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How to Save Your Website

Posted on : 04-04-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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Have you ever done this?

Found a bright shiny website with whistles and bells, looking pretty and inviting.

So you decide to stay and look round. Then you discover that although it looks like it will be informative, the website content lacks something…you cast around for the word…what is it again? Oh yes, I know. It lacks INFORMATION!

Welcome by Claudio Matsuoka on Flickr CC

Welcome by Claudio Matsuoka on Flickr CC

The content is lacklustre and the information is badly written, poorly punctuated and there’s a few spelling mistakes for good measure. There are some keywords, but they seem to have been sprinkled liberally rather than used sparingly and in context. Perhaps the owner of the website has written it for themselves, or perhaps they have relied on a web developer to write it for them. After all everyone can write, can’t they? We all learn to write at school. It’s just a matter of stringing a few sentences together and bunging it up on a website.

What’s the result of this cobbled-together content?

Visitors don’t stay around. If you’re selling something, then they may not bother to see what it is. They may proceed to buy, but then they were going to anyway and if they’ve seen it cheaper on another website then they won’t bother. There’s no interest to keep them here, nothing to learn and no real information that they can use.

What lessons can you take from this as a business owner?

  • Bright shiny websites are all very well, but it’s the content that keep people around
  • Everyone might have learned to write at school, but only certain people have kept in practice
  • SEO is an art which is learned. Just adding keywords here and there will not do the job of carefully crafted content which has been optimised for SEO
  • The website has ten seconds to attract a visitor’s attention. Give them something interesting to read and keep them for longer

Talking to a copywriter can help save your website. Organise your information, create interesting content on relevant subjects and your website will instantly improve. Copywriters can create landing pages to entice visitors further, sales pages to help pitch your products and informative articles which can help to sell for you.

If your bright and shiny website also has sparkly and exciting content to match, then your website visitors are going to come back again and again.

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter who specialises in making web content bright and shiny too. Contact her using the form for a personalised quote to save your website. 

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Does the Google Panda Update Spell the End for Duplicate Content?

Posted on : 09-05-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, SEO Help

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Google Logo officially released on May 2010

Image via Wikipedia

Remember the Google algorithm, now nicknamed ‘Panda’ which was rolled out in March to the USA and now last month to the rest of the world? The implementation of the algorithm has caused much interest in internet marketers and some consternation in the websites it has affected but now results are beginning to come in to show how much websites have been affected by the changes.

Changes Caused by the Update

If the USA version of the change had one effect, it instantly knocked back articles by Suite101 and Hubpages. These websites have traditionally been used by internet marketers to backlink to their websites to enable them to rise in the search engine rankings. The problem was that although these websites were moderated and edited, the articles on them went back to the beginnings of the website. There needed to be some changes and both websites have implemented stricter edits and have begun to delete older and perhaps less useful articles. The change did not affect all websites however such as Ehow which also contained a lot of content.

The version rolled out to the rest of the world showed that Google had listened. Ehow lost some of its traffic, but so did UK tech websites and price comparison websites. Ebay improved their ranking as did UK newspaper websites.

Improving Search Results

The stated aim of the update was to improve the Google search and eliminate duplicate content. For years internet marketers have suggested that the best way to get quick results have been to submit the same or very similar articles to article websites such as Ezine and Technorati in order to gain back links. The articles can be submitted for free and are allowed links. Members of these websites can copy these articles for their own use and therefore spread the links over the internet. The problem is that many of these articles are simply copied, spreading duplicate copy over the web.

Using these articles allowed website owners to populate their websites quickly with copy for the price of a link and it seemed a win-win situation. The problem occurs when a user searches for information and the same article on several different websites is returned.

Say No to Duplicate Content

Duplicate content has never been a good idea. There is so much rubbish out there on the internet that it can be hard to find the right information that you are looking for. Google is going to continue to update the algorithms and try to eliminate websites that it perceives as being nothing less than spam.

