Copyblogger http://www.copyblogger.com Content marketing tools and training. Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Surprising Spooky Secret to Enduring Success Habits http://www.copyblogger.com/small-habits/ http://www.copyblogger.com/small-habits/#respond Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43846 Are you addicted to productivity advice? I was, for a long time. I bought every system, book, and blueprint out there. I had a very spiffy David Allen-inspired GTD process that was only 642 steps long and took a mere 3 hours a day to implement (during which time I wasn’t actually, you know, getting

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ghost figure in pumpkin patch with Autumn leaves

Are you addicted to productivity advice?

I was, for a long time. I bought every system, book, and blueprint out there.

I had a very spiffy David Allen-inspired GTD process that was only 642 steps long and took a mere 3 hours a day to implement (during which time I wasn’t actually, you know, getting anything done).

That wasn’t David Allen’s fault, by the way, it was mine. But I don’t think I was alone.

Every person who has a long to-do list also has a desire to do more.

And most of us are quite good at doing certain things. We don’t have a problem getting out of bed every day (even if we grumble), brushing our teeth, driving to work, or finding some lunch. As Seth Godin likes to say, “No one ever gets Talker’s Block.”

Why? Because those things are just ingrained habits. We don’t think about doing them, or need to find motivation to do them … we just do them.

Where we do tend to procrastinate and stumble is on the activities that we feel resistance around. Anything creative is a major one. Writing, in particular, is one of the few forms of procrastination that has its own name: Writer’s Block.

You might have made a million resolutions to write every day, or publish two blog posts a week, or finally get your damned autoresponder up and running. And a million times, you might have failed.

Today, I’d like to let you know what works for me. Because I believe it will work for you, too.

First things first.

Big resolutions don’t work

We all know it, and I don’t know why we keep doing it. Resolutions for massive, sweeping habit change just don’t work.

(They probably work for a few people. But those people aren’t reading this post, because they’re too busy climbing Everest while writing their best-selling memoir and running their four-hour-workweek business. Bless their hearts.)

Everyone I know who believes that sugar is a deadly poison is also stuffing donuts into their face every time I see them.

Everyone I know who absolutely, positively is going to have their novel done in 30 days has been working on that novel for 25 years.

Big change is scary, and we avoid it. With all the creativity and energy we can muster.

Maybe I just know more than my share of flakes, but I don’t think so. I think that massive change sounds like a good idea while we’re making those impassioned vows to ourselves. But once the real world hits, the part of our brains that actually does things wants nothing to do with it.

What works better

There’s an intriguing (and increasing) body of work that suggests that instead, itsy bitsy habit change is the thing that works.

There’s Robert Maurer’s excellent book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, which everyone should go read right now.

There’s BJ Fogg’s well-known Tiny Habits site, and accompanying TED talk.

There’s Stephen Guise’s book on Mini Habits, which lays out a stupidly easy plan to develop these stupidly easy small habit tweaks. You should go read that one right now if you’re not picking up the Maurer, or even if you are.

So if you want to get your book written? Commit to a ridiculously tiny habit of writing 50 words on it a day. Once the micro habit is in place, it’s funny how often you find yourself sticking around for a lot more than those 50 words. And on the days that you only do 50 — you still win.

Getting started on anything new or uncomfortable — writing, working out, improving your website — is always the hardest part. But once you’re in motion, you’ll tend to stay in motion. And once you have a solid habit formed, you’ll think of yourself as “the kind of person who” does that thing. You’ll be surprised at how much productivity that will spur.

Here are a few of my thoughts on how to get a micro habit started, how to best benefit from it, and some ideas about productive micro habits you might want to get rolling for yourself.

Getting started

I’ve read a few books on this (apparently I’m still addicted to productivity advice), and Stephen Guise’s Mini Habits is the best one I’ve found to just get you going. It’s a quick, easy read that lays out the process, as well as the benefits, succinctly.

Or if you’d rather start right now (an excellent idea), just pick one of the habits I’ve listed in this post. Do it every day. If you aren’t doing it every day, try my advice below.

One nice thing about these teeny habit changes is that you can do more than one at a time, if you like. I’m currently doing four, and will add a fifth in the next day or two. But start with just one for at least a week, to get yourself used to the new plan.

Plan for your crazy days

Your micro habit needs to work on your absolutely most insane days.

Think about your nuttiest day of the week — when you work late, your dog has swim practice, and your kid has obedience lessons. Or think about what your day looks like when you’re traveling for business. Or family. Or anything else that tends to be disruptive.

