I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Control pop up ads

I just visited a blog for the first (and probably last!) time.

As soon as I got to the URL, a pop up opened to promote something I assume they get a commission or payment for. There was a x on the pop up so I was able to close it fairly easily at least.

I hate pop ups at the best of times (and am annoyed that many get past pop up blockers but that’s another story!) so it doesn’t make me like a site when I get a pop up so quickly. But I sigh and move on.

girl yelling through megaphone at boy reading

People learn to block out too much noise and refuse to be distracted.

Frequency of pop ups

On this particular site, I closed the pop up and then clicked on a link to see the most recent blog post.

As soon as the blog post opened, so did another pop up.

As soon as the about us page opened, so did another pop up.

As soon as the registration page (clicked on by mistake!) opened, so did another pop up!

Seeing the same pop up that many times is NOT making me more likely to click on it let alone spend money on whatever is being advertised.

Topics of pop ups (and other ads)

I understand that running a blog has costs and people want to make a bit of money back from their blog if possible. Ads and affiliate links are one way to cover some blogging costs.

But surely it’s more effective if the ads are aimed at the target audience of the blog?

In my example above, the site is about cooking but the pop up was about web hosting.

Obviously, some people are interested in both cooking and running a website. But can you assume most people looking up recipes and cooking tips will be interested in hosting a website?

I think a pop up for cooking books, online shops for herbs and other ingredients, or even online retailers of cooking tools would interest more of the blog’s visitors. And thus earn the blogger more money – or the advertiser more relevant exposure.

The lesson learned?

Ok, I already knew this but the lesson from my example is to control any pop up advertising on your blog or website.

  1. only show the ad a few times – if someone says no after that, they’ll probably always say no
  2. make your ads relevant to your audience. If not immediately apparent why it should interest that audience, make the ad itself provide a link.

So what do you think of website pop ups?

Do you use (and hopefully control) pop ups on your site? If so, what response have you got from them?

Make your offers relevant

Whether it is a direct email, marketing campaign or even a cold call on the phone, it’s really important to make the offer relevant to the other person – if you want results anyway!

Guest blog approaches

If you want to do some guest blogging and have found some potential host blogs, your next step is to contact the blog owner and offer your posts.

Today, I received a pleasant email offering me some guest blog posts. She wrote clearly, openly told me which site her bio would link to, provided samples of previous posts and offered to write on a topic I suggested.

Sounds good, right?

Yes, up to the point of looking at her URL and sample post topics.

She is representing a housing construction company (the name Word Constructions does mislead at times!) so was offering posts about building topics which is obviously completely irrelevant to my blog.

Check for relevance

alphabet building blocks

Letters are Word Constructions’ building blocks

It all comes back to knowing your audience and your purpose.

If I know my audience are people running a business, then they are not coming to me for building tips but could be interested to read a business book review.

If the purpose of my blog is to share writing and communications information, there is little point writing about the best time to prune a lemon tree.

A little bit of research on the part of the would-be guest blogger would get her posts into more blogs – you don’t have to read much of my site to learn I am a writer, not a builder, and that my name is Tash. I (and therefore my readers) are not her audience so her posts are not relevant and she wasted her time emailing me.

So for every piece of business communications, know your purpose and audience so you can make the message relevant.

Have you considered the relevancy of your blog posts to the people reading them? Are they at least relevant to the audience you want to attract?

Searching people are important

For me, once you take out emails and website admin tasks (including writing blog content), then my key activity online would be using a search engine to find something. Apparently I’m not alone – this is the most common activity after emailing.

Which of course means that people searching are an important part of your online presence – if your site doesn’t get in search results and doesn’t help people landing on the site from a search engine then you are risking a potentially large market.

What’s more, if someone is searching the odds are they are willing to buy – I know I wouldn’t bother searching for a local dentist unless I want a new dentist or search for ‘computer mouse retailer’ for fun. So it seems logical to me that someone reaching your site from a relevant search engine search is likely to want your product/service. Especially in comparison to someone who is just curious about their friend’s latest social media like or follow.

