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Full Spectrum Tech Writing – Defining the process

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My first blog post about Full Spectrum Copywriting was a little short on details. While I’m not a fan of excuses, I can say I left the post short because I’m not sure how much is too much for the blog.

With less than 20 full blog posts under my belt, please bear with me as I find my blogging rhythm.

So let me take Mel’s questions one at a time and see if I can’t clarify things.

How do you figure out what terms (and phrasings) are at what level of beginner/expertness?

Part of it is basic knowledge of the field you’re writing about. The rest is putting yourself in a position to see where the questions might come from. Can you anticipate the FAQ?

So let’s say On-Disk.com is listing a 6 DVD Repo set. First, I need a draft of what needs to be said. Since I’m pretty good with Linux jargon, my first draft will most likely exclude any entry level terms.

For the second step, I’ll look for variations that include opportunities to define the draft without the use of Jargon. Since I’m listing a Repo, I need to use the variations on that term in my listing — Repository, Extra/Additional software, etc — as I strive to find the lowest common denominator.

Lather, rinse and repeat for any of the other industry specific terms from my basic draft – Mirror, Package manager, Dependencies, and such.

Balance is key. You’re not trying to dumb things down or show people how smart you really are. Instead, think about how you can bring people up to speed without taking too much time to do so.

The inspiration for the technique came from my uncle John. He was the first person I ever knew with a PhD (Or at least associated with a PhD). Because I was still a child and feeling that he was probably much smarter than everyone else I told him so. He then explained that no matter how “smart” someone might be, if they can’t explain a concept to someone else, they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

How do you learn these terms if you’re copy writing for a field you’re encountering for the first time (or does that not happen much)?

The thing is, you don’t need to be an expert to take advantage of the full spectrum. Being on the middle ground is also a good place to start.

Most of the time, the copy writing process is more like a translation service. It doesn’t really matter what the product is, since the person/people on the bleeding edge of the technology usually know all the terms and jargon. They may also supply a draft for you to write from.

Have you ever done an experiment to see how much more effective full-spectrum is (over writing entirely for a novice or an expert audience, over writing with the reverse order – expert terms at the beginning, beginner at the end)? That sort of data would make an incredibly compelling pitch for FSC.

Not a formal study, but I do have anecdotal evidence to suggest the benefits.

It kind of plays into one of my other beliefs about customer service.

If one person comments, take note but use your best judgment on how seriously to take it. If a second person tells you almost the exact same thing, there’s no guessing, you’ve got a serious problem.

Full Spectrum copy writing developed as I wrote and rewrote listings and web pages so we could stop tripping up our customers.


Written by Karlie

January 18th, 2010 at 9:18 am

Full Spectrum Copywriting

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I’ve just been hired for what initially was billed as a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) job. The thing is, when I’m done, the website isn’t going to be optimized just for the engines. If I do my job well, the site will also be optimized for sales conversions.

Let me explain…

The company I’ll be working with offers a software suite to enterprise customers. The important part of these transactions is understanding how enterprise level decisions are made.

First off, most sales training makes closing the deal sound as if you simply need to get past the gatekeeper and convince a decision maker. As if the process is a linear game, like Mario trying to rescue the princess.

The reality in enterprise level B2B sales is getting the buying committee to understand how the products and services will benefit their organization. Knowing that each person is going to have a different point of view on how their company will best be served. For some it’s all about the financial commitment and return on investment (ROI). For others it’s integration into an existing systems.

This is where the idea of Full Spectrum Copywriting comes in.

When I’m writing anything that might be technical or only appeal to professionals in a specific industry, I assume the audience has both entry level and expert understanding of the topic.

To keep everything organized, I start with plain language and use more industry jargon as I go.

As someone reads down a page or goes deeper into the site by clicking second and third level links, it’s important they understand what they’re buying into before they get overwhelmed by terminology. By continuing into industry specific jargon, experts in the field should also be satisfied that the company might actually know what they’re talking about.

Just don’t get hung up on on what defines your unique set of technical terms since they’ll vary by the audience. For example, if I’m talking about how a product or service saves money, I’ll be sure to include details only an accountant would love.

This technique also works outside enterprise sales because you’re never quite sure who’s reading your materials. Even consumer items will have quite a broad spectrum of people who will need their questions answers.

One example would be a family contemplating a big ticket purchase. Will your customer’s spouse see the benefits?

We also try to use Full Spectrum Copywriting techniques at On-Disk.com since there’s always a good mix of expert and new users viewing the catalog. I’m fairly certain our customers don’t always run their purchases past a spouse or committee, but it’s really easy to assume the customer knows what you’re talking about or leave out the juicy, technical details advanced users might need to know before they buy.

I’d love it if you’d leave questions for me about Full Spectrum Copywriting in the comments below.


Written by Karlie

January 15th, 2010 at 7:13 am

How do you market a website anyway?

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I can’t really give you a silver bullet on marketing the site. The marketing is going to be dependent on who your target audience is and the product/service you’re selling.

You can use search engines to pull in clients. This article I wrote can help you understand some of the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Websites that work for Small Business

You should also be thinking about your marketing this way… Facebook is a great place to advertise if you’re trying to reach college students. It’s a really bad choice if you’re trying to reach people looking for retirement housing (although there has been some noteable growth in the 55+ demographic). Not that you can’t target your ads at Facebook to reach the people you’re trying to reach, it’s just might not be a grand slam.