The message is clear: by all means add content to your website. Regular, relevant content added to a website will help it to rise in the search rankings but make sure that it is original and useful information in order to ensure that your website is not hit by further updates.

 

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Some Ideas for When Running a Small Business Gets Tough

Posted on : 05-05-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog

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Prince Andrew

Image via Wikipedia

I loved the Royal Wedding last Friday. The family sat down together to enjoy the day. The bride was beautiful, the dress was gorgeous, the groom was handsome in his uniform and the bridesmaids were cute. The bride and groom appeared to thoroughly enjoy their day and the beginning of their new life together. Most of the people I know sat down and enjoyed the wedding as I did.

Starting a new business can be a little like a wedding.

It’s a lot of work, but you are looking forward to the end result. There’s the excitement of the new ideas that can come tumbling out barely fully formed, there’s the joy of the fun stuff like researching new products, designing new websites and perhaps looking for new premises. There’s the not so fun stuff such as visiting the banks and informing HMRC. Overall it is a time full of promise, full of adventure and full of trepidation.

Then you have to deal with the day to day stuff of running a business. In the service industry, you have to continually find new clients. On an e-commerce website you have to keep your search engine optimisation working as well as you can to bring clients to your website. If you have opened a high street shop, then you need your customers to come through the door. You have to keep your cashflow going and your overheads paid. The shine begins to wear off.

Before you know it, you are struggling to find clients, the website is failing to meet its targets and you are not ranking for any of your keywords in the Google top ten pages. Or you’re faced with a sink full of dirty dishes while your new husband goes off for a sulk over the way you cooked tea…! (It could happen)

What Can You Do?

What you do next will show the stuff you’re made of and whether you’re really cut out to be a business owner. You need to find a way through the slump times and discover a way to bring customers thronging to your door once again.

You can share your problem on the business forums and ask advice from some of the old hands there. You may be able to find a customer or two lurking there as well.

You may wish to read up on your problem. Subscribe to one or two recommended blogs and see what the experts suggest.

Linking and networking with like-minded people can bring help so that you can get your head clear and understand the steps you need to take to remedy the situation.

You may decide to hire somebody like a copywriter or a web designer to ensure that your content and your website are as fully optimised as they can be.

Proactively seek clients, especially if you are in a service industry. Go where your clients hang out and join in discussions. Post your availability and let people know that you are able to help.

Use social networking to increase your customer awareness. Tweet, update your status on Linked-In and keep your Facebook page up to date.

Use a promotional offer to encourage people to buy. Use leaflets to target customers.

Check that your e-commerce website is working as well as it can. Ask friends to check it out and follow up on their comments.

Try a website such wecandobiz.net which encourages networking.

Many of these ideas suggest asking others for help. It can be so encouraging to talk to someone who has gone through this before and is able to share their experience. It can be lonely to be a small business owner, particularly one that is a sole trader. By seeking others out and getting involved in communities then you can find a place to share your problems and also help others.

Don’t give up. Keep going and use every bit of your resources to keep your desire to work for yourself alive. Try and remember a little of the excitement of the first days to help you find the resources to get through these dark days. Every business has its ups and downs – that’s what keeps most of us interested.

Good luck.

Oh – and never burn the dinner when cooking for your new husband!

Have you had some difficulties with your business recently? Perhaps you have just come through a difficult patch or you are feeling low at the moment because things are not going the way you would like. Comment below for a sympathetic ear.

 

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The Simple Guide to SEO Terms

Posted on : 15-04-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, SEO Help

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Here are some of the terms regularly used in SEO jargon and the simple explanations for them.

Affiliate Marketing – running ads on your website for a company which will pay you per impression or click or lead. There are umbrella companies set up that will enable you to apply to suitable affiliates for your website.

Algorithm – computer programme that is a series of steps designed to solve a problem.

Backlinks – links from external websites leading back to a website. Backlinks should relate to the websites that are being linked and should be one way for the best effect on the search engine results.