These little habits need to be so little that they’ll fit into your day, even when things are a zoo. Don’t be tempted to skip your micro habits on zoo days — that’s just when you most need them.

(If you or a loved person goes to the hospital for something serious, you have my permission to slack off. Anything short of that, the habit should be small enough to fit.)

The right timing

When I can, I like to time my little habits so that I have some free time after.

Why? Because that’s how 50 words on a key project turns into 2,000 words. That’s how completing your warm-up turns into a 40-minute workout.

Important, though: If you can’t time your teeny habit for that kind of time slot, do it anyway. If you have four habits and you do all of them right before bed, you still win.

Don’t unconsciously make your “real” habit Write 2,000 Words and start putting it off because you don’t have that much time or energy. Your habit is 50 words. If you do that, you win.

The value of fanatic consistency

Guise makes an excellent point about the need for rigid consistency with your micro habits.

“Self-efficacy,” or the belief in your ability to influence an outcome, plays a big part in mustering the willpower to do things. Getting a truly daily habit in place, even a tiny one, skyrockets your confidence in that ability to beat procrastination and do the things you want to do. It trains your willpower “muscle.”

… a problem many people develop is an expectation of failing to reach their goals. Over time, this crushes their self-efficacy because it’s hard to believe that next time will be different (especially if you’re using the same strategy that failed last time). ~ Stephen Guise

A little tiny habit is a surprisingly easy way to retrain your brain — but only if you do it daily.

If it’s not working

If it’s not working, your habit is probably a little too big. “Write one page” is small, but it’s not small enough to be tiny — it’s too much to handle on a day that’s crazy, or a travel day.

Trim them down until they are stupidly easy and quick to complete.

Reminding yourself how embarrassingly easy and quick they are is also a good tool if you’re tempted to skip a day.

Some habit ideas you can swipe

Here are some ideas you can steal for micro habits of your own to develop. I like to have a mix of professional and personal — two for my business, and two for my personal life. (If you want to know what my habits are, swing by the Google+ conversation and I’ll let you know.)

Try one of these, or make up your own. Remember, start with one for the first week, and if you want to, you can add a few more later.

  • Meditate for five minutes (or two minutes, if you find resistance to five)
  • Read or re-read two pages of a classic copywriting resource
  • Write 50 words on your Big Project
  • Do the warm-up for that workout you’ve been trying to do more often
  • Write three headlines for content you might write some day
  • Hand-copy out a paragraph of writing you admire
  • Walk for ten minutes (or less, if this feels too big)
  • Outline a post idea (it’s okay if these are very silly — they’re not to publish, just to warm up your writing brain)
  • Participate in your favorite online writing or business group (Only do this one if you don’t have this habit already)
  • Read two pages on a topic that has nothing to do with writing or your business

Got more? Join us over on Google+ with your suggestions — we’d love to hear them!

And I’ll leave you with one final quote from Guise, to push you over into trying this out for yourself. I think you’ll be happy when you see the results.

We’re quick to blame ourselves for lack of progress, but slow to blame our strategies. Then we repeat them over and over again, trying to make them work. But here’s the thing — if you fail using a strategy more than a few times, you need to try another one. ~ Stephen Guise

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Alexander C. Kafka.

About the author

Sonia Simone


Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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The 5-Step Process for Writing an About Page that Connects (and Converts) http://www.copyblogger.com/powerhouse-about-page/ http://www.copyblogger.com/powerhouse-about-page/#respond Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43893 Although it seems like a natural place on your website to talk about yourself, a strong About page is really about empathy for your visitors. When you write an effective About page, you dig into your readers’ minds and then communicate that you have what they need or want. And you can’t afford to follow

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wasp eating nectar from yellow flower

Although it seems like a natural place on your website to talk about yourself, a strong About page is really about empathy for your visitors.

When you write an effective About page, you dig into your readers’ minds and then communicate that you have what they need or want.

And you can’t afford to follow the herd. Just think about how many times you’ve clicked away from a website that included just a little too much “Me! Me! Me!”

You don’t want to be that person at the cocktail party who brags so incessantly that other party guests plan different routes to the restroom to avoid you. But you also don’t want to bore new visitors.

How do you strike the right balance?

Why a smart About page includes your visitors in the conversation

Your About page is usually one of the most visited pages on your site, and there’s a good reason for that.

If you capture readers’ attention with your content, they’ll want to know more about you — so this is your chance to connect with them, keep them intrigued, and convince them beyond a doubt that you’re the person they should work with.

But your visitors also want equal time in the conversation. Having strong, trusted relationships with your readers helps them know, like, and trust you so they feel confident about doing business with you.

