Copyright

Photo on Flickr by jcarlosn

Copyright laws can be strange and complex – there have been a few famous authors taken to court accused of stealing their story from another book – but the point made is serious. You can be sued for wrongfully using another person’s work.

Copyright is traditionally the way that authors can protect their own original work. It enables them to protect their writing from plagiarism which is defined as the work being used by other people who claim it as their own. This is particularly important on the internet, because it can be so easy to take someone else’s work by cutting and pasting it on your own website. This applies equally to graphics, photos and any other work that someone has created. Once you have created a piece of work then it is protected by law and another person cannot take it for their own use.

How do you ensure that the work you are using is legally unique?

You can write it yourself. If you take a subject and put it in your own words, then you own the copyright on that work and can do what you choose with it. Of course then you have to look out for someone else stealing it…

When you hire someone else to do the work, how do you know whether the work is truly written by them or if they have just copied and pasted it from another website? There is some free software out there to help you check out the writing, but you can also do a quick check yourself by searching for websites using your preferred keywords. The work is likely to come up on the first few pages if it has been taken.

You cannot copyright ideas – those are available for anyone to use. This can be difficult when two writers submit the same idea to a magazine. Sometimes that can be why they are rejected. The copyright is in the way that you write it using your own voice and style. Two people will write an article using the same title in two completely different ways.

Using photos and images is also subject to copyright. There are plenty of free sites out there. You can search Google images, looking for pictures that are available for commercial re-use if you use the advanced search. When you are writing for a commercial website, then you may be best advised to buy the right to use a photo from a stock photograph website. This gives you the widest possible choice so that you can find the photo you are looking for.

Even if you believe an image is free to use, you should always check that there are no limitations on how it can be used and it is polite, where possible, to let the owner of the picture know that you have used it and include a link for them to check it out.

If you are in the business of regularly providing content such as a website owner, a blog writer or email newsletters, do be careful that what you write is 100% unique content. That way you can be sure that you will not have a lawsuit landing on your doormat.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by jcarlosn

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How to Write Good Copy – Landing Pages

Photo on Flickr by Janos Feher

A landing page is where an advertising link should lead when it has been clicked. Your landing page should not be the same as your homepage. Your landing page should be designed to induce visitors to become customers in as few clicks as possible.

Here are my top five tips for a landing page:

1. Make the product simple and clear. Include photos if appropriate and a good description.Include all the information that the customer will need to know about the product.

2. Include a clear link back to your homepage.

3. Tell your visitors how purchasing this product will solve their problem. Give them a good reason to click on ‘buy’.

4. Make your buying and checkout processes as easy as possible to go through. Provide a variety of ways for customers to pay including Paypal, credit cards and pre-paid cards.

5. Make sure that your visitors can access store policies including shipping costs and return policies, preferably in a new window so that they do not transfer away from your buying page.

Building trust is key to getting visitors to convert to customers. By making your policies transparent and making it as easy as possible for visitors to buy, then you have a big advantage over your competitors. Getting good traffic to your website is important, but encouraging a high proportion of people viewing your website to commit to buy is the most important part for your business.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Janos Feher

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A Guide to Using Apostrophes Correctly Part 2

Photo on Flickr by mag3737

In the last article, we talked about apostrophes and the ways that they could alter meaning. To read back what was said, click on the article title: A Guide to Using Apostrophes Correctly Part 1.

The other main way that apostrophes are used is when two words are contracted to form a new word.

Don’t

Won’t

Can’t

These are just some of the words that are in use. Their full forms are as follows:

Don’t = do not

Won’t = will not

Can’t = can not which is also sometimes written as one word – cannot

Here are some of the more unusual ones:

Could’ve

Should’ve

Would’ve

These should be

Could’ve = could have

Should’ve =should have

Would’ve = would have

Unfortunately the contractions sound like ‘of’ and you see a lot of younger students (and older people as well) writing ‘should of’ instead of ‘should’ve’. This is a really common mistake and one to watch out for in your own writing.

The apostrophe in this case is there to indicate that there are missing letters. It therefore is placed where the missing letters would be in the word.

For example: when writing ‘don’t’ the apostrophe replaces the ‘o’ of ‘do not’. This helps you to decide where to put the apostrophe.

