Warning: Neglect this key element on your new website at your peril…

If you want to hook visitors and persuade them to explore your new website, there are some essentials it must have; intuitive navigation, fast loading pages that are easy to read, dynamic design and interesting graphics.

But what’s the most fundamental element of your website and one that you simply cannot neglect?hands pointing to copy

WHY COPY?

Your website can be the most technologically innovative masterpiece.  It can look absolutely stunning.  It can offer lots of great features for visitors to play with, but…

And it’s a big BUT…

If your copy isn’t having a one-to-one chat with your visitor about your product or service, then your website is going to fail miserably in the customer engagement and retention stakes.

Moreover, your visitor is not going to hang around if you’re not keeping them interested and once they’ve clicked away, they never return.

You’ve just missed a great opportunity and lost a potential client.
 

WHO WRITES THE COPY?

When a website is being created the copy is often left to the last minute.  Now potentially, two things can happen here – and both can mean disaster.

Danger Zone #1

The designer is asked to write the copy and ends up rushing to do this before presenting the site to you at the next project meeting.

Writing is not the designer’s specialist subject.

There’s a BIG RISK that the copy won’t give the same message as your marketing plan.  Or worse, copy is taken from your printed material and put on the website – never a good idea.

And was the designer given your Style Guide, detailing your in-house writing style?

Probably not.  So you can forget consistency in language, tone, formatting etc.

Danger Zone #2

The designer is waiting for you to provide the copy.

You’re so busy, you end up emailing it the night before the meeting and it’s enough for at least three websites.

Apart from the designer having to work the nightshift, editing is another specialist area.

There’s a BIG RISK your key points and a vast amount of valuable writing will end up in the recycle bin and not on your website.

Keep in mind that web design agencies can be working on several sites at once.  If they have to wait for your copy, it screws up their work scheduling, meetings have to be cancelled and rescheduled and worst case scenario – your site misses its launch date.


WHERE’S THE COPY?

Web copy should be the cornerstone of any new website project and there should be a strong alliance between designer, developer and copywriter.

The designer needs to know how much copy is going on the site; the number of headings and subheads, bullet points to highlight specific benefits or features and what needs to be emphasized in bold or larger font size.  There can be word limits on some pages due to layout design which can mean your copy has to be drastically edited down.

The developer needs to understand how the copy has to work and flow, to be able to build in the necessary functionality.


WHAT’S GOING
WITH THE COPY?

The design team need to know the content that’s supporting your copy, for example;

  • how many images, graphs, illustrations or charts you’re using
  • is there a video clip or podcast to be embedded
  • is there a free doodah that needs to be easy for the visitor to ask for or download instantly from any page
  • are there white papers, product data sheets or other resources to be included
  • is a subscription box needed for your company newsletter

All this information is essential.


HOW TO AVOID THIS BIG RISK?

Go to that initial website design meeting
armed with your draft copy.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It can be tweaked later once you see it on the site.  Just don’t leave it to the last minute.

Writing powerful web copy takes considerable time.  It needs research and planning.  You have to get under your visitor’s skin and understand who you’re writing for and what makes them tick.  Only then can you start creating seductive copy that get’s them nodding in agreement with your words and grinning as they reach for the “I want it” button.

Copy -

  • is the lifeblood of your website
  • builds trust between you and your potential client
  • is your powerful marketing tool that can reach around the world
  • tells visitors the story behind your amazing product or service
  • screams out the Benefits and educates them on the Features
  • makes them visualize how your product/service is going to improve their lives
  • persuades people to jump up and take action
  • gives them a reason to buy what you’re offering
  • keeps them coming back for more and most importantly
  • puts your site ahead of your competitors

Neglect it at your peril…

You have been warned.

 

 PS:  A perfect example of powerful copy – the way Apple “persuades” us that we just have to trade in our few months old, hardly used iPhone 4 for an iPhone 5S…

See you in the queue at the Apple store.