Your About page helps you build those relationships, and relationships are two-way streets, not one-way lectures. That’s one reason why, when crafting your About page, what “everyone else is doing” probably isn’t your best model.

You certainly can inject humor and personality, but keep those aspects in perspective. Your morning coffee preferences may help some of your readers connect with you, but they’re just a cute aside.

Above all, your readers want to know what you can do for them.

What value do you provide for your readers?

Your life story, achievements, and accomplishments may bolster your credibility and credentials, but they’re not the first thoughts on visitors’ minds.

Some of your visitors’ unanswered questions are:

  • What’s in this for me?
  • Am I in the right place?
  • Can this person help me with my problem?

Don’t send your readers screaming for the exit by talking only about yourself. Instead, make them want to pull up a chair, chat with you a while, and keep in touch long after the party.

Here’s the five-step process for writing a creative About page that’s the hit of your online party, with examples from folks who do it right.

Step 1: Rouse the wallflowers and make them dance

When your readers discover a site that speaks to them, it’s exciting. Grab your audience with an opening statement that ignites a feeling.

Demonstrate that you know why they’ve visited your site — whether it’s through a great story, a solution to their most pressing parenting problem, or answers to their burning business questions.

Chris Guillebeau states that The Art of Non-Conformity is “a home for unconventional people doing remarkable things.”

All you need to do is read that first sentence to know whether or not you qualify.

At Social Triggers, Derek Halpern asks five questions about marketing your business and using persuasion. If you answer “yes” to one or more of them, you know you’re in the right place.

Step 2: Crank the volume and excitement up a notch

Now it’s time to throw a little fuel on the fire you’ve lit.

This second section of your About page is a short paragraph that allows people to decide for themselves whether or not they’re interested in what you do.

You want to use your best empathy skills here. Get into your readers’ heads and make them think you understand them so well that you’re reading their minds.

Jon Morrow does this nicely:

So, let me guess. You wouldn’t exactly call your blog ‘popular,’ right? You write a great post and … nothing happens … Your little voice gets swallowed up, almost like you never said anything at all … And it’s starting to piss me off.

If you read Jon’s intro and relate to it, you’ll be pissed off too. That’s the point. Stir some emotions and get your readers on your side.

Another way to do this is to be on a mission. There’s no better way to get people to rally around you than to tap into their own deeply held values and beliefs.

Step 3: Learn how to brag strategically

What others say about us can hold more weight than what we say about ourselves.

Let others speak for you. Provide testimonials and social proof so your readers can picture themselves becoming a part of your community.

Jeff Goins attracts readers who have a passion for creativity and changing the world. He introduces this section of his About page with: “People are talking about me and some of it’s actually good.”

He includes humor alongside strong professional endorsements. All of them make you know, like, and trust him just a little more.

Step 4: Seal the deal with your charm and personality

Your biographical section should appear towards the end of your page. Once you’ve warmed people up and established that you care about them, they’ll want to learn more about you.

To make a personal connection, your bio should:

  • State why you do what you do and your mission — these are both powerful rallying points.
  • Use one to three short, engaging stories to sum up your background in a memorable way.
  • Include one to three photos throughout the page.

Whether you’re a one-woman show or a large enterprise, your readers want to see faces and learn names. People connect with people.

Step 5: Ask to keep in touch

If you’ve successfully intrigued your new fans, make sure they stick around by asking visitors to sign up for your email list.

Pat Flynn, among others, suggests giving readers three opportunities to sign up for your list on your About page.

Place the first email sign-up box after your second section, once you’ve told people who you are, what you do for them, and why they should care. The next sign-up box should appear after your testimonials and social proof, and the last one should go at the end of the page, after your personal bio.

Don’t forget that the About page is one of the most visited pages on your site. If you give readers several opportunities to become subscribers here, you should see an increase in email signups.

Are you ready to be the life of the party and attract more clients?

Sometimes just a few tweaks to your About page are enough to put the spotlight on your readers. When you do, you can transform a boring life history into a valuable outlet for attracting clients.

What changes will you make to get started?

Do you have a favorite About page to share as an example?

Head over to Google+ so we can continue the discussion!


Want more on About pages?

You might want to check out Sonia’s post on About pages as well. You can find it here: Are You Making These 7 Mistakes on Your About Page?

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Michael J. Moeller.

About the Author: Leanne Regalla teaches creative people to pursue their art without going broke, living in their cars, or starving to death at Make Creativity Pay. Download The Rebel Artist’s Manifesto: Having the Audacity to Make Good Money From Your Creative Work. Follow her on Twitter.

