Posts Tagged ‘website marketing strategy’

Boost Your Blog with a Strategic Publication Plan: 5 Steps to Managing Your Time and Content

Monday, January 14th, 2013

If you enjoy writing, blogging is a great way to reach out and build connections with people who share your interests and who can benefit from your services. It’s also a great way to add fresh, search optimized content to your professional website and attract qualified inbound links, which improve your rankings

But it’s also a serious commitment. If you want to develop a following, you need to come up with a topic at least once a week, on schedule. You need to find time to research, write, revise and post. You need to stay on top of trends in your field and find an original angle. You need to understand your audience and what questions they’re asking.

It can seem easy at first, especially when you’re excited about launching your new blog, to find something good to write about. Without a publication plan, however, it’s also easy to run out of steam.

I’ve seen this happen time and again with clients who want a blog as part of their new professional websites. They’ll write a few posts, maybe even for a month or two. But soon, other commitments and demands of a busy schedule squeeze out the blogging, and it becomes a dated, dead-end section of their websites.

The best way to avoid that trap and keep your blog fresh and compelling is to develop a strategic publication plan. Here are the basic steps:

1. Identify your ideal client’s top questions.

What are your target audience’s biggest concerns that you can help solve? What are the questions you’re asked most often? This is the starting point for a series of blog posts. Write down the questions and group them into several main categories.

2. Develop a list of keywords that tie to your main blog categories.

You can do this using Google’s free keyword tool, if you’re on a budget, or a good paid service, like Wordtracker. You can find a lot of excellent free guidance about how to select keywords and phrases on Wordtracker.com. Keep this list handy as you develop keyword tags and headlines for your posts.

3. Plan out a series of post topics, one per week to start, for two to three months at a time.

Keep it manageable, based on a realistic assessment of your availability to write. As you plan, try to rotate your topics so that you cover the range of your main categories over a month or six weeks. I like to set this up as a table, with a column each for the post topic, the category, who’s writing the post (if you work with a team) and when the post is scheduled to publish.

4. Plan your time for research and writing.

You can tackle this in a variety of ways. If you work best on a weekly basis, set aside time for research and writing the first draft several days ahead of the publication date, so you have time to review and revise. Another approach is to set aside a day each month to focus on your blog, do all the research and first drafts, then take a few hours later that week to revise and set up a series of four scheduled posts, one for each of the next four weeks.

5. Track your traffic.

Review your blog stats to see which posts were most popular and got the most comments. Be sure to keep up with any comments in a timely fashion, to encourage interaction. Evaluate your publication strategy based on this feedback and develop your schedule for the next three months.

While some people favor writing several times a week, and even daily, to build a following, my preference is to write well, consistently, once a week. We’re all inundated with too much information every day, every hour, online. If you write something worth reading that your followers can look forward to on schedule each week, chances are they’ll read it and pass it along. And you’ll have more time to focus on the work you love most.

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 Have You Learned This Year? Five Questions to Help You Improve Your Marketing in 2013

Monday, December 31st, 2012

There’s plenty of advice out there about trends for 2013 and how to plan for the coming year. But before you look forward, it’s a good idea to take stock of the year drawing to a close.

If you’re like me, some of what you tried for your business worked well this year; other strategies were less successful. But mistakes are as valuable as successes. Both provide opportunities to learn and do even better next time.

So here are five questions to ask yourself as you reflect on 2012 and plan ahead:

1. Who is your ideal client—and whom are you actually helping? Are your present clients meeting your expectations?

All too often, especially when you’re starting out and don’t want to turn anyone away, it’s easy to fall into the trap of accepting clients who soak up your time but want to pay the minimum. Not worth it, especially as you’re trying to build your business. Look over your client list and determine who’s worth your time and who isn’t. Then let the sponges go.

