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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For Whom the Blog Tips (It Tips For Thee)

Well, it’s the first of the month, and I promised Easton Ellsworth that I would do some blog tipping, and I’ve gotta stick to my word. And since we’re only 11 days late for Papa’s birthday anniversary (and plus the fact that I’ve written so many link baiting headlines in the last two weeks I feel in need of a shower), I’ve dedicated this headline and blog tipping post to literary giant Ernest Hemingway (in case you didn’t notice).

Let’s get started, shall we?

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10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work

Magnetic Headline Formulas

So, you’re seeing too many of those “how to” and list headlines, and want to try a few different angles?

Let’s move beyond those common headline formulas you see over and over, and add some new blood to your attention-grabbing arsenal.

1. Who Else Wants [blank]?

Starting a headline with “Who Else Wants…” is a classic social proof strategy that implies an already existing consensus desire. While overused in the Internet marketing arena, it still works like gangbusters for other subject matter.

  • Who Else Wants a Great WordPress Theme?
  • Who Else Wants a Higher Paying Job?
  • Who Else Wants More Fun and Less Stress When on Vacation?

2. The Secret of [blank]

This one is used quite a bit, but that’s because it works. Share insider knowledge and translate it into a benefit for the reader.

  • The Secret of Successful Podcasting
  • The Secret of Protecting Your Assets in Litigation
  • The Secret of Getting Your Home Loan Approved

3. Here is a Method That is Helping [blank] to [blank]

Simply identify your target audience and the benefit you can provide them, and fill in the blanks.

  • Here is a Method That is Helping Homeowners Save Hundreds on Insurance
  • Here is a Method That is Helping Children Learn to Read Sooner
  • Here is a Method That is Helping Bloggers Write Better Post Titles

4. Little Known Ways to [blank]

A more intriguing (and less common) way of accomplishing the same thing as “The Secret of…” headline.

  • Little Known Ways to Save on Your Heating Bill
  • Little Known Ways to Hack Google’s Gmail
  • Little Known Ways to Lose Weight Quickly and Safely

5. Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All

A classic formula that identifies either a painful problem or an unfulfilled desire that the reader wants to remedy.

  • Get Rid of Your Unproductive Work Habits Once and For All
  • Get Rid of That Carpet Stain Once and For All
  • Get Rid of That Lame Mullet Hairdo Once and For All

6. Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]

People love quick and easy when it comes to solving a nagging problem.

  • Here’s a Quick Way to Get Over a Cold
  • Here’s a Quick Way to Potty Train Junior
  • Here’s a Quick Way to Backup Your Hard Drive

7. Now You Can Have [something desirable] [great circumstance]

The is the classic “have your cake and eat it too” headline — and who doesn’t like that?

  • Now You Can Quit Your Job and Make Even More Money
  • Now You Can Meet Sexy Singles Online Without Spending a Dime
  • Now You Can Own a Cool Mac and Still Run Windows

8. [Do something] like [world-class example]

Gatorade milked this one fully with the “Be Like Mike” campaign featuring Michael Jordan in the early 1990s.

  • Speak Spanish Like a Diplomat
  • Party Like Paris Hilton
  • Blog Like an A-Lister

9. Have a [or] Build a [blank] You Can Be Proud Of

Appeal to vanity, dissatisfaction, or shame. Enough said.

  • Build a Body You Can Be Proud Of
  • Have a Smile You Can Be Proud Of
  • Build a Blog Network You Can Be Proud Of

10. What Everybody Ought to Know About [blank]

Big curiosity draw with this type of headline, and it acts almost as a challenge to the reader to go ahead and see if they are missing something.

  • What Everybody Ought to Know About ASP
  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Adjustable Rate Mortgages
  • What Everybody Ought to Know About Writing Great Headlines

Find these headline templates useful? Pick up our comprehensive ebook on Magnetic Headlines as well as a full content marketing library … for free. You can click here to learn how.

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

Why Some People Almost Always
Write Great Post Titles

image of magnetic headlines logo

What are some of the characteristics of people who crank out blog titles that work really well most of the time? Is it something anyone can learn?