Black Hat SEO – Using practices that are not honest to achieve SEO. If you are caught by Google, then your website will be ignored or ‘sandboxed’.

Conversion – The art of turning ads into sales.

CPC – Cost Per Click. This is a measurement unit used when assessing adverts for a website. Often paid by companies to their affiliates. This can also be measured in cost per impression depending on the terms of the agreement.

CTR – Click Through Rate. Way of measuring the effectiveness of ads

Highlighted search results – these are usually paid for, often by a bid process. There are more paid for ads in the right hand column.

Keywords – Words that relate to the subject matter of your website or business. Choosing the right keywords to aim for is important to help your website rise in the rankings.

Keyword Density – This measures how often a keyword appears on a page.

Keyword Research – there are programmes to help you decide which keywords to aim for. They can rank them in the volumes of people who search for them, how difficult it is to rank for them and even how much companies are prepared to pay for them. If you want to use your website to make money then using these programmes is essential.

Landing Page – a special web page or home page designed to help users navigate the website. Can also be a special sales page that an advert points to.

Page Rank – an algorithm that enables Google to list all the websites on the web from the most to the least important based on search results. It measures one way links from websites and if those websites are ranked well themselves, then their links are worth more. Often stated as a number: PR1 will be PageRank 1. The higher the ranking, the more Google values the website.

Rankings – the order of websites returned when a search is conducted.

Search engine – a facility for searching for information from websites. Google is the most popular search engine but Bing is catching up. The websites are listed on pages and it is desirable to have your website show up on the first two or three pages.

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – Making sure that your website shows up during a Google search for certain keywords

SERP – Search Engine Results Page

Web Content – Articles written about a subject to give a website more informational value. Can include any information put on a website.

White Hat SEO – Practices that are acceptable in the world of SEO.

 

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Google Panda Comes to the UK

Posted on : 12-04-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog

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Google Logo officially released on May 2010

Image via Wikipedia

Google has rolled out its latest algorithm worldwide. The first introduction of this code change to the search engine had some far reaching effects on websites that had previously flourished under the Google regime. Websites such as Hubpages and Suite101 were affected but they are websites with many contributors and with volume, quality can go down.

The aim of the algorithm change was to increase the amount of quality information returned when a search is conducted. However computers are not foolproof and although some websites can be spotted easily when they are simply there to spam or make money, some are less obvious and therefore are more difficult for computer robots to pick out.

The Google team monitored opinions on the original release of the change and were pleased with the initial results. They seemed to feel that it was doing the job correctly. Website owners and web marketers will be monitoring their website statistics closely to check that it does not have an adverse affect on their results. If you are checking your own website statistics, then do take into account the seasonal changes and the weather. Good weather means that people are less likely to stay indoors and be working on their computers.

The algorithm was rolled out in the USA in March. Now it is here in the rest of the world. What will be the after affects? Only time will tell.

Have you noticed any unusual changes to your website stats recently? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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Helpful Blogs 3

Posted on : 06-04-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog

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Here are five blog posts that I have found helpful this month:

1. Ask the Expert How to Start up an Online Store

This blog post answers all the questions that you might ask when setting up an e-commerce website. This is a really useful post and Karen answers the questions very succinctly. You might want to check out her website for information on setting up a Facebook page too, because she is very good at what she does.

2. Five Ways to Avoid Being a Notworker

This is a great post on how not to network and therefore, some of the best ways to network. There is some great advice here.

3. What Budget 2011 Means for Freelancers and Small Businesses

Staying with Bitsy, here is a great post on the UK budget announcements and how they will affect small businesses. Very useful.

4. Facebook vs Twitter

A new website I have recently come across had this interesting post on Facebook vs Twitter.  The website is very useful with lots of interesting information on running a small business.

5. A Marketer’s Take on Google +1

Finally, Laura Lake at About.com talks about the latest Google feature: +1. It will be interesting to see how the search engine makes use of it in the future when evaluating search results and page rankings.