As long as you know where the letters have been omitted then you will always find it easy to know where to place the apostrophe.

Photo Credit : Photo on Flickr by Mag3737

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Do You spam? There is another way to promote your website.

Photo on Flickr by adamkemper

Not a day goes by that I don’t get some tempting offer to buy some little blue pills. Or I might get a comment that sounds legitimate, but it has been posted 20 times by different people. Some comments also seem OK, but when you click on the link (or even just read the url) then it is obvious that it is not a link that I want my website going back to.

So why do people do it?

Probably because sometimes these tactics work. Some website owners may well just put the link up without checking what the comment is linking back to. Then the commenter will have a one way link back to their website.

That’s not enough!

The link is completely without merit. It does not have any relevance to the website that it has been left on, and often the website from which it has come has no relevant content to its own subject. This is not a link that is valuable to anyone. It has no use to the website owner where the comment has been left, there is no point to linking to the website because sooner or later the Google algorithms are going to work it out and ignore the website. It is a waste of time – especially if the website owner is me because even if the comment seems OK, if the website it came from is not relevant then the comment will not be added.

Your time and resources have been wasted in sending out all this spam mail when it could have been spent in building legitimate links instead.

Google likes links that:

  • -are one way
  • -are content linking to similar content
  • – that are spread around lots of websites

Using spam comments on websites only fulfills one in three of that criteria and even then if you take into the account the need for similar relevant material, then it doesn’t fulfil any of them. Surely it is a waste of time and simply annoys the website owner who then deletes the comment.

I’m sorry to say that I have seen jobs for commenting on blogs on some job vacancy sites. It seems to me that it is not much of a job leaving spam comments on a blog that no one will ever read.

Finding backlinks is essential for all of us who maintain websites and blogs, but there are ways to do it which may be harder work but which are essentially more rewarding. Do comment on blogs, but make them relevant blogs to your company and make the comments add to or start a discussion rather than just simply ‘well done’.

Join relevant forums and answer questions. Most forums will let you link back to blog posts if you are a registered user. Answer Yahoo questions if they relate to your area of expertise or if you have a genuine answer. Offer link exchanges with websites which are similar to yours in size and content. Also you can write free articles for places like Ezine and GoArticles which allow the articles to be downloaded complete with a link to your website.

All of these are legitimate ways to gather backlinks to help your website gain some notice.

If you spam, then it can be seen as an unwanted nuisance. It is a lazy solution which just creates annoyance and inconvenience.

If you do want to sell some little blue pills, then I suggest you find another website to do it from!

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by adamkemper

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Why Do I Need Search Engine Optimization?

Photo on Flickr by crystaljingr

Search Engine Optimization or SEO has been a buzzword among internet communities for some time. If you own a company website, or even just a blog that you are hoping to promote and bring new readers to, then you need to know about search engine optimization. It all comes down to search engines and to Google in particular. The main search engine collects websites and categorizes them according to relevant content. This involves a complicated algorithm which is the subject of much debate among internet marketers.  The formula is regularly reviewed and the rules can be changed so that a website that originally did quite well in the rankings can take a fall and drop down the pages of searches. The list of websites is then organized in order of relevance to the original search term. If a page appears to be simply spam, then it will be removed. Those websites that are consistently seen as useful will therefore be promoted and brought to the fore in the listings. Google takes into account the age of a website and back links which lead back to a website. For most companies, to get on the first page of a search engine is highly desirable as it will bring your website to the attentions of clients searching for something that you can provide to them. To help achieve this, find the correct search terms that you want to be ranked for. Choosing searches that are often made can help you optimize your website more effectively and bring relevant, targeted traffic to your website. If you can get people who are searching for the kinds of products or services that you are offering to come to your website, then you will have a very effective marketing tool indeed.

Photo Credit: Photo found on Flickr by Crystaljinger

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Style Guide – A Guide to Using Apostrophes Correctly (Part 1)

Photo on Flickr by mag3737

I saw a question on a writers’ forum the other day. It read:

‘Is it time to abolish apostrophes completely?’

I can understand the writer’s frustration. Apostrophes are one piece of punctuation that it is very easy to get wrong – as demonstrated regularly on pub notices round where I live. Yet in the opening three sentences, I have used two apostrophes and used them perfectly correctly. So it is possible to learn how to use apostrophes. Here is a guide of when to use apostrophes and how to use them correctly.

