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July 14, 2008

Turn A Phrase To Turn A Head

There in front of me sat the unusual “tip” jar, with a twist. I stood at the new coffee shop in town ordering the usual concoction to quench my caffeine craving when I noticed the sign on the jar. The sassy and delightful gal named Nadean went to fix my brew and there was, left to consider the tip offer. Instead of the usual jar for leaving tips that you see in nearly every coffee joint from Starbucks to the local hang outs, there sat this jar with an offer facing me. Instead of the of the everyday sign with “Tips” printed on it, this one said, “Tips Make You Sexy!”. I nearly laughed out loud.Of course I had no newly found delusions that my key to renewing my sexiness hinged on whether I threw a buck in the pot or not. Still, I liked it. It turned my head, made me notice it. It was also a quick lesson in great marketing that is so often forgotten. Sticking the unexpected in places where the expected is, well… expected.

Doing ordinary things doesn’t mean we have to do them in ordinary ways. That is what ‘turning a phrase’ is all about. One of the reasons so many sites fail to convert into sales and leads is the overwhelming drive they seem to have in building them in ordinary ways, just like everyone else. Want to stand out from the crowd? You really can’t do that by being just like the rest of the crowd.

A simple turn of a phrase transformed an ordinary coffee shop tip jar into an experience I found I actually looked forward to every time I swung in for coffee. It was like an investment in my sexiness. In my own mind, I’m sure, but still it got results from me above what I would normally do. If you can think out of the ordinary, how would that change the wording of your website, newsletters, publicity and even your search engine optimization.

Let’s look at a couple of things you can focus on to get more action rolling on your website and examine how all the weaves into Search Engine Optimization. First, look at what NOT to do.

Eliminate Anything That Results in NORC

Go ahead, pronounce it. Say it out loud. It’s like NORK. Snort it every time you read something like, “We pride ourselves in…”. No One Really Cares what you pride yourself in. “Our Mission Statement…” NORC! “Our goal is…” NORC! When visitors come to your site, at first at least, they really don’t care if you live or die, just don’t die on their doorstep. What they do care about is what makes them sexy, look good, feel good, reduce pain, be loved, get more.

Face it, you and I are in business because we help fix other people’s problems. They have to want your solution enough to part with their hard earned money for it. So your focus has to be on the customer and how they are going to have their problems solved or life improved.

One book that drove this home to me is “Waiting For Your Cat To Bark”. It’s available through Amazon, of course. Dogs are eager to please their masters. Cats think the world revolves around them and their nap. Which one are you when surfing the net? Guess which one your customers are most like? Stop waiting for them to bark. Want a cat to come in off the screened porch from his 5th nap of the day? You had better be shaking a box of treats. Better to offering something he wants more than a nap or bird watching.

Tell your visitors plainly in everyday language how you are going to help them. Don’t make them hunt for it. You also have to make it believable. The baloney meter is always on. If it is baloney, make it laughable. ‘Tips Make You Sexy!” is so full of baloney that is become funny and effective. It made me chuckle enough to like that business and I kept coming back for more. Who knows, I may now be the sexiest man alive with all those tips. I’m betting Nadean and her staff spent them just fine. Make sure you have your “tip jar” one click away from any page on your site so that when they are ready to buy they can.

Eliminate the ‘We We’

Another point driven home by numerous site consultants is that many sites die because they we-we all over themselves. “We have, we do, we will” and all the rest, NORC. Read your site’s wording and apply this test. Do words like “you”, “yours” and “your” outweigh words like “we”, “us” and “ours”? It really should be a 3-1 ratio. Reading over your wording in this fashion should tell you whom you are most concerned about. It may be subliminal but you can bet the customers sense that as well. Remember, “tipping makes YOU sexy”. She had it right. Tips weren’t for her, they were for my sexiness.

The decisions we make are rarely based on reason alone. It requires emotion first. That emotion motivates the decision process to be made. Then our emotions tell our brain to do the research to justify the decision. I know it’s not supposed to be done that way, it just is. If you want your visitors to act in the way you want them to, you have to touch something to bring an emotional reaction.

Learn From Politics

Want my take on why Obama beat out Clinton for the nomination? Obama came up with a more emotionally gripping slogan. Their progressive beliefs and philosophies are roughly two millimeters apart and born from the same philosophical egg. Obama had “Change We Can Believe In”. Clinton had… what? Can you even remember it, or them? She ran through about a dozen of them. In a close race it only takes one element like a missing emotionally rallying slogan to bring you into ‘also ran’ status.

