Effective Copywriting for Web 2.0

I recently read a magazine article describing the profession of copywriting as “sexy.” After giggling for half a second, it dawned on me that “sexy” was just the right word to use. Copywriters, through the power of the written word, are responsible for “seducing” their audience. They have the fun, yet daunting, task of generating interest and then developing that interest to lead to some sort of fruitful relationship, not unlike the dating world. And, just like the dating game, the rules have changed.

The more information that technology makes readily available to consumers, the less time these consumers have to spend on any one particular product, service or idea. The attention span of the average web user has steadily decreased as the barrage of online information continues to overwhelm human senses. With this in mind, the web copywriter must truly embrace the concept of “less is more.” Relevance and credibility are still important principles to keep in mind when writing content, but Web 2.0 consumers now want relevance and credibility…in cliff notes format. A great example of this trend is the micro-blogging phenom, Twitter. Twitter’s popularity and success is a smack-in-the-face realization that web users’ tolerance for information has been Mini-Me-ed down to 140 characters!

With that said, here are some key guidelines for downsizing a seven-course meal of content into a snack-size bar without losing the essentials:

1. Listen to data: Conduct A/B testing on different versions of headlines to determine which works best.
2. Waste not, fluff not: Don’t make claims you can’t support. Consumers can smell a phony sales pitch a mile away!
3. Forget “short and sweet”: Just keep it short. Jargon, hype, gimmicks are all unnecessary sugar-coating. Give them what they want to know.
4. Know your audience: This one seems obvious, but is worth repeating. Write copy that speaks in a voice that your target market, not only understands, but listens to.
5. Format for easy reading: Use headlines, sub headlines, short paragraphs, lists, and an eighth-grade reading level. Have your 13-year-old read the copy. If he/she doesn’t “get it” by the time their attention is lost to a new YouTube video, it’s time to rewrite!

Results are in for Cyber Monday 2009

What’s the Big Deal?

With the post-Thanksgiving excitement of Black Friday, do you ever wonder how Cyber Monday sales compare to its popular counterpart? First of all, some consumers may not even be familiar with the term, as it was recently coined in 2005. For online shopping enthusiasts, Cyber Monday refers to the first Monday after Black Friday. During this time, retailers scramble to entice shoppers with a hungry appetite for deals. Although critics have slammed this virtual holiday as an overrated marketing gimmick, retailers can’t complain about the increase in sales that they’ve been experiencing.

Shopping Insights

– At first glance, the fervor created by Cyber Monday may seem too good to be true. Upon closer inspection, hardcore shoppers may be totally disappointed. Really, how good of a deal is free shipping or 10% off your overall purchase? Some criticize retailers for luring buyers in, but offering no real deals.
– Have you ever wondered what your productive workers are really doing? Research shows that about 57% of online purchases were made from the workplace!
– With so much internet traffic, online criminals are preying on easy targets. Here are some helpful tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of these increased cyber crimes.

A Takeoff That’s Soon to Level Off?

According to analysis of 2009’s Cyber Monday, research shows that sales were up almost 14% from last year. Consumer demand seems to be thriving and retailers are just as willing to take advantage of the situation. Although these numbers are awesome in the short-term, opponents question the effectiveness of this so-called holiday in the long-run. Some retailers may even be diluting the anticipation of their Cyber Monday sales by offering deals during November and even extending promotions until December. It’s only a matter of time before we can accurately assess the staying power of Cyber Monday. For now, feel free to browse but think twice before you make that purchase!

Twitter for Customer Service Success

Do What Now?

From shameless self-promotion to broadcasting tweets about everyday things, there is no doubt Twitter is a place to be social. But, what about turning to Twitter as a way to promote good customer service? This is exactly what some companies, like Best Buy, are doing as a way to extend their customer service efforts. It may sound silly or confusing but in the end, it makes sense. Twitter and other social media platforms are attracting your customers, so why would you ignore this segment? With a team of technology pros, Best Buy’s Twelpforce is readily available to assist consumers with any questions and give advice that can help them with pending decisions. Best Buy has even invested in numerous TV spots to help spread the word of their Twelpforce.

