Your Audience Doesn’t Know What it Wants

Close-up image of a horse with its mouth wipe open, appearing to scream

If I asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses.

~ Henry Ford

Pretty witty quote, right?

You’ve probably heard it before. (Even if Ford never actually said it.)

I know I have.

But what I’ve been realizing lately is that I haven’t really been applying the essence of it to my own writing, let alone my online business’ product creation.

It’s actually a pretty funny scenario.

My first two posts this year were about starting a blog in 2014 and then asking my audience what blogging help it wanted in 2014.

The latter had over 200 comments.

But the thing that really interested me was the fact that 95 percent of the comments on those posts were about problems my audience was having … but not what solutions they wanted. They simply didn’t know, even when I directly asked them.

Turns out that’s my job.

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How to Decide Which Content to Sell and What to Give Away for Free

Authority Intensive Post Image of Chris Garrett

You are all well aware by now that content is vitally important to your business.

But how do you decide which content should be freely available and which content you ought to charge for?

Is it possible to give away too much?

People struggle with this question all the time.

On the one hand giving away information clearly works. After all, Copyblogger is based on that premise.

That said, we know that selling information is good business.

So where is the line drawn between freely available content and content that is locked behind a paywall of some kind?

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3 Ways to Write a Damn Good Syllable

Copyblogger chief copywriter Demian Farnworth sits at his desk straining to write a good syllable

The list of things you need to do to become a great writer is a long one.

So long in fact, most people never make it to the end of that list.

This is why most people suck at writing.

They simply give up.

Sure, the new ones are always thrilled — corybantic some may say — as they sharpen their pencils in eager expectation of jumping into those adorable writing exercises such as “Write like you talk” or “Write yourself silly!”

Then there are the entry-level axioms that culminate in “Give yourself permission to write,” a commandment that Trendall Jynweythk, professor of liberation theology at Arizona University, claims originated in a conversation between Jesus and John when the apostle was battling writer’s block after some really bad dreams.

It is all quite overwhelming advice to you, virgin writer, what with your bubbling, flooding, and exploding energy.

You just need to sit down and write!

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Announcing: A Breakthrough Resource for Your Content Creation

image of cardboard robot

Finally, after years of clumsy, clunky automated tools for “spinning,” scraping, regurgitating, and extruding low-quality content, we’ve found a solution.

This resource produces sharp, smart, audience-engaging content every time. Over time, it even calibrates itself to produce more effective headlines, to tailor content to the precise needs of your audience and customers, and to automatically generate semantically relevant alternative keyword phrases.

We’re calling this resource RealWriter — and if you don’t implement it for your content marketing program, you’re missing out.

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The Lede: Hangout Hot Seat with Brian Clark

Google Hangouts are an invaluably useful tool.

We’ve made mention of this before.

And if you’ve been listening to the New Rainmaker podcast, then you recently heard Brian and Robert discuss the concept of repurposing content — using the same content in multiple ways.

In this episode of The Lede, Demian and I put the usefulness and versatility of Google Hangouts on display and demonstrate how Hangouts can be used as part of a repurposing strategy.

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Eulogy for a Blog

painting of a family in an old-fashioned setting burying a loved one

Dearly Beloved,

We gather here today to honor the memory of our friend, Web Log.

That was his birth name.

Most knew him simply as Blog.

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How to Use Visual Hierarchy To Create Clear and Easy-to-Read Web Pages

Image of a cave-like basement with perspective facing wall, with stairs descending into the frame from the left and a door wide open in the middle

Imagine you’ve entered a cave.

Your eyes slowly adjust to your surroundings and begin to make out the shapes and forms around you.

You see three doorways: they’re equal in size, and all the same distance from where you stand. How do you choose where to go first?

You’re frustrated, because you don’t have enough information to make a decision. All you can do is guess.

Now imagine you’ve entered a second cave.

In this one, there’s one large doorway before you. It says “Tours” and is wide and well-lit.

To one side, there’s a small doorway with a window in it that says “Tickets” above it. Next to it is a nondescript door that says “Employees only.”

In this cave you know exactly what to do.

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Conduct Better Podcast Interviews with this Simple 6-Step Preparation Process

close-up image of a microphone

No regrets.

That is my number one goal for every podcast interview I conduct.

(And there are a lot of them — for some top-rated podcasts, including this one you might be familiar with.)

It’s a hard feeling to achieve, because most interviews last a pre-determined amount of time.

And almost without fail, the people I’ve interviewed have had far more to say than I’ve had time to get them to say it. (If you’ve ever conducted an interview, I’m sure you can relate.)

This means the pressure is on us to lead the interview in a way that ensures nothing essential goes left unsaid.

Here’s the simple six-step preparation process I follow to conduct podcast interviews that work.

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How to Turn Bland Text into Sparkling Online Content

close-up image of a sparkling sunset

Let me guess …

You’re smart. You know your stuff. And you have a sparkle in your eyes when you talk about your favorite subject.

But your writing doesn’t sound like you. At all.

No matter how hard you try, you struggle to find the right words.

You swap one word for another — now your sentence sounds lame. You try yet another word. That’s even worse.

You’re not a boring old fogie, so why do dull sentences sneak into your content?

You know your writing should be more conversational. But how?

It may seem difficult to write content that’s engaging and seductive. But it really doesn’t need to be so hard.

Let’s have a look at the three steps that turn boring (yawn) sentences into sparkling content.

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5 Ways to Rankle an Old-School Journalist

image of young journalist diligently writing while older journalist stands beside her looking dumbfounded

This is the first post in a series on native advertising. An introduction, if you will.

One that states from the start that there is controversy.

Why approach a series this way?

Simple: Native advertising is probably one of the least-known scalding-hot topics in the business world.

In fact, few business people can even define native advertising. And those outside of it are clueless it even exists (we’ve got the data to prove this — will share later).

Yet media research group BIA/Kelsey predicts that by 2017, brands will spend $4.57 billion on social native ads.

$4.57 billion is a lot of money.

How could there be so much enthusiasm and animosity for an ambiguous model?

Two words …

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