 

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Top Five Blog Posts Last Month

Posted on : 04-04-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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Writing

Image by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

Every so often, it’s helpful to run a ‘best of’ blog post particularly once you have picked up your blogging rate. Here are the top five blog posts on The Creative Writer in March in my humble opinion. Feel free to share any posts that have helped you this month.

OK, going to break my own rules here – this wasn’t strictly published in March but on 28th February, but Google Algorithm Change Rocks Content Websites was a blog post about a big change on Google. The effects of this change, known as Panda is still being assessed, but it affected some pretty big sites such as Suite101 and Hubpages, making those organisations take steps to improve the quality of their publishing. Some people are still concerned about the effects of this change, but I think it will all even out eventually and that great content is still king.

How to design a successful leaflet began life as a sample for a company, but turned into an interesting blog post. I have had a hand in designing leaflets, but as part of a committee and that can be a difficult thing to do, with everyone having their own opinion on how it should look. Some useful tips here.

Regular blogging can make a difference. I have noticed it on my own website: my stats are still steadily rising since I started making a commitment to blog three times a week. Try it and it could work for you.

Writing compelling copy offers an insight into the copywriter’s mind which is a dark and murky place… just kidding! Actually this suggests an idea that might help your company write copy that can help convert visitors into customers. Try it and let me know how you get on.

Form alliances with your fellow freelances is a great suggestion which can lead to more work for both of you. Find people that you can work with and get alongside them to the benefit of you both.

So these are some of my better blog posts this month that I think contained real value to the people reading them. Let me know what you think and please ask any questions that you would like to know the answer to.

 

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Starting out as a Copywriter

Posted on : 31-03-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Help with Writing

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Photo on Flickr by itselea

It seems such an easy job that the world and his wife could do it with one hand tied behind their back (not their writing hand, obviously) – copywriting!

How can you become a copywriter? If you have always wanted to have a go, then here are some of the steps that have got me here today.

Read. Yes, I know you want to write, but every good writer is also a reader. Find out all you can on the subject and keep reading. There is some really great information out there and not all of it is paid for. If you want to learn to write, then keep reading.

Write. Now, we’re getting to it – you have to write. What can you write about? The easiest way to start is to begin with a free blog. Pick a subject that you are reasonably knowledgeable about and set up a blog through Blogger or WordPress. If it is just for you, then it doesn’t matter too much about a domain name, but if you want to make money with it later, then you will have to buy a relevant domain name at some point. These free blogs offer some great themes which you can customise to your own design. You can use them to upload photos and videos too.

Bookmark some websites that you think are really helpful and keep going back to them. There are places that you can publish for free like Suite101 and Hubpages. These can be useful to form the basis of an online portfolio. A portfolio is a body of work that you can show a potential employer, and it is important to build up clips or articles so that you can prove that you can write. Don’t expect to make a lot of money with these two websites but they are great for teaching you the basics of Search Engine Optimisation or SEO.

You might like to read some writing magazines. These are really helpful with lots of ideas for how to get started in writing. One of the first ways they suggest is by writing a readers’ letter to those very magazines! Look for those that are available in your country. Some are available online.

The best way to get confident in your writing is to join a local writing class. Some are run from libraries, and some from colleges, but they are a great way to meet other writers and get some feedback on your writing. Your tutor will provide you with subjects to write on and if it is a general class, you will get to try out lots of different writing. Find out what kinds of writing you really enjoy and pursue it.

As your confidence grows, so might your wish to earn some money from this new-found skill. You can find job boards, search Google for jobs or approach potential employers directly. This all depends on the kind of writing that you want to be doing. Always be comfortable with the rate you are being paid – don’t accept work for free. You can try reviews for your local press or write letters to your favourite magazines. Start small, keep going and keep learning.

Photo Link: Photo on Flickr by itselea

 

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Should Your E-Commerce Website have a Membership?

