Don’t Take This Advice About
Online Marketing!

Advice is a tricky thing, especially when dispensed en masse.

The answer to most things, if we’re being honest, is it depends.

There are certainly principles that are near universal, and I try to stick with them as much as possible around here, while showing how those basic principles can be applied in a new and quickly evolving medium.

Aaron Wall’s recent confessional post about advice got me thinking about this topic a bit more than usual. In reality, everyone’s situation is different, and what works for me might not work for you when it comes down to the nitty-gritty details.

Now, of course this truism won’t stop all the opportunists with their Gobbledygook Manifestos telling you that the entire world has turned upside down thanks to social media. And of course, only they have the high-priced new ideas you so desperately need to avoid going out of business.

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How to Go Out In Style With Your Ending

Once you’ve sucked people in with your headline, entranced them with your opening, and sent them down the slippery slide with each sentence until the conclusion, you may find yourself wondering…

How do I wrap this thing up?

How you start will determine if you get read, but how you end will determine how people feel about the experience. And, depending on your goals, your ending will determine the success of the piece as a whole.

Begin With the Ending in Mind

One key to a successful ending is to understand exactly where you are trying to take the reader before you ever write a word. I tend to do this all in my head before I write an article, but if that doesn’t work for you, do a quick outline and state exactly what the point of the piece is.

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Little Known Ways to Write Fascinating Bullet Points

Oh, those magical bullet points. What would blog posts, sales letters, and bad PowerPoint presentations be without them?

  • Bullet points are so common because readers like them.
  • But typical bullet points are kinda lame … kinda like this one.
  • So let’s start making our bullet points downright fascinating.

Bullet Point Basics

Before we get to the graduate level, we’ve got to nail the basics. So here are the 5 cardinal rules for general bullet points that convey your points clearly:

  1. Express a clear benefit and promise to the reader. That’s right… they’re mini-headlines. They encourage the scanning reader to go back into the real meat of your content, or go forward with your call to action.
  2. Keep your bullet points symmetrical if possible; meaning, one line each, two lines each, etc. It’s easier on the eyes and therefore easier on the reader.
  3. Avoid bullet clutter at all costs. Do not get into a detailed outline jumble of subtitles, bullets and sub-bullets. Bullets are designed for clarity, not confusion.
  4. Practice parallelism. Keep your bullet groups thematically related, begin each bullet with the same part of speech, and maintain the same grammatical form.
  5. Remember that bullets (like headlines) are not necessarily sentences. If you want to write complete sentences, stick with a paragraph or a numbered list.

Using “Fascinations” to Captivate Readers

Are you curious about my use of the word “fascinations” in the subhead?

Curiosity is a very powerful force. It’s one of those things that makes us human, and one of those things we’ll never shake. We simply want enticing things we can’t have or don’t yet understand.

And that’s exactly what drives people to take action.

A fascination refers to a copywriting technique where you create “special” bullet points so compelling and so benefit-driven that the reader simply cannot help but discover the answer.

It’s a great technique for:

  • Drawing people back into the copy they skimmed.
  • Prompting the download of a free report.
  • Causing the click of a link.
  • Driving subscriptions to your blog.
  • Triggering the purchase of your information product.
  • Initiating a new client relationship.

The key to a fascination is dangling the benefit out there in a teasing manner, without actually giving away what it is.

The undisputed king of fascinations is Bottom Line Secrets, a subscription periodical that promises insider information that makes your life easier. The company launched itself many years ago with a sales piece that was essentially nothing but incredibly compelling bullet points.

Here are some samples from that original ad:

  • Why some patients are given favored status in hospitals… almost preferred treatment. This little known information could save your life.
  • How to learn about medical discoveries before your doctor.
  • How and when blood pressure can fool you… and drinking alcohol without hangovers.
  • The two famous cold remedies that, taken together, can give you ulcers.
  • A simple way to prevent Montezuma’s Revenge.

Bullets points are maligned because most people don’t know how to write them. Put a little time and effort into making yours fascinating (or, at minimum, crystal clear and beneficial), and you’ll see your response increase.

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How to Find the Hidden Hook

What’s the secret to finding the remarkable reader benefit that leads to sales, publicity, links or attention?

It’s keying in on the right element of the story.

Recently, blog network b5 Media accepted venture capital in the amount of $2 million to further grow their business.

