Category Archives: Website Design Tips

14 Travel Bloggers Share their Branding Secrets

There are many ways to build a brand as a writer, which is what I tell students in my online course, Introduction to Internet Writing Markets. What works for one writer may not be what interests another. So, for this post, I decided to survey some successful travel writers to see what they thought. Continue reading 14 Travel Bloggers Share their Branding Secrets

Copywriting–3 Things You Must Know About Content Writing

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Writing Web content is rewarding for many reasons. You can reach readers anywhere in the world. You can get instant feedback through comments. And you can write on any topic you want, without worrying about finding an interested editor.
Sounds easy. Right?

It can be if you’re mostly writing for yourself and not worried about whether or not anyone is reading your content.

However, I’ve found that the most fun of writing on the Web is reaching interested readers. So how to do you do that? I’ll share three of the most important things I’ve learned about writing effective Web content in the past couple of decades.

Let’s start at the end, rather than the beginning, and build to that final aha! moment.

3) Write what your readers want.

Okay, so that’s a given, whether you’re writing for business applications or for entertainment value. There’s a catch though, isn’t there?

And the catch is…ta da…drum roll…that it can be almost impossible to figure out what readers want until you’ve already got established content and can analyze it for reading patterns.

Let’s start with the basics, or the keywords that people type into a search engine, to get to your website. It stands to reason that your content needs to have those top keyword in it if you’re going to get much traffic. After all, if you write about eggs benedict and everyone wants egg omelets, you’re not going to attract many readers.

The good news is that there are lots of keyword services out there, many of which have at least a few free services and free trials. Try these:

  • Wordstream. http://www.wordstream.com/popular-keywords/ This site gives a lot of free keyword traffic analysis in five areas (Business keywords, consumer keywords, health and fitness keywords, finance keywords, sales and marketing keywords). They also offer a free trial of their product.
  • Keyword Submit Express. http://keywords.submitexpress.com/keytracker.php This is a free tool that allows you up to 15 searches daily, and gives a large number of related terms with specific traffic estimates. Their data comes from WordTracker and Keyword Discovery.

You may also find this YouTube video has some good tips!
 

 
 

2) Most surfers won’t really read all of what you write.

I bet you’re saying, what? Nobody’s reading these lines that I’ve spent so much time revising and revising and revising?

Well…

Sorry, but no, Fatbit Technologies says that most readers stay less than 5 seconds giving your content the once over! http://www.fatbit.com/fab/make-people-stay-website-5-seconds/

That’s not enough to impress anyone with your writing style, is it?

Nope. You have to impress readers with the promise of what your web page content is all about.

So, the most important thing you can do is make your title or headline an attention grabber. There are, of course, lots of different ways to do that!

Egg
This free ebook download, A Cheat Sheet for Writing Blog Posts that Go Viral, has lots of great tips: http://boostblogtraffic.com/

Think of presenting your content like serving the egg breakfasts I mentioned earlier. If the eggs benedict is lopsided and kind of runny, it’s not too appetizing. But if it’s well placed on the plate along with a bright colored garnish, like a symetrically formed red strawberry, it’s a lot more interesting.

And of course, once you’ve grabbed your reader with that great start, make sure you deliver what your headline promised. If somebody dumped a little too much salt on that eggs benedict, you’re going to push it aside no matter how tasty it looks.

Keep in mind that Jakob Nielsen’s 2008 study indicated readers really get less than 20% of what you have on the page. That’s not much, is it?

1) Remember we read differently on the Web.

We all read on monitors these days, don’t we? In fact, if you weren’t reading on some sort of screen you wouldn’t be reading this webpage.

So, how do you feel about monitors?
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Love ’em or hate ’em?

I personally prefer reading on a monitor to reading print materials these days, but that could have something to do with these progressive lens glasses.

Nowadays the experts are hesitant to say that paper is a better medium for reading than a monitor. Of course, when all we had to read was paper that was what we preferred.

It was also what we functioned best reading due to all that practice. After all, before we used notebooks to write on in school, those erasable slates were how students got their ideas down and learned to write.

We don’t look around for those anymore, do we?

Research today shows that with all this practice reading electronic content, times are changing.

