What is duplicate content? A simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings

What is duplicate content? Here's a simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings.

What is duplicate content? Here’s a simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings.

Remember your schooldays?

All that homework – man that was a chore! Let’s face it, it was just so much more fun to spend your afternoons playing with your buddies than slaving over books and numbers and essays. Ugh!

Worst of all was studying for tests.

Perhaps you didn’t want to cram for the test, or you simply forgot about it.

And then, to try and save the humiliation of a Fail, you tried to copy the answers off the brainbox you’d cunningly sat next to in the exam room.

Except, of course, the teacher noticed what you’re up to, and you got a far greater humiliation than the Fail. Perhaps you were made an example of, or made to stand out in the corridor. Or you had to see the scary Headmaster. And, of course, your parents would be notified – horrors!

You soon learned that copying other kids’ work wasn’t in your best interests.

The same lesson about copying relates to your website

When it comes to your website, copying other people’s content is also a bad idea.

While there’s no teacher to punish you, instead there’s Google. (And a punishment from Google, be it a down-graded ranking or total black-listing, is a lot harder and more difficult to recover than even your teacher’s worst punishment.)

Why does Google punish you for copying?

Let’s look at copying content from Google’s point of view.

The bottom line is that Google wants to give its users a good search experience. And a good search experience means that people can quickly and easily find the information they’re looking for. Google also wants the information you find to be helpful and meaningful.

Website content that’s helpful and meaningful is usually unique: it is a bespoke, one-off article that someone has researched and written.

Conversely, low quality content is not so desirable. And over the years, some website owners have tried to “cheat” the Google ranking system by copying other people’s content. And if the internet is full of copies of people’s work, it all gets a bit tedious, spammy and not a very nice or exciting place to be.

Google hates spammy websites. And it hates spammy webmasters who copy content from other people. Google would much rather point to the original source of material – and penalise those who try to copy it. These penalties come in the form of downgrading the rankings of those sites with copied content, or, worse still, removing a website from its search results altogether.

So what is duplicate content, exactly?

You get the general idea that duplicate content is not a good thing, but defining “what is duplicate content” exactly is a little trickier.

If you refer to Google’s official advice, there are some tips there (albeit quite technical), but it’s still not crystal clear. So let me explain some of the more common duplicate content problems in practical terms.

Before I cover common duplicate content problems, one thing you need to be aware of is that duplicate content doesn’t just apply from one website to another, but it also applies to pages on your own website.

The reason for this is that some spammy webmasters create dozens of pages on the same topic, to try and artificially increase their Google rankings. That doesn’t work any more, because of Google’s dislike of duplicate content.

Does Google say what percentage they consider duplicate content?

There are a number of online tools, such as Page Similarity Check Tools, where you put in two website addresses (URLs) and it tells you how similar the pages are as a percentage.

The problem is that Google doesn’t give a percentage in their guidelines, so these online tools aren’t a whole lot of use!

Rather than worry about percentages and other technicalities, here are some practical suggestions on how you can avoid common duplicate content problems.

Common duplicate content problems – and how to avoid them

On a practical level you need to be very careful with the following types of duplicate content:

  • Mobile versions of your website that have the same content twice. The solution here is for your webmaster to use the ‘noindex’ meta tag so that the duplicated pages aren’t indexed. (Or better still, build your website so that it’s mobile responsive, and doesn’t need recreating for handheld devices.)
  • Printer-only versions of web pages. The printer pages should have the ‘noindex’ tag applied so that these duplicated pages aren’t indexed.
  • Similar content that appears across a number of pages. The solution here is to make the copy, order of information and other content as different as possible.
  • On e-commerce sites, avoid using the manufacturer’s generic blurb. Chances are that every other re-seller is using the exact same copy, so be unique and write your own product descriptions.
  • Syndicate articles carefully. Some people think they’re doing you a favour by ‘promoting’ you on their website by repeating an article. Wrong! Their site could get penalised for duplicate content – but so could yours, if Google hasn’t indexed you as being the original source. The way round this is for the other site to use the ‘noindex’ tag, and to include a link back to your original article. So you can syndicate articles, but do it carefully… and if the other website owner doesn’t know what a ‘noindex’ tag is, or they’re not willing to apply it, then don’t do it. (Note: A bigger problem is that some spammy webmasters use ‘scrapers’ to steal content without your permission. If that happens, you can ask Google to remove the scraped content from their search results.)
  • Avoid cheap copywriters. Not all copywriters create unique content; and if you’re buying an article for $5 from someone in India, there’s a good chance that they might have copied someone else’s work. Or they’ve taken someone else’s work, and then put it through a ‘spinner’ which is an automatic software tool that rewrites content. And yep, Google hates ‘spun’ content! If you use a quality copywriter, the content will not only be unique, but it will reflect your tone of voice; demonstrate your company’s expertise; and compel readers to buy from you or otherwise take action.

Those are some of the main duplicate content issues I’ve come up against. There are others, too (as listed in the Google article I linked to) but they are there for your web developer to action, rather than a copywriting issue.

Ask your website developer to help you

The best advice I can give you is to focus on creating unique content, and that your website developer does their part in the programming. Go through the list of action points in Google’s article point by point.

Don’t assume that your web developer knows all this stuff, or will automatically do it: I’ve come across numerous web developers who have never heard of 301 redirects, or will only do them for an extra fee.

Remember that it’s YOUR website and your business at stake, so you have every right to ask questions of your suppliers.

If you play nicely, you should be fine

Just like schoolteachers punish only the naughty kids, Google only intends to punish those website owners who deliberately engage in deceptive practices. Google doesn’t like people who try to cheat the system and take shortcuts; they’ll be punished, sooner or later.

So if you focus on creating unique, high quality content for your website (and have a web developer on side who’s clued up in this area), you should be absolutely fine. (And if the worst does happen, and your site gets blacklisted by Google, you can submit your site for reconsideration.)


Here are some of the steps you can take so that your website doesn’t suffer from problems with duplicate content:

  • If there is a separate mobile version of your website, ensure that the ‘noindex’ tag is used for them.
  • If your website has printer-only pages, use the ‘noindex’ tag for them.
  • Avoid using similar content across a number of pages.
  • On e-commerce sites, avoid using the manufacturer’s generic blurb and write your own.
  • Syndicate articles carefully, and get the other website to use a ‘noindex’ tag, and also link back to your original article.
  • Avoid cheap copywriters who might steal or ‘spin’ content.
  • Ask your web developer which steps they’ve taken to avoid duplicate content issues. Go through the Google article with them as a starting point.
  • Focus on creating unique, high quality content for your website.

Need unique copy for your website? Discover the ‘Words by Cornelia’ writing service →

This article was originally published by me, Cornelia Luethi, on my copywriting website: http://wordsbycornelia.com/what-is-duplicate-content

Why do video marketing? Video marketing strategies for small businesses…

Before you invest in a web video, make sure you're clear which video marketing strategies you're working towards.

Before you invest in a web video, make sure you’re clear which video marketing strategies you’re working towards.

“You need to put a video on your website.”

“Video marketing’s the latest thing, y’know.”

… Does that sound familiar?

Chances are you’ve heard plenty of folks saying things like that to you. I know I’ve heard plenty of such statements!

Sure, people love watching videos. Here’s some 2013 data from YouTube:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube every month.
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube – that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than last year.
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Crazy, huh?

It’s little wonder that business owners and marketers are so excited about video marketing: video is huge!

Whoa, wait a mo before you jump on the video marketing bandwagon!

Before you jump on the video marketing bandwagon, it’s important to consider where the wagon’s heading, and how much the wagon ride will cost you.

After all, video marketing represents a reasonable investment in either time (if you DIY) and/or money (if you hire professionals), so it’s worth giving your goals some thought before you get started.

I’ve seen too many business owners get all enthusiastic about video; make some random videos (based on the first ideas that popped into their head) without any clear thoughts on objectives… and then claim that “video marketing didn’t work” because they had no clear measures or goals in place. Duh!

So rather than making that kind of expensive and disappointing mistake, ask yourself what you want to achieve from your video marketing.

Here are some of the different video marketing strategies available to you…

Effective video marketing strategies

Go through this list, and see which of the following video marketing strategies would be most helpful in your business.

Or in other words: What do you want to achieve?

1. Create a more personal connection with your prospects

Type of video: This is where you make a personal introduction in the video, and briefly explain your product or service. This should take no longer than a minute.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This video selects-in your target customer, but will help to weed out the personality types you’d probably clash with. If you are a single-person service-based business, this can be gold!

Example of an intro video: I use an intro video on my Words By Cornelia copywriting website – it’s at the top of the right-hand side bar.

2. Explain your product or service to prospects

Type of video: This is where an overview is provided, either by yourself, a colleague or an actor. Alternatively, an animation-style video can be used.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: Video can help explain complex things in simple terms – and very quickly. You’ll often see these sorts of videos for software services, for example, and you get a quick demo of how the software works and what the benefits are to the user. Some things are simply easier to explain by demonstration rather than in writing… so using this type of video can increase your sales, whilst lowering the work burden of your sales team or customer services team.

This kind of video also works well for businesses where your customers visit your premises: it lets them know what to expect, and can help take the fear out of going somewhere new. It’s also a great way to highlight your company’s culture, and really bring your uniqueness to life.

Example of an explanation video: The video below features my beauty therapy client, Rubywaxx. The video was made as part of Rubywaxx being Awards finalists (and then winners), but the video is also a useful addition to the company’s ‘About Us’ web page:

3. Demonstrate your expertise to prospects or customers

Type of video: “How to” videos that provide hints and tips to viewers. Such videos may be from 30 seconds to about 5 minutes in duration, depending on the content you’re communicating. (Read about video lengths for web videos.)

The viewers may be prospects, who are in research mode, and the video can boost your sales conversion rates. Or if your existing customers can also watch the videos, it can reinforce your expertise and help prevent your customer from going to another supplier. It’s a great value-add to a business relationship.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This kind of video can also help to minimise complaints and refunds if people understand your product or service better. Plus you can also use the videos on your website, blog and newsletter: one video = many opportunities to use it!

