How to drastically improve the copy on your site, even if you only have 5 minutes.

May 2, 2013 in An idea, Business Intel, Expert Advice, Landing Pages, Tips

First, let me tell you a little story involving butterflies and bladders. 

I've spent the past few days at MicroConf. Just a phenomenal conference, full of like-minded folks, loaded with actionable content. Not to get too carried away, but it was a life-changer. I'd go on some more, but I don't want you competing with me for tickets next year.

On the second day, Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers selected a handful of sites from the audience to do a public "tear down" of in front of these 200 folks. 200 folks I admire and respect. I had submitted my baby, my brand-new, just launched site ( ahead of time as a candidate to be selected.

As soon as she took the stage, an angry mob of butterflies started attacking my internal organs.

She opened the first site and started working it over and providing some great, if slightly brutal feedback. Really good stuff. After she moved to the next site I could see in her browser window that she had about 12 tabs open. It dawned on me that she was working her way through these open tabs, and that the open tabs were the sites she had selected for tear down. About eight tabs in, I saw the favicon for my site. The angry butterflies grew teeth. Sharp ones. And they pulled out pitch forks. And chainsaws. And congregated in my bladder.

I figured 7 tabs was a lot of ground to cover, so I would have the time to address the sudden urge, and from where I was sitting in the very front row I quickly slinked out the back of the room to the bathroom. What a baby, I know. I emptied my bladder and the butterflies relocated to my stomach and heart. I hurried back to the conference room and what to my wondering eyes did appear as I walked in the room than my site, my baby, my precious up on the big screen. She had already started. The moderator was looking for the site owner to hand the microphone to. I pulled a hamstring sprinting to the front of the room, groping for the microphone like the final runner in a relay race. 


So here's what I learned, and how I dramatically improved the copy on my site in 5 minutes (and how you can too):

After she said some nice things, Joanna pointed out the main problem with my copy - the language was all focused on me, and it should instead be focused on my prospect. I was selling myself, when I should be focusing on what's in it for them.

In Joanna's own words:

Talking about yourself -- even thinking about yourself -- when you write your copy will only do one thing: get in the way.

It will shut down the sale.

Which means that you are the biggest roadblock to better communication with your customers.

This is the foundation of great copywriting: People don't care about you. They only care about themselves.

You care about you. But no one else does. (Except yo' mama.)

Your visitors want what they want. They do not "want" what you're trying to sell them.

Your job then, is not to "try" to sell your visitors a product. You're trying to sell them themselves.

Ok, so here's a fun little exercise, take a look at the version of my site Joanna (and everyone!) saw and see if you can spot the problems. To make it easier, I've color-coded my stupidity.



So as soon as I got home, I spent 5 minutes (and I'll need to spend more, we're not perfect yet) and turned those sub headings around. Check out the difference below (or see it here in the wild).


Notice the difference? Yeah. Serious improvement.

My humble thanks to Joanna for the help.

I hope this gives you some ideas for your site. 

I highly recommend Joanna's email list, by the way. The first lesson she sends out addresses the same topic I've addressed here in even more depth.


Answers on Startups (a Stack Exchange site)

May 17, 2011 in 4 out of 5 stars, A community, A website, Business Intel, Business Planning, Expert Advice

What is it? A question and answer site focused on Startups and Entrepreneurship.

Who makes it?

Stack Exchange (with a dash of clout from Dharmesh Shah)

Why is it the killerest?

Stack Exchange (the company behind this) have built a highly effective Question-and-Answer gamification format offering. They started with the absurdly successful Stack Overflow which is focused on answering software development questions, and applied the model to various other topics, including startups.

All of us have questions as we venture into these challenging startup waters, and Answers OnStartups is a productive place ask them. Because of the reward system built into the site, you will typically get high quality, and varied answers from experienced folks who know what they're talking about.

It also skews heavily toward online and software startups, which is where my own passion lies (as it does for many of you).

What could be improved?

I've been watching and participating for a few weeks now and I've had a great time, but two things could be improved:

1) The number of participants. What it has now is great, but I would love it to reach the level of some of the higher volume Stack Exchange sites. I know a bunch of you reading this have valuable insights to share, so get over there.

2) Some repetition in questions. Equity splitting, marketing, and funding questions occupy a large percent of the questions. That said, there are still interesting and helpful questions posted frequently.

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

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January 26, 2009 in 2 out of 5 stars, Business Intel, Twitter

What is it?

twtpoll: A simple poll service, primarily aimed at letting you use Twitter to ask a question and get responses from your followers. You can also embed the poll in your website, send it to Facebook, email it, etc.


