Blogging Grows Up

It’s no surprise that I think blogging is the biggest thing since, well, the ezine when it comes to effective, low-cost online marketing. While email newsletters are similar in that they use cheap information publishing to concurrently build relationships and authority for small businesses, the ezine can’t match the power of the blog.

Blogs are truly a huge step forward because of their ease, and because of the blogosphere itself. The interlinked conversation, playing out within the larger framework of the social media environment, is the greatest opportunity ever to build a business without spending money on advertising.

Unfortunately, it’s just a basic reality that many existing small businesses and solo professionals have neither the time nor the inclination to blog themselves. And that creates a huge opportunity for savvy bloggers.

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What’s New in Video Blogging?

“Television is a medium because anything well done is rare.”

I’ve always liked that clever little quote from comedian Fred Allen. As a radio star of the 1930s and 40s, Allen may have been a bit biased, but here we are over half a century later, and many of us wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments about the overall quality of television. And despite the huge amount of buzz about it in 2006, you could likely replace “television” with “online video” and the statement would be even more obvious.

It’s certainly cool to watch those rare talents making great online video entertainment and news shows, such as zefrank, Amanda Congden, Cali Lewis, and of course the Rocketboom folks, just to name a few of the more prominent. And You Tube means anyone can be a star, so everyone’s got to try. Even Paris Hilton.

Of course, there are other uses for online video that have huge potential beyond entertainment. Some have already started using it as a teaching tool, and I personally think that’s where many big opportunities can be had using this powerful communication medium.

Back at my 6 month Copyblogger milestone, I mentioned in passing that I was working on a new project. It’s a video blog, and we’re just about ready to launch it.

(Which is code for ‘there’s so much left to do I don’t see how we’ll ever get it done’)

The site provides video tutorials that teach people how to effectively create, publish, market, and do business online. You can sign up for the feed or for email alerts, and you’ll be the first to receive the initial tutorials when we go live.

Oh yeah… it’s called Tubetorial.

Did I mention it’s free?

5 Signs Your Blog Post Is Going Horribly Wrong

It happens to us all.

Fired up by a great idea, you sit down ready to crank out that killer post. But as you get farther into it, your enthusiasm is replaced by a sense of dread.

Clearly, you’re getting bogged down. You’re not sure what the problem is, but the piece is not coming together the way you thought it would.

You put your head down and keep writing, but the dread intensifies faster than your resolve. You now realize that you’ve got a complete mess of a post on your hands.

OK, let’s relax, take a deep breath and a step back, and run through this quick five-part checklist to see what’s gone wrong.

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Are You a Resourceful Blogger?

If there’s one characteristic that I believe leads to success, it’s resourcefulness. Finding a way to get things done is the skill that makes for an effective person—in business and otherwise—and finding that way without throwing money at the problem is often the most effective answer.

But being a resourceful blogger has a double meaning.

In Viral Copy, I set forth four categories of content that tend to attract links. One of those was providing free resources to your readers.

It’s naturally my favorite of the four.

Dan Zarrella nails it when he simultaneously affirms the value of resources and rejects the “content as filler” philosophy:

Content is dead and resource is king.

Yep.

Titles That Tell a Whole Story

Sometimes, in those rare special cases, you’ll have subject matter so captivating that a simple straight-forward statement of the relevant words is enough.

No formulas, templates, or linguistic trickery is necessary with these types of titles and headlines.

They are stories in and of themselves.

How else can you explain the magic of these four simple words?

Snakes on a Plane

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Why Plato Would Have Blown it as a Blogger

Yep… you read that headline correctly.

Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher who studied under Socrates, mentored Aristotle, and founded the Academy in Athens, would have likely crashed and burned as a business blogger.

Why?

Well, first it’s helpful to talk a bit about those other two guys who came before and after Plato — Socrates and Aristotle.

Socrates pretty much gets credit for laying the foundation of Western philosophy. He devoted his life to teaching, and did so by what became known as the Socratic Method.

