Monthly Archives: March 2008

Give as good as you get…

..or to put it another way, you’ll get as good as you give. When it comes to hiring a copywriter – or any other professional for that matter – a good brief is vital. Here are some things you should take into account when building a brief for a copywriter.

Building a better copywriting brief

Copywriters aren’t clairvoyants. They may get a sense of what you want when they speak to you but their interpretation of your needs may not be accurate. That’s why you need a good brief. It’s also why your copywriting will only be as good as the brief. So what makes a good brief? There are several things that you should include:

  • Market research – if you’ve got it. The copywriter needs to know for whom she, or he, is writing. What are the demographics of your target audience?
  • What are the features and benefits of your products or services? (For more on this see my free article From feature to benefit)
  • What is your unique selling point (also known as a USP)? In other words why should people buy your product rather than someone else’s?
  • What is the tone of the communication you are planning? Professional, funky, techy etc.
  • Do you want it written from scratch or do you have a draft you want the copywriter to work from?
  • Do you already have a design in mind? If so what are the word and layout limitations the copywriter must work to?
  • Are there any existing promotional materials that the copywriter should see? This is particularly important if you want the new work to fit in with previous material.

This list isn’t exhaustive and every project is different but it should give you a feel for what you need to get started with your copywriter.

There is such a thing as a free lunch…

Well, not lunch exactly, but free copywriting? Definitely! For those of you who haven’t got the funds for a professional copywriter there is a new site where you can get generic, free copywriting for your business.

So why am I spruiking it?

The copywriting market is huge! There is room in it for all levels of professionalism and price. One of my aims in this blog is to help people who are starting off in business and who can’t afford a copywriter. [When their businesses are doing well, hopefully they’ll remember their friends! :o)]

Where to get free copywriting

Professional copywriters – myself included – have donated their work for use free of charge. You can find this goldmine at www.freecopywriting.com. The site is new and over the next few months the contributing copywriters will add more and more copy, making this one helluva a resource. So check it out!

I’m no economist but…

As I said, I’m no economist so there may be a very good reason why this wouldn’t work but I have a suggestion to make to Prime Minister Rudd and Treasurer Swan…

Why not cut petrol excise/tax instead of giving income tax cuts?

Everyone keeps saying how income tax cuts are inflationary; they also tell us that inflation is being fuelled (forgive the pun) by petrol prices which result in increased food prices, increased travel costs etc., etc. So why not cut the taxes on petrol instead of on income? That will make everyone’s money go further without resulting in higher prices which will push up inflation. And if inflation is held in check then interest rates won’t need to be increased.

Is there a good reason why this wouldn’t work?

I’m really interested to know if there is a reason this can’t be done or if someone thinks there is a reason why it wouldn’t work. I maybe naive but I can’t think of one

Word walking – thinking out loud one word at a time

I was just thinking about creativity and how people foster it, encourage it etc., etc. And how in this instantaneous communication age ideas travel at the speed of light. And then I remembered the joke.

How fast can joke travel?

Years ago when I was at uni I made up a joke. It’s so long ago I can’t even remember it now but it had some very specific elements to it. I told the joke to some friends at a dinner party and then forgot all about it. I moved to Australia and about 2 years later someone in Australia told me my own joke! I was staggered. I remember it was the same in all the specifics so it was unlikely someone else had come up with the same ideas – not impossible of course, but unlikely. And I wondered about all the steps it had passed through to travel 13,000 miles and 2 years to come back to me like the proverbial boomerang. Wouldn’t be a bad device for a story. Maybe I’ll get round to it one day…

What about today?

If it took the joke two years all those years ago how much quicker now with instant messengers, voip, email and blogs? Does anyone know? Has anyone tried it? If I become super creative and think up one I’ll try it out and let you know.

seo is not an add-on

Many businesses contract for a website, get their copy written by the sales force and then wonder why they don’t get many visitors and, why they don’t rank in the search engines. Then some bright spark says…

We need seo!

