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Net Words by Nick Usborne - A Book Review

By Mike Banks Valentine
Posted Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Business online differs dramatically from business offline in several key areas. The first and most important is the difference between the behavior of online buyers and their offline counterparts. Offline buyers must first be AWARE that the service or product they seek is available near their location, then either call a specific company they know and trust or visit a particular dentist, accountant, hardware store or auto parts retailer.

When an offline buyer decides to purchase an item or a service, he first must decide where to spend his money, what his budget will allow him to purchase and when he will get in his car and drive to whatever location is necessary to complete his actions. Even if the product or service he intends to buy comes to his home in the case of tree trimming service or pool man, he will decide who to contact based on what?

Advertising! In the phone book, promotional flyers, newspaper classified ads, billboard advertisements, word of mouth, television or radio ads. This is why we are constantly bombarded from every one of those sources by companies that sell their products and services locally, regionally and nationally with ADVERTISING.

This is also why advertising online has failed so miserably and contributed to the bursting of the high-tech bubble. We tried to apply that offline advertising model to the online world and it just doesn't fit! How do people behave when considering a purchase of products or services online? Do they wander around to different web sites to purposefully look at those annoying, blinking flashing, beeping banner ads. NO!

They go to a search engine, type the product or service into a search box and click the "Search" button! They don't look for a billboard telling them where to go, they don't look for an exit sign, they don't reach for a phone book or ask their neighbor, THEY GO TO A SEARCH ENGINE!

They may change the words they type into that search box, they may misspell the words they use to search for your product or service, they may use a brand name to search for a product, they may specify the town they hope to visit in that search query. They may research the problem that they hope to solve with their purchase before deciding where, when or from whom to buy it. These are very important clues to determining how to market your product or service online!

Nobody sits down in front of their computer knowing the answers to all of their buying decisions! They search, research, shop randomly, shop at YAHOO! But in all of that bouncing around online, they will, at some point use a search engine or directory to find what they want to know, then they will decide where to buy it, whether that is done online or offline.

You are dealing with someone seeking information, features, benefits, resources, solutions, pricing, comparisons when seeking online buyers. They are NOT looking for your business name, your widget, your service offering, nor will they necessarily purchase online! They are seeking a solution to their problem. Whether that is how to treat their sensitive skin after a summer sunburn, or seeking price comparisons on used cars, or real estate values and finding local agents. Search and research -- That is online behavior.

The online buyer is seeking something that can be found using WORDS, TEXT, DESCRIPTIONS and INFORMATION! They don't shop based on who has the best Flash Movie, they aren't searching for nice photographs of your building, your fancy equipment or technical illustrations of your products. They will find YOUR SITE one way and one way only if they haven't already bookmarked your front page. By USING A SEARCH ENGINE, TYPING WORDS into the search box!

I'm about to offer the shortest and most concise book review Ive ever written. "Net Words" by Nick Usborne. A great case is made here for the importance of text on the web and why it is critical to make your NET WORDS more focused as well as the need to speak with a unique "voice" on the internet.

Corporate doublespeak won't compel anyone to buy from you. TEXT written in an engaging manner without wasted words is what WORKS online. Buy "Net Words" and read it if you hope to have even the slightest chance of success on the web.

Usborne laments the lack of respect paid to words in online copy and makes a solid case for hiring professional copywriter for business web sites. I think he missed though, in making a case as strong as he could by failing to emphasize the role of search engines in making text so critical to all online business owners.

I suppose I knew when I decided to review the book that Usborne would be "Preaching to the choir" when telling me, a search engine optimizer, about the importance of words on the web. You may have noted that I agree heartily with the idea of "Creating High-Impact Online Copy" as the "Net Words" subtitle recommends.

Usborne provides examples of strong and effective words as effective sales tools, as you might expect from a copywriter. But I don't think he makes nearly enough of a case for words as he could had he emphasized more on their role in attracting traffic to your web site in the first place.

Net Words is a quick read making a very important point that all online business can benefit from. I believe I'll approach Usborne to add a couple of chapters from yours truly on how important those words are to the search engines.

About the Author
Mike Banks Valentine Does Search Engine Positioning For Small Business ( Tutorials, Resources, Tools for Small Business Online (


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