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The Amazingly Simple Anatomy of a Meaningful Marketing Story [Infographic] http://www.copyblogger.com/meaningful-marketing-story/ http://www.copyblogger.com/meaningful-marketing-story/#respond Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43848 Think about it. Apple. Dos Equis. Old Spice. Procter & Gamble. Ram Trucks. Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. GEICO. GoDaddy. At some point, all these companies told compelling stories that grabbed our attention — and held it. Not just for thirty seconds, but longer. And as they repeated their stories over and over again, they got under our skin. Through simple stories,

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title card: The Amazingly Simple Anatomy of a Meaningful Marketing Story

Think about it.

Apple. Dos Equis. Old Spice. Procter & Gamble. Ram Trucks. Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. GEICO. GoDaddy.

At some point, all these companies told compelling stories that grabbed our attention — and held it. Not just for thirty seconds, but longer.

And as they repeated their stories over and over again, they got under our skin. Through simple stories, these companies won our allegiance and business.

Tell the right story and you can capture attention, entertain, enlighten, and persuade all in the course of just a few minutes.

As author Jonathan Gottschall said:

We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.

Some argue you can even ignore essential advertising principles and still grow a business through stories. That may be true, but only if your story follows a certain structure.

How to structure your marketing story

More than a year ago, Sonia Simone wrote the defining piece on the subject — a summary of what it takes to write a meaningful marketing story that people can’t ignore. The article summarizes what we believe here at Copyblogger.

So, Copyblogger Media designer Lauren Mancke and I thought it was high time we honor Sonia’s article with a sleek infographic in the style of the outstanding storytellers from the era of silent films.

Print it, pin it, but whatever you do … use it. And don’t miss the additional storytelling tips at the end of this post …



Anatomy of a Meaningful Marketing Story Infographic

Want to publish this infographic on your own site?

Copy and paste the following code into your blog post or web page:

Click here to download a PDF of the infographic, which is suitable for printing and hanging near your workspace when you need to see it most.

If you’d like more information on the five elements a great marketing story needs, read these posts:

What’s your marketing story?

How does your marketing story capture your audience’s attention?

Why is it meaningful for your readers?

Do you use these five elements or additional principles?

Let’s continue the discussion over on Google+

About the author

Demian Farnworth


Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media's Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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Focus on These 4 Steps to Harness the Addictive Power of Email (And Turn Your Traffic Into Business) http://www.copyblogger.com/harness-power-of-email/ http://www.copyblogger.com/harness-power-of-email/#respond Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43927 Are you working your butt off to run your business? But feeling you’re not making enough progress? You’re building a social following, slaving over weekly blog posts, and managing a heavy client load. Perhaps you’d also love to develop digital products or write a book. But it’s difficult to find the time when you juggle

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social women standing in line for a sale

Are you working your butt off to run your business?

But feeling you’re not making enough progress?

You’re building a social following, slaving over weekly blog posts, and managing a heavy client load. Perhaps you’d also love to develop digital products or write a book. But it’s difficult to find the time when you juggle so many demands, right?

Building a thriving online business may often feel like an insurmountable task.

But when you learn the right way to apply the addictive power of email, you’ll possess a dynamite business tool.

A laser-sharp focus on growing and engaging your email list will help you turn casual blog readers into repeat visitors. Sound good?

Here are four steps to make email an integral part of your online business.

Step 1: Hook readers with your voice

You know the concept of a “bribe,” don’t you?

A “bribe” is an incentive for subscribers to join your list.

A report or ebook is the most commonly used incentive, but how many free ebooks have you downloaded that you still haven’t read?

Ebooks are now so common that their value has rapidly diminished. Have you seen how many Kindle books can be bought for the price of a Starbucks coffee?

What’s more, an ebook isn’t addictive. An ebook won’t build long-term connections with readers because it doesn’t invite them to come back. One ebook rarely gets readers hooked on your voice.

So, how do you hook readers instead?

Your first option is to build a content library. Once you have a content library, you can give readers the option of registering to join your library, rather than subscribing to your newsletter.

To create your library, consider sprucing up a series of blog posts and turning them into ebooks or an exclusive series of video tutorials. When you use the Rainmaker Platform to set up your library, the registration process for visitors is simple.

To see how this works, you can register for Copyblogger’s free ebook library, which includes ebooks on copywriting, content marketing, landing pages, and more.

Your second option for an addictive bribe is a short e-course. In its simplest form, an e-course drip-feeds tips by email to your subscribers.

