<link href="/style.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">
For an example of how powerful CSS is, take a look at the CSS house. A couple of
the more popular resources on the web about cascading style sheets are the CSS
Zen Garden and W3 school’s CSS tutorial page. You may also want to view the
official W3C CSS guidance page.
Effects of Change on Branding
On a daily, weekly, or monthly basis you can choose to change your font type,
layout, colors…just about anything. You can do it in minutes and track the results.
Some branding experts, however, such as Rob Frankel, believe that changing too
frequently could hurt your brand.
Make sure you have a distinct idea of why and how you want to change before you
start altering things. If you realize many things are completely broken, then a
complete makeover might be in order, but typically it is best to change and test
only one thing at a time so you know the exact effects of any change.
How CSS Saves Time
You can link each page of your site to an external style sheet to control the display.
Many of the repetitive changes that would be made on every page can be done
simply by changing one file. This may not seem like a big deal while creating page
five or six, but if your site has 200 pages you will be glad that you used CSS!
CSS are not necessary for smaller sites, but are a great idea if you are building a
large content-based site. They also can help to improve the content-to-code ratio.
Server Side Includes (SSI)
Server Side Includes is an Apache server technology that allows you to include
pages or parts of a page within another page without the negative side effects of
using a framed-based navigation system. To include another file inside of a page,
include the following code where you want the included page to appear.
<!--#include virtual="/includedfile.htm" -->
The use of SSI for common elements, such as navigation or advertisements, work
well to allow you to control your entire site by making simple changes to a single
file. Between CSS and SSI, you can save literally hundreds or thousands of hours
in your site design or re-design.
SSI also lets you include the date last modified or current date in the page. This is
often how many of those generic one page sites have the current date in their sales
On my Search Marketing Info site (Search-Marketing.info), I use SSI for the page
footer, navigational tabs, local left column navigation, and right-side page ads.
Using CSS and SSI or
languages is not necessary
if you aim to have a small
Web site. If you are
making a large site, these
technologies can save you
many hours in site
You can learn more about SSI by viewing the Apache SSI Tutorial located at
SSI Without Breaking File Paths
Webmasters often start out with a smaller site and later decide that they should
start using SSI or a dynamic content management system. To use SSI, many
people change their file paths from .html or .htm to .shtml or .shtm. The problem
with doing this is that it can break inbound links. You can get around this by
modifying your .htaccess file.
To learn more about .htaccess files, view the Comprehensive Guide to .htaccess at:
Content Management Systems (CMS)
Another technique to control the look and design of a site is to use a content
management system. There are many dynamic languages people use such as PHP,
ASP, and ColdFusion. However, most people do not need an expensive content
management system. Before you invest heavily in a content management system
or design, you should know what the goals of the website are. Make sure any
content management system you would consider using produces search-engine-
friendly pages. (More about making a site search engine friendly later.)
Blogs as Content Management Systems
I organize many content sites with weblog programs such as WordPress and
Movable Type. Movable Type costs $199 (as of writing this) for a commercial
license and provides many of the features of expensive content management
systems. Movable Type also offers a free one-month trial of their web-based
software by the name of TypePad. If you like TypePad, you can host your blog
there for a low monthly fee. Blogger, owned by Google, is a 100% free blogging
software platform that is rather limited on the feature front. WordPress is free a
downloadable software program that is easy to install.
If you want to give blogging a try, I suggest going to Blogger.com and signing up
for a free account. If your site is personal in nature or you like the blog content
management system, you may not even need to pay for design beyond a site logo.
If you are serious about using a blog as part of a business, I would recommend
using WordPress or Movable Type.
I wrote a couple articles on why I think using blog software is often an outstanding
idea for both search engine placement and ease of site design. You can find them
Professional Looking Design
It is worth it to pay someone to make a professional looking design for your site. It
is very affordable easy to use a default blog template and pay a logo designer $50-
Writing an interesting blog
ensures that you have
fresh content available,
which keeps traffic
coming back to your site.
In addition, blog software
can be used as an
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$200 to design a logo for you. My original SEO Book site design was not overly
simplistic because I am a minimalist; it was overly simplistic because I am a bad
designer. For the first two years it was a default Movable Type template with a $99
logo at the top. I eventually paid a few thousand dollars to get a new, crisp, clean
It is very easy to find shoddy logo design, but there are some good ones. Recently
I purchased logos from The Logo Company for $150 each. A few times I have
been disappointed, but some of their logos came out better than expected. My
SEO Book logo was created by EZY Logo, a now defunct company that had great
product but terrible customer support. If you need an exceptionally cheap logo
you may want to run a contest at a forum or try to buy a logo from a site like
I purchased AAA logo design software for $50. I think it is fun to play with, but if
you are not graphically inclined, you probably will want to pay someone else to
design your logo. Buying a good original logo is an exceptionally cheap one-time
Professional Looking Design (Part 2)
Making a site accessible, usable, and professional looking might cost you $10,000
or more. If you are low on funds, it might make more sense to spend that money
on brand building and marketing, but if you want designers and the like to link at
your site it is much easier to get links if your site looks professional.
