Tag Archive for: website best practices

Poor Website Strategy: Watch Out for Poop Proliferation

Dear Copy Bitch: What’s the most challenging thing in your industry today?

–Alex, Local High School Senior

Answer: Lately, the most challenging thing has been poop proliferation via websites (I’d use a much more earthy term, but you’re still a babe, Alex <sigh>). In the last month alone, I’ve had three websites dropped on my lap that stunk to high heaven.

On the first PP (poop proliferation), the owner had spent a boatload of cash but hadn’t experienced any returns, basically because SEO (search engine optimization) practices circa 1999 were being used and the copy was oatmeal without the raisins and brown sugar. The second one involved a website that had just been “re-launched.” Sadly, I saw some pics of the old design, and it was better. Also, I think the new navigation hid Jimmy Hoffa’s whereabouts (look it up, Alex), the copy was more twisted than Tiger Woods’s love life, and there were links to sites that had nothing–and I mean NOTHING–to do with the person’s company. The third PP came to me by way of a prospect who emailed me saying her site was just about ready and that she just needed the copy to be “tweaked.” (My Redflaggalator always pings “danger” when such emails land in my inbox.) To me, “tweaked” means “spit and polish.” This site needed a bulldozer.

So what gives? Who’s to blame? Glad you asked. I have plenty o’blame to dole out:

First, web developers: Prospects often start with you (even though they shouldn’t) because they think “web developer” right after they think “I need a website” or “I need to re-launch a website.” You’re doing them a disservice in this day and age if you don’t bring up 1) SEO and 2) copywriting right away. You’re the front line, guys, so you need to battle hard for the likes of me and the SEOs out there. But get this–you do that, and if you have the right resources to refer to–YOU WILL LOOK LIKE A HERO IN THE END (which means having clients who’ll sing your praises and salaam before you).

Second, prospects: I realize your specialty is not web development, copywriting, or SEO. But neither is medicine or cars, and I bet you do a little research before shopping for both of those things, right? Do the same for your website. There’s a ton of information out there (and yes, some of it is poop), but enough of the cream rises to the top in Google searches. You’re going to be investing good money in your site. Do a little homework on what to look for, what the heck SEO means, and why you should care what your copy says.

Third, marketing folks: Make sure your stable is loaded with thoroughbreds (i.e. quality developers, designers, writers, and SEOs).

Fourth, copywriters: Professional, dry copy won’t cut it these days. Your copy needs to tell a story. It needs to engage. And trust me when I say this: you can be creative and professional at the same time.

Fifth, SEOs: Please don’t claim to know SEO unless you really do. That means having built sites  that increased conversions (not traffic per se. Anyone can increase traffic to a site. You need to deliver the right traffic that converts into leads/sales). I should probably make this #2, since there are some scam artists out there but even more well-meaning folks who think it’s not hurting anyone to add “SEO” to the list of their services. Confession: I used to do keyword phrase research for clients until I realized it–and all that goes with “it”–is a specialized skill. I refer people to the pros now so that I can focus on the copy.

Aren’t you glad you asked, Alex? (There’ll be a quiz.)

Craptastic Websites & Awful Contact Us Pages

I was referred to a business the other day, so I popped on over to its website. The home page was professional looking with clear navigation. It had three boxes for three separate audiences, along with hyperlinked bullet points in each box. So far so good. I appreciate sites that effectively “talk” to multiple audiences and direct said audiences accordingly.

But then everything went to hell.

Those clickable bullet points? Yes, you could click on them, but they brought you to EMPTY pages that simply said {Content}. Ugh. It wasn’t one or two pages. It was ALL of them. At first, I thought it might be a glitch–perhaps the whole site was having an issue–but the home page was fine, and the two bio pages for the two principals were fine as well.

And then I went to the Contact page.

There was a form. And this line was above the form:

“This contact form is not yet active. Please call 555-555-5555 to contact Great-Biz-With-Crappy-Website at this time.” (And no, there was no email address anywhere on the site.)

Listen, if your contact form doesn’t work, then do this: Take. It. Down. Consider how much business you’re losing. Think of the people who don’t even see your disclaimer line and they go ahead and fill out the form, hit submit, get an error message, and don’t come back. How many people are going to think, “If these guys can’t make their forms work or put content on their pages, how the heck are they going to do the job I hire them to do?” (Not to mention what the search engines are going to “think.”)

And why on George Clooney’s good green earth would you prominently display links on your home page that lead to nowhere? Why? Why in 2009 am I looking at a site like this? Why, why, why, why?

I understand that writing effective, compelling content ain’t easy (trust me, I really do feel your pain). Have a smaller site. Don’t mention every single one of your services. Focus on three to four core services, and on each one of those pages you can list some of the other related services (without links), for now. You can write 3-4 pages, right? Or hire someone to do it? Kick your web person in the butt and get him or her to fix the darn form or remove it completely. Include your email address.

Your website is your marketplace. It’s your virtual mortar and bricks. If you went to a store, and all its shelves were empty and no one was manning the register and you kept hitting the little bell thingy to get someone’s attention, but it didn’t work, what would you do?

Right. You’d walk out.