Posted on : 29-03-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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Carrinho de supermercado adaptado para levar m...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s a difficult one. On the one hand you want to collect email addresses for a mailing list (always giving your customer an opt-out clause) allowing you to send special offers, promotions etc. However there is evidence to suggest that the more screens that you send your customers to the less likely it is that they will buy. How often have you been frustrated by a retail website that insists on your registering with it even before they will check the stock for you?

At the most extreme case, one catalogue website insisted that they had the item in stock all the way to the checkout at which point it refused to process the sale because the item was out of stock in that particular colour. In itself that was annoying: I had registered purely to buy the item in question. However the icing on the cake was when the bills arrived! I had three or four bills, each announcing that I owed them precisely nothing! What a waste of paper! It has so put me off the website that I am most likely never to buy anything from them ever. However I remain a registered customer. At least I could unsubscribe from the emails.

This experience has put me off registering for websites and I am far more likely to buy from a website that allows me to buy as a ‘guest’ rather than a member. The majority of people have not had my bad experiences, though and if it is the only way that your customers can receive your goods or services then of course they are going to join.

You still need to examine your landing copy carefully and monitor the statistics from your website. If the landing page is not successfully converting visitors at a high enough level then you might need to tweak it so that it works more successfully. The thing to note is that you are unlikely to get it right straight away. The important thing is not to give up.

Some websites split test. They set up two landing pages and send traffic to each. They then monitor the results and go with the more successful page. If this is important to you, then this is a route that you may want to take.

It is not just the ad that is important, but the page on which the ad directs the customer. Make sure that the E-commerce side is simple for a user to navigate – a shopping basket which is visible and shows the contents, a list of items in the shopping basket and a big ‘Checkout’ button all help your customer to buy easily from you. Make postage and packing charges clear and transparent. Make sure that your customer can get all the information they need from the first page and ensure that any product photos are not only clear and easy to see, but include an enlarge option and even a 360° view if you are feeling extra techie.

Collect reviews from your customers, family and friends, find out what works and implement it – these are the key ingredients for a successful E-commerce website.

 

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Regular Blogging Can Make a Difference

Posted on : 18-03-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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Photo on Flickr by lumaxart

OK, time to get back to a regular service after all that chocolatey goodness!

 

When you start a blog, you post a few times and sit back and wait for the visitors to come.

You can wait a very long time.

Bringing organic traffic to your blog without using backlinks or article submission websites can prove very frustrating. The golden grail of getting to the top of Google can prove insurmountable for some people. I have tripled the traffic to this blog using one simple strategy which I will share in a minute.

First of all, check that your website has a sitemap and that you have submitted it to Google. This ensures that your website will be indexed more quickly. If you have a WordPress website, then you can use a plug-in to create your sitemap. Submitting it to Google involves signing up for a Google account and posting a bit of code on one of your webpages. This enables Google to check that your website is genuine and being maintained by a real person.

You are also best to have a privacy policy if you have a comments section or intend to run a mailing list. If you intend to monetise your blog with Adsense, then you definitely need a privacy policy. You can find lots of examples of privacy policies out there on the internet if you search for them.

Your website is now well set up: you have a sitemap and Google knows you are there. You have a privacy policy which ensures that visitors to your site know that you are not going to run offer and sell their email details to the first company that asks.

Now for my strategy:

I decided that I would start to blog regularly.

For me that was three times a week.

That’s it. Simple, isn’t it? I taught myself to schedule posts and try to write them in advance. I scour business forums and faqs for ideas for posts and I have managed to keep it going (with occasional hiccups) thus far. It is working. Choosing to blog so regularly is bringing traffic to my website and I am pretty pleased with it.

What about you? Would you like more traffic to your website? Do you think you need to blog more regularly?

How often you choose to blog is entirely up to you. Some people prefer to blog five times a week, others every day. Some people prefer to blog once a week. The more often that content is added to a website, the more Google will like it. However as long as content is added regularly then visitors will increase.

Of course, article submissions, forum and blog comments and backlinks all help too. But it has amazed me how such a simple strategy as making a resolve to blog regularly and consistently could bring such results.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Lumaxart.com

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