Off the start I did not believe that coding errors or design mattered that much, but
if you want technical sites to link to you, then your site has to pass the sniff test.
That consideration is much more important if you write a tech blog than if you run
a fairly static e-commerce site.
Humans do the Buying
Inevitably, it will be human eyes that see your web page. For example, if my first
six chapters had no good advice, you would not read chapter seven.
I am unaware of any automated buying-bots that surf the web just to buy things.
(There are, however, automated clicking agents that defraud people, and the people
who create them should be shot.)
How do you write for human eyes? I recommend investing in a copywriting book.
Some of the books I have read are Net Words by Nick Usborne, The Online
Copywriter’s Handbook by Bob Bly, and Persuasive Online Copywriting by Bryan
Eisenberg. Of the three, I most highly recommend the third; Persuasive Online
When you create your
pages, make sure they read
well to people. You aren't
writing them for robots.
You will need good copy
to have a decent
conversion rate and to
encourage natural linking
to your site.
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Copywriting contains a ton of information packed into small convenient chapters,
which works out well if you ever need to look at the information again.
The above books are a great introduction to copywriting type books, but if you are
looking for thorough copywriting and advertising advice, I could recommend no
better book than Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. It is like an encyclopedia
of advertising knowledge from one of the world’s best copywriters. It is a bit dated
and speaks primarily of print ads, but if you are primarily writing sales copy, this is a
great book to read.
The above books will also enlighten you with coverage of subjects such as the sales
process and different personality types.
We here at XYZ Corporation know what it means to be
successful. In fact, sometimes we forget that at one point a
long, long, long time ago we weren’t the premiere
information distribution technology enhancement resource
agency facilitator. Times have changed though, and we have
transfused our corporate mission to account for the
discrepancies in the post-modern publishing phenomenon.
We are…us…greatest…best…us, us, us…selfish, etc.
Basics of Online Copywriting
Use varying style. Lose the corporate speak.
Make it a conversation.
Make your point up front.
Don’t use jargon.
Use shorter text, or, as E.B. White would say, “omit needless words.”
Break up text using headers, sub headers, bulleted lists, and other text
Stress benefits before features (unless it is a tech-heavy product).
An Audience of One
It is a great idea to sell information. If your copy can connect with a person and
get them to feel as though they are working with a person instead of a screen, the
sale process is much easier. You do not know who is on the other end of the
People are generally distrusting toward the unknown. If site visitors sense a person
is writing just for them, they will not want to click away.
Include a Call to Action
Many beautiful websites have no call to action. It is a great idea to guide the user.
Some people use flashing text, excessive red coloring or highlighting, or other
over-the-top techniques that distract the user away from what you want them to
Sales pages may want to play off of the emotions certain colors bring out, but with
informational or general product pages, the focus should be on ease of use. I
recommend avoiding using random misplaced bright colors on most web pages;
instead, make it obvious what action you want the user to take.
The one exceptionally large blue button on the page…
The one that is centered inline in the content area…that’s it, that’s what I want you
to do. Users should be able to do the action you want them to without even
thinking! Both The Big Red Fez by Seth Godin and Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
are books largely devoted to this simple concept.
Page Layout Error
Even if you keep the sales copy exactly the same, trying a slightly different page
layout can result in a tremendous increase in profitability.
For example, when I first started the SEO Book site, I only promoted this e-book
off to the side. I switched to promoting this e-book on every page right below the
page content posts and overnight the sales more than tripled.
Another good example of how page layout can really make a difference in a web
campaign is Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. During Howard Dean’s 2004
presidential campaign, they used their blog to cast a vote on whether or not their
campaign should accept matching funds. After people voted, they were sent to a
landing page. The first day saw 100,000 voters and raised
They looked at the vote return landing page and noticed that the donate button
was at the bottom of the page. They moved it to the top of the page. On the
second day, another 100,000 people voted, but they raised $4,500,000.
Make it Flow
Small sentences and paragraphs with common words make writing flow easily. In
addition, you can make the text easy on the eyes by setting a line height (the area of
a line of text and the space above or below it) to at least 120% of the text height,
and by using the maximum contrast between your text and background.
Since you have no sales person on your site, the text is the sales person. It needs to
answer questions and arouse appeal toward your products.
McDonald’s asks, “would you like fries with that?” Most major corporations know
it is easier to sell again to a person than it is to find a new prospect. After a person
contacts you or orders something, send them to a thank you page.
