catch: You’ll have a link on the bottom of your site promoting Weebly.

While you can build a great looking site through Weebly, you still need the right copy. If you’re a good writer and understand how to write for the web, then you should be home free with a service like Weebly. But if writing is not your strong suite, you should look for a copywriter within your budget to help you create your content. Also, note that Weebly limits your ability to capture leads for new business, a key weakness of the platform if you don’t have the ability to write your own code, which is why you’d use Weebly in the first place.

WordPress.org offers thousands of free templates, and WordPress sites are favored by Google in search. So if you have some tech savvy, WordPress is the way to go. You can also pay a web developer $50 to $100 to set up a WordPress site for you. If you can use word processing software, you can use a WordPress interface.

Note that WordPress templates are designed with blogging as the homepage. Again, for a modest fee, a website developer can alter the settings so that the blog is part of your site navigation and your homepage is your main intro to your work. With a WordPress site, unlike Weebly, you’ll still have to pay for a web hosting service.

Facebook Fan Page
If you’re comfortable using social media, you can set up a fan page on Facebook that contains much of the information you’d include on a website. Basic info about your business, history, and your personal profile can all be included, and it’s easy to share pictures and videos in your timeline. And, of course, Facebook provides great options for sharing information about your latest business accomplishments, offering special deals to fans and networking to get more clients.

Just remember that your online business presence depends on Facebook, so if anything changes or goes wrong with Facebook’s platform, your online visibility can suffer. Also, if your client base is not comfortable with social media, then a Facebook fan page would be a hurdle and disincentive. So, know your target market.

LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is the go-to site for professional search. You can include plenty of rich content in your profile, including references from clients, links to content that you want to share and that demonstrate your expertise, as well as your blog roll and links to your online portfolio (you know, the ones on your free Weebly site). Be sure to include a professional photo. For service professionals just starting out, buying a domain name for your business and pointing it to your LinkedIn profile is a simple, polished way to show who you are and what you do.

The downside of relying on LinkedIn is the same as Facebook—you’re counting on another platform to promote you, rather than having independent control of your own material on your personal professional website.

You Get What You Pay For
All of these options are low-budget ways to get your name out there on the Internet. But nothing substitutes for a professionally written and designed website. Yes, I have an obvious bias, given my own consulting practice. But I do this work for a reason—I’ve seen far too many business professionals completely undercut themselves online with poorly written and designed websites.

You can be great at what you do, but if you struggle with writing—online copy is an art form—and don’t really have a sense of what to put where on a web page, then your low-budget web solution will look just that: rank amateur. As with anything, you get what you pay for. As you develop your practice, build in a budget for marketing to look and sound your very best.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

Going for the Gold: Four Lessons from Olympic Athletes about Building Your Online Presence

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Whatever you think of the logo, the mascots, the opening ceremony, the controversy over security staffing, Mitt Romney’s pre-game gaffs or Mayor Boris Johnson’s haircut, the London Olympics are now in full swing. I’m looking forward to the gymnastics and diving competition and some of the lesser-viewed sports, like trampoline and taekwondo. And, of course, the canoe slalom.

Whatever your favorite Olympic sport, the athletes who’ve made the cut have some important lessons to teach about what it takes to succeed. Well worth remembering, as you build an online presence for your own good work.

Lesson 1: Maintain Focus
When you’re training to be an Olympian, you need to be very clear about your goal and stay focused. Everything you do is geared toward becoming your best at your sport.

In building your online presence, the same holds. You need to know what your goal is for your business and your website, who is your ideal client, and how you can best meet her needs.

All of your content, all of your social media networking, all of your collateral marketing materials must maintain that clear focus and message. Don’t get sidetracked with the latest social media sensation or technological gizmo. Keep your sights on your goal.

Lesson 2: Train with Experts
Every Olympic athlete invests time, money and energy in getting the best training possible. No one earns a gold medal by skimping on trainers, equipment or training facilities. And no one becomes an Olympian in isolation.

As you develop your website and marketing strategy, learn from and engage the best experts you can afford. Many small business professionals try to save money by spending the minimum on marketing, using free web platforms or a best friend’s recent college grad who knows some code to build a site. But having a website, any website, is not the way to get found online.

Even if you have to start small, be sure to understand the fundamentals of quality web content and design, and choose consultants on the basis of experience and proven results, not by lowest project fee. Remember: You get what you pay for.

Lesson 3: Practice, Practice, Practice
Olympians work hard, every day, to develop their athletic skills. The practice can get tedious, boring and frustrating. But repetition, learning to refine skills, learning from experience how to make adjustments that distinguish a medalist from the rest of the pack—all are essential to winning.