Certainly, a collection of blogs as a real business is interesting, especially to those outside of the blogosphere.

And a business built around a collection of blogs landing $2 million bucks is certainly interesting as well.

But what’s the angle that’s hooking the mainstream media? Let’s take a listen to b5 Media partner Darren Rowse on that:

I had interviews this week with two journalists about b5media and it was interesting to see that in both cases the story that they latched onto was that we’d built a company without having met each other.

Being interesting is just the baseline requirement.

The real hook is the part that’s fascinating.

Here’s ace copywriter John Carlton’s take on fishing for hooks.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Twitter and Google+.

The History of Link Bait

Woe is me…

A reader contacted me after my last post and called me out for using the term “link bait” in it.

While he was nice enough, the objection seemed to be that only a sleazy marketer would try to “bait” someone to visit, or link to, a web site.

Never mind that I’ve called the term inelegant several times myself.

Or that “link bait” is just a sexy term for high-quality content that benefits the reader.

I can certainly see that the word “bait” has potentially negative connotations even beyond the fishy subtext. Bait and switch comes to mind.

And I also realize that in the early days of blogging, the only creative bait that was utilized by the pioneers amounted to attacks and insults.

But let’s look at the history of the word “bait” as it relates to content, and see if the original connotation is negative or not.

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Discover the Secret Mind Control Method That Hypnotically Persuades Prospects to Buy… Guaranteed!

Ever see headlines like that one?

I’m betting you have.

Last week I asked for your feedback on the term “tutorial marketing,” because I began to think that it may be just a bit too bland.

I think the consensus ended up being that you feel the same way.

The concept behind tutorial marketing is pretty powerful. By taking a strategic educational approach, you are actually selling more effectively, all while allowing the prospect to feel like they were not actually persuaded at all.

The fact that such content can also be effective link bait makes the methodology even more attractive.

Headlines like the one on this post are essentially talking about the same thing, just dressed up in forbidden clothing. It’s a different approach for a different audience, and that particular pitch actually works well with certain demographics.

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Is Net Neutrality Down for the Count?

I’ve written about the importance of Net neutrality to small businesses and entrepreneurs before, but this time I’ll let Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, explain the problem to you:

I think the people who talk about dismantling — threatening — Net neutrality don’t appreciate how important it has been for us to have an independent market for productivity and for applications on the Internet.

Now, if we compare what you can get into your home with earliest modems, it’s maybe 1,000 times as fast. So that market has been very competitive, very successful.

And I think we wouldn’t have seen this explosion in the exciting, tremendous diversity of the kind of things you see on the Web now. So in the future, obviously, we expect to see many more things. We expect to see, very importantly, television streaming over the Internet, which is going to make a very exciting market in television content and maybe entertainment, maybe educational ideas.

The people deploying these things rely on the fact that the Internet is sitting there waiting to carry whatever they can dream up.

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What to Do When Your Idea Sucks

Imagine being an author, writing a book and toiling away in solitude.

You’ve got a general idea for the overall subject matter that’s good, but of course that idea has to be executed on chapter by chapter.

How would you know if one of those chapters sucked?

I suppose if you had a really good, attentive editor, she might tell you. But that’s a luxury that even most published authors don’t have.

So, in all likelihood, you just wouldn’t know.

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How to Get on Techmeme in 3 Simple Steps

Want some good Techmeme exposure?

Here’s 3 easy steps to showing up:

  1. Do a riff on a post by a famous SEO guy.
  2. Offer pedestrian blog writing tips.
  3. This one is the real key… have the word Google in your name.

Sour grapes? Maybe.

But watered down advice like this is why so many bloggers don’t have an audience.

Bonus tip 4: Comment on pedestrian blog writing tips with a post of your own. :)

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Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully

In 1988, The Writer’s Handbook reprinted an article by novelist Stephen King entitled Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes. In it, King told the story of the fateful 10 minutes to which he credits his success as a writer.

Back in 1964, King got in big trouble during his sophomore year in high school. Part of his punishment involved taking a job at a 12-page weekly community newspaper in the small town in Maine where he grew up.

It was at this tiny newspaper that Stephen King met an editor named John Gould, the man who taught King everything he needed to know about writing in one 10 minute review of his first feature piece for the paper.

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