Examples of how-to videos: This is the kind of video I’ve been making, and I’ve been using the videos on my blogs as well as on my YouTube channel.

Here’s an example:

4. Increase sales

Type of video: Sales videos, whereby there is a single call-to-action – which is usually to buy a product or service online.

Sales videos can vary enormously in length: some are just a few minutes long; others can be an hour or longer! It depends on your product or service, your offer, your sales technique, and more. You can read some facts about video lengths and drop-off rates here.

In the internet marketing world, video-based sales pages have been outperforming copy-only sales pages for some time now. I tested this myself earlier in 2013, when I launched a new eBook. I ran a split test, whereby 50% of website visitors saw a copy-only sales page, and the other half of website visitors saw the exact same page – but with a video added, right at the top of the page. The copy-only page converted at 6.98% and the sales page with the video converted at 16.67%… so yes, video marketing can and does work.

Note that that was my very first sales video, so it is a bit rough in terms of content, production and editing (I had to get the entire thing finished in a weekend!), but I’m pretty happy with that!

You can see this warts ‘n’ all sales video on the sales page for my Keyword Research eBook. 

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: If your video can keep viewers engaged for a reasonable length of time, you can go into quite a bit of detail about your product or service and how it works. Provided you don’t overstate or exaggerate the benefits, this could mean low refund rates and minimal complaints.

5. Grow your email list

Type of video: This would generally be a “how to” video, or a quick tip of some kind. In other words, something interesting to entice potential subscribers to sign up for more.

Whatever kind of video you use, you’ll need to add a call-to-action for viewers to subscribe. However, do not rely on YouTube, as YouTube viewers are unlikely to click through to your website. That means using some other kind of video hosting service – usually a paid-for service. I personally use Easy Video Suite, but there are many other options out there, such as Wistia, Vimeo, Viewbix, and more. You’ll need to figure out for yourself which service best suits your needs, your strategies – and your budget.

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This kind of video can also help with the “demonstrate expertise” strategy. If you plan you video marketing strategy well, you can use one video to achieve multiple tactics.

6. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): get more organic search engine traffic

Type of video: Theoretically you can use any kind of video here, but a “how to” type video would be ideal.

However, it takes more than just uploading a video to YouTube, and/or embedding it on your website.

You see, Google can’t actually ‘see’ inside videos, so they rely on Meta data (behind-the-scenes data). This should include the keywords you’re targeting, based on keyword research.

This video Meta data is called ‘schema.org markup’ and is supported by Bing and Yahoo, as well as Google. 

Using schema.org to describe your videos will allow Google to index and show your videos in search. The main markups to add are:

  • Title 
  • Description 
  • Thumbnail (i.e. the graphic that represents the video’s content). 

While only a few properties are required, providing additional information helps Google understand your video and enhance its appearance in search results. 

You should also upload a video sitemap, and if there’s an opportunity to add a transcript, make sure it includes keywords.

For more details see: http://schema.org/ and http://schema.org/VideoObject 

Bonus benefit of using this kind of video: This type of video can help you achieve other video marketing strategies too. For example, you could demonstrate your expertise, or encourage conversions. Your call-to-action could be to encourage a purchase, or to grow your email subscriber list.

Pitfall to be aware of: Using YouTube is a double-edged sword for SEO. If you use YouTube, yes, your videos are likely to show up on Google. But it will be YouTube getting the website traffic, NOT your website.

You will need to use an alternative video hosting service if you want to get the traffic to your own site – but you may not get the same amount of search engine exposure as you’d get with using YouTube.

Remember, Google owns YouTube, so Google will do what’s best for their business, which may be incompatible with your own goals. You’ll need to figure out the best solution for your business goals. And now that you’re aware of the different video marketing strategies you can use, you’ll get a clearer picture of the tactics to follow.

2 video marketing strategies you should treat with caution…

Whilst video marketing does have many benefits, there are some, um, “strategies” I’d advise caution against:

“Build awareness”

“Building awareness” is a very vague objective: after all, how would you measure this?

I’d recommend choosing a video marketing strategy that’s a bit more specific and measurable.

This kind of vague strategy might be OK for a large corporation with vast budgets, but it’s a different story for small businesses that need to see a return on their marketing investment.

“Go viral”

“Going viral” is a very high risk goal. After all, everyone wants their offering to “go viral” yet only a tiny percentage of videos do go viral.

Besides, “going viral” doesn’t necessarily equate to earning lots of money. I bet that the owners of most of those funny cats on YouTube aren’t millionaires – or even close.

Instead, I think it’s far better to have a more realistic and measurable target than “going viral”. Just because “going viral” is one of today’s buzzwords, doesn’t mean that you should aspire to do it.

Next steps:

Now that you’re clear on which strategies you’d like to use video marketing for, you’ll need to consider:

  • Scripts: Video scripts need to be written in such a way to achieve the strategy you’ve chosen. The script needs to be well-paced: not to slow and not too fast.
  • Reasonable production values: This means things like the video/picture quality; audio; and lighting. You don’t need a mega budget for this, but it is important to do it properly, if you’re thinking of going down the DIY route rather than engaging professionals.
  • Video editing: Video editing is time-consuming, yet it can make the difference between a so-so video, and an awesome video. Unless you’re prepared to spend some time (and money) on learning how to do this, you might want to consider outsourcing this.
  • Video hosting: You’ll need to find the best way to host your videos. Whilst YouTube is convenient (and free), it does have a number of drawbacks, so it may not be the best solution for your business.

The technical side of video marketing is a whole separate topic. But at least now you’re clear on how video marketing can help you in your business.

Congratulations on considering the strategy first, rather than jumping straight into the technical nitty-gritty side of things. Based on my experience, this will most likely put you a step ahead of your competitors! Most small businesses dive right into the tactical stuff without considering the bigger picture – or rely on a local videographer who may be great at making videos, but not so good at actually delivering results that contribute towards business goals.

So yes, figure out which video marketing strategies align with your overall marketing goals – and then implement video marketing so it delivers tangible results to your business.

What is the purpose of a website?

The purpose of a website is to (1) Attract traffic, and (2) to Convert readers into prospects. Here's how to get optimum performance from your website.

The purpose of a website is to (1) Attract traffic, and (2) to Convert readers into prospects. Here’s how to get optimum performance from your website.

A website is a vital business tool: it’s as essential for a business as having a phone number, or email address, or business card. But what is the purpose of a website, exactly? 

How can a website help a business?

In my view, the purpose of a website is 2-fold:

Firstly, the website should attract traffic (i.e. visitors).

Secondly, the website should convert as many of those visitors as possible into a prospects who contact you in some way.

Let’s take a look at these two purposes in more detail…

Purpose of a website #1: Attracting traffic

There’s no point having a website if no one can find it or no one knows about it.

Your website needs to get visits from as many relevant prospects as possible.

There are a number of different ways in which you can get traffic to your website. Each of these tactics is approached in a different way, and has benefits and drawbacks:

  • Free search engine traffic: Attracting search traffic rarely happens by itself: you need to take proactive steps to make your website attractive for search engines (and for human readers). This is called search engine optimisation (SEO). It takes a bit of work to set it up, but if it’s done well it can potentially generate traffic to your website for years and years to come. For most businesses, the return on investment is very good.
  • Paid search engine traffic (e.g. Google AdWords): This can be effective, but you only get the traffic if you keep paying for it. This can work out to be expensive after a number of months, unless your business has a very high average dollar sale and high profit margin.
  • Online display ads and banners: with “pay per click” or “pay per view” advertising, you only get the traffic if you pay for it. This too can be very expensive – especially for businesses with modest average dollar sales and profit margins.
  • Links from other websites: This is a good strategy to pursue, but in practice many businesses find it hard to get meaningful links. It is important that the links come from high quality websites: if they come from poor quality, spammy websites your website’s online reputation could suffer as a consequence. So think quality rather than quantity.
  • Links from directories: The success varies, as any directory these days is secondary to Google. Think carefully about paying for listings: crunch the numbers upfront; and monitor the results.
  • Links from social media: You have to be committed to social media for this marketing channel to work. That involves having a clear social media strategy and making the updates consistently. Social media might be free to use, but it takes a good amount of skill and commitment to get it to work or to get any traction. Social media sites to consider include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. There are many others, too, but those are the main ones. Use the ones that your customers use: e.g. there’s no point tweeting like crazy, if your target market isn’t on Twitter!
  • Include your website address on your business cards and other printed stationery: Yes, you need to do this, but your reach will be limited, so don’t rely on this alone.
  • Include your website address on any sign writing, e.g. premises, vehicles, etc.: This can be very effective, but again, your reach is limited.

Tip: Before you commit to spending money on any website traffic attraction strategies, carry out a break even analysis to see if what you’re considering is likely to be pay dividends – or be an expensive waste of money. It’s far better to discover that upfront before you spend a cent!

I’ve seen businesses work wonders with some of these attraction methods. Some businesses do really well with Google AdWords. One person I know gets a substantial amount of his business from LinkedIn. A small business with multiple vehicles on the road gets crazy good results from their vehicle sign writing.

But there’s one website attraction technique that works consistently well for most business types. And that is, search engine traffic – which usually comes from Google, seeing as they have 89.69% global market share (as at September 2013).

Source: gs.statcounter.com

How do you get more Google traffic?

When it comes to websites, traffic is a good thing!

When it comes to websites, traffic is a good thing!

Getting traffic from Google comes down to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There are different SEO techniques; I’d argue that the most effective technique I’ve seen is to write website content that targets the keywords users put into Google when conducting their searches. This is known as “SEO website copywriting” – in other words, writing content that uses keywords.

I earn my bread and butter from writing SEO website copy for my clients. Here are some of the results I’ve achieved for my clients:

  • A client with a multi-million dollar business is getting 42% of his business from his website. (He measures this data carefully, so that’s an exact number.)
  • A one-man band in a service industry reckons he gets 95% of his work from his website.
  • Another customer is steadily getting $50k worth of business from her website year after year… she may have spent say $5,000 dollars on the website and content, so that’s a 900% Return on Investment! And the website keeps delivering more customers year after year!