E.g.         Jack’s computer

Jane’s bag

Both these objects belong to the person mentioned and so we use an apostrophe before we add an ‘s’.

However, sometimes the person’s name already ends in ‘s’ or more than one:

The bag belongs to Jess.

In this case, it is more usual to drop the extra ‘s’. Some writers may include it as a force of habit.

Jess’ bag (but it is still said, ‘Jesses bag’)

Easy enough when dealing with someone’s name but what if it is an animal, an object or even a pronoun?

The lion’s roar was loud.

The mouse’s squeak was quiet.

What if there can be confusion over whether the word is singular (one) or plural (more than one).

E.g.         The girls’ shrieks followed them on the roller coaster.

Here there is more than one girl. The word is plural, so the apostrophe goes on the outside of the word.

What about this?

The girl’s shrieks followed her on the roller coaster.

There is only one girl, so there is an apostrophe and an ‘s’. The use of the word ‘her’ rather than ‘them’ later on in the sentence confirms that there is only one girl rather than two or more.

You know that you might have got an apostrophe wrong if the sentence doesn’t quite seem to make sense. Are these right or wrong?

The boy’s shouts echoed through the woods as they tramped home.

The rabbits’ burrows were dotted all over the hillside.

The girl’s tobaggan overturned, throwing them into the snow.

The horse’s field provided plenty of fresh grass for him.

The ant’s crumbs seemed too big for them to carry.

How did you do?

The answers were: wrong, right, wrong, right, wrong. In every case there was another word in the sentence which confirmed whether the initial word was singular or plural.

The boys’ shouts echoed through the woods as they tramped home.

The rabbits’ burrows were dotted all over the hillside.

The girls’ tobaggan overturned, throwing them into the snow.

The horse’s field provided plenty of fresh grass for him.

The ants’ crumbs seemed too big for them to carry.

So if you are unsure where to place your apostrophe, then look for other words in the sentence which may help you to decide. Alternatively, decide which would make more sense.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Mag3737

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Which Do You Choose – Directory or Web-Based Advertising

Photo by Ian Britton and licensed under Creative Commons

It’s a new year and you have a limited marketing budget earmarked until the end of the financial year. You know that you want to promote your company to the widest audience possible and you are determined to spend wisely.

You have a number of choices – which way do you go?

Phone Directory Advertising

The traditional way of bringing in new customers was to pay to advertise in the local phone book. These are delivered free to the local area that they cover, although it is possible to order them for another area. You are listed alongside similar companies, which makes it easy for a potential customer to locate you but if you are not among the first five letters of the alphabet, then you may be at the end of a very long list. The directories last a whole year, which makes them very out of date by the time they are being replaced. Most directory companies are now offering online search services alongside their paper directories and this has more advantages in that the directory cannot get lost and that they may turn up in a search engine. If the companies are household names then this service may well offer more value for money.

In this blogger’s humble opinion, paper directories are on the way out like the Oxford English Dictionary and directory companies are more likely to focus their efforts on their websites.

Local Directory Websites

A number of companies have sprung up which use a national name offering a local service. The local website is usually a local franchise and so the service can vary with the franchisee. Some of them work on recommendations, which can help businesses build a good reputation, but most of them are still paid advertising. They are completely web-based and if well-promoted in their local area, may bring in some good results. It would be wise to ask around whether any in your network have had experience of using these companies and what kind of results they have had with them. It is also worth checking that they rank well in the search engines.

These kinds of websites include:

www.thebestof.co.uk

www.01527.com (or your local STD number)

www.upmystreet.com

Local Directory Franchises

There has been some anecdotal evidence that using local directories can bring good results. Unlike  a phone directory, the local directory contains a mish-mash of advertisers which is delivered through your door, either monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. Advertising is usually cheaper than in the phone directories and is linked to the size of the ad and the frequency it appears. The directory is usually an A5 size, and is easily kept to hand. I have known some to come with magnets attached to put on the fridge!

These local directories can be effective as long as they are reaching your targeted audience. Look at distribution rates and frequency of delivery. They also sometimes offer networked events for advertisers which can offer further opportunities for company promotion. The advertising offered is at reasonable rates which can allow even small businesses a chance to advertise.

