It's Friday: Writing for Web Conversions and The Final Verdict on Twitter Hash Tags

The Week in Search

Text ads, landing pages, hash tags and Beanie Babies.

Going Beyond Keywords: Text Ads and Landing Pages

Search marketing consists of many factors that can usually be generalized into three categories: keywords, ads and landing pages. Kate Morris (@katemorris) had a great post this week on Search Cowboys about optimizing your ads. She starts by quoting David Ogily who said, "on the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”Sure, Ogily's advertising reign predated search marketing, but the principle still remains: if you have a good headline, you'll probably see good results. Check out the discussions and Kate's responses in the comments section, specifically regarding the effectiveness of having phone numbers in your ad text.

As for the last component of search marketing, landing pages, Tim Ash's post, Applying Probability to Landing Page Optimization, really caught my eye. I think landing pages get the least attention out of the three (at least in the blogs I read) so I was excited about this one. It's worth pointing out that this article is true to the title, but it may have been too true.

He starts out talking about flipping a coin and says that if you're about to flip a coin, being able to see the result of the flip before gives you an advantage to predict the outcome of the next flip. In the case of landing pages, Ash cautions us about making a decision before conducting proper and thorough testing, while taking into account all known factors. His coin example, though, is the Gambler's Fallacy, which reminds us that coins, dice, and for this purpose, landing pages, don't have a memory. Every time you flip a coin, the odds are always 50-50; the coin doesn't know that it flipped heads last time and should probably flip tails this time around. Knowing this made it hard to focus on the rest of the post, especially as more mathematical theories and probability equations were mentioned and landing pages themselves seemed to get lost in the mix.

I'll end my rant here and point you instead in the direction of Ash's post on Web Marketing Today entitled, "Writing for Higher Conversions, Part 1." In the first of what I assume is a three-part series, he discusses content structure and the reverse pyramid, a well-known strategy in newspapers that we could all do well to apply to our landing pages. He writes, "Get to the point [in the first paragraph] and let them decide if your content is relevant enough for them to stick around." Other tips include:

  • One idea per paragraph: if it's not mentioned in the opening sentence of your paragraph, it often won't be
  • Use appropriate headlines and page titles: these are good, quick ways for the reader to learn the purpose of your page
  • Size does matter: it's best to keep your pages short and use internal linking structure to provide more details to the reader that wants them

The take-away from all this is that internet readers are scanners by nature; you have very limited time to attract their attention, so do it by putting your best foot forward. Good advice, Kate and Tim!

Hash Tags Are Not Beanie Babies (Yet)

Are Twitter hash tags just a fad?

As promised in last week's post, Joshua Odmark followed up on his Twitter keyword discussion with an article specifically addressing hash tags: what are they, what do they do, and are they cool or not?

Though I've been a tweeter for a couple months now, I admit that I'm a little unclear on the issue myself which is probably why I love Joshua's posts so much (plus he's a super nice guy). Here's what I took away from his latest entry:

  • Hash tags are best used for time-sensitive issues (think current events) and trending topics
  • Use capital letters: Have you ever seen a hash tag and wondered what it stood for? Yeah, me too. Capitalizing the first letter in each word can go a long way to help this
  • Though people are using them less, they are still relevant and should be used for appropriate topics

To elaborate on the last point, it's true that hash tags appear less in people's tweets than they used to. But remember that Twitter is comprised of a completely different audience now than it was even 3 months ago, and as it becomes more mainstream, I'm guessing hash tags will continue to fade. On my Twitter homepage right now, only 2 of the 10 "Trending Topics" contain a hash tag. With a sample size of 10, it's obviously not fair for me to estimate that 80% of most commonly mentioned topics are without a hash tag, but it does tell us something. In addition, one of the comments on Joshua's post says the user has "iran" and "#iran" search queries running simultaneously in his Tweetdeck and the former, more natural (hashless) mention of iran returns 8 times the amount of tweets than the hashed version.

My prediction is that hash tags will not disappear but that they will be used differently. I personally think hash tags are at their best when used in comedy, as they often are by Doug Benson. Some of my favorites include #DrunkText (thanks, Joshua), #wordsaftersex (Sorry Mom, it's just funny) and #beer (hey, it's Friday).

Do you think hash tags have seen their day in the sun? Will hash tags eventually be seen as a silly trend, the way many now consider Beanie Babies?

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