Saturday, October 22, 2005

What can a good copywriter do for your online business?

Sometimes you see something on the web that infuriates you.

I did when I saw a blog post from Bob Bly, who has written a number of books about copywriting, titled Why I Don't Believe in SEO Copywriting. In that post, he recommends that if you are going to write copy for a web site page, that you write it first as if it were a stand-alone document, and then you stuff the keywords in the appropriate places, if it really must be ruined by a need to be found by search engines.

I wrote a response there, which I'm going to reproduce here:

I think that your definition of SEO copywriting shows that you don?t really understand SEO. The primary focus is the audience. Search engines are just the way that they arrive on a site, at least if you are good enough at SEO copywriting.

There are a lot of writers on the web who fail to see the framework within which they work. Good writing doesn?t exist in a vacuum. It anticipates not only who the audience is, but how they will get to your site, which path they will follow to the page, whether or not they have other browser windows open, and if they will arrive at a site through the home page, or be delivered, as most people are, to an interior page by a search engine.

When you fail to consider which words an anticipated audience expects to see upon a site, and when you ignore conducting research that can help you use search engines to pull people to a site?s pages, you're sabotaging your own efforts, and potentially harming your clients.

I understand that Bob Bly has a reputation as a fine copywriter, and has written a number of very well received books on the subject. So it surprised me a little to see his words. Then I recalled looking around the shelves of my local Borders at books on copywriting, and picking up his book on "Online Copywriting" and being very disappointed that he didn't seem to have any knowledge of things such as the way people look at web pages, scan text, juggle multiple windows, and often enter sites somewhere in the middle of the site rather than at the front page.

I believe that book has been out a couple of years now, and I suspect that more than a couple of people have read through it hoping to get an idea of how to write for web sites. So, it comes as no surprise to read about the experience the Jeremy Zawodny, from Yahoo! had recently when speaking about search engines to a group from the Direct Marketers Association, in his post, Future On-Line Advertising Growth, based on DMA Conference experience:

In talking to some of the Search Engine Marketing folks that were in sessions on Saturday, I discovered that the vast majority of DMA folks are very, very, very new to Search Marketing. I'd go so far as to say many of them are incredibly clueless about the process, benefits, costs, etc.

I suspect that Rand is spot on in his assessment of how folks outside of SEO might view how search engine marketing works in a post of his today on Mainstream Press and SEO.

Back to Bob Bly's view on the differences between writing copy, and writing SEO copy. He claims that you can only focus upon one audience, and it should be the people reading the pages. If you try to also write for search engines, then your copy loses focus. I can't even begin to agree.

Search engines do not read web pages, they index them. They are not an audience, but rather part of the framework in which you write.

Search engines can help deliver people to those pages that you want your audience to read, and if you can't consider them when you write, then you should stay away from writing for the web. There's a nice recent grokdotcom article that can help you find someone who can write that copy for you: A Persuasive Online Copywriter is Worth More

A look at the man behind Teoma

I remember a few years back hearing about a search engine startup in New Jersey, of all places, created by a professor of mathematics at Rutgers University.

The search engine had the odd name Teoma, and didn't jump out at capture public attention in quite the manner that Google had a few years earlier. But, it was good enough to capture the attention of the folks at Ask Jeeves, who ended up purchasing it, and using it to power their search results.

There's an nice article about the man behind Teoma at David vs. Google. If you are interested in the personalities behind some of the best technology on the web, this is a good place to look.

(via SEO Book)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

IM Merger between Yahoo! and MSN a Great Idea

It doesn't sound like the IM programs that Yahoo! and MSN provide will look any different in the near future. But they will change.

An announcement from both companies tells us that Microsoft and Yahoo will link IM networks.

I use IM everyday at work. It's a useful way to communicate some ideas quickly, and a great way to share URLs with others. It's not the perfect communication tool, but it has its moments.

This "merger" will mean that people on the IM clients from Yahoo! and from MSN will be able to see and interact with each other.

I use the Yahoo! IM program at work, and communicate with some folks on the MSN network at home. The linking of the two networks makes life a little easier.

Measuring Blog Traffic Made Easier

I've signed up to get an invite to tryout a new program from the people at Adaptive Path.

It's a program that helps you discover more about the traffic to your blog. It's described in a blog post by Jeffrey Veen: Welcome to Measure Map.

The screenshot looks like a lot of fun. If I get a chance to try it out, I'll provide more details.

Objectives and Strategies in Web Design

A couple of questions that may not get asked enough when a site is designed, or when it is looked at to make it friendlier to visitors or search engines:

What are the objectives behind your web site?

What strategy will you use to meet those objectives.

Greg Storey, from Airbag Industries, describes a situation that I've seen a few times before, in Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia (or Build a Website for No Reason).

If you have a web site, can you describe your site's objectives in a sentence or two? Your strategy in a paragraph? If not, you might want to try harder. It can help.

Web Design Mistakes for 2005

There aren't a lot of surprises in Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005.

I don't agree completely with everything written in the article, but following most of the ideas listed can help a site become more usable to visitors. A set of ten guidelines isn't the answer to every usability problem. But, if you haven't seen these before, they are worth thinking about.

Using Flash

Sometimes, just sometimes, Flash is the best way to show off the subject of a web site. Case in point, the Corpse Bride.

Fun stuff.

Which States are the Best and Worst for Small Business?

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council issued their rankings on State's policies toward entrepreneurship.

Ranging from Nice to Nasty - How States Treat Entrepreneurship

The nicest States?

South Dakota

The Nastiest?

District of Columbia

The column provides a number of insightful thoughts on why some States rank so poorly.