 

 

Lauren Mackenzie is a freelance
web copy & business writer
at thewritevintage.com

 

 Hand image credit: flaticon.com

 

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HOW TO SEARCH – without using Google – Part 2

Did you have fun using some of the search engines I mentioned in Part 1 of this How to Search blog?

In Part 2 you’re going to learn about Meta Search Engines, Directories and The Invisible Web (no… nothing to do with Harry Potter) plus other specialist search engines.

META-SEARCH ENGINES

Meta-search engines don’t actually search web pages; they transmit your request to several different search engines and databases simultaneously, then give you the results.  These search engines are useful for broad-based research and a few focus on specific themes e.g. news feeds, health issues or trending topics.

There are dozens to choose from but these are the more popular ones:
Ixquick

Ask Jeeves

Dogpile

Yippy

Copernic

DIRECTORIES

Directories are basically huge online reference libraries and you can have your own website listed on them.

DMOZ (also known as Open Directory Project)
Owned by AOL but maintained by a community of volunteer editors, it’s organized by subject category and claims to be the largest directory on the web with over 4 million websites listed.

It’s free to get listed and your site will be reviewed by a real person.  However, the demand for listings is so great it can take months before your site appears.  It’s worth the wait though.  If accepted, you will get two heavyweight links to your site; DMOZ and Google.

To be eligible, a site must have lots of original content and a low percentage of affiliate links.

Business.com 
A powerful directory with subject categories you can search.  To list your website you have to pay a fee.

Best of the Web
One of the original web directories.  You have to pay a fee to list your site.

THE INVISIBLE WEB

The Invisible Web is a fabulous source of premium, content-rich information that general search engines can’t easily see or access.  This can be due to the page format e.g. pages generated by database software or script-based.  And some sites deliberately deny search engines access by using, for example, CAPTCHAs or login details and passwords.A Lego library

Sources include:
–    Article databases
–    University reference databases
–    Library catalogues
–    Statistics and research results
–    Government agency archives
–    Museum collections
–    Industry and Business papers

Most are free to access but some require a subscription.  The level of detail varies from an abstract or index of a document to the full text and by careful use of keywords, you can discover databases around the world.

I searched for “List Academic Databases” and found a myriad of these covering all sorts of disciplines and topics.  Another search unearthed The European Database of Libraries which offers government, commercial and academic information across Europe.

You occasionally come across “grey literature” which includes unpublished reports or research studies, although these are frequently password-protected or require a subscription to view them.

TIP:      
When searching, try adding the word “database” after your keyword.
Remember to read the User guide as you often need to use a specific query format to search the database.

THE LIBRARIANS’ INDEX 

The Librarian holding a book and coffee cup This was initially created to provide a central source of librarian-verified content accessible by the general public.  However, an updated version of this website was launched in 2010 following the merger of the IPL (Internet Public Library) and the Lii (Librarians Internet Index) websites.

Today it’s currently hosted by Drexel University College of Information Science & Technology   and a volunteer group of librarians, students and information science professionals continue to develop new content for the site.

THE VIRTUAL LIBRARY
This is one of the oldest virtual resources and was created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the Web and HTML.

 

SPECIALIST SEARCH ENGINES

Wolfram Alpha
If you need statistics, unit conversions or almost any other form of calculation try this amazing search engine.  You enter your question in the search box and it brings back a dynamically computed result.

For example, I asked it for percentages of online users by country and it brought back a heat map, graph and lots of additional information.  I then asked it to work out the energy value of my lunch– same detailed results.  It regards itself as a computational knowledge engine and not a search engine and it works by using its huge database of equations and algorithms.  You’ll have fun using this one.

Mazoom 
A search engine for smartphones.

Izik 
A search engine for tablets.

Crunchbase
Gives you information on start-up companies including business description, the people, contact details and interestingly, their competitors.

BuiltWith 
Here you can investigate the technology behind a site.  It includes information on their analytics, who hosts the site, what content management system they operate, their SEO details, advertising methods and lots more.

