How's your website, then?
I'm not asking whether it's a good site or not -- how could it be, if I didn't write it for you? -- but what its performance is like. Is it slow to load? Does it have problems with certain web browsers? Occasionally you'll find that code working perfectly on, say Internet Explorer, doesn't work with Firefox. And vice-versa. Coding problems? How should I know? Who... who cares?
Because it's important. You only have seconds -- tenths of seconds, even -- to make an impression on people who come to your site. If the site isn't working, has dead links or some old code that doesn't work and leaves the site with blank areas, you can bet your life those lovely, potential customers will click away at the drop of a pixel.
Wake up and smell the Mugicha! After reading this post you no longer have any excuses for not knowing. There's a website I often turn to when I want to see how my copywriting site is doing, performance-wise. It makes for uncomfortable reading, sometimes, because it doesn't hesitate to tell me stuff I don't particular want to hear -- the site's too heavy, too many images, too many elements, et depressing cetera. It gives very easy-to-understand advice about the size of your site and how long it'd take to load up.
I have no connection whatsoever with the owners of the site, this isn't an affiliate link, so click in confidence. Here it is: http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/
Put in the full address of your website and check out what it says. Pretty eye-opening stuff, eh? You didn't realise it was that bad, did you?!
I'm not particularly interested in contacting the owners of the site to ask for their optimisation services, but the results I get when I check my site are very interesting. Useful, too. Oh, and completely free. Check it out.
You cannot hide. I see you. There is no life in the void. Only death.
If you're the person responsible for your website's content, you know how hard it can be to get everything right.
You need to have the raw materials, the facts and figures around which you're creating your copy. You have to think about the tone of what you're writing and how it fits in with the rest of the site. You need to construct your argument carefully, deciding the audience you're writing for. You also have to make sure everything is completely consistent, style-wise. Do you say "you are" or "you're"? Do you have them both? "It is" or "it's"? Stuff that may seem over-analysed and not worth the trouble, but absolutely necessary.
That's why it's so maddening when you get ripped off. When someone trawls through your site, sees something they like, and then just steals it for their own site, maybe changing the odd word here or there. And what can you do? The Internet is global, so anyone, anywhere, could right now be looking at your site and thinking "I'll have a piece of that". What's to stop them changing a few things around and then passing it off as something they wrote themselves?
I'll introduce you to a site I use from time to time. It's called "Copyscape" and means I don't worry about people pinching stuff from my website anymore.
The site allows you to input your website's URL. Press "Go" and their search function will do a trawl of the Internet to see if your text has been stolen. It's completely free and will let you know where and by whom your stuff's been stolen. If you have a large site, their "Premium" service allows you to check up to 10,000 pages in a single click, for 5 cents per search. 10,000 flipping pages! What kind of psychopath has a site with 10,000 pages?!
Anyway. Me? I'm cheap, so I just use the freebie part of it. But why not have a look for yourself? I have no links with the makers of the site whatsoever, I just think it's a handy service. Check it out here: http://copyscape.com/
No... don't want to learn. Can't make me.
Today we're going to talk about some of the prefixes we use rather thoughtlessly in English, without ever really knowing what they mean. What's a "prefix"? The prefix of the word autobiography is auto. It's the bit at the beginning.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but does give guidance on a few tricky ones we may not be using properly. All examples taken from the Oxford University Press "A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation".
not, not affected by
more than, beyond
at a distance
NEO-The One (sorry...) neolithic
Not bad, eh? Who knew "crypto-" meant "hidden"? I didn't. Well, I sort of did, because I just wrote this piece, but you know what I mean.
Gah! Confused... head hurts. Make it go away.
One of the great things about learning English as a native speaker is that you don't have to worry too much about things like objective and subjective forms; you pick up the correct forms to use completely naturally, without even thinking about how you're using them. It's only when you start to learn foreign languages that you have to worry about the nuts-and-bolts grammar that makes a language what it is.