Give them small free gifts, strengthen their bond with you, make them feel good
about their decision, or try to sell them something else. It does not need to bring in
money to be a gain. If they subscribe to your mailing list, you have increased your
exposure FREE. Consider giving them options to read other journals that cross
Or, you could reference affiliated companies. These links can hold discounts that
appear as gifts, when in actuality, they make you money. I recently purchased ink
cartridges and got 5% off for adding their site to my favorites list. It is much
cheaper to give me 5% off than to try to find me again later. The possibilities are
Focus on the User
The user focus must be on benefits offered to them. Writing the word you instead
of we is a must. The simpler and easier it is for users to see benefits from an
action, the better off they are and the more conversions you make.
Some techies might like features, but to general audiences it is usually best to rank
your priorities in the following manner:
Features (if you are selling to a techie audience they may want the
features before the benefits).
Make it a Conversation
All the above tips pale in comparison to the following tip:
Write in a conversational tone, as a person, not a company.
Fake fluffery does not go well on the web. People can smell it a mile away. Since
the Web started as a non-commercial entity, there are certain etiquettes (or
netiquettes) that dictate how we should act. When we go outside these basic ideas,
we not only avoid conversion, but also are likely to offend our readers.
Many of the people who have bought this e-book told me they bought it because I
sounded honest and real. Some of my blog posts are somewhat random, personal,
or humorous, and some people like that.
GapingVoid.com is a weblog (some might find offensive for cursing and being
blunt), but it talks about creating smarter conversations, and I find his cartoons and
copy refreshing for their bluntness.
You can get away without being the best copywriter if you are honest.
Rapid Feedback Loops
Blogs and websites such as Epinions and Planet Feedback make it easy for
customers to see what others have to say about you. Google Groups, Yahoo!
Groups, and MSN Groups are additional havens for complaints. A large portion
of the value of the Amazon experience is user reviews and the “X people
recommended blah instead of this” area. People have told me they have bought
my book due to it being mentioned on book lists on Amazon.
Just be honest. If you are not the best, work to improve! Work from your
strengths and focus on something you are the best at. You should also occasionally
look and see what others have to say about your service by checking search results.
If you solve problems and turn complainers into happy customers, you lower your
Customer interaction should be personal, not corporate-speak driven. Sometimes
you will fall short (as I have many times), but honesty goes a long way. If you find
your way into the conversation and are human about it, you curb the rants and may
even spur on a few people who believe in you. An amazing book on how markets
are conversations is called The ClueTrain Manifesto by Christopher Locke, Rick
Levine, Doc Searls, David Weinberger (ClueTrain is available free online).
Lots of people will tell you to create lots of quality content without ever giving a
legitimate definition of what quality content is. The web is a big social network,
and the trick is to get your messages to spread further and faster than your
competitors. Usually, creating more pages does not do this as well as creating a
The Web was designed to save people time or give away useful information. The
closer you can align a portion of your business model or website with those
concepts, the better chance you have at achieving extreme success.
While many SEOs hold back their secrets so they can profit from them, I give this
e-book free to charities and post most of what I learn to my blog. I not only help
people, but my syndicated network grows. I have been found by prospective
customers from word-of-mouth in forums I have never heard of. One day I got a
thank you e-mail from a person from a religious forum and about ten minutes later
got a thank you from a person from a pornography forum.
What is Quality Content?
Quality content is conceptually unique content that people would want to read and
link at. If you want people to pay attention to you it is important that your create
content that is conceptually unique. The following article by Sugarrae explores this
topic more in depth:
Writing Ideas to Spread
Rather than being so focused on search that you try to match keywords, you can
also market certain ideas with the intent to spread. By writing a headline that is
juicy, intriguing, or controversial, you stand a much better idea of seeing that idea
spread. Search engines follow people. If you spread good ideas then search
engines will trust you.
Brian Clark’s CopyBlogger offers great headline tips in his post titled “Magnetic
Multiple Customer Types
I need some people to want to buy my e-book. “Buy my stuff” is not an easy
message to spread though. I also need other people to link to my site. Just like I
need to sell my e-book to have a business model, I also need to give others a
reason why they would want to link to my site because that will market my book.
Working From Your Strengths
I am typically a bit goofy in the things I say or do. It is why I have created many
funny or fun-type websites. It is far easier to be myself than to pull off some sort
I am not the best copywriter, and I do not write the best sales letter pages. If you
read the 33 Days to Online Profits e-book that comes as a bonus, it will include lots of
content about copywriting. Many of the links are not worth buying from for most
people. Much of his information in his report about search engines is inadequate
However, I still note this document because it shows some copywriting techniques
that may be helpful. You only need to be great at one thing to be extremely
successful on the web. Yanik Silver is good at selling people stuff with compelling
copywriting. I do not suggest that you buy most of the stuff he links to in 33 Days
to Online Profits, but I do recommend you glance at how he writes copy.
Write Content to Target the Ideal Prospect
When you write content, you do not want to create something that makes
everyone happy. You want to write to the ideal target customer because your
writing will have the greatest effect on the people you are trying to target.
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