Rather than “hearing” your voice only once a week when you send your blog update, your e-course allows you to email new subscribers frequently, so you can turn cold connections into warm friends.

Creating an e-course is not as difficult as you might think:

  • Brainstorm at least 30 simple tips around a problem your readers struggle with
  • Pick your favorite 10 to 20 tips — the best tips are easy to implement and solve common problems
  • Write a short email for each tip
  • Consider increasing the appeal of your e-course by including one or two free downloadable guides (you can re-use an old ebook!)
  • Create an enticing name for your e-course

Don’t be afraid to schedule your emails frequently. When readers join your course, they’re eager to learn from you. New voices are exciting, so this is your chance to get readers hooked.

For example, if you join my 16-part snackable writing course for busy people, you’ll receive ultra-short emails with writing tips you can implement instantly.

What value can you give your readers so they look forward to your emails? And so they actually email you if they happen to miss one or two installments?

Step 2: Invite blog readers to become fans

How do you get more casual blog readers to join your list so you gain opportunities to pitch and sell your services or products?

Before polishing your sign-up forms, consider these two traffic sources:

  • Traffic you control: This is traffic from, for instance, a link in an author bio of a guest post or from a SlideShare presentation you’ve made; you can control where web page readers land. Rather than sending them to your home page, create a dedicated landing page to increase your conversion rates.
  • Other traffic: You can’t always control where readers land — search or social traffic can arrive anywhere on your site. You can add prominent sign-up forms on your home and about pages, at the top of your blog posts and archive pages, and in your sidebar. For example, Buffer recently doubled their email signups by offering more options to join their newsletter (without popups!).

A common mistake when enticing readers to join your list is to promote it solely with features like a free ebook or e-course. Readers are more interested in the benefits of your information.

The titles of Copyblogger’s ebooks, for instance, highlight benefits like:

  • Landing Pages: How to Turn Traffic into Money
  • Content Marketing: How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business
  • How to Create Content That Converts

And the landing page for my 16-part snackable e-course promises you these benefits:

  • Learn simple persuasion tricks — such as the power of the subtle nod
  • Discover how to cure sentence bloat and avoid irritating your readers
  • Write more seductive content and win more business

Readers will join your list and become fans when you demonstrate how you will make their lives better.

Step 3: Review your traffic sources

Website traffic doesn’t fuel your business. Most traffic bounces off your website without ever returning.

As you review your list-building activities, you must understand which traffic turns into email subscribers.

If you haven’t done so already, set up a goal in Google Analytics so you can see which traffic converts best. This is how:

  • Go to “Admin” at the top of your Google Analytics dashboard
  • Under the “View” section, select “Goals”
  • Click the red “New goal” button
  • Select “Custom,” click “Next step,” give your goal a name (e.g., “course” or “library registration”), and select your type of goal — in most cases this is a destination
  • Click “Next step” and enter the URL people reach once they’ve completed the conversion — it’s usually a “thank you” page that appears after they’ve signed up for your newsletter or free trial, or after they’ve purchased your product
  • Click “Create goal”

Once you’ve set up your goals, you can start evaluating your traffic sources:

  • Which guest posts generate the most subscribers?
  • How do conversions from social media traffic compare to conversions from guest posts?
  • Which social media activity generates the most subscribers?
  • How well does search engine traffic convert?
  • Which landing page converts the best?

To strengthen your ability to grow your list, you must understand which of your activities work and which don’t.

Step 4: Hook readers on you

Inboxes are bursting under the weight of too many emails. Nobody wants yet another email, another newsletter, another update.

How can you stand out so readers look forward to your emails? Follow these essential email writing tips:

  • Write in a conversational tone, so readers feel your email is personal
  • Consider adding tidbits about yourself, so readers get to know you
  • Be concise; poorly edited emails waste readers’ time
  • Always add value and be helpful

Stop thinking about readers as subscribers, and write as if you’re emailing one friend.

Here’s what to do next

Ready to seriously grow your email list?

Block 45 minutes in your writing journal this week to:

  1. Spend 15 minutes generating ideas to grow your list
  2. Spend 15 minutes brainstorming ideas to engage your list
  3. Make two or three top ideas your first priorities
  4. Block time on your calendar to execute these tasks

A responsive audience is the foundation of a successful business, so the best way to build this asset is to grow your email list and engage your subscribers.

The truth about building a thriving business

The size of your list is not as important as the enthusiasm and engagement levels of your readers.

Do they know you? Do they trust you? Do they look out for your next email? Do they miss you when you’re on vacation?

When you treat your email subscribers like good friends, you can build your own tribe and community with those special relationships.