So if you’re wondering why your website isn’t attracting more traffic, maybe it’s because your website hasn’t been set up with this in mind. (This is very common: many website developers aren’t aware of SEO techniques.)

I’d suggest you look into this to find out if optimising your website content for search engines would bring you more traffic.

Remember, if this is done well, the search engines are likely to keep delivering traffic for you, year after year. So if you want to turn your website into a cash machine (or at least a prospect generation machine), then check out SEO website copywriting.

Aren’t you biased because you do SEO website copywriting for a living?

Yes, I write SEO website content for a living… but the reason I started specialising in that area is because of the staggering results it achieves.

I firmly believe that small business owners need marketing techniques that are sustainable over a period of time, and will generate returns for them. I haven’t come across any website attraction techniques that deliver such good returns in the long term as SEO website copywriting.

Of course, results vary: some industries are more competitive than others. Or if you’re in a fledgling or niche industry, the search volumes may not be that high.

But with the bullet point list above, of the different ways to get website traffic, you can start evaluating different tactics to see what might work for you.

Attracting website traffic is the first purpose of a website – now let’s look at the second:

Purpose of a website #2: Converting readers into prospects

The second purpose of a website is to convert readers into prospects. What this means exactly will depend on your business model.

Conversion could mean any combination of the following:

  • Getting people to call you, email you, or fill in a contact form.
  • Getting people to download your Free Report or white paper.
  • Obtaining email subscribers.
  • Making an online purchase.

These are the best kinds of conversion goals, because they are measurable.

However, getting those conversions is no mean feat, as it generally means getting complete strangers to trust your business right away.

Your website need to build trust quickly

You have something like 5 to 9 seconds to grab readers’ attention, and compel them to read on.

A big part of the reader’s decision making is based on trust, so your site has to instil trust and confidence with complete strangers – and very quickly.

Here’s my quick, 10-step guide to building trust online.


Have a clear and obvious call-to-action

One important thing to mention about converting readers into prospects is having clear and obvious calls-to-action. In other words, what is the next step a prospect should take to buy from you? This may be obvious to you, as the business owner, but on many websites this is very unclear and ambiguous.

  • Should people phone you? Or email you?
  • Is there a consultation? If so, is it free or paid for?
  • Do you provide written quotes or estimates? Are they free or not?
  • Do you have a shop, showroom or office? Can people just pop in, or do they need to make an appointment? What are the opening hours?

Your call-to-action should be clear and obvious on every page of the website. And if your buying process is more complex (e.g. architects, builders, business consultants, etc.) then include a page called ‘The Process’ or ‘How it Works’ or something like that. Once people know the steps involved in the buying process, they can start to picture themselves going on that journey. Conversely, if people have no idea what’s involved, they are far less likely to contact you to take the next step. It’s up to you to explain your process clearly and concisely – and encourage prospects to take the next step.

Hint: If you’re thinking of re-writing your website’s content to attract more traffic, also look at the content in terms of conversion. Are there things you could do to the content that’ll help transform more readers into prospects?

After all, if you’re going to re-work the website content, it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s converting well as well as attracting traffic. This way you can kill two birds with one stone.

Summary: Why a website is much like a car…

Like a car, a website needs fuel and maintenance for optimum performance.

Like a car, a website needs fuel and maintenance for optimum performance.

If you’d like an easy analogy to describe the purpose of a website, a website is a bit like a car.

You buy a website development like you buy a car: that part of the investment is like the technological nuts and bolts.

But to get your car anywhere, it needs fuel. And that’s where the content comes in: words, pictures, videos… and for a website to really travel the distance, it’s a good idea to keep topping it up with fuel (content).

A car also needs regular servicing to keep it running smoothly. If you don’t do that, the car might break down. Similarly, a website needs tweaking and reviewing regularly, too. The most successful websites are continually tweaked and revised, and the results tested and measured – just like a racecar is continually fine-tuned for optimum performance.

I’m known for telling my customers that “a website is never finished” – this is much like car maintenance and re-fuelling being an on-going task. It is definitely a worthwhile task: there are few marketing channels as effective as websites.

Where the analogy ends is traffic: in a car, we don’t like traffic – but for our website we want lots of it! 😉

So go on, fuel up your website and get your business moving in a whole new direction, and with more momentum. Vrooooom!



How to get more Google love with photo keywords

Unlock the secret to using photo keywords for SEO...

Unlock the secret to using photo keywords for SEO…

Let’s be honest… when you’re adding content to your website, adding photos can seem like a big, time-consuming pain-in-the-butt job.

Chances are that adding a photograph to your new web page is the very last thing on your To Do list, and once you’ve done that, you can put your feet up for the day and do something fun. Like go out to dinner, or take the dog for a walk, or enjoy a nice relaxing glass of wine. Or crack open a nice, cold beer while you fire up the barbecue.

In short: adding photos to your website is something you probably want to get over with as quickly as possible… Am I right?

Whoa, slow right down!

Good photos not only make your website look more appealing, but if you use them in the right way they can also help improve your search engine rankings.

Many website owners I’ve spoken with over the years aren’t even aware that (a) Photo SEO (search engine optimisation) exists, and (b) that it can make a difference to your site’s rankings… but it can! 

Photo SEO: How to keyword photos

Here’s how to keyword photos. There are a number of different aspects to photo SEO:

1. Image file size

First things first… and that is, you need to make sure that the photograph’s file size is appropriate.

By ‘appropriate’ I mean that the photo should be large enough (in pixels) to display OK… you don’t too use too small a file, or it will look pixelated and grainy, which looks very unprofessional.

However, you need to make sure that the file size (in KB) is reasonable. Slow loading photos (and slow loading web pages) cause users to abandon your website, and that can actually decrease your website’s search engine rankings.

The goal is for your website to load fast ‘n’ snappy, with sharp looking pictures.

Bonus Tip: Whilst you’re using the image editing software, if the photo you’re using is your own (i.e. an image that you have taken yourself, or created yourself), then you might want to include your copyright information on it. I do this on the cartoons I draw and use on my websites, for example.

2. Photo file name

While you’re using your image editing software to re-size the photos, take this opportunity to re-name the image file.

Why re-name the image file?

So that you’re using your focus keyword in the photo file name, of course!

Example: If an image comes off your digital camera as ‘DSC1234.jpg’ that’s not going to tell Google very much about what’s in the photograph.

Instead, say your focus keyword for a web page is ‘plumber Auckland’, then use that for your photo keyword too. Re-name the image as ‘plumber-auckland.jpg’.

Why use hyphens to punctuate the keyword?

Punctuating a keyword with hyphens is a technique I learned at Search Engine Bootcamp a number of years ago: it’s been considered best practice for a while. I’ve been implementing this ever since, and the (many) photos I’ve keyworded in this way get really good visibility on Google. Punctuating with hyphens works!

If for some reason you’re using a website infrastructure that doesn’t allow hyphens (for example, it may use the underscore instead), don’t worry. It’s just a small thing, and I don’t think this one small thing in isolation will matter if the rest of your web page is optimised well with keywords.

What about using uppercase and lowercase letters?

Google isn’t case sensitive – i.e. if you do a search in ALL CAPS or all lowercase (or something in between), you’ll get exactly the same results.

So consequently it doesn’t matter if you use UPPERCASE, lower case, Sentence case or Title Case for your photo keywords.

3. Photo captions

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about using photo captions…

For one thing, photo captions are twice as likely to get read as the body copy. So if you’re not using photo captions, you’re missing out on getting your message across.

What’s more, photo captions give you another opportunity for photo SEO. So be sure to include your photo keywords in the caption that you write.

Hint: If you’re struggling with writing photo captions, here are some articles to help you:

Be sure to write your photo captions so that they’re meaningful and interesting to human readers, first and foremost. Using photo keywords is just the icing on the cake!

4. ALT attribute

Think that your work with photo keywords is done? Think again… there’s still the ALT attribute! And this is something that many people miss out when keywording photos and images…

What’s the ALT attribute?

The ALT attribute (also known as the ALT tag) was developed so that blind and visually impaired people can interact with graphic elements on a web page. Visually impaired people use a screen reader that reads out the content of a web page. And when a screen reader comes to an image, it reads out the ALT attribute. So a well-written ALT tag lets blind people know what’s in an image, even if they can’t see it.

Google accesses the ALT attribute too, so if you use your photo keywords in the ALT tag, you’re not just letting visually impaired people know what’s in the image, you’re also letting Google know. So I’d suggest taking some time and care in writing a meaningful ALT attribute – whilst using your photo keywords, of course!

Using your photo keywords in the ALT attribute is an important part of photo SEO, but be sure to write ALT copy that makes sense to human readers, first and foremost.

You need to use photo SEO in combination with other SEO techniques

Don’t keyword your photos in isolation and expect a huge surge in your Google rankings or visitor numbers: you need to keyword the rest of your web page as well.

It’s the cumulative effect of all of these SEO techniques that will give you the best results.

Using photo keywords for photo SEO is a step that many website owners skip, so if you do this (as well as other SEO techniques), there’s the opportunity to make some gains on your competitors.


  • Make sure image sizes are optimised for quick downloading – but without noticeably degrading the image quality.
  • Use your photo keywords in the image file names. Punctuate the file names with hyphens.
  • Write a meaningful photo caption that also includes your photo keyword.
  • Write an ALT tag that’s both meaningful and keyworded.
  • Photo SEO won’t boost your website rankings in isolation, you need to use other SEO techniques as well.


How to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts – for Mac and PC

Website and copywriting tasks are much quicker if you know how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

Website and copywriting tasks are much quicker if you know how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

You can save yourself a huge amount of time if you know how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

In this blog post you will find step-by-step instructions, as well as a video to show you how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

Common things you might want to copy and paste include:

  • Sending a website address (URL) in an email, or putting it in a document.
  • Someone’s contact details, such as their website address or phone number, from their email signature.
  • Information from an old document (e.g. a proposal, letter, or fact sheet) into a new document.
  • Keywords you’ve brainstormed into a keyword research tool.

… There are limitless ways in which copying and pasting is useful!