Strengthening Your Weak Areas

Some commend Best Buy for their breakthrough marketing and customer service efforts, as they will surely set an example for others to follow. But this idea did not arise from nowhere, as Best Buy has been lacking in the customer service department in the past. Just Google “Best Buy customer service” and you won’t be surprised to find these gems: “Best Buy, worst customer service”, “Best Buy Customer Service is a Joke!”, “Best Buy Embraces the Suck” and more. This is not what any company or individual wants to hear. By utilizing new social media potential to create powerful tactics, Best Buy has found an effective way to strengthen their weaknesses.

A New Trend for 2010

According to the Harvard Business blog, customer service via Twitter is a trend to look out for in 2010. It’s a mutually beneficial plan as businesses will benefit from a cost effective measure that will leave their customers happy when they get the help that they need. Additionally, Best Buy’s Twelpforce is a unique way to build their brand. Their Twitter account is decked out in the signature blue and yellow with a sea of smiling employees. If that isn’t an image that a successful corporation wants to convey, I don’t know what is! Although the Twelpforce is not yet a year old, I think that Best Buy is taking a step in the right direction when it comes to nurturing passionate employees and gaining loyal customers.

Tweet for Tat

Social Media” are the buzz words of 2009. What used to be the online playground of undergrads pulling all-nighters in their college dorms, has now turned into a marketing phenomenon for Fortune 500 companies and start-ups alike.

However, what a lot of professionals with decades of marketing experience tend to forget when dealing with social media platforms is that they are “SOCIAL” media platforms – arenas to engage other users and build relationships. Meaning, you can’t create an account on Twitter, sign in once a month, and expect to see results. Remember, it takes two to tango, and posting tweets for your business without bothering to read, follow and interact with other users is tantamount to lecturing your teenagers while they’re playing Guitar Hero World Tour on Wii. Futile.

According to a study conducted by MarketingSherpa research, nearly two-thirds of marketers do not monitor their social media accounts. Think of all the missed opportunities to join conversations, learn what potential clients (or competitors) are saying, and to just get the word out there that your company exists! Behave in social media communities the way you would normally behave in live, face-to-face interactions: be interesting, don’t talk only about yourself, ask questions, be a source of useful information, have a genuine interest.

Not only will your fellow Twitterers appreciate the valuable content you contribute and feedback you provide, but you’ll soon find that your company is well on its way to achieving its social media marketing goals.

Simple Steps to Ensure Your Website is SEO-Friendly

If you’re like me, easily influenced by pretty shiny things that flash in my general direction, then you may be designing your website with aesthetics as your number one priority. That’s all well and good if you’re an established fashion label with ten years of Vogue and Vanity Fair creds. But, chances are, potential clients will be depending on search engines to find the type of services or products your company offers, without knowing that your exact company exists. Following these simple tips when building your website can lead to a more SEO-friendly design, giving you the search engine ranking and exposure your company needs to be on its way to becoming a household name.

Tip #1: Age Matters
Search engines want to “see” commitment. Websites that have been in existence for 5 years as opposed to 5 weeks will rank higher. When your website shows longevity, a search engine will consider it as a trusted and authoritative source.

Tip #2: Title Tags are Golden
Don’t make the mistake of titling your web pages with inside jokes only your frat brothers would know, or using overly simple titles like “My Website Page 2.” While this may make your life easier or more comical, it does zilch for search engines when they crawl your site for content. Use your most competitive keywords in your pages’ title tags, as they are the most important pieces of text on your website for SEO purposes.

Tip #3: The Pen (or QWERTY Keyboard) is Mightier than the Sword
You can toss out the notion that “a picture is worth a thousand words” because in the world of SEO, a picture is about as valuable as Enron stock. Rather than focusing on graphics, make sure that your homepage includes searchable content. If you plan on linking to other pages from your homepage, use text links rather than hyperlinks contained within an image. When search engines read a link that uses text (e.g. “Bulldog Puppies For Sale”) and it actually links to a page that has relevant content in the text of the title/URL/header and body copy, this builds your site’s “trustworthiness” and “authority” status putting you on the search engine’s honor roll.