2. What was your most successful marketing strategy? What did you do right to gain more qualified clients?

Note the adjective: qualified. You want to focus on the outreach you did that brought you more of those you want to help, not just more inquiries or more people who aren’t your target market. As you evaluate your success, think in terms of return on investment—not simply money spent, but time, as well. How can you expand on this effort during the coming year to build on your success?

3. Which marketing efforts failed to bring you desired results? Why? What went wrong?

Remember, this isn’t about banging your head against the wall. You want to identify what was a waste of time and money, and why. Maybe your concept was good, but the execution failed. Or maybe your execution was perfect, but you misunderstood your ideal client and how she would respond. Analyze your effort to figure out how you missed your target, what’s worth refining and repeating, and what to avoid in 2013.

4. How has your understanding of your work evolved? Is that reflected in your marketing messaging? Do you need to make refinements?

The more clients you help, the more you develop and refine your sense of your own capabilities and what you do best. Take some time to pat yourself on the back, note down your strengths and the words your best clients have used to describe you and how you’ve improved their lives. Look over your web content and other marketing materials to assess whether your content accurately reflects the true nature of your work—from your ideal client’s point of view—and your true abilities. Then make any necessary refinements.

5. Of all the marketing initiatives you tried this year, which one did you enjoy the most? Why?

Chances are that the marketing you enjoyed the most, you did the best. Maybe you discovered a passion for blogging, or you love the challenge of maximizing ROI from a Google AdWords campaign. Perhaps you found that you have a skill for teaching through workshops or webinars. Or maybe you’ve met some of your best customers by shmoozing in professional networking meetings or by helping others through LinkedIn forums.

We all thrive when we’re playing to our strengths. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new approaches that push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s always a good idea to make the most of the strategies you really enjoy. Not only will you excel at what you love, but you’ll learn more about yourself and new directions for your business.

As we enter 2013, use what you’ve learned from this exercise to plan for an even better, more successful year of promoting your great work. Good luck and best wishes for a prosperous, 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.

Want Your Message to Get Attention? Think Like a Telegraph Operator

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I finally got to see Lincoln this weekend, Steven Spielberg’s stunning portrayal of the President’s battle to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery. Among the film’s most powerful scenes, there are several moments when all action pauses for a telegraph transmission. Tension mounts as the telegraph receives a string of Morse Code beeps and the critical news is translated—the outcome of a key battle, the House vote on the Amendment’s fate.

We take instantaneous messaging for granted today. But during the Civil War, the telegraph had only been in use for some 20 years; Western Union had just laid the first transcontinental telegraph cable in 1861. Operators needed be proficient in Morse Code, the series of dots and dashes, transmitted as short beeps and long beeps, that represent each letter of the alphabet.

Messages were short, focused and aimed at a very specific audience, then communicated in person or hand-carried to the intended recipient. And for those reasons, quite effective.

Except for the medium, not so different from effective messaging today.

Here are a few lessons about messaging we can all learn from the days of the telegraph:

  1. Know your audience. It’s easy to send out any kind of message into cyberspace. But if you’re not clear about whom your trying to reach and what they care about—what information they would stop in their tracks to discover—chances are good no one will pay any attention.
  2. Convey your message in a way your audience understands. In the 19th century, not everyone knew Morse Code; they needed an operator who could translate telegraph transmissions. With the Internet, you can write anything you want and put it online, publish it via emails, your blog and other social media. But if you’re using lingo or a language style that the people you want to reach don’t share, your message will be dismissed as unintelligible beeps.
  3. Keep it focused. Whether by telegraph or Internet, short, simple and clear add up to a memorable message that sticks.
  4. Time your message to arrive when people are looking for the information you want to provide. There are cycles in every business. Everyone’s looking for bargains right now before the holidays. After New Year’s, people look for ways to fulfill their resolutions to lose weight and get fit. In January and February, people in cold climates begin to plan for vacations in warmer ones. These are the obvious cycles. Whatever messaging you do, understand when those you want to help need it most, and set your schedule accordingly.

Bottom line: Our technology certainly has evolved, but the essence of human communication hasn’t.