This neat article from over at The Digital Reader also draws from research that shows that not only these young Generation X readers, who’ve grown up as digital natives, but also those of us at the other end of the scale, can find reading from a monitor a better experience.

See: http://the-digital-reader.com/2013/02/09/study-summary-its-easier-for-some-to-read-on-lcd-screens-than-in-a-paper-book/#.U-vUZfldWSo

One of the reasons many of us find reading from a monitor easier than paper is at least in part, if not completely, due to good content creation practices. What are those? Well, lots of things ranging from making text scannable to using template designs that provide good color contrast.

There is no one thing that makes content better for reading on a monitor. Rather, it’s a new way of writing and organizing content that copywriters need to understand.

Check out this slideshare for some ideas:

 

 
Or, you may want to consider taking a course or two that will help you develop the skills you need to write effective Web content. Check your local library or college listings.
 
 
ed2go | online learning anytime, anywhere...just a click away
 
 

Three Things To Keep Your Blog From Being Highjacked

Being hacked or hijacked is about as bad as a hurricane coming ashore to many bloggers. I know it was for me! Like many things though, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

And I have indeed become stronger, coming back fighting the ongoing plague of hackers and hijackers!

Screen capture of the Backup wizard on cPanel.
Screen capture of the Backup wizard on cPanel.

The first thing every blogger with their own domain and not on a hosted platform (like Blogger or WordPress.com) needs to know is that they have to keep their own backups for their webhost to reinstall after a disaster. Your webhost will have provided some sort of interface–mine is cPanel–and it’s easy to do a weekly backup simply by clicking the backup option.

Screen capture of the Export tool in WordPress.
Screen capture of the Export tool in WordPress. Just click on Export to save your WordPress contents in a file you can store on your own hard drive.

You can also periodically “export” your content within WordPress itself, however, be warned that if you restore your site from a WordPress backup you don’t get any of your server information (like statistics) or all of the modifications you’ve made to your theme (like those nice, neat plugins) or, as I discovered, sometimes the images weren’t included either.

At any rate, if you find your content has been hijacked, so someone else’s banner is emblazoned on your URL, or that you’ve been infected by someone hacking into your WordPress site, you’ll need to have your site completely wiped out and restored. Your webhost can do this easily if you have a cPanel backup. If not, they restore you to brand new, and you can import that exported file that at least has your posts, if nothing else.

You can, however, avoid having this nightmarish experience altogether–or at least only once–by taking some precautions.

These are some of the things I’ve done:

  • Remove all users and the option for people to register as users, or hide your dashboard from them. With RSS feeds, I had absolutely no reason to allow users as I don’t have any additional authors, and if people aren’t allowed in at all, there’s less chance they’ll be able to figure out how to get from being a subscriber to being an author. Here’s a WordPress plugin to hide the dashboard–http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-hide-dashboard/
  • Change all passwords to gibberish, and I do mean gibberish such as 8h)Bx#!o92. Don’t use anything that even remotely resembles a word. Include all types of keyboard strokes, not just letters and numbers. Make your password at least 10 characters long, so no hacking technology will be able to “guess” your password.
  • If you end up having to start from scratch (in the event that you didn’t have a cPanel backup), don’t use Admin as your username. Once you’re set up the original username can’t be changed, so if it’s Admin, you’re stuck with Admin. If hackers can tell it’s Admin (so your posts show up as being posted by “Admin”) they only have to guess at one thing–the password, otherwise they have to guess at both a username and a password to get into your site. Of course, hackers are going to guess that what’s given as the name on a post is the username, so make sure you change that display in WordPress. Change the display under Users / Your Profile / Display Name As to something relevant and not related to your user login name.
  • Install the WordPress plugin–Better WP Security. You can find it by searching in your WordPress dashboard plugins or read about it at: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/better-wp-security/ – go through all of your options and turn them on after you read them carefully and decide they’ll work for you.
  • Install new WordPress and theme updates as soon as they become available.

I know this doesn’t seem like a lot, but it has stopped hackers in their tracks–I get the evidence every day in my Better WP Security updates that tell me who has tried to hack into my site. I also paid for a subscription to SiteLock through my webhost that alerts me if there are any security issues on my site, and displays a daily guarantee to my visitors that they won’t get any viruses by visiting.