And if you know how to do it quickly and efficiently, it can save you a lot of time.

Note: Giving instructions on how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts might seem quite basic to some readers here… If that’s the case, give yourself a pat on the back from being so smart. I know for a fact that there are a lot of people out there who don’t know how to copy and paste at all – let alone with keyboard shortcuts!

We all have to begin somewhere, and this video and article will make it nice and easy for you to learn…

Why use keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste?

You don’t have to use the keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste… you can use your mouse and go to Edit > Copy and then Edit > Paste. But this method is very time-consuming. If you do a lot of copying and pasting in your day (like I do), then using the keyboard is far more efficient, and it will save you time for more important things.

You’ll still need your mouse to highlight the text and position the cursor, but by using keyboard commands for copying and pasting (instead of navigating to the Edit menu), it’ll be quicker for you.

First things first: how to select the text you want to copy

You use your mouse to control the cursor on screen to select the text you want to copy. There are a number of different ways to select the text:

  • Click the left mouse button and drag the mouse to select the text you want to copy.
  • To select a whole word, double-click on it with the left mouse button.
  • If you want to select a whole paragraph or website address (URL), triple-click on it with the left mouse button.

You can tell which text you have selected, as it will be higlighted, as per this example:


How to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts: on a PC

To copy and paste using the keyboard on a PC you need to locate the following 3 keys on the keyboard:

  • Control (often labelled as ‘Ctrl’)
  • The letter ‘C’ 
  • The letter ‘V’


Step-by-step instructions for PC:

  1. Select the text you want to copy (as per the instructions above).
  2. Press down the ‘Control’ and letter ‘C’ buttons together at the same time: this is the ‘Copy’ command, which puts the data on your computer’s clipboard.
  3. Then navigate to where you want to paste the information: place your cursor with the mouse.
  4. Press down the ‘Control’ and letter ‘V’ buttons together at the same time. This is the ‘Paste’ command, and the text you selected should now be inserted. 

How to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts: on a Mac

To copy and paste using the keyboard on a Mac you need to locate the following 3 keys on the keyboard:

  • Command key (the one with the squirly pattern on it)
  • The letter ‘C’
  • The letter ‘V’


Step-by-step instructions for Mac:

  1. Select the text you want to copy (as per the instructions above).
  2. Press down the ‘Command’ button and letter ‘C’ buttons together at the same time: this is the ‘Copy’ command, which puts the data on your computer’s clipboard.
  3. Then navigate to where you want to paste the information: place your cursor with the mouse.
  4. Press the ‘Command’ button and letter ‘V’ buttons together at the same time. This is the ‘Paste’ command, and the text you selected should now be inserted.

Video tutorial on how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts:


Voila! It’s that easy!

There are many more keyboard shortcuts, and many are universal between apps.

But copying and pasting is the one keyboard shortcut I use the most – and it’s likely to be the shortcut you’ll use the most too.


How to write a Contact Us page (that actually makes it enticing for prospects to contact you!)

It's vital that your website's Contact Us page makes it easy and enticing for prospects to contact you.

It’s vital that your website’s Contact Us page makes it easy and enticing for prospects to contact you.

What action would you like your readers to take when they look at your website?

Do you want prospects to contact you? Perhaps to make an appointment, or to request a quote?

Some kind of “Contact Us” message is the main call-to-action on most brochure-style websites. So hopefully you’ve got calls-to-action sprinkled throughout your site. (And ideally in a way that’ll appeal to both Decisive Dan and also Tentative Tom readers.)

But what happens when people visit your Contact Us page?

Is your Contact Us page carefully crafted to sound friendly and inviting?

Or is it a page that you quickly threw together to get it off your To Do list as fast as possible? (After all, how hard can it be to write a good Contact Us page?!)

It’s kind of ironic that the most important page on a website is usually written without much thought…

It doesn’t make sense when you stop to think about it, does it? If “Contact Us” is the primary call-to-action on your website, then you need to put a bit of effort in when you write a Contact Us page.

Here’s a checklist of things you should include when you write a Contact Us page:

1. Friendly introductory blurb

Don’t just go straight to the nitty-gritty contact details, as that can come across as being rather abrupt.

Instead, add a sentence or two right at the beginning of your Contact Us page that makes your company sound friendly and approachable.

2. Email address

Even if your website has an enquiry form, you should always always include an email address as well. Read my article to find out why you should include an email address.

3. Contact form

You should be aware that lots of people (a) hate filling out forms, and (b) have filled out forms, only to never hear from the company they’ve contacted. So treat contact forms with caution.

To make contact forms more user friendly:

  • ALWAYS specify how quickly you’ll respond to enquiries. Will it be within 24 hours? Or 1 to 2 business days? Tell the reader! Also tell them what to do if they don’t hear back within that time frame.This is really important. Contact Forms aren’t perfect. By adding this blurb, the keenest prospects will get back in touch with you. (This happened to me just last week!)
  • NEVER use CAPTCHA – you know, those awful codes you have to input to prove that you’re not a robot or a spammer. Most of them are totally illegible and incredibly frustrating. Read my rant about CAPTCHA – which includes a far better (and totally unobtrusive, human-friendly) solution.

4. Physical and postal addresses

Putting an address on your website is vital for building trust, as it shows that you are a real, actual business.

Now, here in New Zealand things are a bit quirky in that many businesses get their mail delivered to a PO (Post Office) Box rather than to their physical address. That’s the norm here. I have no idea why.

But having  PO Box address is good for work-at-home businesses, like myself. A friend of mine, who also works from home, initially put her physical address on her website and business card, and then had an unexpected visit from a client – whilst she was in her pyjamas! Oops! In this scenario, by using a PO Box address you can still build trust, but without having to worry about strangers seeing your PJs.

Extra tips for businesses whose premises are visited by clients…

If clients routinely visit your business, there are some extra things you should do:

  • Opening hours: You would be amazed at the number of physical retailers that don’t put their opening hours on their website. Craziness!
  • By appointment only: Don’t have set opening hours? Then tell readers that they are welcome to visit, but must make an appointment first. That way they know where they stand, and what to do.
  • Car parking information: Visiting a business can be stressful for people, especially if they’re not familiar with the area. It can also be incredibly frustrating to get somewhere and find out that there’s no parking available, or that they need change for the parking meter.
    • Visitor Parking: make it clear if you have Visitor Parking, and what the procedure is for parking there (for example, does the space need to be pre-booked?).
    • Other parking: If you don’t provide parking, tell readers where they can park, and if they need to pay for the parking, tell them what the payment methods are (e.g. cash, credit card, TXT-a-park, etc.). This is hugely valuable for people like me who never carry cash!
    • Time limits: Also, if there’s a time limit on the parking (e.g. 30 minutes, an hour, two hours), let people know. You’d be making a very big negative deposit into your customers’ emotional bank balances if they were to get a parking ticket, clamp or towed as a result of visiting your business!
  • Photograph of your building’s exterior: Makes it easy for prospects to find your business.
  • Map: Ditto! My preferred tool is Google Maps… not only is it free, but their maps are also interactive and let users get directions… very handy!
  • Directions: If your premises are difficult to find, include written directions as well.
  • Public transport links: If your customers take public transport to travel to you, include this information. E.g.: bus route(s), location of nearest bus stop or train station, etc.

5. Phone numbers

Yes, list all of your relevant phone numbers:

  • Land line
  • Cell phone
  • Fax
  • Skype username.

If there’s a specific number you’d prefer people to call you on (e.g. your cell phone, if you’re always out and about), then:

(a)  Put your preferred phone number at the top of the list.

(b)  Make your preferred phone number bold and stand out.

(c)  Make it clear that that’s your preferred number, e.g. by saying “this is the best number to call us on” next to it.

Also, if you prefer being contacted by phone than email, then put your phone number(s) nearer the top of the web page, and the email details below it.

(And likewise, if you prefer email contact, put your email address near the top of the page, and the phone numbers further down the page.)

6. Links to social media profiles

The Contact Us page is a good place to include links to your social media profiles:

  • Facebook Page
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube Channel
  • Pinterest
  • Anything else that you use!

Tip: set up these links to your social media profiles so that they open in a new web browser window (the HTML code for this is: target=_blank). This means that visitors won’t be taken away from your company website.

You could include your Facebook Feed or Twitter stream here, but that’s not essential.

7. Photographs of key contact people

Remember, the goal of the Contact Us page is to encourage prospects to contact you. And making your company look friendly and approachable will really help with that.

So be sure to include some staff photos on your Contact Us page. Photos help with trust building – and also help with building rapport.

If you have a Receptionist or Customer Services team, or other people who field most of the calls and enquiries, use their photos. A good caption to go with this kind of photo is:

“Mary Smith, our Receptionist, is the friendly voice you’ll first speak to when you call us.”

(The caption explains who the person is; and what their role is in the business.)

Or if you’re a one-person business, use your own photo and write a suitable caption.

8. Signature

Finally, end the page with your signature, name and credentials.

This helps with building trust – you can read all about using signatures for trust building here.

9. PS message with a final call-to-action

Is there a really important message you’d like to remind people of before they leave your site? Then include it in a “PS” message at the end.

PS messages do get read, and if people have scrolled to the bottom of your Contact Us page (and haven’t made contact), then point them towards some other useful content on your website. The person reading this message is likely to be a “Tentative Tom“, so your job is to give them all the information they need to spur them into contacting you.

Here are examples of the final call-to-action you could include in your PS message:

  • Testimonials page: Want to see what our customers are saying about us? Find out here
  • Newsletter sign-up: Get all the latest tips for free! 
  • Free quote: Contact us today for your free quote: call
  • Resources: Get the inside tips…

Pick just one message in your PS… if there’s more than one option, the reader will probably feel overwhelmed!