End of transmission.

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.

How to Be Yourself and Stop Hiding Behind Your Website Content

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

I read a lot of websites. Market research for clients, competitor analysis, my own information search—it all adds up to a lot of words on screen. And quite frankly, much of it is, well, garbage, to be polite.

It’s not that the content isn’t informative. It’s not that it doesn’t answer my questions. It’s just hard to read. And I’m not talking about lack of good grammar, though there’s plenty of reason to gripe about that.

Don’t Sound Like a Robot
What bothers me most about many web sites, especially sites for professional services, is that they seem to be written by automatons. The language is stiff, formal, like content you’d find in a term paper. In an effort to sound professional, the writer comes off sounding aloof—not someone I’d want to spend time with.

It’s a pitfall in all forms of business writing—using complicated sentences and big words to sound intelligent. But really, what we all want is to deal with a warm-blooded person on the other end of the website, someone we can identify with, someone we’d enjoy meeting over a cup of coffee for a good conversation and help solving a problem.

Keep It Conversational
I know how hard it is just to be yourself online. It’s natural to feel vulnerable when you put yourself out there. We all need boundaries to protect our privacy, especially on the Internet.

At the same time, to connect with your ideal client, you really need to push past any urge to spiff up your web content with lots of long phrases, fancy terms and—please, no—business jargon. No one really talks like that unless she’s trying too hard to impress. And it shows.

So here are a few ways to keep your web content down-to-earth and personal:

  1. Choose strong nouns and active verbs. They always beat overwrought vocabulary and circuitous sentence structure, no matter what the genre. It’s fine to use unusual, interesting words—as long as your target audience speaks that way, too.
  2. Use the second person, you, to speak directly to your audience, as you would in a conversation. Don’t feel you need to use third person he/she/they to be polite or more appropriate. That will only distance you from your reader.
  3. Capture your natural voice in your writing. How would you explain this topic to a good friend? That’s the tone you want to emulate online. The best way to test your content for conversational tone is to read it out loud when you’re through writing. If you hesitate because the sentences are confusing, get stuck on pronouncing big words or get bored listening to yourself, it’s time to revise.
  4. Anticipate your reader’s questions and answer them in a logical sequence. This achieves two goals: Your copy will be easy to read, and your reader will feel understood and keep reading.
  5. Avoid foul language. This is an exception to the point about capturing your natural voice—if you tend to curse a lot, that’s your business, but it doesn’t belong on your professional website. Even today when just about anything goes, many readers will be turned off by words that get bleeped on most TV shows. Occasionally, cursing in context can be very effective, but it should be used with full intention, not carelessly.

For more suggestions on how to write web copy that works, check out this post: Five Reasons Why Your Website Content Isn’t Working—and How to Fix It.

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.

 

10 Things You Should Know About Your Ideal Client

Monday, July 9th, 2012

To have an effective marketing strategy, you need to know whom you’re selling to. That seems pretty obvious, but it’s a step all too often missed when we have a product or service we think is really great and put all our effort into talking it up, rather than communicating from the point of view of those we hope to attract.

For a website to work, you need content that solves a problem or answers a pressing question for your ideal client. It’s all about providing useful information that she’s already seeking.

To Understand Your Ideal Client, Get Inside Her Head
So, how do you know what your ideal client wants? Even before doing surveys, focus groups or other research, the first step is to get a clear handle on whom you want to sell to. Here are 10 basic questions (and related details) to ask yourself about your ideal client. You can draw on what you know of your existing client base or imagine whom you’d really like to attract to your business.