Given the potential importance of people visiting your site from a relevant search, why would anyone waste their time getting people to visit from an irrelevant search? For instance, I am happy if you found my site (and blog) through a search for ‘business writer’, ‘blog content’ or ‘writing eBooks’ but see no point enticing you with ‘childcare provider’ or ‘dress maker’. It costs me time and possibly money to get found via a search engine so I don’t want to waste it on people who are not interested in my services – and I don’t want to waste their time and put them off side either.

So how can we help get the right search engine results? Here are my suggestions, and I’d love to hear everyone else’s ideas, too, as I won’t say no to more targetted traffic, either!

  • use appropriate keywords in your writing (ie repeat those words you think people may use to find you)
  • minimise the repetition of words that are not relevant to your message – for example, you may be a  designer writing about your latest website project but avoid writing ‘medical business’ too often as you discuss the work
  • build up some links to your site – quality content is the key here but it does take a bit more than that
  • if looking for backlinks (ie links form other sites to yours), ask them to use appropriate text for the link and aim for related sites. Use the same strategy if someone offers to link to you, or even ask anyone who has added a link without contacting you
  • add page-relevant keywords to your blog tags or page metadata as this helps direct a search engine to the right topics. Note I wrote page-relevant so don’t just use the same words on every page – for example, my tags for this post will be ‘search’, ‘keywords’ and ‘relevant’ which would not work on many of my other pages

Of course, it is crucial to write contact of interest to real people and tweak it for search engines rather thna write for search engines and hope people find the hidden meaning.

How else can you get good search engine traffic to your site/blog?

Surprise mention in survey

I did a survey today which was ok on the whole but question 5 had a surprise element in it. Note I did not know who was behind the survey (deliberately to get unbiased answers).

The question was in effect “Are you primarily a business or personal customer of these services?”

The answer options were “personal/business/equal/I am no longer a customer of Company X”

So the anonymous-to-get-unbiased-answers aspect was thrown out the window with that answer which is not so good. It also didn’t mean a lot as I never said I had been a Company X customer, nor even acknowledged I’d heard of company X before. The fourth answer didn’t even answer the question so was completely irrelevant.

The lesson is to read every answer with the question before you finalise a survey or any other multiple choice list – this also applies for a bulleted list in that each point must complete a sentence from the introduction.

From the above example…

“Are you primarily a business or personal customer of these services?” “personal” works
“Are you primarily a business or personal customer of these services?” “no longer a customer of Company X” doesn’t work.

If you are writing or editing a survey, ensure you read each answer with the question in this way to get a polished, sensible result.

A blog topic or theme

Writing a blog takes time, and if you are doing it as part of a marketing strategy (however informal!) for your business, you want that time to turn into readers and potential clients.

Whilst a blog is good for building relationships and demonstrating the person behind a business, lots of irrelevant and/or personal posts won’t work so well to promote your business and products/services.

I have just read a blog post by Penelope who wrote about wasting your time unless you have a topic or focus. She makes the point that you can can use a wide-minded perspective on the focussed topic to keep it interesting, but that to keep people coming back for more they need to know what your blog is about.

 Withn each post, it is particularly important to stick to your topic so people can follow the message in each post. And each post should generally contribute to your overall topic – for example, my blog is about business communications and development so posts on email subjects, basic grammar, business resources and blog content are all relevant.

However, I think even a business blog can include the occasional off topic post and stay relevant to their readers. But it really does have to be infrequent to maintain the feel and theme of the blog.

Sometimes, you can find a relevant angle for off topic ideas. For instance, I recently joined in blog action day on climate change – while I believe in helping the environment, it isn’t what this blog is about so instead of writing about climate change in general, I wrote about how I run my business to reduce my impact on the environment and climate change. At other times, I have used personal experiences such as going on cuboree last year and being subscribed to newsletters by ‘friends’ to inspire relevant posts.

Using such personal moments for inspiration

  • is more interesting to read than impersonal, almost text book type of posts
  • gives you an insight into me as a person as well as a writer
  • lets me be creative
  • gives me opportunities to blend my personal and business lives
  • demonstrates my versatility and real world understanding of my topic

So how tightly do you think a blog should stay to one topic? Does it vary for a personal blog compared to a business blog?

Does your own blog(s) match that opinion?

Ranking for childcare?

You have to laugh really – I mean, how can I take people seriously when they send spam that is so off target?

Let me share the laugh with you!