One of the rubbish things about being a native English-speaker, therefore, is that it's actually quite difficult to get a good grounding in why we say the things we do. For example: when to use I and when to use me.
I is a subjective form (I'm following him - I'm doing the action in this sentence, so I'm the subject)
Me is an objective form (He's following me - He's doing the action in this sentence, so I'm the object)
Grammatically, it's not possible to have an objective form of the verb to be. This means the answer to Who's there? should always be It is I. But would we really say that nowadays? Wouldn't it just sound archaic and pedantic? Wouldn't we, instead, say It's me, even though it's wrong?
God, I'd love it if we did, in fact, say IT IS I! in daily life. Sigh. Mind you, I'm still upset that we don't say "Zounds" any longer, so am perhaps not the best person to give advice in this matter.
English is always evolving and doesn't stand still. What's unacceptable for one generation is completely natural for another. I still shudder when I hear people use hopefully to mean I hope that will be the case, but understand that the usage has reached a momentum that can't be stopped. Bah!
A couple of times when it's obligatory, even now, to use I and not me:
Following as and than when writing: Emma is faster than I (although you'd say Emma is faster than me).
Following as and than and then continuing the sentence: Emma is faster than I am and has more hair (subjective form obligatory for both written and spoken forms).
Have me explained this well enough?
Guess what I did a couple of days ago? G’wan, have a go.
Woke up to find my hair had all miraculously grown back? No.
Finally tracked down Halle Berry’s home address? Nope.
Learned how to touch-type again
? Oh yes.
I used to be the worst typist in the entire world. Just-hatched tadpoles could type better than me. But times change. I finally resigned myself to it being the 20th century and having to, as it were, get with the programme back in 1996 and invested in a teaching programme keyboard. And it was great. I’ve been happily typing with eight fingers and two thumbs (and without having to look at the keyboard) for nearly 20 years now. And I’m reasonably fast, although no speed-typing records are under threat from me.
But I’m still not quick enough and I do occasionally feel a bit tired
when I've been writing for a while. I was talking to a friend just this morning and she told me how her career as a P.A. came to a shuddering end when repetitive strain injury (RSI) from years of touch-typing meant that her days as a keyboard queen were over. What an incredible shame.
When I’m at work and writing in a flow
state, it’s frustrating to not be able to put ideas and ways of phrasing things down on pixels as quickly as they come to me. You're probably the same, no matter how fast you currently type. So what to do?
The Dvorak keyboard
will not just add zip to your typing, it'll look after your tendons, too.
But first things first. The keyboard the huge majority of us use to type on is, of course, the Qwerty
keyboard. It was invented in the mid-19th century in America and designed to physically separate keys that were often used together in combinations. Why? To prevent letter typebars jamming stuck to one another. So in one way it was a time-saver. By reducing the need to fiddle around with jammed typebars, you had more time to type (and less inky fingers, most likely).
This is the Qwerty keyboard layout:
So we've established that Qwerty was created for a functional reason; not just to be quirky. Or qwerky, as it were (snigger).
In the age of electronic keyboards, however, this design is not relevant. You no longer have the problem of jamming to contend with, so no time saving there. What’s more, the physical separation of commonly used keys means that your fingers have to work hard and cover a lot more ground than they should -- hence my friend's RSI and retirement from being a P.A.
The set-up of the keys is not designed either for speed or the ergonomic wellbeing of your fingers, so RSI is a common problem -- either medically diagnosed or just dismissed as "I’m feeling a bit tired today".
These are two of the issues educational psychologist August Dvorak addressed in the 1930s when he came up with the "Dvorak Simplified Keyboard" layout. He's got the same surname as the composer (duh-vor-jhakk), but a different pronunciation (deh-vo-rack).
Here’s what it looks like:
Doesn’t it look weird having all those keys in the "wrong" place?! A, O, E, U and I in the home row? Heresy.
Forget how it looks; does it work?
You bet. The world’s fastest typist
uses Dvorak and has been measured at a -- frankly -- unbelievable 212 words per minute. I'm not sure I can even think
212 words per minute! But if it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.