Some of these may require you to stretch your imagination, but if you work through this exercise, you’ll have a much better sense of the kind of person you’re actually trying to reach:

  1. How old is your ideal client? What gender? Ethnicity? (For the sake of simplicity, I’m using female pronouns here.)
  2. Is she employed? What’s her annual income?
  3. What’s the highest level of education she’s completed?
  4. What’s her relationship status?
  5. Does she have children? How old? What kind of school do they attend?
  6. What’s her life style? Does she walk, drive or use public transit to get around? If she drives, what kind of car? What kind of home and community does she live in? Where does she buy her clothes? What community organizations doe she volunteer for, if any? What does she do for a vacation? Is she involved in a religious community? Politics?
  7. What does she do for fun?
  8. What’s her news source? What books and magazines does she read? What blogs does she follow?
  9. Is she active on Facebook? Twitter? Other social media? Or does she find the idea of social networking online a waste of time, intimidating or an invasion of privacy?
  10. What wakes her up in the middle of the night? What’s the biggest challenge she’s facing right now?

Your answers will help you to develop an avatar of your ideal client. You can even go so far as to give her a name and find a picture in a magazine that fits her description, to help you visualize.

Keep this profile front and center in your mind whenever you’re developing a new marketing strategy or writing new content for your website or blog. If you can really get inside your ideal client’s head, you’ll better understand her motivations, what’s driving her to seek out your help through your business—and how you can better provide the solutions she needs.

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.

Boost Your Website’s Search with Branded URLs

Monday, June 18th, 2012

An easy way to increase the chances that your website will be found is to brand each page’s URL—the address line that shows up when you click on that page—with keywords relevant to your business.

It’s a step that often gets missed, because web content management systems (CMS) generate URLs automatically, based on the title for each page. With some systems, when you click on a page within the site, you’ll see your website url followed by a slash and a series of numbers, letters and symbols in the address line; in other systems, you’ll typically see your url followed by the title of the page, say “About,” like this: www.yourwebsite.com/about.

But you can make your page urls work harder for you by customizing those addresses to boost search. For example, let’s say you’re a CPA who specializes in tax returns for small businesses. You’ve done some basic keyword research using Google’s free keyword tool and learned a few interesting facts:

Identify Relevant Keywords with Robust Search
The phrase you think people search on, “small business tax accountant,” has a lot of AdWords competition (which means that a lot of CPAs are buying Google ads using that phrase because they think it’s relevant), but surprisingly little actual search—about 390 searches in the U.S. per month!

As you look down the list of related keywords, however, you notice that “accounting for small business” has 40,500 searches nationwide per month. (It’s also a competitive phrase for AdWords, but you don’t need to worry about that for branding your URLs.) And you see that “cpa tax accountant” gets some decent search. You also discover that “small business tax” gets good search, about 33,100 searches nationwide each month, as does “tax savings.”

Integrate Your Best Search Phrases into Your Page Addresses
So, now it’s time to put those phrases to work for your website. Let’s assume your business is called Acme Accounting, so your url is acmeaccounting.com, and you have four basic pages for your website: homepage, about (your bio/credentials), professional services and contact. You want to include your name, Jane Doe, in your branding, because people may search for you by name instead of your business monicker. You also want to include your geographic location, because many people search for local services. For this example, let’s use Worcester, Massachusetts.

Here’s how I would set up the URLs, using the best keywords we’ve identified, above:

  • Homepage: www.acmeaccounting.com
  • About: www.acmeaccounting.com/about-jane-doe-cpa-tax-accountant-worcester-massachusetts
  • Professional Services: www.acmeaccounting.com/jane-doe-cpa-accounting-for-small-businesses-central-massachusetts
  • Contact: www.acmeaccounting.com/contact-jane-doe-cpa-small-business-tax-savings

You can have your web developer customize your URLs for you, or, if you have a user-friendly CMS like WordPress, you can easily set up these branded addresses yourself. In the user interface for each page, you’ll see a line below the page’s title called “Permalink.” Click on the Edit button, and you’ll be able to add your custom url extension for your page.

As you can see, your page addresses are now working much harder for search phrases relevant to your business. In addition, never take search phrases for granted: always check a keyword tool to see how your target audience looks for your line of work. The results, as noted above, are often surprising and always helpful for sharpening your marketing strategy.

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.