  • “Contact us” is the main call-to-action on many small business websites, yet many businesses throw these pages together quickly without much thought.
  • A good contact us page helps with conversions – and also helps to build rapport with your prospects.
  • Include the following when you write a Contact Us page for your website:
    1. Friendly introductory blurb
    2. Email address
    3. Contact form
    4. Physical and postal addresses
    5. Phone numbers
    6. Links to social media profiles
    7. Photographs of key contact people
    8. Signature
    9. PS message with a final call-to-action
  • If you have business premises that you want your customers and prospects to visit, also include:
    • Opening hours – or by appointment only
    • Car parking information: visitor parking, other parking, and any time limits
    • Photograph of your building’s exterior
    • Map
    • Directions
    • Public transport links



A rant about CAPTCHA (and a possible better solution)

I'll never understand why some companies make it so hard to do business with them.

I’ll never understand why some companies make it so hard to do business with them.

How do you feel about “CAPTCHA” forms?

You know, those awful, illegible “words” that you have to type in on some websites (usually on enquiry forms).


CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”… or in other words, it’s a test to check that it’s a human filling in the website form, not an automated spam robot.

Guilty till proven innocent

To me, it seems totally rude to ask your website visitors to waste their time trying to interpret these frustrating eye-tests.

I mean seriously, what next? Do prospects also have to jump through hoops of fire to contact you?!

An example of a terrible CAPTCHA…

Here’s an example I had to contend with recently:



Nope, I have no idea what it says. They’re not even real words, for goodness sake!

This was from a website that I had to use to fulfil a job for a copywriting client.

Every time I hit ‘refresh’ the CAPTCHA had the same level of gobbledygook as this. And there was no audio version for people with hearing problems… it’s rude, rude, rude!

Are you really that worried about spam?

If you have a half decent email system, most spam will get filtered out automatically. I use Gmail (via Google Apps) as my email provider, and I’m really happy with the spam filtering. 

The supplier I used previously wasn’t so good, but personally I’d rather delete a few spam emails than make it so ridiculously hard for people to contact me.

There’s a better way: the spam honeypot

Disclaimer: I’m not a website programmer; I’m just repeating information my awesome web designer has shared with me.

Instead of the “guilty till proven innocent” approach of CAPTCHA, there’s another method called the “spam honeypot” that seeks to trip up robots (not humans). Hurrah!

The way it works is that a hidden text field is added to Contact forms. This field is invisible to human users, but the spam bots aren’t aware of this, so they will insert something into that form. The system then knows that this was a spammer, and you’ll never even see the spam.

Cool, huh?

It is effective (and something that’s used on this website).

So please, instead of using annoying, frustrating and rude CAPTCHA forms… ask your web developer to use nice and unobtrusive spam honeypots instead! 


How to build trust online with your profile photograph

The purpose of profile photographs in business is to look friendly and approachable.Do you find that an out-of-the-blue interaction with a nice, friendly, cheery person can make you feel all smiley and glowy inside?

That’s how I used to feel whenever I parked in my favourite multi-storey car park in Auckland CBD.

For inside this grey, gloomy building was a cosy pocket of warmth – known as the payment booth. An elderly (and generously proportioned) Pacific Islander lady with white hair and a jolly disposition resided in this booth. It seemed that no matter which hour, or which day, I visited the car park, she was always there. And always knitting. And always ready with a big smile.

In fact, I always used to look forward to paying for my car parking fee, knowing that the jolly Islander lady would be there! A sincere smile and chat with her made my day.

One day it all changed…

One time I arrived at the car park to discover that the barrier arms at the entry at gone. And Pay and Display ticket machines had been installed. And – horrors! – the payment booth was covered in metal shutters. Ugh!

For me, the whole vibe of the car park changed instantly. Instead of feeling safe, protected and looked after, it now feels cold, impersonal, and almost creepy.

It’s the personal touch that makes a difference

It’s the personal touch that can transform a routine transaction into something more pleasurable. Maybe even a relationship of sorts.

After all, that’s why people like to do business with other people

We all know this, but in this world of computers and websites and email, many business relationships veer more towards the impersonal rather than personal, warm and friendly. Yet friendly faces make us relax, smile and feel good about ourselves!

Wouldn’t you like a bit more warmth and friendliness in your working day?

Here’s an easy way to make business communication more personal…

It’s easy… you use a portrait photo of yourself in your marketing communications!

But I don’t look attractive enough to use a photo…

This is something I hear quite often from business owners. They think that they’re not attractive enough to use their photograph.

But here’s the thing: no-one expects you to look like a supermodel. (Heck, it would be a scary, intimidating world if everyone did look like Heidi Klum!)

Rather, it’s about you looking friendly, and approachable – and like you. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. Truly.

But I’m not very confident about how I look…

You and me both!

So before I had my profile photos taken, I spent some time with my beautician and hairdresser in order to look the best I could. And the photographer I engaged was excellent: she specialised in portrait photos (she’d even won some awards) and I really liked the shots in her portfolio.

How you pose in a portrait photo is important too, because the body language is so important. Here are my tips on how to pose for portrait photographs.

In short: with a bit of preparation, you’ll end up with shots that you will be happy and comfortable using.

You’ve got the photographs – now what do you do?

The photographs are no good sitting on a CD or on the hard drive of your computer, oh no! You need to use them!

Me personally, because I felt very uncomfortable about putting my photograph everywhere, I did it in stages.

Step 1: Put your portrait photograph on your website

Putting your portrait photograph on your website immediately adds warmth and credibility – and builds trust. Visitors like knowing that there’s a real person behind the business: dealing with a faceless persona just feels weird.

The key pages to add your photograph to are:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Contact page
  • Sales pages.

There were unexpected benefits of using my photograph on my website…

I must admit that I didn’t really think about how putting my photograph on my website would benefit or affect me. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I didn’t think it would make a difference to me, only to my website readers. Wrong!

After I started using my photo on my website, I’d notice that when I met prospects and new clients for the first time, they were noticeably friendlier to me! Not that people are normally unfriendly, but because these people had seen my photograph (and read about me), they felt like they already knew me a little. It’s a huge ice-breaker and rapport building tool!

I’m shy by nature, so it makes a big difference to me when the person I’m meeting for the first time not only recognises me, but also approaches me with a big smile. It’s wonderful!

Step 2: Use your photograph in your email signature

I can’t remember who suggested this to me, but I was very uncomfortable about using my photo in my email signature. It’s not something that’s normally done in New Zealand, and it just felt a bit cheesy and attention seeking.

But whoever told me to do it must have been very persuasive, because I did finally do it. And the results were very unexpected!

I instantly received an email from an A-Grade client saying how much she enjoyed seeing my photo in my email. She said that it made her feel like she was communicating with a real person, and that it took the impersonal nature out of emails.

Example: Here’s my current email signature. I change and update the design quite often, but the photograph is the one constant:

Here's an example of using a profile photograph in an email signature.

Here’s an example of using a profile photograph in an email signature.

The wonderful feedback from my A-Grade client gave me the confidence to keep using my photograph in my email signature.

I’ve noticed that using my profile photo in this way is great for building rapport with new clients – just like it does on the website. That was one result I semi-expected, but I was in for another surprise.

The surprising thing I’ve noticed since using my photo in my email signature is that the replies I receive are somehow… nicer.

It’s not that I’d usually receive lots of nasty emails from people, no. But because people see my face when they’re writing a message to me, somehow their tone changes, just a little bit.

Seeing my photograph makes people aware that they’re communicating with a real, live human.

And this slight difference in tone makes a huge difference to my day. We all like to be addressed in a friendly, courteous manner, so this directly impacts my happiness at work.

One thing’s for sure: I’m no longer scared or hesitant about using my photo!

Step 3: Other places where you can use your profile photograph

There are other places where you can use your profile photograph too:

  • Other website pages: e.g. newsletter sign-up pages, download pages, etc.
  • Email newsletters: This adds a personal touch to your mass communications.
  • Business cards: This helps people to remember you long after the initial meeting.
  • Proposal documents: Put a friendly, personal touch to quotes and estimates. Think about it from the reader’s point of view, who may find the document a bit scary and intimidating – especially if it’s a high-value purchase. Wouldn’t a friendly smile on the cover page warm you up to reading it?
  • Sales letters: I’ll often include my photograph in sales letters to clients, as it adds that friendly, personal touch.

In short: you can use your profile photograph in the same places where you use your digitised signature.

Are there any places where you shouldn’t use your profile photograph?

I do think that it’s possible to take the profile photograph thing too far.

For example, a few years ago I received a fridge magnet for a mortgage broker with his photograph on. Do I want to look at his photograph every day when I’m making breakfast? Um, that would be a no!

We also received a Shopping List pad from a husband-and-wife real estate team (people we have no relationship or connection with). That went straight into the recycling pile.

While it’s good to use your profile photograph to build a relationship, there is such a thing as being too “in your face”, so some common sense is advised!

Remember, the aim is to add a friendly, personal touch… not to freak people out!

I wish that the multi-storey car park owners in Auckland CBD realised that their facilities now freak me out, and I park elsewhere that feels friendlier. 😉

Summary: benefits of using your profile photograph in your marketing

Benefits to your prospects and customers:

  • They trust your company/brand more quickly.
  • It helps to put them at ease and makes them feel more comfortable… dealing with people whose names and faces you know is nicer than dealing with an anonymous entity (or a machine!).

Benefits to you:

  • It can help to boost your sales conversion rates, or speed up the decision-making process, because your prospects trust you more (and do so more quickly).
  • It’s a wonderful ice-breaker and rapport builder for meetings: people will feel like they already ‘know’ you, which puts both of you at ease.
  • People may communicate with you in a more courteous manner. It is easy to be rude or vent to an anonymous entity than a person whose name and face you know!
  • It differentiates your business and your brand against your competitors. There is no competition to be you!


How to build trust online with your signature

Adding your signature onto your website is a simple way to build trust - and quickly.

Adding your signature onto your website is a simple way to build trust – and quickly.

Do you remember the last time you had to sign a document? It may have been a contract, or a form, or something authorising a payment (e.g. a cheque or Direct Debit).

Signing your name makes something feel quite official, yes?

Even if you didn’t read all the small print in detail, you just know that when you sign something, it had better be correct. You know for sure it’s something serious and binding.

What does signing your name have to do with websites?