How To Get The Dvorak Keyboard
So here's what you need to do to use it yourself.
First of all, some good news: you don’t have to buy any new software; everything you need is already set up on your computer’s operating system.
- Go to this page and you’ll be able to set your computer to type using Dvorak in, as it says in the title, just 30 seconds.
- Look at this image to familiarise yourself with the different placement of the keys.
And that’s it! You’re all set. It'll feel a bit strange at the beginning, especially if you look down at the keyboard as you type. Your finger will be pressing on "s", but on the screen you'll see an "o". Don't worry about it. Not looking at your fingers as you type will help. Not enough? Need just a bit more. Okayyyyy... Pretty demanding today, aren't we? All right, why not.
Here are two tutorial sites that will make it easy to learn how to touch-type with Dvorak:
- This website is very easy and lets you go at your own pace.
- The Power Typing page, on the other hand, times you and gives actual ratings and scores on how you’ve done. It’s fantastic. I highly recommend it.
It will be difficult at first, don’t get me wrong. You’ll be slower than you were… for a while. But once muscle memory gets used to Dvorak, you’ll be typing faster than ever before and with less effort. STILL need some more? Still? Really?
Right, one more thing and that's your lot. Have a look at this
site to get an idea of the effort you’ll be saving by switching from Qwerty to Dvorak. It’s worth it. Like this article? Then why not click one of the lovely icons below?
I use a netbook when I'm in the sitting room in the evening, because it's smaller than my study's desktop computer, doesn't have a mass of wires to unplug, my two naughty beagles aren't interested in hiding underneath it and growling at me, and I can raise my eyes from the screen to watch telly at the same time as surfing www.HotHalleBerryPics.com. The only bad thing about this happy situation is that my netbook's speed and ability to open up web pages quickly is rubbish. And when a site I want to look at
(like the Halle Berry one, which doesn't actually
exist but I wish did) is stuffed with ads it can take you back to the days of 56K dial-up Internet. Not good times. Adblock Plus is the answer to your question. It's a free add-on that works with the Firefox, Chrome and Opera browsers and prevents ads taking up space on your browser page.
Here's the page where you can download and add it to your browser: adblockplus.org Have a look at a screengrab of how the Guardian looks without it. See the ad for The Vintage Shop?
Without Adblock Plus
Nah. Don't want to see that.
Here's the same page, refreshed, with Adblock Plus switched on:
With Adblock Plus
It makes a surprising difference to your Net speed. Give it a try, my itoshii tomodachi.
Was this article useful? Like it? Then feel free to click on any/all of the buttons below!
I Am A Nosy Neighbour
One of the things you should probably do if you're trying to improve your website's position on the search engines is check out what your competition's doing and spy on them
from time to time.
Some of what I’ve done on my main site
has come through seeing what other websites (not just copywriters) have done and ripping them off. I believe the term du jour for that is "modelling".
Not the actual content of the site -- heaven forbid -- but things like design, use of white space, images, and also what they've decided to do with things like metatags (page titles, page descriptions and keywords). Most of the time I find myself making a revolted face and thinking "Well, I wouldn't do it that
way", but you can learn as much about what you want and need to do by seeing examples of what you don't
want sometimes. Checking out a website's metatags can be very instructional and tell you a lot about what the website owner's intentions are. The three main parts to check are: Title -- the bit you see in the blue bar at the very top of your screen when you look at a website. Very important for SEO, because the search engines look at it as your way of defining who you are and which keywords you want to be found for. My site's homepage title is: "
Daniboy - Marketing Copywriting | SEO Copywriter | Ad Writer". It's 60 characters long -- you should aim for up to 70 characters, maximum; anything more than that gets ignored by the search engines -- and tells you exactly what keywords I want people to find me for. Description -- the two-line long blurb you see for each site when you have a page of search engine results. It's not given SEO weighting by the search engines, but writing a description that gives an accurate, interesting-sounding view of the page you want clicked will affect how many people looking at the page of search engine results actually bother to click on your link. My site's homepage description is "
My name's Daniel O'Connor and I'm a freelance copywriter. I've written for solo organisations and world-famous corporations. I can write for you, too."