Yes, and except in very rare cases, writing great post titles and other headlines can likely only be learned. Rather than relying on natural talent, people who consistently produce winning headlines have learned to do three basic things:

1. They understand that all compelling headlines make an intriguing promise that makes it almost irresistible to its target audience. Understanding the intended audience is key — a really great headline generally won’t appeal to everyone, and watering it down for mass appeal will only hurt you.

2. They study headlines that have been proven to work, and that usually means direct response advertising headlines. In that context, “proven to work” means people responded to that particular headline by pulling out their wallets and making a purchase. You can also learn by studying some of the top magazine headline writers, who work for Cosmopolitan and similar glossies, and even the tabloids you see at the supermarket checkout lane.

3. Most importantly, rather than simply mimicking great headlines, they understand why the headline works, and therefore can make an educated decision as to which type of headline structure is most appropriate, and how to tweak it within a certain context.

So what about the title of the blog post you’re reading right now?

1. Starting off your post title with “why” at the beginning of a declarative statement (instead of a question) is one easy way to focus in on the benefit of reading your article. That’s one of the reasons why the title of this post works, but the words that follow the “why” are what’s most important.

You can do the same by starting with “here’s why,” “what,” “when,” or “how,” or you can simply make a strong statement that clearly demonstrates that the elaborated answer will be provided in the body content. And of course a carefully worded question can magnetically draw in your intended readers as well.

2. The title is modeled after this famous advertising headline:

Why Some People Almost Always Make Money in the Stock Market

Within the context of what I wanted to convey with this post, the basic structure of this classic headline works perfectly.

Why?

3. Credibility. The use of the word “some,” and having “almost” modify “always,” make the headline much more plausible. Not even the highest paid copywriters in the world always nail a headline that works, and some people never write great post titles, because they don’t take the time to learn how.

Many people feel that a great headline is bombastic and full of hyperbole, but that’s usually not the case. If people don’t believe you can deliver on your promise, they won’t bother reading further, and your over-the-top headline fails.

As the people marketing their content via Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites up the ante with headlines that strain credibility, their results will diminish, while you’ll gain an advantage by becoming a true student of great headline writing. Understanding what type of headline is appropriate to a specific context is the real key to writing magnetic post titles that get your content embraced and shared.

This is the sixth installment in a series of posts called Magnetic Headlines.

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SEO Secrets Revealed

The “secrets” may surprise you.

Nick Wilson of Performancing has put together a great post that truly breaks down the methodology involved with search engine optimization in a world controlled by Google’s relevancy algorithms. Whether he knows it or not, Nick’s thoughts on this topic last year provided some validation for the ideas behind starting Copyblogger in the first place, but here he ties it all together perfectly.

Check it out.

Why the AdWords Landing Page Fiasco Won’t Hurt Bloggers

What a terrible morning it was last week when many Google AdWords advertisers woke up to find that many (if not all) of their sweet low-cost-per-click bids had been disabled, and minimum bid requirements enacted that killed any chance for a return on investment. Turns out Google tweaked its landing page relevancy algorithm, with disastrous results for many big-spending AdWords players.

Scott Karp has been on top of this issue, mainly from an affiliate marketing standpoint, and I agree with him that a transition from pay-per-click to cost-per-action is beneficial to both Google and advertisers. But the reasons for the recent trauma may not be all that nefarious, and instead simply a reflection of the way Google tends to evaluate relevancy.

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Link Karma

Ever since the Indie Virus spawned in the Copyblogger comments four months ago, many smart people have concocted their own branded link viruses. Witness Blog Tipping, Link Leak, and plenty of others I’ve missed or forgotten (leave your linking meme in the comments and I’ll update).

Due to my blogging style, I don’t link out as much as I’d like. So, to make sure I take the time to do so on a regular basis, I’ve decided to create my own weekly link feature called Link Karma. I know how important it is to link out to others, and you should too — if for no other reason than because what comes around goes around.

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