Websites are tricky beasts, in that a potential prospect will decide in 7 short seconds whether they’ll read your site further, or if they’ll hit the ‘back’ button on their browser and go to a competitor’s site.

Therefore you have mere seconds to communicate that your business is trustworthy and reputable. Adding a signature to your website is one of the tools you can use to help with this: it’s a powerful, visual way of building trust.

What does a signature on a website do? A signature tells us that:

  • There is a real person behind the business.
  • This person is willing to sign their name to what they say… which in turn ads gravity to what it says on the website.

… and it does these things within a very short space of time.

What’s more, a signature is also very unique. A signature can even become a brand element that will let your business stand out against your competitors. It’s a very powerful branding tool – and also a very inexpensive one!

Example of a signature on a website…

Yep, I use the ‘signature on a website’ tactic myself:

Signature on website example: Notice how the signature adds a friendly and personal touch the website.

Signature on website example: Notice how the signature adds a friendly and personal touch the website.

Now that you can see what you’re aiming for, here’s how to implement your own website signature…

Tips on adding your signature to your website

1. Sign your name in a good quality, black pen on a clean piece of plain paper

  • Do not use your “official” signature, e.g. your credit card signature!
  • Use a good quality, black pen. My personal preference is for a pen with gel ink, or a fountain pen, as this makes a good, solid line. Ball point pens don’t have a smooth ink flow, so the result can look blotchy. And a thick pen (like a marker pen) will look too chunky and overbearing.
  • Your signature needs to be legible, or you won’t succeed at building trust. (Illegible signatures make it seem as though you have something to hide.)
  • Use your first name and last name, or just your first name. Do not use initials. Initials look too formal, or though you’ve got something to hide. For example:
    • Good: Joanna Smith, Joanna
    • Not recommended: JS, J Smith.

2. Scan your signature to digitise it

You’ll need the signature in a JPEG or PNG image file.

3. If necessary, enhance your signature in image editing software

Make sure the black is nice and crisp; the white background clean. If necessary, rotate the signature so that it is level.

Then save your signature in a website friendly format. Your signature graphic should be a small file size, so it’s quick to load, but still good quality so that it looks crisp and sharp.

4. Add your signature onto your website

You can add it onto as many pages as your like – the list below is a minimum:

  • Home page
  • Sales pages
  • Contact us page, as it is important to humanise this page: all too often, Contact Us pages are very abrupt and not very compelling! Adding your signature – and your photo – makes the “contact us” message more personal and thus it’s more enticing for prospects to contact you.

5. Type your details under the signature

Underneath your signature, type your name in full and any recognised qualifications you may have.

Then on the next line, add your job title and company.

6. Add your photo

Use your photo, too – like I did in the example above. (See some tips for cringe-free business portrait photos.)

Is this signature-on-a-website tactic relevant for all businesses?

In my view, adding a signature onto a website is a worthwhile tactic for all small business, whether you’re a solopreneur, or have a handful of staff. After all, why wouldn’t you want to build trust on your website? It’s simple, deceptively powerful – and very cheap to do!

Also, it’s a tactic that’s relevant for all types of industries, whether you’re business-to-business, business-to-consumer, selling products, or selling services.

Even large corporations can benefit from this approach. Just look at how Richard Branson has plastered his name over his various Virgin companies (encompassing airlines, trains, telecommunications/internet, record label, wine merchant, radio stations, financial services – and a whole lot more besides).

By adding his name (and the flamboyant personality that goes with it), the Virgin Group has a unique brand. The Virgin Group of companies have a very different vibe to their clinical-looking, staid, corporate competitors.

Why looking “corporate” stifles your business

Some of you reading this article will be appalled that I’m suggesting adding a signature to personalise your business. A common objection I hear to this tactic is, “but I want my business to look serious and corporate. Adding a signature and photograph just makes my business look small and amateurish”.

Here’s my view on the desire to look corporate…

During my time as a Marketing Consultant in the UK in the late 1990s (a time when the economy was strong), I met many business owners who did not like their business being called a “small business” or an “SME”… even if that’s exactly what they were.

These business owners thought that it was all about size. Indeed, such business owners considered the use of the word “small” was an insult to their ego; to their stature in life; to their importance.

Consequently, these size-challenged business owners wanted their marketing materials to emulate the corporates. Yes, they actually wanted their materials to be faceless! They wanted to focus on the “brand”, and not on people.

What’s the result of “corporate-looking” marketing?

All of these corporate-looking marketing materials were dull, faceless, bland and interchangeable. The copy was jargon-riddled nonsense. The photographs were generic stock library images.

You would have struggled to tell one company’s marketing materials from the other!

In these days where many small businesses are still struggling with the after-effects of recession, competition for your prospects’ share-of-wallet is tougher than ever. What’s more, with increased use of technology, many small businesses now have to compete against overseas suppliers (who are often able to supply at a lower cost), as well as local competitors. Business life is tough!

So, in these days of hyper-competition, do you want your business to look dull, faceless, bland, and unmemorable?

Or do you want your business to stand out; be unique and memorable; and start building meaningful relationships with your customers?

It’s your call… but I know which approach is likely to yield the better results.


The benefits of adding your signature to your website are that:

  • Using your signature on your website is a visual tool that instantly builds trusts and adds credibility. (Signing your name = a commitment to what you’re saying.)
  • Using your signature helps you stand out from your competitors. Based on my experience, I’d say that most of your competitors won’t have the balls to add a signature in such a public way, so that’s another thing in your favour!
  • It adds personality and depth to your message, in a way that a logo by itself will never do.
  • It lets prospects and customers know that there’s a real person behind the brand. Not only does that build trust and credibility, but it’s also the beginning of forming closer relationships.
  • This is ridiculously easy and cheap to do!


How to get more email newsletter sign ups on your website

The key to getting more email newsletter sign ups online is to appeal to both Tentative Tom and Decisive Dan.

The key to getting more email newsletter sign ups online is to appeal to both Tentative Tom and Decisive Dan.

One of the questions I get asked a lot by clients is, “how can I get more email newsletter sign ups on my website?”

The very first thing I do is to look at the client’s website to see if the sign up process will appeal to both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom.

I’ve written about Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom before, and how they behave differently online. In previous articles you’ve seen how you need to take both user types into consideration when structuring your website content, and also when creating sales pages.

But you also need to take both of these website user types into consideration when you want more email newsletter sign ups.

Here’s how you can get both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom to sign up to your email newsletter.

Both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom need to be enticed to sign up

It seems that eeeeeveryone is offering email newsletters these days. And you have to earn (a) your place in prospects’ mailboxes, and (b) getting your newsletters read, rather than trashed.

How do you do that? With a free enticement of some sort. This freebie needs to be something that:

  • Recipients receive immediately. Instant gratification is key; if there’s a delay they’ll have forgotten about you. Therefore delivery needs to be automatic and automated (which is why email newsletter software such as AWeber and MailChimp is so neat, it does all that for you).
  • Is in some kind of digital format… after all, the computer will be delivering it for you. This digital file is something that people can either read, view, listen to or watch on their computers. It could be a written report; or an audio file; or a video… or for best effect, a mixture of these. (Why a mixture? Not everyone likes all formats – some people are visual, some are auditory, some are kinesthetic. The more people your offer appeals to, the wider the take up.)
  • Encourages foot traffic. Digital content isn’t suitable for all business types. Or you might want to do something a bit extra. For example, if you’re a retailer you might want to offer a digital “buyers’ guide” – but you might want to supplement that with a time limited offer to receive an in store consultation.
  • Adds value to what you do. The freebie should be something that helps to answer a problem that all your prospects share. It’s something that’ll help them in their lives, and establishes you as a credible expert.
  • Has enticing packaging. Packaging sells! Even though you’re sending something digital, get a graphic designer to make it look like a real product. There’s special software (for example Cover Action Pro PhotoShop add-on) that can mock up books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, and a whole lot more.
The business cards above aren’t real. Neither is the DVD case. Nor is the magazine. They’ve all been created by someone using Cover Action Pro.

The business cards above aren’t real. Neither is the DVD case. Nor is the magazine. They’ve all been created by someone using Cover Action Pro.

Both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom will love this enticing packaging. There’s not much point in having a great freebie on offer, but it doesn’t look enticing. Give it some zing!

That’s where Dan and Tom’s similarities end… from now on, they want different things from your website. Yes, you can please them both – here’s how to do it! We’ll start with Decisive Dan…

Decisive Dan will want the minimum fuss and hoopla

To entice Decisive Dan to sign up to your newsletter, you need to make it easy for him. And the best way to do that is to have a sign up form right there, on most pages of your website.

(How do you get a sign up box onto your website? If you use an email newsletter system such as AWeber or MailChimp, it gives you a code that you or your website developer will need to add to your website.)

This sign up box should be in a prominent position, rather than tucked away somewhere down the bottom.

Very often, a Decisive Dan kind of person won’t scroll down the page, so you need to make it obvious!

How to make the sign up box obvious

A good way to make the sign up box obvious is to feature it prominently on every web page. My preferred space is at the very top of the right hand column (side bar), so that people can see the sign up box without having to scroll.

For example, on my own site, the sign up box appears at the top of the right hand column of most pages, as follows:

To attract as many email newsletter sign ups as possible, this box appears on most pages of my website.

To attract as many email newsletter sign ups as possible, this box appears on most pages of my website.

My sign-up box is quite subtle (I’m not into garish colours!).

But the email sign up box on this website, below, is brightly coloured to make it stand out:

You can spot the email sign up box on this website very easily! (Hint: it's the bright yellow box on the right.)

You can spot the email sign up box on this website very easily! (Hint: it’s the bright yellow box on the right.)

It’s not the prettiest looking website (or sign up box), but Randy Ingermanson has more than 30,000 email subscribers, so it definitely works for him!

Other techniques to get more email newsletter sign ups from Decisive Dan

There are other techniques you can use to grab Decisive Dan’s attention. These include pop-up boxes, which can be programmed to appear immediately when someone visits your site, or after a set amount of time.

I was happily starting to read a website article when this pop-up sign up box came up, blanking out the rest of the page. Many websites use this as a ploy to capture more email subscribers.