It's exactly 150 characters long, which is the length you should aim to hit. Anything longer than 150 will leave characters 151 onwards with the dreaded ellipsis of death that comes about when descriptions are too lon...
The search engines expect you to have original titles and descriptions for every page of your site
, by the way. Just as every page of your site is unique (right?), so the way you describe it should be unique. No repetition of titles and descriptions. Yes, it is a pain. Keywords -- not given any SEO weight, but an interesting way for you to judge the intentions of the person writing the page
My homepage keywords are -- and yes, I know this is too long and should be pruned -- "copywriter, copy-writer, copy writer, copywriting, copy-writing, copy writing, copywrite, copy-write, copy write, writing copy, write copy, technical copywriter, technical copy-writer, technical copy writer, SEO copywriter, SEO copy-writer, SEO copy write". I KNOW!
How many possible combinations of "copywriter" can there be? That sounds incredibly time consuming, though, doesn't it? Having to plough through the background HTML of every website you want to spy on looking for the stuff you need hidden in the code? Here's an add-on for
Firefox that will change the nature of your espionage. It's called SearchStatus
and makes life very easy when you want to quickly check out what your adversary is trying to do with his/her/its site:
Here’s the link: http://www.quirk.biz/searchstatus/
This is what it will show you once you download the add-on:
- Meta Tags -- as discussed above -- titles, descriptions and keywords
- See in Archive.org -- almost magically interesting: Archive.org takes regular snapshots of websites over the years and stores them in its cache. Use this function to see how a website has changed over the years
- Whois information -- see how long a website's been in existence -- it's important, because domain age is given a weighting in SEO. The older, the better
- Show sitemap.xml -- view all the pages on the website, even the ones that aren't linked to from the main menu (other than the ones that are specifically barred from public view)
- Keyword Density -- see how much the site writer is trying to pound the reader over the head with the repetition of their chosen keywords
- And much, much more
It’s gold, pure gold. You may not know what some of the things I’ve written above actually mean
right now, but try it out and see. Check up on your enemies. I guarantee it’ll help your website’s SEO. Oh, and hey, nearly forgot to mention: if you have read this far and thought "Nice, I learned something from this", why not click on the "Tweet" and "Like" buttons below? I will love you long time if you do this.
Hey, c'mon, pay attention here
Okay, first thing: this entry isn’t going to tell you everything
about commas. We’d be here for a week if I tried to do that. Instead, t
oday I’m going to be talking about how to use commas when you start a sentence with a subordinate clause
Calm down, take a deep breath. Ready? Let’s consider it from the beginning. Look at the following sentence: When you’re in town, drop me a line.
The most important thing I’m saying there is "drop me a line"
. So that’s the main clause
The "when you’re in town"
bit qualifies the main clause and is called a subordinate clause
. So we're agreed that the above sentence makes sense, yes?
Now tell me if the following sentence is understandable: When you’re in town drop me a line.
It does, doesn’t it? No chance of any misunderstanding, is there? In other words, it’s not always necessary to use a comma if you start a sentence with a subordinate clause.~~:
What about when you start a sentence with a subordinate clause which ends in a verb
Ah, that’s different. That can lead to misunderstanding. Have a look at the following: After she finished writing, the website was updated.
That makes perfect sense. The main clause is "the website was updated"
and the subordinate clause is "After she finished writing"
. No confusion there.
What about this, then? After she finished writing the website was updated.
A bit tricky, isn’t it? It requires you to read the sentence back to yourself again, because you start off with the words "After she finished writing the website". It makes you jump to the conclusion that she wrote the entire website, and then hauls you back with some extra information that changes the meaning.
So this is what you should take from today’s blog:
- You don’t need a comma to separate a subordinate clause from a main clause, but having one is okay, too.