Instead, think about your marketing in traditional terms and then translate that to an online medium. You’ll need to clearly define who opens their wallets for what you’re offering. Then you’ll test market, and refine the message until you’re pulling them in left and right.

If the site is simply content and you’ll generate revenue from adverts, you’ll still need to do the same process so you’ll know who your reader is and what advertisers will pay you to be in front of those eyeballs.


Written by Karlie

December 25th, 2009 at 10:25 am

Websites that work for Small Business

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A website doesn’t have to be complex to be an effective tool for Small Business owners. The key to making a website work for you is taking advantage of the passive nature of websites.

Websites, in their natural state, just sit around waiting for someone to browse the content. They only become active when we begin driving visitors.

The good news, is that you don’t have to go to great expense to bring in your visitors.

The Advantage of Being Passive

All too often we are dragged into feeling that we must aggressively compete. That the Internet is a turf war and if we can’t go big, we should go home.

That’s just not the case.

In any business, there’s a target market and the key to having a successful website is getting your information picked up by the search engines so very specific customers will find you.

Relevant Content and Searchable Terms

The key to understanding what the engines will sort into the top 10 listings is Relevant Content.

Think about listing websites from the search engine perspective. There is an infinite number of websites with similar content. If people can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll search with another engine. To keep the “good stuff” front and center and the users in front of their advertisers, they have created complex systems to sort out the good from the bad.

Relevant to the engine usually means hitting as many of the search terms as possible within written content of any given website. And it’s important that the terms are within standard sentences because the engines will read your site and can tell the difference between coherent sentences and lists of terms.

Relevant content is including the information your customers want to find.

That means, you shouldn’t get hung up on key words as stand alone terms. Instead think of providing information that is not only a good read, but is also very descriptive so that you’ll have more opportunities to include relevant content.

By including as much information about your business as possible, the search engine can’t help but sort out a very specific group of customers to send you.

The more ways you can get your point across, the more likely you are to include relevant, searchable terms that will bring in the customers you were hoping to reach with your website.

If you do business locally, your location and distances from landmarks is very relevant and will drive foot traffic to your store.

“On the Corner of Main and Center.” “Across the Street from {Landmark}.” “Just 3 Miles from Downtown {City}.” “Serving the Greater {City} Area.” “In {Shopping Center} near {Anchor Store}.”

If you sold shoes you could say something like, “This {brand name} ladies shoe has a 2.5 inch heal and butter soft leather…” would hit on searches for {brand} shoes, {brand} ladies, ladies leather etc.

As far as your use of the relevance, {brand} {location} is very relevant if your customers know exactly what they want and where they want to buy it. By including your location somewhere on the same page as your product listings, you’ll be able to catch the attention of these very specific shoppers.

Getting Listed in the Search Engines

Getting listed in the search engines is FREE and requires no special software or service providers. Best of all, it’s easier than you think.

You can submit your site directly to the engines by visiting each one you’d like to be listed in and finding their submission criteria. While it may take you a while to do it manually, you’ll only ever have to do it once. Once the engine knows about you, that’s all that’s required. Sending it in over and over again doesn’t increase your ranking.

Just give the listing process time to work.

The engine wants your information and will send an automated program called a Spider to your site in an attempt to catalog your content.

It’s called a Spider because it crawls across the world wide web following links in an attempt to visit every page.

Relevant links

In the same way that Relevant content on your own site can bring a specific type of customer, so can relevant links from other websites.

It does two things for you. First, it will deliver a certain number of like minded people. Secondly it will help boost your “relevance” in the eyes of the search engine.

Think of it this way… What’s more relevant than the corporate website for the brand itself? Logic then dictates that if they list your website as a point of purchase, you are relevant too.

Again, if the aim is to align yourself with the most relevant content, you can’t get much more relevant than a link from…

  • The Manufacturers of the products you sell
  • National, Regional and Local Associations you may belong to
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Local business listings to establish your relevance to local customers. (Tourist Info, online yellow pages, etc)

Maintaining Relevance

In passive mode, all that’s required is to be sure the most relevant key words are present on your website.

If you want to take things a little farther, the key to maintaining your relevance to the engines is to keep your content fresh. Changes in your content will trigger a listing update at the engine for your site.

If you add new pages, you’ll also get another listing opportunity and another chance to reach your target audience.

Though you’ll probably find that it’s your human viewers who’ll benefit the most from new information. After all, the ultimate goal is to be relevant to people by way of the engine.

Boosting Relevance and Search Engine Rank

If fresh content isn’t enough to boost your relevance, the first place to turn for answers is your website traffic statistics. (Ask your webmaster if you aren’t sure how to check your stats.)

With your site stats you’ll be able to see a basic snapshot of who your average visitor is and what’s bringing them to the site.

Most statistics programs will show you which engines your visitors are coming from and which search terms they used to find you. Sometimes you’ll see that your customers are finding you for reasons other than what you intended.

For the most part you’ll probably discover traffic flow from unintended key words. This is usually a good thing! It’s only bad when the search terms are misleading because anyone arriving at your site is likely to leave the moment they discover you don’t really have what they were looking for.

If customers aren’t finding you using what you think are your main key words, type them into the engine to see what other sites are beating you out.

Then just tweak your message until you’re ranking where you’d like to be.

Just one word of caution… it may be impossible to get top 10 for some key words and phrases, so pick your battles and focus on the areas you can win. Remember the idea is to use the engine to sort out customers most likely to make a purchase.

Written by Karlie

December 14th, 2009 at 2:22 pm