How do you develop relationships with your readers?

What’s the most addictive offer you present to your audience?

Let me know over on Google+

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Paul Townsend.

About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and marketer. She's on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs sparkle. Get her free 16-Part Snackable Writing Course for Busy People and learn how to enchant your readers and win more business.

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The Ultimate Copy Checklist: 51 Questions to Optimize Every Element of Your Online Copy [Free Poster] http://www.copyblogger.com/optimize-online-copy/ http://www.copyblogger.com/optimize-online-copy/#respond Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43477 So, you’ve written a piece of sales copy. Congratulations — that’s no small feat. But, before you celebrate, there’s just one issue: Now what? After all, as I’m sure you’ve heard before: “There is no such thing as great writing. Only great rewriting.” And why is “great rewriting” important? One reason: the bottom line. Will

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shavings from sharpened pencil on top of pencil

So, you’ve written a piece of sales copy. Congratulations — that’s no small feat.

But, before you celebrate, there’s just one issue: Now what?

After all, as I’m sure you’ve heard before: “There is no such thing as great writing. Only great rewriting.”

And why is “great rewriting” important? One reason: the bottom line.

  • Will it compel?
  • Will it convert?
  • Will it close?

You need to learn how to optimize first draft copy to support your bottom line.

A step-by-step optimization guide

Optimizing your own copy is a bit like scaling Mount Everest without a Sherpa. It doesn’t matter if you’re in shape; if you go it alone, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up a crumpled human popsicle.

Well, help is here.

To save you (and your copy!) from a shallow, frosty grave, I’ve put together 51 bottom-line questions that will help optimize every element of your online copy.

This step-by-step guide breaks down the entire optimization process into the 10 most valuable elements of any page.

  1. Headline
  2. Subheadline
  3. Value proposition
  4. Introduction
  5. Subheads
  6. Conclusion
  7. Call to action
  8. Voice
  9. Arguments
  10. Weapons of persuasion

The list is big, so we’ve turned it into a poster you can download. Print it out, tape it to your wall, and, above all, be ruthless with your optimization.

Let’s get started.

Headline

The headline is the most important element of any page. It isn’t just your audience’s first impression; sometimes it is their only impression.

For help creating headlines, check out Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines ebook or Jon Morrow’s 52 Headline Hacks.

Once you write your headline, ask:

  1. Audience: Does your headline directly identify and address your audience?
  2. Emotion: Is one dominant emotion (i.e., “mass desire”) powerfully verbalized?
  3. Interest: Does the headline startle your audience or “enter a conversation already taking place in their minds?”
  4. Clarity: Does your headline contain any technical or unnecessary words?
  5. Intention: Does your headline show the audience exactly what they should do or expect on your page?
  6. Momentum: Does your headline propel the reader into the introduction and first subheadline for an answer, solution, or explanation?

Subheadline

After the headline, your subheadline — also called a “subhead” or “mini-headline” — is the second most read element of any page.

Not every site uses an initial subheadline. Copyblogger, for example, does not. On my site (see here), I do.

So, if you choose to use a subheadline, what questions do you need to ask to optimize it?

  1. Connection: Does your subheadline retain and support the same thought, concept, or dominant emotion in your headline?
  2. Qualify: Does your subheadline narrow your audience by adding qualifications?
  3. Intensify: Does your subheadline amplify the one dominant emotion from your headline?
  4. Push: Does your subheadline push the reader into the first sentence to find an answer, solution, or explanation?

Value proposition

A value proposition is a one-line answer to the question: “Why should your ideal prospect buy from you instead of your competition?”

Your “value proposition” is not your motto or tagline. It’s not clever, and it’s definitely not vague.

For help crafting a compelling value proposition, check out Joanne Wiebe’s “The Great Value Proposition Test” or MarketingExperiments “Value Proposition Worksheet.”

Once you write the value proposition for your copy, ask:

  1. Unmistakable: Is your value proposition visually prominent and unmistakable?
  2. Desirable: Does one key benefit, or “mass desire,” powerfully verbalize your value proposition?
  3. Unique: Does your value proposition clearly differentiate you from the competition in at least one specific way?
  4. Target market: Does your value proposition directly address one target market?
  5. Simple: Is your value proposition clear, concise, and memorable?
  6. Quantified: Is your value proposition supported by at least one piece of concrete data?

Introduction

How do you write a killer introduction?

To start, check out Brian Clark’s “5 Simple Ways to Open Your Blog Post with a Bang,” or listen to the “How to Nail Your Opening” episode of The Lede podcast.

