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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The Most Powerful Blogging Technique There Is

Want to become a more effective, engaging blogger?

Of course.

But we also want to come across in an authentic, conversational way, and many may be scratching their heads wondering how a copywriting skill can possibly have anything to do with that. Is copywriting really applicable to blogging at all?

We’ve seen that copywriting skills are essential to creating compelling headlines, so there’s certainly an application when it comes to post titles.

And we know that good copywriting is crucial when we take people “off-blog” to a report, whitepaper, email mini-course, or other tutorial that sells through educational persuasion rather than hype.

But what about just day-to-day blogging?

Let me tell you a quick story that just might demonstrate that the most powerful copywriting technique is also the most engaging blogging technique.

How Shane Discovered the Truth About Great Marketing

Shane is like a lot of people these days — sick of the corporate world, and looking to start up a micro-business that is not only financially rewarding, but also allows him to actually watch his kids grow up. He’s got a great idea for a software service, and is trying to figure out a smart online marketing plan to reach his target audience.

He’s been paying a lot of attention to the latest trends, and he definitely knows he needs to start blogging. Shane has also been hearing a lot about a new strategy that people like Seth Godin are trying to teach to big companies, many of which are floundering in a new environment where traditional mass media is being turned upside down.

Shane is intrigued. While he’s no big-time company, this particular method seems like something he could use as well. But he wants to be sure, so he digs a bit deeper.

Surprisingly, Shane discovers that this marketing method may not be so new after all. By reading up a bit on copywriting, he learns that guys like David Garfinkel, Joe Vitale, John Carlton, and Gary Halbert have used this technique successfully for years. They even credit an earlier copywriter named Eugene Schwartz with teaching them the strategy at a deep level.

Going even further back, Shane discovers John Caples, a copywriter who used the technique to write one of the most famous advertisements in history back in the 1920s. Shane figures that Caples likely inspired Martin Conroy to make billions for the Wall Street Journal using the very same technique.

Picking up on clues left by the copywriters, Shane then ventures into the world of Joseph Campbell, explores the writings of psychoanalyst Carl Jung, and finally ends up waist deep in the complete works of Aristotle. Who knew these people had anything to do with marketing?

Shane now definitely knows that there is nothing new about the latest marketing craze, but it does seem to be the most compelling way to get a message across to the people who want and need to hear it. Could he really have found the answer he so desperately needs to bring success to his new business?

That evening, Shane walks into his young daughter’s room to tuck her in. He notices that she’s pouting a bit, and she finally shares that she is upset because Daddy has been reading so much lately and hasn’t spent enough time with her.

Shane feels terrible.

“What if Daddy tells you the best bedtime story ever to make up for it,” Shane offers, and holds his breath hoping she’ll give him a shot.

Seeing the way her eyes light up, he knows he has his answer — in more ways than one.

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Why “Content” Has Become a Dirty Word

The longer I publish online, the more I dislike the word “content.”

While marginal material has always been published, the web has really worked to change the definition of “content” from the subject matter of a written work (or the meaning or significance of that work) into something that simply fills empty space in a receptacle.

You know, like that empty space between ads on a web page.

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Link Karma 2: Link Harder

Time for more quality links in the name of achieving good Link Karma, and a fun new game you can play from the comfort of your own home (details at the end of the post).

Here we go:

AwesomeMillion.com
Jim Kukral and Dave Potokar have launched the newest “million” viral project, this one selling certificates claiming one of only a million Internet opportunities to be “really awesome” for a buck. It’s all done in a very fun, tongue and cheek manner that might just help it catch on, and the smart kids know to grab an upgraded page that allows for an outgoing link of your choice. Expect Andy Hagans to corner this market by next week.

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Still Not Convinced that Headlines Make All the Difference?

You’ve got to see this then — wisdom from the mouths of geeks about the power of writing great headlines.

Apparently some Digger submitted a story about the all too important topic of hot billionaire heiresses (you know, like that Paris Hilton scamp you may have heard of). His submission was essentially ignored, while another Digger submitted the exact same story, wrote a better headline, and scored over 300 1072 Diggs as of the time of this posting.

The original submitter was not pleased, and yet he received zero sympathy.

From the comments:

When will people learn to stop whining about the fact that THEIR submission didn’t get dugg to the front page, but the one with the snappier, more descriptive, more appealing, and more funny headline and description DID.

Life’s not fair. Deal with it.

I rest my case.

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Does the SEO Industry
Have a Branding Problem?

It seems that just when search engine optimization (SEO) is finally gaining mainstream mindshare, the game has changed in such a way that might make the industry designation a misnomer.

There’s no doubt that optimization for better search engine rankings will always be a huge part of the online marketing equation. However, it may be that the top SEO players are finding that pigeonholing themselves with that narrow acronym is not in their best interest.

I started thinking about this earlier today after reading a post over at Lee Odden’s excellent Online Marketing Blog. Here’s the money quote:

I’m banking on the notion that the future of successful optimization is focused on the creative, not the technical aspects [of] search marketing. SEO in the early days had more to do with code manipulation than content. Today we have offline to online integration, social search, viral search marketing (link baiting), tagging, new media public relations and so forth.

While that’s worth reading twice in itself, what really caught my eye was Lee’s attempt to re-brand “link baiting” as “viral search marketing.” Let’s face it — I’m sure he’d rather use his term in a professional setting.

Readers of my free report on viral marketing techniques for bloggers know that I find the term “linkbaiting” a bit inelegant. What’s worse, many long-term bloggers equate it with controversial and aggressive tactics, rather than simply a sobriquet for content that tends to attract links.

The thing about the term “viral search marketing” is that it also is way too limited in scope to actually replace the true value of link bait, a/k/a extremely compelling content. Why? Because extremely compelling content scores non-search traffic well before it (or the main domain) ranks high in the search engines due to the resulting links.

So isn’t “linkbaiting” really just viral marketing — period? The links, Diggs and social bookmarks that result from carefully-crafted, compelling content (which in turn lead to even more links, Diggs and bookmarks) can drive huge traffic, only to later result in longer-term traffic from high placement in the search engine results. After all, your rank in those results is yet again just another highly relevant link, right?

As Lee and the rest of the best and brightest in search engine marketing add an adapted form of traditional copywriting to their formidable skill set, they find themselves ultimately in the general business of traffic. The main skill set necessary to achieve high search engine rankings (attracting high-quality links) is the skill set that also results in valuable referral traffic from a multitude of other sources.

And why stop with traffic?

If you’re going to take the time as an SEO to learn copywriting (or incur the expense of hiring staff copywriters), why not also help clients convert that traffic, whether that be for direct sales, lead generation, or advertising-supported subscriptions? That’s what direct-response copywriting has traditionally been all about, and there seems to be a unique opportunity to create a one-stop-shop solution delivering work product that not only drives traffic, but also translates that traffic directly into revenue.

Compare that with your typical old school advertising agency that still hangs its hat on the 30-second television commercial and pricey print ads. I know which model I’d bet on.

The SEO industry may have a temporary branding problem. But the solution to that problem may well result in the powerhouse advertising agencies of the future.

The really good news is, smart small business bloggers can learn to do it all for themselves.

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The True Power of the Blog

If you’ve been reading Copyblogger for awhile, you know that I’m truly amazed at the power of blogs to gain exposure for a small business. While I’ve been producing this type of content online for over 8 years, the ability of something cool or important to spread via the interlinked conversation that social media allows for is quite a remarkable twist on Internet publishing and marketing.

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