These are just three ways in which you can spend your advertising budget. Which you choose can depend on your business and the money you have to spend. Whichever way you decide to spend your cash, it is worth researching the different options. The most important thing to look at is value for money. The cheapest option will not necessarily be the best for your business, so look into it all thoroughly before committing your cash.

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Five Ways that Writing can Help Market Your Business in 2011

Photo on flickr by abakedcreation

It’s a new year and thoughts turn to how your business can bring some more business through the door. Marketing is the lifeblood of any business, yet it can be overlooked and ignored as more important issues such as paying bills and sorting out tax returns loom. Yet if you are not actively looking for more clients, then how will your business keep going once you get past this busy period? A thriving business will need to keep new clients coming through the door.

Here are five ways that you can market your business this year.

1. Maintain your company website. If you have managed to beat off your competitors and achieve success on moving up the Google ranks, last year, then build on your success and keep adding new and relevant information to your website. Post news daily or weekly, add a newsletter and use videos or pictures to help convey your information. Keeping your company website to the fore of search engine information will help to bring new clients to you.

2. Add subscribers to your website and mail round a newsletter. There are free newsletter services such as mailchimp to help you set this up. Keeping in contact with both old and new clients will help you market your services effectively.

3. Twitter. Do you tweet? Twitter is not only for social interaction, but many people use it to market themselves. Search for people in your line of business and start following them. Some will follow you back. Use your tweets to share news about your business in general, interesting blog posts and helpful information. There are also business websites that promote watercooler type chatter among business owners which can be a great way to meet people and network.

4. Rework your company promotional material. Are your leaflets looking lifeless? Do your brochures look boring? It may be time for an overhaul. If you use promotional literature regularly to promote your business and you find that it brings new business in, then it is worth bringing it up to date. Fresh graphics and photographs can enhance your paperwork and attract new clients. Once you have given it out, you never know who will find it next.

5. Use your local press. If your company has done a great job, then send a press release to your local paper. Have you won an award or has your company done a great job for a charity? Use these events to promote your company and get it in the local paper, preferably with a nice photo. Look out for opportunities to help local schools and give back to the community. Find a link with the local newspaper and use it regularly to promote reader awareness of your company.

How have you managed to promote your company this year? Have you used any of these methods and have they worked for you? Some of these ideas may seem quite simple, but making a resolution to actively market your company in the coming year can only bring better results.

Photo Link & Credit:  New Year’s Resolutions by abakedcreation

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Setting Goals for Your Business in 2011

Photo on Flickr by niznoz

What do you want for your business in 2011?

Perhaps you want it to grow? To increase your customer base? Or even just to survive.

There’s no doubting the tough economic conditions out there, but businesses are adapting and some are even thriving. So where do you start?

A year may seem a long time, but set a long term goal. Make it short and measurable: for example to find three more major clients who will will pass you work regularly if you are offering a service. Perhaps you can decide to develop three more markets for your products if this is what you are offering.

Write down your long term goal. Now jot down underneath all the ways you can think of to achieve it. Some may not be immediately achievable, but others you can start on right away. Set aside some time in your busy life to work on just achieving this goal.

What about something more short term? You can set weekly, monthly or quarterly targets to help keep yourself on track. Make sure you keep a note of them and review them regularly. If you are not achieving your targets, then what is holding you back? Try to analyse where things can be improved.

What if your business is struggling? What if you are finding it hard to just stay afloat?

Then it is worth finding some help. Talk to your bank if you have cashflow problems, approach other business contacts that you know can help you out and seek out information on the internet as a first move.

Find your help sooner rather than later and act on the advice given. Take steps to minimise your losses and seek out ways to bring in new business. Try and think innovatively and seek new ways to target your business effectively to your clients.

Track your finances closely. Remember that the last date for filing your tax return online in the UK is 31st January and that the website can get overwhelmed in the last few days. Include financial goals in your planning to help you get on track.

Setting goals for your business can help you to understand where your business is going as it allows you to compare to the previous year. Not all goals will be achievable, so make time for regular reviews of your goals to enable you to ensure that they are still relevant to your business.

If you manage to achieve your goals early, then congratulations! Don’t rest, however, but set new and more challenging goals in order to boost your business further.

Photo Link: Blank Page by niznoz

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