Search Engine Colossus
It lists search engines in over 300 countries and in foreign languages.

TIP:    
This list is just a tiny sample of the alternative search engines you can use when looking for information.
If you want to find one on your specific subject, try adding  “search engines” after your keyword.

 

Happy Searching

 Lauren Mackenzie is a freelance business writer.
email lauren@thewritevintage.com

photo credits: photopin cc

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How to Search – without using Google – Part 1

Every time you use the major search engines, Google, Yahoo or Bing, your movements are tracked.  This information is then used (mainly) in their advertising strategies. In other words, you’re targeted with adverts that mirror your search history.

Unfortunately, the way they use this information can also influence the results you get when researching a particular subject and can mean hundreds of irrelevant leads.  If, like me, you regularly need to research specific topics, there are lots of alternative ways to look for information. And the good news is many of these sites don’t track your search.

It’s worth remembering that no individual search engine, no matter how powerful it is, can give you all the possible answers available on the Internet. It only searches a small part of it. That’s why you get slightly different results if you put the same keyword into different search engines.

Lego Sherlock Holmes and Watson

 

To begin with, here are a few tips to help you improve your search technique:

• Boring I know, but when you use a new search engine for the first time, read through the user guide. You’ll find advice on how the search engine works; how to use its tools for advanced searching, if it uses ‘stop words’ lists (words like ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘a’ are often ignored by search engines), or whether you can use Boolean search commands, ‘AND’, ‘OR’ or ‘AND NOT’.

• Tell the search engine which words should and should not appear in the results by using the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols. Using these in front of keywords helps to refine your search e.g. +tea +rooibos -green. The search engine knows to look for rooibos tea but not green tea.

• To find an expression or a phrase in a specific order, use double quotation marks (“ “) e.g. “Yellow Brick Road”.

• If you only know a part of a quote, you can use these marks around the word “search”. For example, “search” never was so… – returns the famous wartime phrase by British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

• If you’re not sure how a word is spelt or you want variations on the word, use the wildcard asterisk (*) after part of your keyword. For example, sing* returns words like singing, single, singularly.

 

Okay search sleuths, let’s start searching one of my favourite pastimes…Music

Skreemr
This searches ten different sites at the same time and it claims to index over 6 million mp3 files. All you have to do is provide the performer and title. There’s a small fee to download the file.

Beemp3s
This search database holds almost 1 million mp3 files with more added daily. It only indexes legal websites and not those known to contain illegal content.

Seekasong
Great site for finding music and lyrics around the world.

Songza
You have to sign in to use this search engine. You can find music to suit your mood, whatever activity you’re doing right now or by genre. Fun site to use.

MP3Fountain
If you’re into Hip Hop then this is for you. You get 3 free tracks when you sign up then pay a small download fee for additional tracks.

Midomi
This is a wonderful site but be warned – you get addicted to it. You sing or hum a few notes and it will find the track for you. Best used with a headset microphone and it checks that it’s hearing you clearly before you start.

FindSounds
An amazing site where you can search for sounds effects and sound samples of musical instruments. Search for dolphins … it sounds like you’re in the water with them.

Want to find PDF files / Printed Books / EBooks

Search PDF
Simply type in the subject you’re researching and it will bring back hundreds of links.

PDF Geni
This is a great site as it offers you a list of searchable categories.

PDF Searcher
Bit of a hit and miss search – it gives lots of links but not always relevant.

PDF Give
Returns lots of results but the adverts drive you crazy.

Bookfinder
You can search by ISBN number, author or title and it will find books that are new, used or out-of-print.

Comic Seeker
Find your favourite old comic by title or by searching through the category list.

EBook Search
A general search engine for EBooks.

The Manuals
Fantastic site for finding ‘How to’ manuals for all sorts of equipment, household items, cars etc.
Well that’s Part 1 search sleuths and I hope you’ve found this collection interesting and helpful.