Who makes it?

Felipe Coimbra

Why is it the killerest?

If you're using Twitter (as directed) then you'll be part of that powerful conversation we discussed. This little service is a way to harness that conversation and gain helpful information.

It's simple, it's free, no login, no fuss.

It allows you to block or allow multiple votes from a single IP (to control vote-stuffing).

Like with Twitter (and because you'll presumably be tweeting it, although that's not necessary) your questions are limited to 140 characters.

The results come back in a nifty little pie-chart. It's new and it's mostly just for fun, so I wouldn't throw anything too hefty at it, but it does fill a need, simply.

Give it a try here to let me know if you'd be interested in a podcast. 

What could be improved

A little info on customizing the look for design conscious webmasters might be nice. So would viewing the votes inline on the same page (i.e. not jumping to the twtpoll site). Hard to complain too loudly given the price, however. And the twtpoll page is clean, and ad-free.

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

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January 20, 2009 in 3 out of 5 stars, A service, Business Intel

What is it?

Poll Daddy: A service which allows you to put a poll or survey on your site. It then offers rich graphical reporting of the responses.


Who makes it?

Automattic, Inc.

Why is it the killerest?

Because it makes it simple to ascertain the opinions of your website/blog visitors.

As the website publisher, you fill out a simple form on the PollDaddy site indicating your question and the possible responses (including "other" where they can enter their own responses) and they provide you a snippet of code which you place on your website to display the poll/survey.

It has a user-friendly admin interface which makes it easy to quickly create a poll and view the results.

All plans (free included) offer the ability to customize the look of the poll to match your site, if you don’t like one of their preset looks (they’re not too bad). They’ve got a nifty editor to make customizing easy-ish, but if you want to edit your design once it’s changed, you need to know CSS. The upside is that if you do know CSS, you can make a very customized poll.

You can add youtube video, or images as your question, or answers.

There’s pretty good logic and constructs in place to help you prevent and manage multiple votes by the same person.

And you can close the poll after a certain date.

They’ve done a nice job of making a fairly easy-to-use site and service. The reports are pretty neat as well, and the poll and survey setup (when they work) are pretty straightforward and easy.

What could be improved?

I ran into numerous bugs using the service. Nothing I wasn’t able to work around, but it was a mess. I had pages error out, and when I generated my first poll, the code (to paste) was wrong and didn't work. I had to go back through the site and load the code page again to get the right code. It had several problem that I assume are probably related to the a heavy load today? Things did eventually work after I re-tried them so I assume they'll get these cleared up, and when they do – this is a great offering.

How much does it cost?

Free for a basic version, then $200/yr or $900/yr to allow more than 1,000 responses per poll.


Here’s an example of the poll (and I’d love to have your responses).

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Why you should seriously consider accepting PayPal and/or Google Checkout

October 25, 2007 in An article, Business Intel

Paypal_logo_2 Are you accepting PayPal as a payment option for your ecommerce offering? Some studies suggest it's a great way to boost sales.

...according to a recent survey by JupiterResearch. Among Internet users, 33% said they had a PayPal account and 23% called it their preferred way to pay.


...other benefits of accepting PayPal ...of the 153 million PayPal account holders, 36 million have used PayPal in the past 90 days, suggesting a large and loyal cadre of PayPal users.

And many of them keep balances in their PayPal accounts, often accumulated through sales on eBay. At any given time there is $2.5 billion in PayPal accounts, and that money typically turns over every two weeks. Much of that gets spent online, and 18% of U.S. online shoppers in a recent PayPal-sponsored survey said they would not have made a purchase if the retailer had not taken PayPal.

Google_checkout Are you taking advantage of the Google Checkout program which is waiving processing fees till 2008, and increasing visibility on AdWords ads by featuring a colorful button? Google Checkout will also give you $10 in free processing for every $1 spent on AdWords starting in '08.

Ritz Interactive, which operates such web sites as and, says its click-through rate went up 23% after the Google Checkout badge was added to its ads, and that the conversion rate on those click-throughs went up 24%. Intermix, an apparel retailer, says its click-through and conversion rates went up about 20%. At sporting goods retailer, the Google Checkout badge boosted click-through rates from about 1.2% to 2.2%, an increase of more than 80%.

(emphases mine)

Source: the excellent Internet Retailer Magazine, October '07 article Google and PayPal collide at the checkout

See also: Adding three or more payment options at checkout has raised sales by an average of 14% according to payments processor CyberSource Corp. - Source July '07 Internet Retailer

Update: I had the Google credit, backwards.

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