Socrates examined moral concepts by answering a student’s question by posing another question in return. In this way, Socrates fueled a continuing dialogue designed to allow his students to discover answers for themselves.

In other words, he was all about the conversation.

In contrast, Aristotle was all about authored content. He knew how to present compelling-structured stories that took the reader from Point A to Point B by engaging the emotions. His philosophy was that one can effectively teach and persuade through the art of rhetoric alone.

Contrary to Socrates, Aristotle might utilize rhetorical questions. His style was to use queries not to illicit an answer from the reader, but rather to make a powerful point.

Plato was the middle child. Because Socrates apparently never wrote down his teachings, much of what we know about him comes from Plato’s writings, which were most often in the form of dialogues.

Early on, these dialogues were structured in true Socratic fashion, and often featured conversations between Plato and his mentor. Later on, these dialogues turned to conversations in format only, and became more about what Plato wanted to emphasize rather than a recording of a true Socratic conversation.

This led to what’s known as the Socratic Problem. How much of what Plato wrote can be viewed as the actual teachings of Socrates, as opposed to a literary device designed to persuade the reader to accept Plato’s point of view?

Plato understood the power of conversation, but his methods made people doubt his authenticity.

In my opinion, you’ve got to provide strong, persuasive content like Aristotle to be an effective business blogger. But you’ve also got to have a healthy dose of Socrates in you, because the conversation is where the true power of blogging is.

As for Plato, well, let me ask you a question.

Given what you know about the swarming pile-on nature of the blogosphere, what do you think might happen if someone is discovered trying to manipulate the conversation through nefarious marketing and public relations techniques?

Whoops, sorry . . . I guess that’s actually a rhetorical question.

But I would like to talk with you more about it. :)

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Link Karma and the Sandbox of Gloom

Stuck in the Google sandbox?

If you’ve just started blogging, you probably need links more than you want to read link posts. So, I’m going to dedicate this installment of Link Karma to resources that will help you score links.

Here we go…

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Aristotle’s Top 3 Tips for Effective Blogging

image of aristotle

Imagine your shock after battling your way through the collective works of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, only to discover you’ve heard a lot of it before. Then, it clicks.

“Hey,” you suddenly exclaim. “This Aristotle guy is ripping off all my favorite business gurus!”

But then, after checking the dates, you’re forced to sheepishly admit it’s the other way around.

People have been remixing the wisdom of Aristotle for more than 2,000 years, and we’re all the better for it. Taking timeless truths, communicating them in the language of the present day, and applying them to new ways of doing things will always be a winning approach that provides true value.

So, I’ll go ahead and take a crack at it.

My guess is that if Aristotle were alive today, he’d be blogging. And he’d also be in the Technorati Top 100 quicker than you can say Guy Kawasaki five times fast.

So, without further ado, here’s some old school blogging advice from way back in the day.

1. Begin With the End in Mind

Knowing where you’re trying to go before you start is crucial to leading an effective life (and handy for road trips too). Aristotle called this teleology, which is the study of matters with their end or purpose in mind. Fans of Stephen Covey will recognize the concept from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The same principle applies to any persuasive writing, and with a blog it’s applicable to both your big story as well as to individual posts. The overall story that a business blog is trying to tell is tied into your unique selling proposition, and you need to have a clearly-defined big picture perspective of how you’re going to tell that story over time.

You do that by telling smaller stories (otherwise known as blog posts), and, without unnecessarily taking the fun out of blogging, those smaller stories should each have a clear individual point and reason for being. Even if it’s just to make your readers smile on a Monday.

Each post in some way should be also telling a part of the bigger story that demonstrates to your readers that they will benefit from doing business with you. There’s a million different ways to do that, and developing your own unique style is as important as any other advice you might get.

Just always remain focused on where you’re trying to end up. Even when the path disappears, you’ve got to remember where you’re trying to go.

2. It’s Not About You

Aristotle nailed the key to persuasion way back in Rhetoric, his detailed attempt to demonstrate that persuasion was a true art, contrary to the assertions of his mentor, Plato. Aristotle said that persuasion involved being able to identify the most compelling naturally-occurring element of any subject.