In
How to Search – without using Google – Part 2 , you’ll learn about:

• the Librarians’ Index
• meta search engines and how they work
• directories like DMOZ and why they’re so useful
• the invisible web… and lots more


And finally

Oh My God LOL!!!
If you’re in need of a laugh, put a word into this search engine and it will come up with hilarious images based on your word. I tried ‘Cup Cakes’ and found some of the funniest looking cakes that you just wouldn’t be able to eat for laughing… Enjoy

 

Lauren Mackenzie is a freelance business writer.
Email lauren@thewritevintage.com
when you need help with copywriting
or you want to chat about your next writing project.

photo credit: minifig via photopin cc

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Better …or different?

Is it about being BETTER or more about being DIFFERENT?

Watch this new Apple ad and decide for yourself…

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World Earth Day

Today is the 44th Anniversary of World Earth Day and people around the planet are taking part in a myriad of events to mark the occasion.

Many people take this world for granted, taking as much as they can from it without giving back. Millions of us try in our unique way to look after it and there are those in the middle who never give it a thought.

Whatever your viewpoint, take a moment today to reflect on how precious this world is … and how fragile.

It’s priceless.

Every one of us holds a part of it in our hands.

Let’s look after it before it’s too late.

A world globe with handles

Image: pschubert/morgueFile.com

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Happy Easter

 

H A P P Y   E A S T E R      

Easter Eggs 

How does the Easter Bunny stay in shape?
Hare-obics

What do you get when you cross a bunny with a Scottish bun?
A bonny bunny bun

What does the Easter Bunny order at a Chinese restaurant?
Hop suey

What do you call a rabbit that has fleas?
Bugs bunny

Which branch of the military do bunnies like best?
The Hare Force

What are 45 rabbits, in a row, all marching backwards called?
A receding hare line

Did you hear the story about the Easter Bunny who sat on a bee?
It’s a tender tail …

What does a bunny use to keep its ears perky?
Hare spray

What do you call a bossy French rabbit?
Napoleon Bunny-parte

What do you get when you pour hot water down a rabbit’s hole?
A hot cross bun-ny

How can you tell a rabbit’s age?
By the grey hares

A rabbit that’s a stand-up comedian is called what?
A funny bunny

How many chocolate bunnies can you put into an empty Easter basket?
One … after that it’s not empty …

What comes at the end of Easter?
The letter R

 easter bunny door wreath

 

Jokes from http://www.brownielocks.com
Images – http://www.magnoliaprep.blogspot.com

                                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Big Knit … cast off

The Big Knit is finished.

If you read my earlier blog The Big Knit, you’ll know the story behind this.

Gorgeous middle daughter is now the happy warm wearer of a long Aran, complete with a headband to keep her ears cozy and fingerless pockies to keep her hands toasty.

Natural Aran long sleeved V-neck jumper

 

Aran pockies n headband

 

… and a mini Aran to keep her mug of coffee steaming hot.

Aran tie on mug cozy

 

 

 

 

 

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So you think you’re an effective creative with extensive experience … funny that … so do 249 million others

For the fourth year running, LinkedIn has released its list of the most hackneyed words used in its member profiles. With a membership database of over 250 million users worldwide, it has gathered very powerful data on how we identify ourselves; how we make ourselves stand out from the crowd and how we describe our accomplishments and skills.

For the past two years, top of the list was “creative”. This replaced “extensive experience” which took the top slot in 2010.

Here’s the current listing, taken from worldwide LinkedIn profiles:

Responsible
Strategic
Creative
Effective
Patient
Expert
Organizational
Driven
Innovative
Analytical

Having just checked the narrative I use across social media, I’m guilty of including five of the above. What’s your score?

I think the message coming across loud and clear is that we need to use our personal DNA to create a more unique profile. Tell a story about our work history. Keep it professional but give it a flavour of our personality too. Use action words to describe what we’ve done with the particular talent we’ve developed. LinkedIn suggests including video clips or photographs to demonstrate our achievements.

