October 7, 2008
The dynamics of the article marketing content market are a classic example of the failure of simple supply and demand to create a value-based outcome. The Web offers writers easy access but low-pay opportunities but they should be withholding supply to this cheapskate demand. The Web would be a better place for it: less junk, more worthwhile content.
Aspiring freelance writers, the supply side of the market, as Jennifer Williamson of Catalystblogger asserts, need to understand that they can say no to poor pay for article marketing copy.
Trouble is the Web, which makes it so much easier to sell writing, provides a medium for putting people who don’t understand the value of good content together. It also provides a medium for getting the “don’t sell yourself short short-term in hope of long term gain” message out to writers and freelancers in general. But the noise of the supply and demand curves meeting in a chorus of low-bids drowns out the voice of reason…
It Goes Beyond Low-Value Content
The noise drowns out the good sense. Hmmm… How like the web. How like modern media. How like modern life… [At which point I am going to stop before I start my essay on the ills of our information saturated time... Others, better qualified, can deal with that. Back to the issue: Article marketing...]
But the Ugly Article Marketing Picture is the Matter at Hand
It’s an ugly picture. Poorly… No… Abysmally paid writers producing articles of dubious value that offer minor link profile value and make it harder for people to find valuable information. The web is flooded with hundreds of articles making it harder for people and search engines to find useful information.
And I don’t think I captured the whole picture when I bemoaned the article marketing generated junk website content phenomenon a while back.
- I was naive to think that the bulk of bids for $5 article writing would come from the less prosperous countries of the world.
- I forgot that there is a large supply pool of people for whom earning money from stringing words together — even at a fraction of a cent per word in the string — is a “major life goal”. (Silly; I was involved with a site for aspiring writers on a daily basis for six years.) And then there’’s the whole “build up your portfolio” temptation.
- And, because of my first two errors, I neglected to address the supply side of the market equation properly.
Value Your Writing to Enhance the Value of Writing Work
In a compelling argument for ignoring those fraction-of-a-cent-per-word writing “opportunities”, Williamson of encourages people to ask for more. As she said, the low value article writing market prices writers time at well below minimum wage.
Who’d work for less than minimum wage? Well, it seems, lots of people — $3, $4 and $5 per 500 word article projects on Elance.com, Guru.com and the like are seldom short of bidders.
What to do then?
Williamson’s blog earned a comment from, master copywriter and freelance writing information seller extraordinaire, Bob Bly about sites like Elance turning article writing into a commodity market. He urged people to concentrate on copy more directly linked to revenue to get/demand a premium price.
Value Shouldn’t Only Be Associated with Obvious ROI
All makes sense:
- If writers start ignoring the $5 article opportunities the price starts to rise. So, its important for writers to value their time and their writing.
- It is much easier to demonstrate the value in a landing page or email newsletter content that asks for a sale.
But the message I’d prefer to get through the low-pay article market noise is the first. The second message — pragmatic in it’s “accept of the way things are and work around them” approach — could contribute to the continued devaluing of all article marketing.
Demonstrating expertise and building trust through article marketing can be an important part of achieving sales and ROI online. But low-pay, low-value articles make it harder to stand out…
The situation is a classic case of the dark side of the Web. The web facilitates a market, bringing people who need content together with people who can provide it. But it’s too easy for both parties. Neither party understand the potential value of that content because they can get together without doing the groundwork that might have been required to join a less accessible market. The content traded is devalued.
All of which makes it harder for writers to get a return on their writing effort that reflects the effort put in and harder for valuable content to stand out. Eventually people find voices of reason like Williamson and Bly but the ease of access means the supply of people willing to offer super-cheap writing services won’t dry up any time soon.
Here is a classic case in point. This Tennessee based business owner doesn’t attach much value to the time of the “Freelance Article Writers” he/she asks to submit proposals…
“Project Description:I am looking to hire a freelance writer that is willing to write three (3) articles a day for $1.00 per article for one (1) week. After a relationship has been established and I get to know your work, we can talk about future business involving more articles at a slightly higher rate[...]
Document Length:450 words
But there is also the issue of the quality of the articles in question. If he/she finds someone willing to do the job, are they likely to produce work that you’d want associated with your business? [sigh]
July 15, 2008
I received two email promotions yesterday. Both were good enough to win a click. But one had no chance of converting into a sale. The sender didn’t do enough to help me spend my money. After I clicked I saw no prominent signage to the trail I was interested in following.
I’m time poor. I get a lot of email. And I’m online promotion shy.
I’m pretty normal then for thirty-something professionals with a little cash* to spend who’re online daily for work/communication/play purposes. For me the email/RSS thing is maybe more acute — you try staying on top of developments in ever-evolving world of Internet marketing…
An Email Promotion Good Enough to Win My Click
Both emails where compelling enough for me to lift a weary finger and click through to the site:
- Amazon — targeted as ever — was offering discounts on social media marketing books because (see above re. “ever-evolving world of internet marketing”) I’ve bought the odd online business book now and again.
- Fishpond, New Zealand’s biggest bookstore (think: Amazon circa 1998), was offering $10 credit if I bought any of the items in a Wishlist I haven’t looked at for months. Not a bad idea. I’ve expressed interest in these books maybe a little shove is all I need.