I was happily starting to read a website article when this pop-up sign up box came up, blanking out the rest of the page. Many websites use this as a ploy to capture more email subscribers.

Personally I don’t like these pop-up boxes, they really annoy me… though apparently they do work well. I don’t want to inflict them on my readers, seeing as I dislike these pop-ups myself!

But there’s a subtler way to grab Decisive Dan’s attention, and that’s with a Hello Bar.

The 'Hello Bar' is the bright horizontal strip across the top: this is an obvious but still subtle way to get users to take action, e.g. sign up to your email list.

The ‘Hello Bar’ is the bright horizontal strip across the top: this is an obvious but still subtle way to get users to take action, e.g. sign up to your email list.

The Hello Bar lets you use any call-to-action you like (be it a newsletter sign ups, or whatever). You can use colour to make it stand out, yet without being too garish. And it can stay at the top of the screen even when people scroll.

For example, here it is on my website:

The Hello Bar is visible at all times, even when people scroll down the web page.

The Hello Bar is visible at all times, even when people scroll down the web page.

I’m trialling the Hello Bar at the time of writing this; it’s early days yet, but it seems that my subscriber numbers have increased since I started using it. Yes, mine is quite subtle in colour, but garish colours aren’t for me. 😉

So there you have it: Decisive Dan wants it to be as easy as possible to sign up. He likes the sign up box to be attention-grabbing and with no excess information or blurb to hold him up.

What about Tentative Tom? Oooh, I’m glad you asked…

Tentative Tom will want more information before committing to signing up

That’s hardly surprising, that Tentative Tom wants more information before giving you his email address. He wants to:

  • Be assured that your newsletter is worth receiving – and including testimonials from other newsletter subscribers will help to sway him.
  • Get an idea of how often you’ll email him. Of course, you can change the frequency, but it’s nice for people to know if you’ll be emailing them daily, weekly, fortnightly, quarterly, etc.
  • Know that you won’t spam him, or use his details in an underhand way (e.g. sell or give the database to other people or organisations)
  • Be reassured that Unsubscribing will be easy, if he does change his mind
  • Want to know more about the freebie, to be sure he’ll like it (even though it is free!)

Wow, that’s rather a lot of information! Far too much to fit into your sign up box. That’s why it’s worth having an extra web page with more details.

Notice how I have a little link in the sign up box on my website?

The newsletter sign up box on the right-hand side bar of my website includes a link to web page with more information on my newsletter. This is for Tentative Tom!

The newsletter sign up box on the right-hand side bar of my website includes a link to web page with more information on my newsletter. This is for Tentative Tom!

That link is there especially so that Tentative Tom can find out everything he wants to know. The link goes to a special page that answers all his questions; gives some reader testimonials; – and yes, there’s another sign-up box there too.

Another benefit of having such a page is that you have a website address (URL) that you can link to easily, for example from other websites, or social media updates, and so on.

If you don’t have a special newsletter page, it’s harder to drive people to your site for the specific purpose of signing up. So there’s two-fold benefit for having this separate page: it encourages Tentative Tom to sign up, and you have a page that you can link to.

Anyway, here’s a visual of the web page that the link leads to:

This is my main email newsletter sign up page: it's a very good idea to have a dedicated page you can link to.

This is my main email newsletter sign up page: it’s a very good idea to have a dedicated page you can link to.

Notice how the sign up box is visible without scrolling; this is for Decisive Dan’s benefit, in case he ends up on this page.

If you scroll down, you’ll see the blurb that will answer Tentative Tom’s questions:

By scrolling down, Tentative Tom will be able to read more about the email newsletter subscription to put his mind at ease - and entice him to sign up!

By scrolling down, Tentative Tom will be able to read more about the email newsletter subscription to put his mind at ease – and entice him to sign up!

Sneaky bonus tip to get more email newsletter sign ups

I actually have two email newsletter sign up pages on my website. Notice how the one above talks (unsurprisingly) about the newsletter?

Well, sometimes I don’t want to promote the newsletter; I want to promote the free eGuide.

For example, the reverse of my business cards talks about the free eGuide. If I pointed these people towards the page above, they’d be confused, because the connection between the newsletter and free eGuide isn’t obvious at first glance. (Well, not to Decisive Dan, anyway.) Because the connection isn’t instantly obvious, it would make people scratch their head. And that’s dangerous, because while they’re scratching their head with their left hand, their right hand is hovering over the mouse to hit the ‘back’ button and navigate to some other website. Therefore we need to avoid that head scratching! And that where this second page makes a useful landing page.

So when I want to promote the free eGuide, I have a second (hidden) page, that only people with the link can find.

It’s same-same but different to the other page, in that the prominent message is the free eGuide. Sure, it mentions the newsletter too (I don’t want to be misleading!), but the emphasis is different:

This sign up page has more emphasis on the free eGuide, than on the email newsletter. This makes it a useful landing page for when I'm promoting my eGuide.

This sign up page has more emphasis on the free eGuide, than on the email newsletter. This makes it a useful landing page for when I’m promoting my eGuide.

I’ve found it incredibly handy to have two different newsletter sign up pages, and I suggest that you do this too. You can even start measuring to see which page gets the best conversion rate, and learn from that.


There are many things you can do on your own website to increase the number of email newsletter sign ups:

  • Offer an incentive for signing up. And ensure that this incentive is
    • in digital format
    • delivered immediately
    • adds value to what your business does (it must appeal to all your prospects)
    • attractively packaged
  • Decisive Dan will want the sign up box positioned prominently on the website
  • Tentative Tom will want a detail page that gives him more information
  • Have two slightly different detail pages (one focusing on the newsletter; the other focusing on the incentive) give you extra flexibility in your marketing.
Once you’re sure that your website is set up to maximise email newsletter sign ups, your next task is to drive more traffic to your website so you can start growing your list in earnest.


Does your website have Calls-To-Action suitable for both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom?

To maximise your website's conversion rate, you must have calls-to-action that'll appeal to both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom. Here's how to do it.

To maximise your website's conversion rate, you must have calls-to-action that'll appeal to both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom. Here's how to do it.

Last time we looked at how Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom behave differently online.

Tentative Tom will want to read almost every page before making a purchasing decision.

Decisive Dan, on the other hand, wants to skip to the important stuff, and now!

How do you give both types of website users the information they need?

Let’s say you have a sales page of some kind on your website, and you want it to appeal to both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom. This sales page could be for just about anything:

  • Your service that you sell (be it building, copywriting, beauty therapy, and so on).
  • Physical products, such as cosmetics, books, dog food, and so on.
  • Online products, such as eBooks, online courses, audio, and so on.

… in short, just about anything! We all have a sales page of some kind on our website (well, you should do anyway).

How would Tentative Tom read your sales page?

Tentative Tom will read everything on your sales page, and at least once. In fact, he’ll want all the information and then some more. For example:

  • For a service, he’d like to read reviews and testimonials, to see what other clients think.
  • For a product, he’d like reviews as well, but also an ingredients list.

Making Decisive Dan read through all this stuff would drive him nuts!

So how can you make your sales page appeal to both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom?

Here’s how you can make a sales page appeal to both types of website users.

This assumes that you want to give Decisive Dan a quick and easy route; in my last article I gave some examples as to why you might not want to do this.

But in this instance, let’s assume you want to give your website wide appeal. Here’s how to do it.

1. Write a few paragraphs with the most pertinent information

These initial paragraphs will give Decisive Dan all the information he needs: just a short, sharp, concise summary.

Then give him a prominent call-to-action: which brings us to point number 2…

2. Provide multiple calls-to-action

Decisive Dan will want a prominent call-to-action (such as a “Buy Now” button) that’s easy to spot. This highly-visible button should show on your web page without him having to scroll to see it. (The technical term for this is “above the fold”.)

Here’s an example from MailChimp email newsletter software: there’s a big, prominent call-to-action button above the fold. Notice too how the button is in a bright, contrasting colour so that the call-to-action really stands out. That’s another technique that Decisive Dan will love.

It's easy to spot the brightly coloured call-to-action - you don't even need to scroll down the MailChimp web page to see it. (That's called being "above the fold".)

It's easy to spot the brightly-coloured call-to-action - you don't even need to scroll down the MailChimp web page to see it. (Content that's visible without scrolling is called "above the fold".)

But do you see what else they’ve done? Right underneath the button there’s a hyperlink, “Need convincing?” Here’s a close-up:

.Here's a close-up of that above the fold call-to-action. Notice the link underneath the "Sign Up Free" button? That's there for Tentative Tom!

Here's a close-up of that above the fold call-to-action. Notice the link underneath the "Sign Up Free" button? That's there for Tentative Tom!


Tentative Tom will be very happy about this link, because it will take him to a long and detailed “Why MailChimp?” page:

Tentative Tom will love this long and detailed sales page!

Tentative Tom will love this long and detailed sales page!


Best of all, at the bottom of the page there’s another prominent call-to-action. This is vital; you don’t want website visitors reaching the bottom of the page and then wondering what to do next, and deciding if it’s worth scrolling back up to the top. You need to give them a prominent call-to-action there and then.


It's vital that there's a call-to-action at the foot of every web page. You should never leave your website visitors wondering where to go next!

It's vital that there's a call-to-action at the foot of every web page. You should never leave your website visitors wondering where to go next!


What’s super cool about this MailChimp example is that there’s another, more subtle, call-to-action underneath for the Tentative Tom who is still in research mode. They’ve made it easy for him to read the testimonials.

Every single page on your website should have a call-to-action:

  • Above the fold (if you want to attract the Decisive Dan type of person); and
  • At the bottom of the page. Even Decisive Dan will be frustrated if he scrolls down and doesn’t know where to go next!

3. Provide your contact details in case of questions

Think that your job’s done there? Nope, not quite yet.

Chances are that Tentative Tom might still have some more questions lurking in his mind, so encourage him to contact you. Provide your email address, so that Tentative Tom can easily get in touch with any questions.

Even if he doesn’t get in touch with you, Tentative Tom will be reassured by the very fact that your email address is there. It makes your business look real, genuine, helpful.