So what are we waiting for? Now is the perfect time to spring-clean that profile. We need to read through it very carefully and use a thesaurus to find alternative options for the clichéd words we’ve included. And refer to the above to make sure we avoid using them.

If you want more details on the above list, the LinkedIn blog makes interesting reading and highlights words favoured by countries around the world.

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The Font God

‘The Font God’ was a nickname given to Mike Russell Parker, a British-born American typographer, who died in February this year.

His passion for typography design and history started while studying for graphic design and architecture degrees at Yale University. It was said that he could tell you the background to any font you could name. His passion developed even further when he discovered typeface treasure dating back to the 17th Century, while curating old typesetting artefacts for the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Belgium. Movable-type

As director of typographic development at the Mergenthaler Linotype company,  he spent over two decades creating libraries of beautiful fonts for their customers. He didn’t actually draw them himself. He focused on the technical aspects; the spacing, stem shapes and potential development of each one, usually by creating completely original typestyles but also by adapting and morphing existing fonts. Only when he was totally satisfied did he pass the technical information to the in-house designers, who then performed their artistic magic and brought the font to life. During his career at Linotype he expanded the range from 150 to almost 1500 typefaces.

Linotype printers slugIn the 1950s, Linotype’s hot metal typesetting equipment was the print industry standard for producing major newspapers and magazines. Unlike older printing methods of setting type, one character at a time, the Linotype could create a complete line of type from hot metal, saving time during the print set-up phase.

Parker was searching for a new font that was strong, easy to read and could be used at different weights and came across a typeface called Neue Haas Grotesk. He didn’t invent it – that accolade belonged to Eduard Hoffmann and Max Miedinger, who were designers at the small Haas Type Foundry in Switzerland in 1956.

In its original form it couldn’t be used on the machine – it had to be typeset by hand. However, Parker adapted and tweaked it until it worked seamlessly with the Linotype and in doing so, created what would become the most recognised and widely used typeface in the modern world. Helvetica.

HelveticaHelvetica quickly became a favourite with graphic designers. The list of companies using this font in their logo is endless e.g. The North Face, Microsoft, BMW, Tupperware, Olympus, 3M, Toyota, Evian, Skype, McDonalds & Jeep, for starters.

Although most of us are oblivious to the fact, we encounter Helvetica every day. Airport and street signs use this font as do government documents. Transportation systems across Europe and the Far East use it on their information signage. It made a smooth transition to the digital age by becoming the default font on early Macs and Apple continues to use Helvetica in iOS and the iPod.

In the early 1980s Parker left Linotype and, in partnership with the typeface legend Matthew Carter (of Georgia & Verdana fame), founded Bitstream, the world’s first all-digital type foundry. They were pioneers in creating typestyle technology for the computer age and Bitstream offered an impressive range of digital fonts for use by anyone.

I like typeIn his later years, he took on the role of type historian for the Font Bureau and such was the depth of his love for typography that Parker never stopped creating new fonts. Well into his 70s he was working on his last creation, Starling, which was launched in 2009.Type

Although starting his career in the era of the traditional printmaker, Parker found the digital typesetting age fascinating. It never ceased to amaze him how fast pages of documents could be set on screen using extensive libraries of fonts, accessed simply with the click of a mouse.

There’s an interesting film on typography by director Gary Hustwit in which Helvetica has the starring role. The film, also called Helvetica, looks at the way graphic design and typestyles influence our lives with particular emphasis on this versatile and enduring font.

 

Credits:
Melbourne Museum of Print
Blog: Pebbles and Buttons
Blog: Designer & author Ralf Herrmann
Scottish Printing Archival Trust

 

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The jiggery-pokery of shopping

We’ve all experienced this… you walk through the door and the first thing you notice is that delicious mouth-watering aroma of freshly baked bread or roasted something, just begging to be eaten. 

It’s one of the many ploys that supermarkets use to make us buy more.