I received an email from someone who tried to be my friend and show how good he is at internet marketing – mind you, he isn’t good enough to find my name on my website and use it in an email! He does point out that he has my contact details, including phone number, from my site though.

This email was about word constructions – a professional writing service in Australia and his email includes the following (in blue – the black text is my response!):

I see that you’re not ranked on the first page of Google for a childcare centre search. And this is a problem for me why? 

I’m not sure if you’re aware of why you’re ranked this low but more importantly how easily correctable this is. I’m guessing it’s because I don’t have a childcare centre or use that keyword? If he found me through that keyword, it says a lot for my childcare articles though!

There’s no reason you can’t have a top three ranking for the keyword childcare centre based on your site structure and content. You have a very nice site. Perhaps the fact I don’t have a childcare centre (or a website about childcare) is a good reason not to rank top three? And if you don’t know that, I have no reason whatsoever to believe you have looked at my site to know it’s good!

I didn’t send this email out to very many people (oh please!) but I am currently reaching out to a list of your ‘keyword competitors’ (If their keyword is ‘childcare centre’, they aren’t my competitors at all) as well. But I do favor your website because I can see your website monetizing the targeted website traffic the keyword childcare centre can deliver. If you truly believe my site is best placed to maximise this keyword, you REALLY have no idea about relevant content and keywords – and I REALLY don’t want to make use of your ‘help’ and ‘skill’.
He followed this up with four requests to call me, and one to call him. Sure, Jason, call me so I can tell you how little you really know, at your long distant phone cost!
Hopefully that gave you a laugh, too.
If you want a serious message from this, here are some real marketing tips:
  •  be relevant – don’t contact a business about something they don’t offer
  • be honest – adding blatant lies makes it likely you’ll be caught out and lose whatever credibility you may have had
  • if you claim to have viewed my site, then have the courtesy to find and use my name
  •  don’t overstate your importance – if Jason is so successful and owns the 1,000s of sites he claims, why does he need to spam people around the world to get further business? Again, it just destroys your credibility if your claims and behaviours don’t match

Here’s to lots of laughs and very little spam in our lives!

Sales emails

unsuccessful gesture of thunbs down

An impersonal email got the thumb down from me

There was no reason for me to read some spam I received recently, but it was top of my spam folder and I glanced at it. The subject was “USB Inquiry” and the content was five paragraphs telling me how they could sell me USB keys for my customers (with my logo and presentation on the USB key).

From that email, I spotted a number of tips for writing a good sales letter/email:

  • make your subject match the content. I wouldn’t have read the above email by the subject as it appeared to be asking me about USB keys which I don’t sell. A better subject would have appealed to my need for a USB key rather than asking me about them (inquiry meaning question)
  • check the relevance of your offer to the person receiving the email. Why would I buy USB keys from the USA? There are perfectly good USB keys in Australia and they would cost me less in time and freight. If I’m wrong, they could have explained that in the email. The .com.au part of my web address is a clue that I am not in the USA…
  • relate the offer to the person. A USB key could be useful for me, but a more targeted response would have suggested I put client documents on a branded USB key instead of a plain disc or compile some templates or articles to hand out to prospective clients. They just assumed I did presentations that have notes suitable to a USB key. A serious sales proposition would be based on my needs, not a generalisation
  • I’ve said it before, but use the person’s name – it is the most important word in their language. “Hello,” isn’t good enough and finding a name off a good website isn’t that hard.
  • The paragraphs start ‘Could you…’, ‘My company…’, “We can…’, “please visit…’ and “Thank you…’ Every starting point is asking me to do something or talks about them. Where’s the appeal to me, the message that I am going to benefit from this purchase?
  • The email opens with a request to direct her to the marketing person but then continues as if I am the marketing person. If you request a name, wait for that answer or at least link into the remaining information (e.g. ‘We want to contact your marketing person to explain…’)
  • Check your sentences say what you want them to. This email included this gem “We are not offering rush production services, and custom shape USB flash drives, you tell us the shape you want your flash drive to be, we will make if for you!” So we don’t offer custom shaped drives but we will make any shape you tell us – doesn’t inspire a lot of trust…
  • The email finished with “We offer non – profit organizations, schools and charities a discounted rate, so please be sure to mention that for even better pricing.” That’s nice, but as I’m not a school, charity or non-profit group it doesn’t help me much; then again, the email says mention their discounted rate for better pricing and I could mention it easily enough! The lesson again is make the message relevant and clear.
  • Ensure your contact details are easy to use. This woman gave me a phone number without any area (or country) code and no address so how can I ring her? I’d bet that if I dialed it exactly as is I wouldn’t get her!
  • Build trust. This email came from an email address that doesn’t match the email given in her signature or the URL she includes which makes me wonder why she didn’t use the company email address and makes me very suspicious.