So they either delegate someone to research it or they contract an seo company to do it for them. But this is putting the cart before the horse (to use a pre-tech age metaphor) because the next step will be  – “what keywords do we need?”.  Then large amounts of energy, time and money will be poured into extracting the most popular keywords. Trust me, you really don’t want that! Why?

Do you really want thousands of unqualified leads?

Of course you don’t. But if you just go with the most popular keywords then that’s what you’ll get. Seo is your chance to select your web visitors based on their needs matching your offering. This is a golden opportunity to find qualified leads. Don’t squander it!

Make seo an integral part of your marketing and sales planning

Presumably you conduct market research for other, non-web promotions so why not use what you’ve learnt about your potential customers to craft your seo efforts to bring you qualified leads? Compile your keyword list based on your customer profile; on what they are looking for; on the needs they have that you can fulfill.

Let you customers self-select

That’s why seo isn’t add-on. Or shouldn’t be. It should be part of your overall marketing intelligence. Seo is your opportunity to let your customers self-select for relevance and a good match with your services. Don’t waste it!

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? – (Part II)

Last time we looked at the basics of images use on websites. In this post I want to look at search engine optimisation and images.

An image isn’t worth a thousand words to a search engine!

Search engines deal with words. So if your site is all images and few words you are putting yourself behind the eight ball. Search engines NEED words. They feed on words in an effort to digest your website and rank it according to its relevance for certain keywords. If your site relies too heavily on images then your search engine ranking can suffer as a result.

The marriage of images and words – how to make it harmonious

Images and words complement each other. The images engage your visitors’ attention and the words sell your product or service. In addition, the words help your potential customers to find you via the search engines. It is important that you tell your story in an engaging and interesting fashion while maintaining the correct keyword density (between 3 and 5 percent). In addition, make use of the alt tags for the images using keywords that are relevant to the image. Image naming is also important. Many visually impaired people use screen readers. “Sportscar.jpg” is much more evocative than “135009.jpg”!

Don’t fall into the keyword mania trap!

I have seen sites where the text makes no sense because it has been written with only one type of visitor in mind – the search engine robots, crawlers and spiders. This may make this site number one on Google for the keyword search and they may get thousands of visitors but do they get conversions? I know of at least one company that pays large sums of money to an seo company to produce gobbledy gook, search engine specific text, that ranks number 1. Yet when I asked them how many enquiries and conversions they got from their website it was fewer than the Yellow Pages!

Write for both types of visitors – search engines and humans!

You have to remember that you have two types of visitors. Humans who want you to speak to them and show you understand their needs and how to help them. And search engines who want to find relevant keywords and follow links. If you make life easy for both these visitors you’ll have a successful site! (Here’s the plug!) A professional seo, web content copywriter can help you satisfy both sorts of visitors.

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? (Part I)

We’ve all heard this saying and it’s certainly true that a picture has an immediacy that words struggle to match.  So much information is instantly available in a picture.

What does this mean for websites?

Does this mean you should tell your story with lots of images,  slick graphics and few words? Not necessarily. Certainly an attractive site encourages people to stick around and there’s no doubt that high quality images and cool graphics can enhance a user’s experience but it’s not all positive.

The downside of images

Too many images, images that are too large or too much Flash content can be counter productive on your website. I’ll deal with the Flash issue in another post so let’s stick to images for the moment. Too many images and images that are large increase the time it takes to load a page. These days not only are we all very busy but we’re also way more IMPATIENT than we used to be.

We’ve come to expect instaneity (is that really a word or did I make it up?). If a website takes too long to load we won’t wait around, we’ll go elsewhere . And if that happens it doesn’t matter how well your pictures tell your story or how cool your iste is there won’t be anybody there to see it! And if you think I’m teaching my grandma to suck eggs and that everyone know this, then just take a look around the web, there are plenty of sites that “image-heavy” and slow to load. And… (here’s the plug for copywriters) make sure the words on your page attract attention; tell your story clearly and get your spelling right! Nothing looks quite so tacky as a slickly designed site with misspelled words!