Let’s go a step further. You know that offering ‘change’ is not exactly a new idea in politics. If you don’t know that you are probably are experiencing pimples and your first election conscious year ever. It started around the time of John Adams. The people deciding between Obama and Clinton would have opted for any of the candidates if it was the only choice against whoever the Republicans nominated. It is the same for the Republican side of the equation.

It’s as if we have two heads, one emotional head and a logical head, and God only gave us enough blood to run one at a time. I won’t push that point any further. Anyway, once we side emotionally, we’ll find a way to justify it by our research in the aftermath. As one politician in the 1930’s candidly put it, “The good people of Nebraska are for free silver, I’m for free silver. I’ll figure out the reasons later”.

The key is to emotionally appeal to the choir enough to bring in a few fence sitters also. In this case the choir wants out of Iraq, lots of green ecology stances, lower gas prices and pretty much anything seen as non-Bush. The details will come later. Almost like, “voting for Obama makes you sexy”.

How This Applies to Search Traffic

Two key issues on getting clicks to your site after you rank on the first few pages of Google or Yahoo for your search term is what you have said in the Title tag and the Description tag on each of your web pages.

Title Tag

When you do a search in Google and find listings, the very top line of that listing is taken from what is called a Title META tag. This should be put in as code in the header area by your web designer and it should be unique for every page on your site. This should not be thought of lightly because it is the first line seen at the top of your listing in search results and it is the clickable link to your site. If that tag simply says, “ABC Fuel Additive Home” don’t expect a huge click through rate. Sure, “See How Widgets Increase Your Sex Appeal” might get more click through actions yet there will be no joy or happy endings once they arrive. This is called your “bounce rate” – one page peeking and gone. Maybe something like “ABC Fuel Additive Cuts Fuel Costs for Farmers”. Appeals to the pocket book are always emotional.

Remember, one Title tag for each page and make each one unique and appealing to the emotion side of the human psyche. Make them reflect the content on that page. Do your keyword research for phrases that you can target and have little competition for them. That takes time and tools. One simple free tool is Google Analytics and one of my favorites is WordTracker. WordTracker is not free but if you want to find out how to drive traffic from free search results, this is huge.

Description Tag

If you don’t put in the proper description tag in the header, Google and the rest will simply take the first few words on your page and plug those in. That could be your address. No appeal there. This is the second line that reinforces the title tag in search results. If you’ve turned the head with your Title tag, don’t mess it up with a clumsy description. This should reinforce the title and further entice a click through. Think this through carefully. Describe what’s on the page in a quick catchy way and make it only 160 characters long including spaces. Any longer and it will get cut off mid-sentence. Do a quick search for any word or phrase and see how many really mess this up. Here is your chance to get it right.

How about, “Farmers nationwide are averaging a 10% reduction in fuel costs using ABC additives for all their diesel needs. Learn how it works.” You don’ t have to use all 160 characters. Brevity is the key and make it good.

Use this process for A/B testing using different phrases in the title and description. This is done through Google Adwords. You can set up an account and start some testing to see which gets the most clicks.

Come On and Work Those Phrases

You should now work those keyword phrases in the text of your page aimed at readers, not robots. Yet do it in a way the robots like. Make your Title tag phrase the first line of your page text and put it in <h1> tags for greatest emphasis. It orients the user that he has landed where expected and the robots give that phrase more force in the index.

Make your description tag the first sentence on your page after the header. Same reason as above.

The Reasons Should Be Clear, My Dear Watson!

Clarity trumps persuasive reason every time. Bullet point your benefits with clear and concise ways right up front Don’t use little bitty html outline characters either. Use nice graphic bullets, check marks or images to stress the points and reinforce them with bold for each point. If visitors want to read more details make it another page but don’t make them have to go there to act. Put the button on the left hand side of the page so they can “act now” on your offer.

When you do have to use many paragraphs on a page take the time to bold and enlarge the first word of each paragraph. You will increase the chances of it actually being read by 18%.

OK, so tips may not have made me sexy. The right words can change your lifestyle. Turn that phrase and turn a head.

John Clark is the President of Wow Web Works in Kalamazoo, MI. This and other articles of interest are posted on his blog at His profile in LinkedIn. You can also contact us at or at 269-321-5041.