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.


Using Google Docs to make a survey

May 18, 2009 in Hosted "Office", Tips

google-docs-survey-exampleDid you know you can make a free, and rich survey or poll using Google Docs? It’s simple to set up, and as a bonus it drops all your results into a spreadsheet where you can slice/dice/analyze/chart/graph or whatever.

To create a survey, inside Google Docs go to New then click on Form as shown at right.

Go through and create your questions, set the response type (multiple choice, checkbox, text, drop down, etc.) where you’ll enter in the possible answers and if the question is required or not.

When you’re done, select a theme (the look of your survey) and save it and a link to your survey will appear at the bottom of your screen. You can then copy/paste that link into your website, Twitter or whatever to publicize your survey. You can also embed the survey right on your site if you wish.

The results are then fed into a spreadsheet that you’ll find in your Google Docs document area.

Here’s an example I whipped up for this post. Enjoy!

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Discussing Website Conversions

March 4, 2009 in Expert Advice, Tips

Reading through this (quite long) discussion about conversion rates and found these nuggets inside:

They recommend having a refer-a-friend program.

Aaron: What type of traffic converts best?
Karl: Existing customers convert very well, as do visitors from refer-a-friend programs.

I’ve had mixed success with this myself, it’s very audience dependent (and works better with women than men), but it’s not hard to set up and when it works, it’s free traffic. I’ve had the most success with a program of incentivizing the referrals. It’s a bit harder to set up, but can be significantly more productive. An example I’ve had good luck with is: “Refer 5 friends and be entered in a drawing.”

They also touch on the value of giving your site extra credibility by using press mentions.

While working on a weight loss website that generates $5 million/year, we noticed that the company had a fantastic press testimonial that wasn’t prominently displayed on their website. By moving this information “above the fold”—and reformatting it—we managed to create an overnight 67% increase in sales.

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Tip: put customer reviews/testimonials in your email marketing

February 12, 2009 in Tips

Mountain Gear did it and found the following:

Mountain Gear, delivers even better results when it includes reviews of top-rated products by its customers. In a recent test, e-mail containing customer reviews produced 5%-8% higher click-through, 14%-17% higher conversion and 81%-85% higher average order value than e-mail without reviews promoting the same products. [Internet Retailer]

This makes sense of course – they are effective marketing on a website, why wouldn’t they be in marketing emails? If you’re selling retail items which have customer reviews, this is a no-brainer.

In my own experience with consulting, I’ve had good success sending references including testimonials and mini case studies from the references as part of the sales process. (Typically sent along with a proposal).

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Tip: Track the ROI of any campaign with Google Analytics

January 29, 2009 in Analytics, SEO/SEM, Tips

Did you know that you can track any advertising or marketing campaign with Google Analytics, not just AdWords? Of course failure to track is the first (well, fifth actually) mistake entrepreneurs make. You shouldn’t just want to track things precisely, you must.

Here are some examples of what you might like to track with the same precision as an AdWords campaign:

  • Pay per click campaigns with Yahoo or MSN
  • A banner ad buy on another site
  • An email marketing campaign
  • An affiliate program
  • Any link you give out for which you want to track the effectiveness

For todays’ tip, let’s say you’re running a banner ad and you want to track how many clicks you get from that banner, where those visitors go on your site, how long they stay, how many of them convert to your goals, etc. (Incidentally, this works very nicely with your Google Analytics conversion goals.)

Campaign Report Example It’s actually easier than you think. The bonus is that you get a nice report inside of Google Analytics under Traffic Source > Campaigns.

This report provides you information on visitors, including:

  • pages per visit
  • average time on site
  • bounce rate
  • goal conversion
  • sales revenues
  • number of transactions
  • ecommerce conversion rate
  • value per visitor
  • and more

And actually, it so simple (bear with me), it would be ridiculous not to do it.

So here’s how:

Simply add the following to the end of the link back to your site from the campaign source:

utm_source=campaignname where campaignname is whatever you want to call the campaign.

For example, let’s say your site is, and you are running a banner campaign on

The link you would provide to would be

And you can do it to any URL, not just your homepage.

That’s the bare minimum, but you can just as easily pass in more information to make your reporting even richer. There are 5 name/value combinations you can use in all (called “tags”), and you really want to use at least the first three.

The five tags are:

  • Name  (utm_campaign) The name of your campaign. Example: Free Shipping Promotion. utm_campaign=Free+Shipping+Promotion
  • Source (utm_source) The source of your traffic. Example:
  • Medium (utm_medium) This is the medium sending you traffic. Example: banner. utm_medium=banner
  • Term (utm_term) Mostly used by AdWords campaigns, Google will load it with the search term used when they saw (and clicked on) your ad. If you’re running a PPC campaign with Yahoo or MSN, you can add this one yourself but to do so, you’ll need to create a specific URL for each keyword. utm_term=my+keyword
  • Content (utm_content) Here you put any additional clues to help you determine the effectiveness of two otherwise similar things. Example – let’s say you’re running two banner ads, one in the header, one in the footer. You might put footer in one, and header in the other. utm_content=header.

So for our banner ad example, the full link might look like this now:

I know what you’re saying now – how the heck do you know how to get the link just right? Looks complicated right? Well it’s not, and to make it even easier to figure out how to properly format Google has given us an URL Builder to do the heavy lifting for you.

Google’s URL Builder

Hope this helps.

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Tip: an undocumented secret in Google AdWords

January 23, 2009 in SEO/SEM, Tips

Note: old hands with AdWords already know this, but for those of you who are new to AdWords, or haven’t gotten that deep with it yet, I hope this tip helps you out.

First – when writing ads in AdWords, you should all know that the very first and most important rule is to use the keywords in your ad, preferably in your ad headline. This gives you the highest chance of getting clicks – in part because it bolds those words in the ad itself, but also because it’s a clear match for what the searcher is looking for.

Adwords-example Now, have you ever noticed how you can type some obscure term into Google, and ebay/Amazon/Target/Shopzilla have ads showing, with that term in the ad? Well here’s how they do that, and why you might care.

This tip is most useful for people who have many, many product offerings. The most effective thing to do is write specific ads for each of your keywords. If you want maximum success and click though rate – that’s the way to get it. But if the constraints of time, or budget, or practicality make that impossible, then this can be a good option.

Google has a syntax feature when writing ads where you can create a placeholder in your ad copy, then Google will dynamically flow a search term that matches one of your keywords into your ad, under certain conditions.

Here’s the syntax that you’d put in your ad. Note: the “default text” text is what shows if the term won’t fit or the quality score of the term is too low:

{Keyword: default text}

Example ad text using the technique:

{Keyword: Stuffed Bear}!
Get your {Keyword: Stuffed Bear} Here!
Free Shipping on all orders.

Here’s what happens – Google will use one of the keywords in your ad group that matches what the searcher typed in and put it where the placeholder is.

So if you have a keyword Pink Bear, and someone searched with the term Pink Bear, the ad would show thusly:

Pink Bear!
Get your Pink Bear Here!
Free Shipping on all orders.

All the same ad writing rules apply, of course. But when used properly, this can be a great help. Enjoy!

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A tip for bloggers who care about SEO

January 16, 2009 in SEO/SEM, Tips

Did you know you can submit your RSS feed to Google as your "sitemap" in Google Webmaster Central? Remember that Google says submitting your sitemap lets them know "about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover." Which is a Good Thing. So take a couple minutes to make sure Google is up to speed.

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