Building an online presence requires daily focus and discipline, as well. You need to read about trends in your field, adopt and refine best practices for your specialty, and keep abreast of your online competition. You need to keep your site content fresh, blog on topic and on schedule, even when you don’t feel inspired.

You also need to monitor social media and build your social network, one blog comment or Facebook post or Tweet at a time. Even if it seems like you’re not making progress day to day, all of this work builds over time to put you ahead of your competitors.

Lesson 4: Learn from Losing
No athlete wins every competition. Everyone loses at some point. Olympians don’t give up. They take risks, learn from failures and go on to win the next meet.

Building an online presence is hard work and takes a lot of persistence. It also takes a willingness to take risks, experiment, mess up and learn how to improve. One of the great things about websites and the Internet is that there is so much room for experimentation, tracking results, getting feedback quickly and figuring out a better way to share your expertise.

So even if your current website isn’t working or your social media strategy is a flop, don’t give up. There’s always room and opportunity to improve and get the results you’re looking for.

Hope you enjoy the Summer Olympics! And take stock of your own accomplishments with your online marketing—then go yourself one better.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

Five Reasons Why Your Website Content Isn’t Working—And How to Fix It

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

When was the last time you looked up a business in the Yellow Pages? I’m willing to bet, at best, maybe once in the last six months, assuming you can even find a copy of your phone book.

Now, when was the last time you looked up a business online? Probably yesterday, if not within the past few hours, right?

Effective Website Content Is Strategic
My point is this: If you have a business, you need a website. But having a website isn’t just about posting a few pictures and some general info about your work and contact info.

You need content that distinguishes you and your business from your competition, that clearly explains your product or service, and that gives your ideal client a compelling reason to contact you or make a purchase. And you need a website design that’s attractive and easy to navigate, that guides your reader to the information that’s most important.

Here are five of the biggest mistakes I see when asked why a client’s site doesn’t seem to be bringing in new business:

1) No Clear Statement of What Sets You Apart
All too often, websites spout a lot of generalities about a business, offering a summary about a profession on the homepage and overused descriptions of benefits (e.g., “we pride ourselves on great customer service”—well, everyone says that, and if you didn’t care about your customers, you shouldn’t be in business in the first place). It’s the gotta-put-something-up-there-now-that-I-have-a-website syndrome.

Web content, especially on the homepage, needs to clearly state what you do and what distinguishes your business from your competitors. To write this well, you need to understand the following:

  • Who is your ideal client, what problem she’s trying to solve and how your work will help her. More on this in #3.
  • Who else is out there doing the same work, how they present themselves, and how your approach is more effective for your ideal client.

If you’re struggling to answer these questions, check out Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid. Work through his exercises to clarify your value proposition.

When you have your answers—and believe me, this takes time and a lot of thought, and evolves as you develop your business, so it’s worth revisiting—sit down and revise your homepage content, with your value proposition high on the page. You don’t want visitors to have to scroll too far to get the point.

2) Text Is Clunky, Rambling and Impersonal
Good web copy is like any good writing—clear, concise, using strong nouns and active verbs. It needs to be easy to skim, but substantive enough for the serious reader to learn more. These two posts will help you to write copy that meets those criteria:

One other point—we all respond to content that connects on a human, personal level. I don’t mean you need to spill your guts to your target audience. But don’t be afraid to be yourself! What do you care about? Why are you in this business? What do you love most about your work? Be sure to capture that essence in your web copy. One of the best places to get more real is in your About page. Here’s a blog post that will help you write a compelling personal profile for your site:

3) Content Is Written from Your Point of View, Rather Than Your Ideal Client’s
This ties to both of the above issues. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of writing all the stuff you think is great about your work. But what you think is important may not be what your client actually cares about. You need first to understand your ideal client, everything from economic status and lifestyle preferences to where she gets her purchasing information and what worries keep her up at night.

Then put yourself in her shoes and ask why she’s come to you. How do you help her solve a key problem or answer a pressing question? One way to get at this is to write yourself an email, as if you were your ideal client, inquiring about your business. Then revise your web content with her in mind. This exercise may be a tectonic plate shift for you—if so, good. You’re on your way to writing some compelling content for your site, from your ideal client’s point of view.

4) Design Works Against Easy Reading and Navigation
There are plenty of free templates out there to choose from, or maybe you asked your next-door neighbor’s kid to code your site to save money. But it’s critical to choose a quality design. Effective websites are based on some basic principles of usability—what makes a site easy to read and easy to navigate.

Headlines and subheads, color-blocking to break up text, short paragraphs and careful use of white space to make a site easier to skim, clear navigation with simple drop-down menus, quality graphic images that establish tone and focus attention (but not too many competing images on a page)—all of these are elements of good design. Here’s more to consider as you evaluate your website:

5) No Call-to-Action
This one may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many websites fail to include an effective call-to-action. What is the goal of your site? What do you want visitors to do when they finish reading? Be sure you can answer this question, and then be sure that your visitor can easily find your call-to-action on every page of your site.