- You do need a comma when your subordinate clause ends with a verb.
An Angry Penguin (Taken From Cracked.com)
A quickie today. But it's a goodie.If you're in charge of your website and how it appears on the search engines, you've definitely heard of Google's "Panda" and "Penguin" updates.No? Well, simply, they were major changes to the algorithm Google uses to decide which sites rank well (and which ones don't). Meaningless, spammy links to your website were no longer given credit -- in fact, Google penalised sites it thought were
using slimy methods to "game" their algorithm. Have a look at this page
on my main website for more info.Some sites saw their positions on Google go through the floor (which, of course, directly affected how many potential customers were finding them). Some sites actually did better than before.Do you have any idea how your site did? No? Interested in finding out?
All you need to find out is a current Google Analytics
account that is able to go back a couple of years. If you haven't yet set up an account or have only done so recently, this won't, I'm afraid, work for you. Then go to Barracuda Digital's "Panguin" tool. It'll show you the dates of the major updates and how your site's traffic was affected in a very easy-to-follow graph. You'll no longer have any doubt about whether your site was affected by the updates.It was a... sobering* experience for me.*I'm using the word "sobering" in its less conventional "Heartbreaking, promoting suicidal feelings" definition.
Sending People To Sleep?
If you're a blog writer, you are probably trying to find ways to get more people reading. That's the point, right? To get people looking at what you've taken the time to put down.
But how to do it?
Short of spamming all your (soon to be ex-) friends on Facebook and Twitter every ten minutes with reminders of how you posted up a blog this morning have you read it? it's really interesting this time no really it is please just have a look go on PLEASE! it's difficult to know how to get people interested.
Here's a great way to publicise your blog. It's quick to set up, requires zero maintenance and will actually make your emails look better and more interesting than ever before! (Cripes... hope I can deliver on all this hyperbole.)
This is what you do:
Feed your blog posts into your emails.
Got it? Excellent. Right, so see you next time, then?
Heh. Come back, I'm not finished yet.
Here's an example of what my email signature looks like:
Email Signature Featuring Clickable Blog Headlines
Don't worry about the content of the email. Just my little, erm, joke. Yes, a joke, right?
See the blog headline to the right of the orange RSS logo in the screengrab picture above? When you actually have the email on your desktop, the signature rotates through recent blog headlines. It moves! All by itself! And every headline is clickable, making your email readers into blog
readers. If you got an email that did that, you’d think "Wooooo….. niiiiiiice". Wouldn’t you?
So just what makes this dark sorcery possible? It's all done using Google Feedburner. Got a Google account?
Then you're most of the way there already. Here’s how you do it:
Alohomora! The keys to great-looking emails, well-read blogs, perfect health, straighter teeth and a much more successful love life are now yours. You're welcome.
- Go to http://feedburner.google.com and put the blog or feed address you want to use in the box under where it says "Burn a feed right this instant".
- "Blog or feed address? Wha?" As an example, the address I've given Feedburner for my blog feed is http://www.daniboy.com/blog.html. Which is -- I can see that you're way ahead of me -- the address of my blog.
- Click "Next".
- Check that the Feed Title is correct and click "Activate Feed".
- Click on the "Publicize" tab, then on "Headline Animator".
- Feedburner then gives you a few options to choose from -- they're all very easy to follow. It'll ask you which Theme you want to use (like "468x60 White" or "Seasonal (dynamic background)" or just "Email Signature"). Don't worry if that sounds complicated; Feedburner shows you a graphic image of what you're choosing at every stage.
- "Activate" the animator when you’re happy with the colour, date and size settings.
- The next screen you'll see is where you get the code you need to be able to use the signature. Feedburner gives you a drop-down list next to where it says "Add to MySpace, TypePad, etc." Choose "Email signature", then "Next".
- A new window pops up with the code you need and instructions on where to put it. The instructions are slightly different depending on which email programme you use (you might be using Outlook, Thunderbird, Gmail or whatever). Read the easy-to-follow instructions and you're set.