After you think you have indeed nailed your opening, double-check:

  1. Build: Does your first sentence continue the momentum — the same emotional or mental energy — from your headline and subheadline?
  2. Flow: Is your first sentence smooth, simple, and incredibly easy to read?
  3. Body: Do your first, second, and third paragraphs intensify and expand the same dominant emotion contained in the headline and subheadline?

Subheads

Subheads are small headlines scattered throughout your page that introduce new sections:

  1. Scannable: Are subheads evenly spaced (roughly every three to six paragraphs) to break up the copy and reinforce the page’s one dominant emotion?
  2. Benefits: Do your subheads highlight the “major” and “minor” benefits of your article, product, or service?

Conclusion

Just like the ending of a story, the ending of your page will make or break your copy.

Check out Brian Clark’s “How to Go Out In Style With Your Ending” or the “How to Close With Style” episode of The Lede podcast for inspiration.

Optimize your conclusion by asking the following questions:

  1. Climax: Does the last sentence end on a climax consistent with the page’s one dominant emotion?
  2. Action: Does the conclusion drive the reader to action (see “Call to action” below)?
  3. Realistic: Does the conclusion “shrink the change” by offering a path to action that is “concrete and doable” today?

Call to action (CTA, the “offer”)

Now we’re getting into the most “bottom” of bottom lines: What action do you want your reader to take?

  1. Singular: Does the page have one (and only one) clear and direct CTA?
  2. Visible: Is the CTA easy to locate and visible at multiple points on the page (i.e., always just a “scroll” away)?
  3. Promise: Does the CTA promise value “in advance?”
  4. Button: Is the button copy seductive and actionable?
  5. Next: Does the CTA tell the visitor exactly what’s next (i.e., what he can expect after he clicks)?
  6. Forms: Are the form fields brief, limited in number, and foolproof (i.e., have you tested them to make sure they actually work)?
  7. Trust: Does the CTA have a trust certificate to relieve the fear of converting?
  8. Trial: Does the CTA have a trial period to relieve the fear of committing?
  9. Guarantee: Does the CTA have a guarantee to relieve the fear of buying?

Voice

Voice creates the emotional atmosphere of your page — its “feel.”

As Logan Zanelli points out, the best way to develop an authentic voice is to simply “write the way you talk.”

To give that truism a bit more bite, ask:

  1. Conversational: Does your copy sound like one real human communicating with another real human?
  2. You: Does your copy speak directly to your audience by using the word “you?”
  3. Smooth: Does any phrase “sound weird” when you read it out loud?
  4. Straightforward words: Is the page free of jargon, insider language, and clichés?

Arguments

There are two basic types of arguments every page should contain — logical arguments aimed at the mind and emotional arguments aimed at the heart:

  1. Data: Does your copy provide concrete and credible data — i.e., numbers — to back up its claims?
  2. Application: Is data explained, interpreted, and applied in terms related directly to the page’s key benefits?
  3. Actors: Is your copy composed of “actors” — real flesh-and-blood characters?
  4. Vivid verbs: Do your “actors” act with vivid verbs rather than bland versions of “to be?”
  5. Story: Does the page tell a story — a single, overarching narrative?
  6. Hero: Is your audience the hero of the story?
  7. Hell: Does your story paint a vivid portrait of the “hell” (i.e., the pain or fear) your message, product, or service diminishes?
  8. Heaven: Does your story paint a vivid portrait of the “heaven” (i.e., the pleasure) your message, product, or service delivers?
  9. Senses: Does your copy use sensory language — seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling?

The “weapons of persuasion”

This last section comes directly from the master of persuasion himself, Robert Cialdini. In Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini identifies five “weapons” copywriters should have in their arsenals.

These questions aren’t necessarily about any one element. They relate to the overall impression of your page.

  1. Reciprocity: What free value does your page provide for its audience?
  2. Consistency: Does your page invite small, initial commitments that align with the big, ultimate “ask?”
  3. Social proof: Does your page present testimonials from a variety of sources its audience naturally trusts — namely, industry experts and other people just like them?
  4. Likability: Does your page establish “similarity” with its audience by using relatable language and humor?
  5. Scarcity: If appropriate, does your page “play hard to get” by making the reader want what he can’t have?

The one thing your copy must do

Answering each question above helps ensure that your copy holds your audience’s attention.

Why does your copy need to compel your audience to keep reading?

Because if it ain’t read, it’s dead. Period.

Remember to download the poster of the checklist and use it to help make every word of your copy more intriguing than the last.

checklist

How do you optimize your copy?

Once you’ve written a solid first draft, what techniques do you use to improve your copy?