At the very least, you want her to contact you for a free consult or other free service, to open a relationship with you. Or maybe you want to capture her contact information to build a quality email list for future product offers. In that case, you’ll need to create a free download of valuable information that’s relevant to your work and her needs, that your visitor will receive in exchange for her contact information.

While you’re at it, be sure to cover these basics in constructing your Contact page:

When you’re through evaluating and revising your site, test it on your best customers and friends who fit your ideal client profile. Ask if they can tell you what sets you apart and why they do business with you, or what would compel them to do so in the future. Their answers are your best indicator of whether your website content is effective and what you need to refine it further. Added bonus: you can use the positive feedback as testimonials.

And if you’d like a professional assessment of your website, please contact me. I offer a free half-hour consult to new clients, and I’d be glad to give you feedback on your website’s effectiveness.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Keywords v. Brand: How to Choose Your Business URL for Best Search Results

Monday, June 25th, 2012

One of the first question’s I’m asked by clients who are building their first professional website is this:

Should I use myname.com, or a title for my business that includes relevant keywords (primarycaremd.com), or another title that’s my brand but may not have any keywords in it (coolbrandname.com)?

The answer: It all depends on name recognition and whether your brand is memorable. If you have equity in your name—say, you’re a lawyer or doctor with an established local practice and a great reputation—then it’s valuable to put your name in your website url, because people will search for you that way.

Alternatively, you can choose a title for your practice that’s easy to remember (and spell!), and include your name in your title tag (the phrase that shows up on a search engine result page, or SERP ) as well as a keyword-rich description of what you do.

Here’s a good explanation of how title tags work in search by Jill Whalen, CEO if High Rankings in Boston.

If you’re choosing between a keyword-rich domain and a brand domain that’s easy to recall, it’s a toss-up for search rankings—but a memorable brand in a crowded field of experts on the same topic, instead of a keyword-laden domain, probably works best.

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam Team, explains in this short video:

A strong, memorable domain name and relevant keywords are critical for good search results. But remember—the most important element of effective search is excellent content in your site. And it’s much easier to figure out the right domain name and keywords after you’ve done the research to identify your target market and created client-centered content that speaks to their needs and concerns.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Extreme Web Makeover III: Trees at Risk

Monday, June 4th, 2012

There’s an old saying that the cobbler’s children go barefoot. Eleven years ago, I published my book, Trees at Risk: Reclaiming an Urban Forest. An environmental history of Worcester, Mass., the book traces the decline of the city’s public trees and parks, and serves as a cautionary tale about the high price we pay as a community—in quality of life as well as land values—for neglecting our urban forests.

A niche market, certainly, but the book has been well-received by people who care about tree stewardship, local history and urban ecology.

My Marketing Challenge
Only problem: I simply never took the time to market the book properly, and have yet to fully penetrate that target market here in Central Massachusetts and beyond, wherever communities are struggling to preserve publicly owned trees—an issue that has become much more salient with the arrival of the maple-loving Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) here in Massachusetts and four other states, as well as Canada.

So, I have many copies of the book stored in my basement. And I need to get them into the hands of people who care about my subject. I’ve had a website, treesatrisk.com, for several years, but the site wasn’t getting much traffic. Time for the marketing consultant to finally apply her skills to her own book!

Rethinking the Strategy for My Book’s Website
My first step was to rethink the marketing angle for the book. For my original website, I had just lifted copy from the back cover for the homepage and my bio, excerpted part of the book’s introduction for a sample, included a review and links to some news stories about the book and a TV interview, and had a page to buy the book. The site was simple and attractive enough visually, but had no punch or any real strategy.

But I realized that I had a natural hook. Worcester, most unfortunately, has struggled with an ALB infestation since 2008—we’ve lost nearly 31,000 trees here and in surrounding towns to the bug, which destroys maples and other hardwoods. I actually predicted the infestation in Trees at Risk, since the city has a predominance of maple street trees. So I refocused the website on the infestation, and repositioned the book as an authoritative account of the circumstances that led up to the situation we’re now in.

Revised, Targeted Content and a Fresh Look
With excellent help from Ed Booth of Insight Dezign, I created a custom version of StudioPress’s “Balance” child theme, using a Genesis platform that takes WordPress one step further with code that guards against hacking.