Comparing Facebook Groups and Pages

The Facebook Fundamentals

Establishing your presence on Facebook is an important task whether you are promoting yourself or your business. Some may find that the process is not that straightforward. The first obstacle you will encounter is deciding whether to create a Group or a Page. For some businesses, choosing both is a possibility. So, before you put your time and effort in maintaining your new social media profiles, take some time to consider the pros and cons of each:

Facebook Groups

An easy way to think about Facebook Groups is that they are like any other group or club. A group administrator is in charge of providing members with information, news about events, and more. Other members can also be appointed to help facilitate information. Establishing a group is a great way to gain quick attention for a cause or event.

Pros
+ Good for hosting discussions
+ Communicate directly with members
+ Promote with ads
+ Create events and send reminders
+ Privacy controls (public, private, or closed)
Cons
– Not given any weight by search engines
– Unattractive URL
– No visitor information
– Limited to 5,000 members

Facebook Pages

In some ways, Facebook Pages are more informal than groups. There is no public administrator and users are called “fans”. With Pages, there are more options to track visitor information. Facebook pages are similar to normal Facebook profiles. But instead of a person, these pages are designated to represent a brand or celebrity. Some businesses opt for a Facebook Page to maintain a long-term relationship with fans.

Pros
+ Vanity URL
+ Good for hosting discussions
+ Communicate directly with members
+ Indexed by search engines
+ Ability to extend your SEO efforts
+ Can have over 5,000 fans
Cons
– Cannot send reminders for events
– No privacy controls, everything is public

Making Your Decision

Hopefully, some of these points have helped clear up any confusion. Experts generally agree that Facebook Groups are better for organizing users around a cause or upcoming event. Facebook Pages are useful for a company or celebrity to strengthen their online brand presence. Some argue that users feel more active as a Group member than an observing fan of a Facebook Page. Search marketers usually prefer using Pages because of their advantages in user statistics, while others may use a combination of both.

Customize your Google News Home Page

Customs Sections Directory

Google News has recently made it possible for you to customize your Google News home page! They have created a Custom Sections Directory, which can be modified and changed by its user. Simply click on the “Add a section” link on the far right side of your Google News page and you will be relocated to your custom sections directory where you can begin making modifications.

How to Customize to your Interests

The directory includes various sections to choose from such as “Social Networking,” “Computer Security,” “US Foreign Policy,” etc. By adding particular sections you find interesting, your Google News page will become more personalized to you and your interests. The custom sections directory also allows you to sort by: highest rated, most users, and newest. Starting there can give you a sense of what other users are finding to be of interest. If you wish to browse the directory according to category, this is possible as well! Simply click on the category of your choice and find exactly what you are looking for. The categories include: business, science, technology, sports, entertainment, health, politics, and society. Within these categories are sub-categories so that you are able to narrow your preference down to specifics. Also offered is keyword search. If you wish to create your own customs section or sections this is also possible! Simply enter your city, state and zip code to create a local section or enter a keyword and they will be added to the public directory.

News Worth Reading

After you have completed customizing your Google News home page, the sections you have requested to add will be visible as links on the left-side menu. They will also appear on the bottom of your Google News home page. Customize your Google News home page today and enjoy the convenience of reading about what you want!

Competition Among Top Search Engines

Google Dominates

Google continues to dominate as the top search engine in the United States. While a select few reign over the search engine industry, there is a great range between the top three largest companies. As of September 2009, about 70.5% of users use Google, 17% used Yahoo! and 9.3% sided with Bing. With such discrepancies, the number two and three search engines are losing a great deal of market share to the Google giant. In the past, Google and Microsoft have been fiercely competitive. From competing web browsers to applications, Microsoft has jumped directly into Google’s game with the unveiling of their new search engine in summer of 2009.

Does Bing Size Up?