Once identified, Aristotle argued that the most compelling way to communicate that natural element is via pathos, the ability to connect with the emotions, desires, fears, and passions of the audience. And you certainly don’t accomplish that by focusing on yourself.

Quick summary: Identify a true and compelling benefit, connect with the reader on an emotional level, then back it all up with features and logic. You’ve heard that from me before.

You’ll likewise spot Aristotle’s wisdom in just about any book ever written on marketing and advertising. Your ability to communicate what’s in it for them in a meaningful way has never been more critical than it is now.

3. Tell Persuasive Stories

When it’s time to bang out a winning story post that captivates your audience and prompts them to take action, Aristotle’s got you covered. Here is his four step structure to persuasive writing:

Exordium – This is your opening. You’ve caught their interest with your headline, but the opening is where you’ve really got to grab hold for dear life. It might be a shocking statement, an interesting factoid, a famous quote, or a vivid anecdote.

Narratio – Next you’ve got to show the reader you understand their problems. They need to identify with you, and you with them. In this section you demonstrate that you feel their pain.

Confirmatio – The solution appears. Use vivid imagery to illustrate that the technique or service you offer is the answer, and give examples featuring people similar to the reader.

Peroratio – Don’t’ forget to expressly state the need to act upon the solution offered now. This is the call to action, and it’s crucial, yet so many people simply stop at the confirmatio. As Aristotle might say, you’ve got to close the deal.

OK, maybe Aristotle wouldn’t say that. But this is my remix. :)

The Right Story at the Right Time

The point I hope you take away from this post is that you’ll see certain timeless truths again and again in the world of marketing. How those truths eventually resonate with you depends on who tells you the right story at the right time.

So, it might be Seth Godin who gets through to you. Or maybe it’s Harry Beckwith. Or Joe Sugarman.

The same applies to you and your business. Someone in your field is going to connect with that motivated prospect and convert them into a customer or client.

If you’re telling compelling stories, and your competitors can’t be bothered to, who’s that someone more likely to be?

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How to Link Bait Me

So, I got a head’s up from the proprietor of SEO Black Hat today, letting me know about a “story post” that had been written in accordance with my advice. Of course I dutifully headed on over.

The story is about Breana, an enterprising blogger on her way up. She seemed to be heading for web success, but she made one crucial mistake that proved fatal to her dreams.

You see, Breana used the most popular blogging software, WordPress. Since she had passed SEO 101, she had enabled the “Search Engine Friendly URLs” feature that rewrites the URLs to include the title of the post. Every week she did a roundup of posts she liked and titled it:

“This Week’s Best Posts.”

She linked to all the top posts and WordPress pinged the other posts for a trackback.

Unfortunately for her, WordPress rewrote her URLs as:

http://breanacatblog.com/this-week%e2%80%99s-top-posts/

You see, %e2%80%99 is how wordpress encodes the apostrophe. The bigger problem than that being an ugly URL is that other WordPress blogs strip out some special characters (like %) on trackback.

The other very powerful and influential bloggers who received that trackback saw the link as:

http://breanacatblog.com/thie-weeke28099s-best-links/

When they clicked the link to see who was linking to them, all they got was a 404 Error Page.

Man! Were these bloggers pissed …

To make a long story short, Breana crashes and burns as a blogger, and ends up a homeless crackhead hooker. It’s all very sad.

Of course, “Breana” is a very thinly disguised reference to me.

Check out the URL of my last post. Doh!

I’ve had bloggers try to link bait me in the past by being contentious or even rude.

That’s simply not going to work with me.

But if you make me laugh…

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What’s Your Story?

image of woman checking her watch

In my last post, I used a story to illustrate that storytelling (which is the most powerful copywriting technique) is also perfectly suited for highly effective blogging.

The story wasn’t straightforward. It instead provided clues to the answer in the links, the ending, and by using the technique itself to provide the clues.

Some people loved it.

Some people didn’t get it.

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