The design has a strong visual focus for featured content on the homepage—in my case, a review quote and image of the book linked to the Buy page. I rewrote all of my content to tell the story of Worcester’s current tree crisis, placing it in the historical context detailed in my book. Other content changes and embellishments:

  • Keyword-branded, custom urls for each page
  • Photos that I took of trees around the city
  • Custom header matching the book’s cover text treatment
  • An easy-to-skim, chapter-by-chapter summary of the book’s contents
  • A more engaging book excerpt about the Hurricane of 1938 that places the ALB devastation in perspective
  • A personal bio as well as the story of how and why I wrote the book
  • A page of ALB resources
  • Embedded excerpts from my TV interview
  • Strategically placed excerpts from a great review of the book by the Journal of Political Ecology
  • A Beetle Blog, which gives me the opportunity to write about the ALB and tree stewardship, telling the story of what’s happened since the book was published and creating content that will boost search and my own authority as a source for interviews and speaking engagements
  • New pricing that reflects the impact of Ebook pricing on the print world
  • Links to the Buy page at the end of each page, in the footer and right sidebar

I relaunched the site last week, promoting it through email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and I’ve begun personal networking, once again, to promote the book and the website. Feedback, so far, has been quite encouraging. The site launch prompted two sales already, and I now have the strategic, authoritative platform I need to move all of those books out of our basement family room, into the hands of tree-lovers.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

Extreme Web Makeover II: The Good People Fund

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The Good People Fund (GPF) is a wonderful philanthropy that supports small to mid-sized, grassroots non-profits that are finding creative, hands-on ways to help alleviate poverty, hunger, social isolation, homelessness and more in their home communities.

I should know. I’m on their Board of Trustees. I’ve also been helping GPF redo their website, which needed a major overhaul to better represent the organization’s great work. We just went live with the new site last week, which is already starting to generate more traffic and donations.

Here’s the back story:

Founded in 2008 when its predecessor foundation closed doors, GPF has been growing steadily for the past four years, carefully screening, mentoring and supporting non-profits in Israel and the U.S. that meet its criteria of low overhead and highly effective programming. The organization created a website soon after it went into operation in order to have an online presence.

The site served its purpose, providing a basic explanation of the philanthropy’s mission and vision, listing information about leadership and financials, providing links to grantee’s websites, and sharing heart-felt stories about how people benefited from GPF grants through the Tzedakah Diaries, written by Executive Director Naomi Eisenberger. The site had a form for online donations and educational materials for families and Jewish educators.

So far, so good. But as GPF grew, the site needed work. The Board agreed that there were several major issues:

  • Upgrade the website’s amateur design with a friendly, professional image.
  • Update content to better explain GPF’s mission and focus, as well as the value-added of giving to GPF (screening, mentoring, matching donors to grantees).
  • Explain the work of grantees, replacing links to their websites (which drew traffic and potential donations from GPF’s site) with clear and compelling descriptions of their work.
  • Convert the Tzedakah Diaries to a subscription-based blog, distributed via social media as well as email.
  • Create user-friendly navigation and add graphic images and videos to enhance the user experience.
  • Ensure that the Donations call-to-action has a prominent place on the site, on every page.
  • Improve search optimization.

Working with the Board, Naomi, a wonderful designer who prefers to keep his contribution to the project anonymous, and Ed Booth of Insight
Dezign, I directed the site upgrade. I came up with a new tag line, “Small actions, huge impacts,” which our designer incorporated into a beautiful new logo that expresses the global nature of our work as well as GPF’s Jewish roots. He adapted the green and blue color scheme of the original logo and created an upbeat design for the website that alludes to earth and sky, and to the Jewish art form of paper-cutting. The text is set in Verdana, a clean, web-friendly typeface, and titles are in Mrs. Eaves, adding a touch of sophistication.

Naomi and I spent many hours writing and rewriting content for the site. Much of the program description text was adapted from GPF’s Annual Report, revised for the web to make it easy to skim. I wrote all of the key marketing content for the homepage, and revised the Mission, Vision and Overview with input from Naomi and the Board. We reviewed all of the text from the old site, tweaking and tightening for readability. I conducted keyword research that guided my creation of search-optimized, branded urls for each page, as well as site content.

Naomi collected images for many of the grantees, and we added videos that were created by editing and repurposing existing footage, thanks to Eli Katzoff of Stormport Productions.

Ed worked wonders with all of the design direction, executing many rounds of refinements with equanimity and attention to detail. He tied the site into the original back end of the old website, which was a key criteria for the project’s success.

Now we are working with Ross Plotkin, Head of Paid Search for Kahena Digital Marketing, to enhance search with Google AdWords. Thanks to Ross, GPF received a Google Grant for an AdWord campaign that has already begun to generate more donations.

It’s been a huge project that has stretched over many months, but the Board is thrilled with the results, and we look forward to growing our donor base, enabling GPF to help support even more worthy endeavors.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your good work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.