The commercials seem promising, but does Bing really size up to Google? Formerly Windows Live Search and MSN Search, the new search engine has boldly labeled themselves as the “decision engine”. Some experts believe that Bing is a great improvement from what it used to be, and that it has the potential to threaten Google’s success. While the size of that threat is arguable, Bing offers relevant results that are competitive to those of Google. Another obstacle for Bing to overcome is attempting to win over loyal Google users. Bing is relatively young to Google and time will tell whether or not their technology and measurable marketing efforts will pay off.

New Competitors

Although Google is all we hear about when it comes to search engines, the market outside of the United States is drastically different. For example, did you know that AltaVista is the number one preferred search engine in Canada? The Swiss prefer Abacho, while China is no stranger to altogether banning access to Google. Google is great at recognizing competitors and making valuable additions to their company. Did you know that Google acquired Google Earth from a smaller company in 2004? New technology is emerging all the time and Google is definitely keeping their eyes peeled for new competitors.

Making Use of Local Search Results

Local Search Marketing

Increasing advances and improvements have made local search engine results more relevant than ever. When you’re browsing online for restaurants or hot shopping spots, you want results that are relevant to your geographical location. Google recognizes consumer demand for this relevancy and is working hard to become more local. With that being said, it would be foolish for businesses to downplay the importance of local search. A focus on your local search efforts means taking a close look at your campaign in specific geographical locations. As a small business owner, your recognition on the Internet relies on how well you do in local search results. Even on a nationwide level, a corporation, such as World Gym, can greatly benefit from ranking higher on local search results.

Improving Your Results

There are simple steps that you can take to improve your local search results. First, take advantage of free local Yahoo! and Yellow Pages business listings. You can make sure that your business is listed in other local business directories and listings from your local Chamber of Commerce. When it comes to keeping your website updated, always make sure to include your address and local telephone number, along with an 800 number. This way, customers and search engine results can easily tell exactly where you’re located. Local SEO efforts will also be appreciated in the long run. It can be as simple as adding your city to title pages and including in keywords and while link building.

What the Future Holds

Local search will only get more accurate with time. Earlier this year, Google has even begun to add pictures to their local search result pages. While this will help put local businesses on the map, it means This means that businesses will have another task of monitoring their activity on local search results and websites. If that’s not enough for you to keep up with, there’s much more. Twitter’s search engine allows users to search in real time. When local search is integrated with real time technology, who knows what the future holds!

Small Businesses Benefit from Facebook

How to Take Advantage

Large corporations may have a bigger brand presence on social media sites but that doesn’t mean that small businesses cannot also benefit. Setting up a Facebook page for your business is a cost effective way to keep up with the latest customer trends. Facebook is an easy to use forum which allows customers easy access to upcoming news or events. Additionally, creating a strong online presence can help you rank better in search engine results and bring more relevant traffic to your site. An example of a small business that uses Facebook to its maximum potential is the Beverly Hills based Sprinkles Cupcakes. Founder Charles Nelson relies on building buzz through the Sprinkles Facebook page instead of traditional paid marketing efforts.

Stay Connected with Your Fans

Sprinkles uses Facebook to create a unique and engaging
relationship with their fans. They have even come up with a fun code system which gives the first customers with the secret phrase of the day the opportunity to get free treats! This is a great way to build word of mouth advertising, as well as bring customers to the store. A part of social networking sites is being just that, “social” – and being active can help small businesses succeed in this area. The key is to engage customers by providing help and insight or offering incentives and other promotions. By having a Facebook page, you can monitor the good and bad that is being said about your business. This is better than knowing nothing at all about how your company is perceived. It is even an effective tool that will give you the opportunity to fix those problems.

Using Other User-Friendly Sites

Local references and review sites are popular amongst customers who are looking to try new things. Yelp and Yahoo! Local Listings are perfect examples of these popular sites. Although there are many social networking sites out there, it is important to practice restraint and don’t overdo your efforts. Like any other investment, it takes patience to see a return on your hard work. Whether it is Facebook or any of these other sites, the key to strong staying power is steady maintenance of your page. It is foolish to put in numerous hours one day and then completely stop your efforts. Instead,  view it as a long-term project and set aside a couple minutes every other day to monitor your growth.