Of course, even had she written a much better email, I still wouldn’t buy from her as I hate spammers and she didn’t meet legal requirements of including her address. Would you have ordered any USB keys from such an email? Had she followed my tips do you think you’d have been more likely to buy from her?

At least you know what to avoid when you next write a sales letter!


*Photo courtesy of 123rf

Making links useful…

I have been to two websites today that reminded me of the post I wrote back in February about linking to relevant information.

The first one (and as tempted as I am to link to the page, I will only say it was a government information site!) had a whole page about a particular form – what it should be used for and when to use it. At the bottom of the page, it read:

For a copy of this form, visit our website at www.url or call us on 12345679.

Given I was already on their website, a link to their homepage really didn’t help me! It took me another five minutes to actually find the form on their site.

The second site had a similar message but the link itself at least went to their form. This obviously helped me find the form, but I nearly didn’t click on the link as I expected it to go the to homepage.

And that is a reminder to make the text of any links meaningful, too. How hard would it have been to write something like “For a copy of this form, click here”?

So from personal experience today, I request you always think of what will help your readers when you add links to anything you write.

Use your words wisely!

SMARTY goals

As promised in my New Year’s message, I wanted to explain what SMARTY goals are – and why they are better than other goals.

SMARTY Goals are:

follow your path across water

Setting goals will keep you heading the right direction







And now for an explanation…

Specific – the more specific the goal, the easier it is to see your progress and feel some achievement. For example, ‘loosing weight’ or ‘getting fit’ may be common resolutions, but they aren’t specific. Much better to say ‘I will lose 5 kilos’ or ‘I will train so I can run 10km’

Measurable – make it so you know when you have reached it, and see improvement along the way as well. For example, ‘I will make $x more this year than last year’ is easy to see how close you are to $x and achieving your goal.

Achievable – you must be able to work on the goal. Setting a goal of running a marathon next week is unlikely if you currently get puffed walking to the letterbox, but a goal of walking for 10 minutes every day is achievable. Of course, part of being able to work on the goal means your attitude, too – you need to be willing to work on it and allow yourself to grow your abilities along the way.

Relevant – your goals must fit in with where you are, what your values are and your big life goals. Following someone else’s goals may not be relevant for you (e.g. don’t try to lose weight if you are underweight), and you may need to set different goals at different times in your life. If your values are to help people, then ‘I will volunteer at the community centre 3 hours a month’ is a relevant goal.

Timed – goals without a deadline are just wishes really. A deadline makes you take them more seriously and to act on them now rather than tomorrow. Deadlines need to be realistic to keep your goal achievable, but they also need to be tight enough to keep you motivated and working towards the goal. So a timed goal is something like ‘I will read a business magazine a month’, ‘I will sell 10% more this year’,  ‘I will exercise 4 times a week’ or ‘I will lose 6kg by 1 August’.

whY– you need to have a reason to aim for your goal. The reason will keep you going even when it is hard and you don’t seem any closer to the end. And I’m talking about the real, deep reason for your goal. For example, ‘my doctor says I should stop smoking’ will only motivate you on a good day. On a bad day, you will need to know ‘I want more energy and don’t want emphysema like Uncle Jim so I will not light a cigarette now’. So what is your real reason (and there can be more than one) for setting this goal?

So let’s go back to our first examples – I want to lose weight and I want to get fitter. Now, let’s word them as SMARTY goals:

I will lose 1 kilo a month until I reach 60kg so I can fit into my favourite dress and keep up with my kids in the park.

I will exercise four times every week to be fit enough for the fun run in September. I want to show John that I can compete at his level and I want to feel proud of myself.

So what are your SMARTY goals for the next six months?