Not sure I would have clicked on either email if I hadn’t been a. cursed to pursue the pot at the end of the internet marketing knowledge rainbow and b. interested in how Fispond is chasing sales because I am cursed… “You get the picture.” But that’s beside the point.
Turning Click into Conversion With A Well Marked Trail
The point? The point is that Amazon delivered on my expectations but Fishpond didn’t:
- Amazon offered a landing page bulging with social media books. (Out of date from the moment the writer and editor agreed they were ready to be published but that, too, is beside the point.) Some I already own, so the targeting was there but the personalisation was a little lacking. If one of the titles had related to a particular challenge I, or one of my clients, was facing I might have even tried to remember my Amazon password.
- Fishpond offered their homepage as the landing page. They were asking me to sign in, remind myself what I had in my wishlist, etc. Well. Immediate access to my Wishlist is probably too much to ask — some serious technical challenges. The homepage has a lot of popular books. The “Sign In” link is prominent on the homepage. Not bad. But not good enough. I needed something more closely related to the reason I clicked.
Fishpond Lost Me When I Lost the Trail of My Wishlist
The Fishpond email had me thinking “Wishlist”. The trail I was following was marked “Wishlist”. The homepage with its “Wishlist” text link amounted to a trail with insufficient signage. In the few seconds I — like any Web user — allowed the page to hold my attention there wasn’t enough of a trail to follow.
What could Fishpond have done?
Ideally, they would have created a landing page for the promotion mentioning the offer I had responded to and prompting me to signin to my wishlist. They’re not Amazon; their resources are limited. The ideal isn’t always possible in an SME/SMB like Fishpond. I know. I’ve been there.
Sending me to their wishlist page would have helped. But some changes to that page would have meant the trail I was following was prominent.
- Heading, “My Wishlist Contains”, becomes “Your Wishlist: Keep Track of Stuff You Want”
- Copy, “No products are in your Wishlist” becomes “Login or register to view or store stuff you’d like for later” with relevant fields. Indeed, two succinct options would be good. (Note: I am assuming this is the permanent page a landing page would vary in not needing to cater to new visitors by offering calls to action related to registering.)
- Additional content to be added if at all possible: (not quite a specific landing page) mention of the 24 hour promotion to be added to the page if you can be sure that it will be removed as soon as the promotion is history.
- Other content, (”Want to know what other shoppers wishing are for? View the top 10 most desired wish list items .”) would be replaced with the actual list to create another way of grabbing my attention. This new “trail” is a detour but a prompt to “Add to Your Wishlist” could get people back on track.
If you are running an email promotion send people to a page on your site that references that promotion or, at least, is directly related to it. A promotion-specific landing page can be tough to arrange. But you need to offer signposts on the trail that leads to your goal action. Don’t make people work any harder than is absolutely necessary to get to the relevant parts of your site.
*“A little cash” and seeming smaller all the time with current interest rates and what the commentators call “economic uncertantity”. All the more reason to make it as easy as you can for me and all the other mortgage slaves out there to spend money at your site.
July 2, 2008
<aside>Hmmm… Struggling to get to the work I need to do today because I couldn’t quite resist one of my ecommerce feeds… And one page led to another. Good stuff, though:</aside>
The importance of product pages can be underestimated. Often in the SEO context much more attention is paid to home, category and sub-category pages.
But product page optimisation* is crucial to both long tail search traffic and — something that is definitely neglected in the SEO context — sales or conversion.
June 26, 2008
Emarketer.com notes a Pew Internet & American Life study conducted last year that shows an inability to see products before buying them as a bigger factor in negative attitudes to online shopping than security and privacy concerns.
But the real story is an increased diversity in online purchases. With a USC study showing clothes (57.4%) beating travel (57.3%) to second place behind books (65.6%) in rankings for product groups Americans bought online in 2007. A confirmation of a trend for people to be comfortable buying beyond the ecommerce staples — books, travel, CDs, DVDs, software/games — which offer an experience independent of the way they look/form they take.
Hmmm… Doesn’t add up. People want to see before they buy. But they’re buying clothes online a lot. You’d think clothes would be most susceptible to the see/try before they buy sale barrier.
One of those dueling studies scenarios that raises questions rather than answering them. Trying offline, then buying online after a price comparison, perhaps?
And interesting in the context of a meeting this morning where we discussed beefing up product information a client was offering with more product images.
Apparently, sites with so-called “supersize images” have experienced up to 24% better conversion.
Bottom line: Whatever you are selling/promoting, scrimping on images is not a good idea.
Give people a picture or five to help them picture themselves on that beach. Give them lots of images to help them imagine themselves riding that bike down their street…
There are probably some instances where this doesn’t apply — no need to show someone reading a book, listening to a CD, etc.
But an image of active wear is much less powerful than an image of an active person wearing the item bounding from rock to rock. Your visitor can them see the item in action and, possibly more important, identify themselves as the sort of person who bounds over rocks and looks good doing it.
An image of a software CD or box is next to useless, in conveying benefits of that software. But an image of the interface suggesting some great functionality…
Indeed, if you are running an ecommerce store I’d sign up for Getelastic.com’s feed.