Writing Sizzling Headlines That Get Hits

The very mention of the word headlines incites many adverse reactions. If you dread headlines, you are part of the majority. Crafting a newsworthy headline is an art and a skill that requires talent and practice. When I started writing, my headlines were so bad that they brought shame on my work and disdain from co-workers on the team. They weren’t really bad—probably average, like what you’d expect in a school report or something. I guess I was a little overwhelmed by working in terms like complainant, vicarious liability and exploding fuselage, and I admit that the state of my headlines brought me to tears when a certain team member told everyone that my headlines weren’t good enough. It was pretty bad, but it also helped me to become better. By writing 50 headlines a day for a long, long time, anyone can get better, and that’s just what happened to me.

If you can’t wait four years to craft the perfect headline for your article or blog post, here are a few tips.

The best way to develop a good lead sentence or a killer headline for an important project is to create several possible options. I like to make a five-point list and start jamming on ideas. As you get to the fourth or fifth headline, you might be coming up with some better angles, or you might realize that the first few were stronger. That’s fine. Sometimes I’ll read a few ideas in the office to get some feedback if I can’t decide which title I like better.

1._____________

2._____________

3._____________

4._____________

5._____________

Another thing to think about is the length of your headline and how it will look in search results. If you include important information at the end of your headline, those details might not display. According to experts, headlines should be under 65 characters, including spaces, to display completely on all the major search engines. Of course, important keywords should also be included in the title for optimal exposure.

That’s all for now.  Back to writing those headlines!

Tips and Strategies for Keeping Your Website Fresh

fresh web contentThe New Year is a logical time to evaluate your web page. What isn’t performing well? What could be done better? What is working well? Most of us are also thinking about how we want to blog more and update our web pages more frequently. We all know that starting a blog or a webpage and investing time initially is easier than committing time on a regular basis to keep your blog alive.

1. Updates

How frequently is your home page or blog updated? Is your last blog post from June 2010? Nothing turns off customers more than a home page or blog that hasn’t been updated in a racoon’s age. This can hurt your business. We live in a fast paced society. Only current information is relevant. Google knows this too.

2. Upgrades

There’s no need to make major design changes on a regular basis. However, you should make sure that your homepage is user friendly. Augment a static home page by adding rotational features. Link to your latest news, feature new products and rotate current resources.

3. Uploads

Add fresh photos, post a video snippet on your home page and create new multimedia features or downloadable white papers. If you publish newsletters, blogs or educational articles, make sure the latest items are featured prominently. Adding a press room or news area is fabulous too. Customers and search engines love these features. Post them, promote them and make sure they are accessible.

4. Upkeep

This is a critical question. Strategies for this depend on your personality and the structure of your website. If you’re using a done-for-you service, make sure that you invest in regular maintenance. Have your web people add posts, check links and make sure that nothing is outdated. If you work with a company that allows you to tweak your website and add content as needed, you can go ahead and make small updates without calling your developer or web designer.

5. Keep it going!

Create a schedule, and do your best to stick to it. This is even more important if you have microsites or multiple web properties. In the digital age, you have to be looking one or two months ahead. Generate new blog ideas, and plan content well in advance. This is an important step. If needed, have brainstorming sessions based on what your business will be doing in the next few months. Is there a major sale, are there new products, is there a major trade show or important industry news? Once you start looking, you’ll come up with even more ideas for keeping your website fresh. Remember: freshness is essential.

What are your  strategies for or struggles with keeping your web properties up-to-date?

Free Websites?

Yes, it’s true. Google has partnered with Intuit to offer small business owners a free three-page website for one year. This offer includes special templates and a customized domain name. The first year is free. After that, the domain name costs $2 per month, and hosting is $4.99 per month.

Google Logo Akira YoshizawaRecently, Google launched a national campaign to help small businesses get online. The decision to develop a website and to set up accounts with all the local business directories is daunting, and most entrepreneurs believe that starting a website is expensive. Plus, many brick and mortar businesses have been operating successfully for decades without a website. Here in Tennessee, 70 percent of small businesses do not have websites.

When time and money are valuable, business owners believe they can forego the expense of starting a website. However, more and more consumers use web pages and local business listings to locate stores and to see what other customers have to say. This free website offer from Google is exciting because businesses can see what a website can do for their bottom line without investing any money up front.

Free websites are available in conjunction with online learning tools and resources. Google representatives are also traveling across the country to help local business owners establish objectives for their web pages and get their businesses listed in local directories.

Individuals who already have a domain name can use this special offer to get free templates and hosting services for one year. Of course, companies can always decide that their website is working great but they need more pages, more functions, more features or more whatevers. At that point, businesses may consider hiring a web development company or a professional writer to fill in their content.

A simple three-page website allows businesses to create a solid home page, a service page and a contact us page that may also include information about the business. There are a lot of possibilities. Once you’re online, you’ll be able to grow your web presence even more. To check for local events or to see if this offer is available in your area, visit Google’s Get Your Business Online webpage today.

In the past, Google offered a $75 advertising credit for businesses that started a new AdWords account, so this offer may not be available forever.

Content Marketing After Penguin and Panda

Penguins and Pandas: What’s Up with Google?

Penguin-Panda-Update-GoogleGoogle’s search engine algorithms are notorious for their secrecy. While SEO experts and programmers don’t know exactly what changes Google made to their proprietary systems, the effects have been quite revealing. Since April 19, 2012, Google has unleashed a battery of devastating refinements that caused the page rank of many web pages to plummet. The complexity and frequency of these updates only added to the confusion, and had many site owners and developers struggling to determine what affected the rank of their previously top-performing pages. Here’s what you need to know about Google’s infamous Panda and Penguin updates.

  • The Panda update was unrolled on April 19, 2012.

  • The Penguin 1.0 update was released on April 24, 2012.

  • A second Panda update was launched on April 27, 2012.

Basically, these changes are designed to penalize sites and content farms that blatantly duplicate text from other websites, including properties that they might own or control. These changes have sent a strong message to webmasters and developers. In the post-Penguin/Panda climate, websites need valuable, original and authoritative content to survive. Our dear colleagues at Frisco Websites explained that Google is pushing organizations away from cookie-cutter sites and challenging companies to provide a broader range of original content.

Today, Google has very little tolerance for sites that copy content or engage in keyword stuffing to artificially improve their ranking. While the effects of Google’s Panda and Penguin updates are settling down, Google is bound to release further refinements that demand fresh, exciting web content that is valuable to search engines and real readers.

If you believe your website was affected by these updates, visit the Search Engine Journal to discover a practical and simple way to determine what updates affected the performance of your website.