Decisive Dan will appreciate having your contact information on hand too. For his benefit, you should put your contact details on each web page (for example in the header or footer) so he doesn’t have to go searching for it.

Hint: Even if you have a contact form, you should still include your email address. Here’s why.

Wow, that’s a mighty long web page – is there any way I can shorten it?

If the thought of such a long page makes you shudder, here’s how you can shorten it. It’s a technique used by many ecommerce websites. And that is to use “tabs” for the information, like this:

This product sales page has clickable tabs, instead of presenting the information in a long, linear format.

This product sales page has clickable tabs, instead of presenting the information in a long, linear format.

This means that all the information is there, but without a long sales page… what a great way to keep both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom happy!

And if you can keep all types of website users happy, your website’s conversion rates will be maximised.


To encourage both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom to take action online, your website should provide:

  • A short summary of what you do (for Decisive Dan’s benefit).
  • A prominent call-to-action above the fold (for Decisive Dan’s benefit).
  • Detailed information on your product or service, either on the same page or using tabs. And link to other pages when necessary. (This is for Tentative Tom’s benefit.)
  • A prominent call-to-action at the foot of every web page. (This is for everyone’s benefit.)
  • Full contact details, including your email address, on every page of your website. Again, this is for everyone’s benefit.


How to make your website appeal to both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom

How to deal with different customer types online: Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom want very different things from your website!

How to deal with different customer types online: Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom want very different things from your website!

Have you noticed how some folks like to take the motorway (or highway, or freeway, or Autobahn, or whatever you call it in your country)?

They just want to get to their destination as quickly as possible, no messing around.

Yet other people will avoid the motorway as much as possible. They prefer the meandering back roads, where they can enjoy views of fields of cattle. Or admire the flowers in the gardens of the cottages lining the streets. For these people, the journey is there to be savoured and enjoyed, rather than merely tolerated.

Your website visitors are similar

You’ll get some website visitors who just want to get to the information quickety-quick, thank you very much. They want the whole experience to be speedy and with minimum fuss. If they like what’s on offer, they’ll want to buy from you right away; they’ll make a quick, snap decision based on what’s in front of them. This is a Decisive Dan kind of person.

But here’s the thing: not everyone’s a Decisive Dan

Many people like to think about things a little longer, and will often read every page on your website before taking action. Even then, they may just sign up for your email newsletter rather than actually buying anything… they want to suss you out first.

That is a Tentative Tom kind of person

Decisive Dan and Tentative Toms are two extremes; but the extremes do exist. And for your website to have the broadest possible appeal, it needs to address the needs of both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom, and that’s not always so easy.

The problem is that your own style of buying behaviour is probably reflected in your website

For example, if you’re a Decisive Dan, chances are your website will be brief to the point of being abrupt. There won’t be many pages on the site; and each page might have just a paragraph or two of content.

A Tentative Tom business owner will have quite a different website: expect lots of pages, with lots of copy on each page. (Assuming, that is, they’ve been able to make a decision about their website… maybe they don’t have a website at all, because they’re still deciding!) 😉

You need to wear the opposite shoes for your website to be successful

To get maximum results online, your website will need to address the needs of both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom. After all, if you don’t, you’ll be losing out on a significant number of prospects.

Therefore if you’re a Decisive Dan, you need to look at your website through the eyes of a Tentative Tom. That means putting yourself in their shoes to see what your website might be missing.

Not sure what on earth these frustratingly hesitant and dithering people might want?

Let’s be clear: Tentative Tom has money to spend, and is researching your industry to find his perfect supplier. But he is looking for total reassurance that your product or service will meet their needs. And it’s up to you to (and your website) to convince him to spend.

Tentative Tom has money to spend too: you just need to work a bit harder to convince him to spend it with you.

Tentative Tom has money to spend too: you just need to work a bit harder to convince him to spend it with you.

Here are the kinds of things Tentative Tom will look for on your website:

  • About Us page: Your About Us page should include personal bios of key staff, ideally with photos alongside them. Tentative Tom wants to know that he’s doing business with real people (and a real company) and not some kind of scam set up.
  • Full contact details: Another way to show Tentative Tom that your business is ‘real’ is to include full contact details. That means a landline phone number, address, and email address as a minimum. Personally, I will not buy from a site that only has an email address or a cell phone number… it’s too risky!
  • Guarantee: A risk-reversal mechanism of some kind. The Tentative Tom doesn’t want to take you up on the guarantee; what he’s looking for is that you stand by your own products. A lack of guarantee will deemed to be suspicious – especially if your competitors are prepared to offer a risk-reversal mechanism such as a guarantee. It’s also important that your guarantee appears genuine, rather than vague. Therefore you should outline exactly how the guarantee works; any conditions; and what the guarantee procedure is.
  • Testimonials: Tentative Tom wants to be sure that you have other happy customers. It’s not enough to have a Testimonials page; these testimonials must be believable. The best testimonials will directly tackle the major objections people have to your product or service. And adding a photograph of the testimonial giver makes their statement far more plausible.
  • Case studies: A good case study will go deeper than a testimonial, as it outlines the problem (the “before” situation); the solution (the “after” result); and the specific steps taken to achieve these results. The more specific you can be, the better: just be sure you have your client’s permission to share their information. And make sure you do use your own case studies (or “before and afters”) rather than generic ones; your own stories will have much more impact.
  • Good amount of detail on products/services: Tentative Tom will want to know exactly what he’s buying – so be sure to spell it out in some details. Provide photos or other graphics where possible, for added authenticity.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page: A good way to give Tentative Tom all the information he needs (but without cluttering up your product/service pages too much) is to provide an FAQs page – or even a number of FAQs pages. (For example, an FAQs page for each different product or service.) These pages are a great idea anyway, as they can cut down the amount of time you spend answering the same questions over and over: they are great time savers!
  • Value-added information: Things like informational articles and videos go a long way in demonstrating your expertise in your industry. It shows that you really know your stuff, and elevates your status versus your competitors who aren’t doing this. You can put this kind of info into a Blog, or else have a section called Resources or Articles. (Use whatever terminology you’re comfortable with, and that will resonate with your customers.)
  • The buying process: How do people buy from you? Don’t just assume it’s obvious, especially if you’re a service-based business. Have a dedicated page called “The Process” or “How it Works” and outline the steps of the buying process. That way, Tentative Tom will begin to picture himself taking these steps.
  • E-commerce sites: If you have an e-commerce website, be sure to have a page called “Customer Service” (or similar) with detailed shipping and returns information.
  • Invite contact: Make it easy for people to contact you on your website. Tentative Tom will often have a pre-purchase question; and the speed and tone of your reply will impact greatly on whether he buys from you or not.

Daunted by that list? You shouldn’t be; a professional website from a professionally-run business should have these things as standard.

Remember, it’s all about conversion: if you want your website to convert visitors into customers, you need to give your prospects all the information they need before they buy.

But what about Decisive Dan? How to make a website appeal to him?

Decisive Dan is a different beast altogether. The thought of having to read long pages of blurb will make Dan perspire with anxiety!

There are two ways you can handle Decisive Dan:

1. Make it easy for Decisive Dan to reach his destination

Just like the motorway-lover will keep an eye out for road signs leading them to the motorway, you can give Decisive Dan cues on where to go. That means letting him skip through the information, so he can get to his destination more quickly. There will be some specific tips on how to do that in the next article in this mini-series.

2. Force Decisive Dan to read through everything

Yep, in some instances you might want to force Decisive Dan to read everything, regardless. And that’s very much the approach I take on my website: the sales pages for my marketing eBooks are long. And the information on my Services is just as long.

Why? It prevents misunderstandings further down the track. Let me explain, by showing you two examples from my own business:


I want people to know exactly what they’re buying upfront. That way, they will be happy with their eBook purchase, and more likely to recommend me to their friends and colleagues. It is a good way of keeping refunds to a minimum, and maximising customer satisfaction. It’s important to me to have happy customers who get value from my materials.


Buying an eBook is a pretty low level of commitment compared to engaging my marketing consulting or website copywriting services. Before people contact me, it’s vital that they understand what I do, how I work, and how I can help them. I want them to be sure that I’m the right kind of person to work with them. The people who do not read my Services sales pages are invariably the people who turn into ‘problem’ customers, and who ask me to perform tasks that are not within my area of expertise. (It doesn’t help that “marketing” is such a vague term, so the expectations can vary significantly.) This ends up being frustrating for both the customer and for me, so I’d rather not get into that situation in the first place.

I now do my best to “force” people to read my Sales page. How? I ask them if they want the Basic or Premium option. (Most services have these two choices.) And the information on the Basic or Premium packages is right at the bottom of the sales page, so they have to read (or at least skim read) the whole page to find it.)

In short: I’ve set up my website so it selects-in the right kind of customer, and it selects-out the customers I’d probably clash with.

It’s all about creating a website process that achieves your business goals

As you might have gathered from these examples, I am very much a Tentative Tom, and I’ve adopted a well-thought-out technique to deal with my opposite, Decisive Dan. It really works well for me; it’s a system I’ve been testing and fine-tuning for a number of years now.

But that’s just me: for many businesses it makes sense to appeal to both Decisive Dan and Tentative Tom, or they’re missing out on valuable sales. So if you’re wondering how your website can perform better for your business, remember to think about your opposite personality type, and how want to deal with them.

And whether you mull this over as you’re zooming down the motorway or meandering through back-country lanes… well, that’s completely up to you!


  • To maximise your website’s effectiveness, it should appeal to all kinds of decision makers:
    • Decisive Dan makes quick, snap decisions with minimum fuss.
    • Tentative Tom will read all the small print and details before making contact.
  • Tentative Tom will want to see the following on your website:
    • About us page
    • Full contact details
    • Guarantee
    • Testimonials
    • Case studies
    • Detailed information on products/services
    • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page
    • Value-added information via a Blog, or else a Resources or Articles section on your website
    • Explanation of the buying process
    • Customer service page on e-commerce sites with Delivery and Returns information
    • Easy ways to contact you if there are any queries or questions.
  • Decisive Dan will want to be shown the quickest route possible to buy from you… and that’ll be covered in more detail next time.