The big stores are relentlessly adding to their arsenal of tricks and jiggery-pokery, using science and research based analysis, and are masters at mind manipulation.  In fact, all our senses are under attack from the moment we set foot in the door. 

From those delicious smells to the strategic placing of products on shelves and online tracking via loyalty cards, stores monitor and control our shopping behaviour to maximise their profits. 

Astonishingly, in a recent survey conducted by a well-known monthly magazine, a group of retail marketing specialists and store employees shared some of these closely guarded tactics. So the next time you go shopping, keep these in mind:

Fresh produce…?
 
  • The average apple is 14 months old – it’s picked then kept in cold storage until needed.
  • Fresh fruit & veggies are displayed near the door as the colours affect our mood and make us feel great.  Objective – to encourage us to buy more produce than we need.
  • That lovely water mist that regularly sprinkles the produce might make everything look fresh and inviting but in fact it adds to the weight at the checkout.  It also makes some items rot faster so we return to the store faster – yes, you’re catching on here – to buy more.
  • Did you know that the ground meat in those pre-packed containers may have come from dozens of different cows?  Stay safe by choosing a whole piece from the Fresh Meat counter then ask the in-house butcher to grind it up for you.
  • You and I generally think that buying in bulk is cheaper.  Not so.  You should always check the price of the individual item – it often works out better value buying several of them instead of a bulk pack.
  • And don’t assume that the items on ‘special offer’ at the end of the aisles are necessarily a good deal either.  These spaces are rented out to companies wanting to promote specific products – you’ll often find a similar item is cheaper further down the aisle.
  • Were you aware that prepared food in the Deli area that’s not sold by the end of the day must, by law, be thrown away?  The stores can’t even give it away or donate it anywhere.  Multiply that by the number of stores in your town or city and that’s a lot of wasted good food.
The well known strapline ‘Less is More’ doesn’t apply to supermarkets
 
  • From time to time stores make their shopping carts bigger because they’ve discovered that we buy almost 20% more groceries when they increase the size. Although we realise the cart is bigger, subconsciously we think we’ve got less in it, so  – yes, right again – we buy more.
  • Do you know why we never get harassed in stores? The longer we stay – in unison now – the more we buy.  Hands up how many of us have gone in for a couple of small things then walked out with a bulging bag of stuff?
    My hand’s up in the air…
  • And have you noticed that checkout lanes are getting narrower?  That’s a sneaky little tactic to stop us off-loading stuff while we wait in the queue.  Are you kidding me?  What else are Mums supposed to do?  I was absolutely an off-loader because I always discovered at least a dozen items in my cart, that my ‘little darlings’ sneaked in when I wasn’t looking.
However, in their favour, stores do have some good points
 
  • As part of their community support work, a lot of stores actually set aside a budget for helping local groups, schools and teams in their area.  So if you’re planning a fundraising event – talk to your local store manager.  My kids’ schools regularly did fundraising in local stores, when the sports teams needed funds for various events.  The store managers were always really helpful and generous, supplying the kids with free drinks and snacks as well as giving a donation.  
  • In the bigger stores, you’ll find a lot of very helpful staff.  In the Bakery they’ll slice whole loaves for you; in the Seafood area they’ll coat your fish fillets in dressing and give you advice on cooking particular fish if you ask and in the Fresh Meat section the butcher will happily cut, trim or bone your meat in a particular way.
And finally
 

Spare a thought and be gentle on the poor assistant who’s landed the Miserable Task of the Day, a.k.a. bagging our groceries.  Due to the fickle nature of some of us shoppers, they never quite get it right and have to endure a lot of moaning from grouchy customers who insist on having their goods packed in a particular way. 

Sigh… “life” and “get” spring to mind here. 

It’s a bag of groceries.  It’s going to be emptied out in your kitchen and the contents stuffed into cupboards. 

Seriously… if you’re one of those grouchy customers, you need to read my blog entitled 86,400.grouchy veg

Fantastic carved image: Steve D.

 

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