I’d love to hear about your own optimization techniques over on Google+

Editor’s note: Many thanks to Copyblogger’s Lead Designer Rafal Tomal for designing this poster!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via ozlady.

About the Author: By night, Aaron Orendorff is busy “saving the world from bad content” over at iconiContent. By day, he teaches communication and philosophy at the local college. Follow him on Twitter.

The post The Ultimate Copy Checklist: 51 Questions to Optimize Every Element of Your Online Copy [Free Poster] appeared first on Copyblogger.

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http://www.copyblogger.com/optimize-online-copy/feed/ 0 The Ultimate Copy Checklist: Ask Yourself These 51 Questions to Optimize Every Element of Your Online Copy checklist
How Empathy Maps Help You Speak Directly to the Hearts of Your Audience http://www.copyblogger.com/lede-empathy/ http://www.copyblogger.com/lede-empathy/#respond Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43842 As we enter the conclusion of our three-part series on content strategy, you should already know what your audience believes about the world and have a narrative mapped out that will allow you to confirm your audience’s worldviews. Now it’s time to explain the final piece of the content strategy puzzle. This piece creates an

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The Lede Podcast logo

As we enter the conclusion of our three-part series on content strategy, you should already know what your audience believes about the world and have a narrative mapped out that will allow you to confirm your audience’s worldviews.

Now it’s time to explain the final piece of the content strategy puzzle. This piece creates an emotional connection between you and your audience. It’s a component that makes your audience think: “Hey, they get me. They understand me. They know what I’m thinking and feeling.”

I’m talking, of course, about empathy — the ability to identify with and vicariously experience the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of someone else.

But how do you incorporate that ability into your marketing? And why does this process help create a memorable brand?

A proven framework called an empathy map helps answer these questions about creating an emotional connection with your audience.

And when you do create that connection, your customers view your business in a new, positive way.

In this episode, Demian Farnworth and I discuss:

  • Why a minimum viable audience can make or break your business
  • Empathy’s role in marketing
  • Real-world examples of empathy in marketing
  • How emotions create positive brand associations
  • Why emotional ads outperform informational ads
  • How to use an empathy map
  • The long-term, continual process of understanding your customer

Listen to The Lede …

To listen, you can either hit the flash audio player below, or browse the links to find your preferred format …

React to The Lede …

As always, we appreciate your reaction to episodes of The Lede and feedback about how we’re doing.

Send us a tweet with your thoughts anytime: @JerodMorris and @DemianFarnworth.

And please tell us the most important point you took away from this latest episode. Do so by joining the discussion over at Google+.

The Show Notes

The Transcript

Click here to read the transcript

Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

The Lede Podcast: How to Use Empathy Maps to Speak Directly to the Hearts of Your Audience

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m your host, Jerod Morris.

Today’s episode is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, which is everything you love about WordPress and Copyblogger, all rolled into one complete website solution for content marketers and Internet entrepreneurs.

Simple, powerful, affordable. Go to newrainmaker.com today to get started with your free 14-day trial.

Over the last two episodes of The Lede, Demian Farnworth and I have been discussing content strategy.

First, we discussed a cornerstone of content strategy that too many people overlook: The worldviews of your audience. Then, in our last episode, we talked about storyboarding and how it helps you ignite a feeling in your audience.

As we enter the conclusion of our three-part series on content strategy, you should know what your audience believes about the world and have a narrative mapped out that will allow you to confirm your audience’s worldviews.

Now you just need the final piece that connects everything. It’s the piece that creates an emotional connection between you and your audience — a component that makes your audience think: “Hey, they get me. They understand me. They know what I’m thinking and feeling.”

That final piece is empathy, the ability to identify with and vicariously experience the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of someone else.

And while it may seem that some people are naturally more empathetic than others, and in fact this is probably true, every person, and more specifically for our purposes, every content creator or business looking to empathize with an audience can be empathetic.

It just takes a little effort, a little research, and a proven framework for empathy development. That framework is called an empathy map, and it is the subject of this episode of The Lede.

Demian, we have spent a spent a good deal of time during this content strategy series stressing the importance of knowing your audience.

Before we dive headfirst into empathy, please provide, if you would, a quick recap of why having a deep knowledge and understanding of your audience is so crucial for anyone whose goal is to turn an audience into actual customers?

Why a minimum viable audience can make or break your business

Demian Farnworth: Where should product development start? The common mistake people make is that they create a product, and then they look for an audience to sell it to. The only problem is they may find that people don’t actually want that product.

At Copyblogger, we’ve been teaching Brian’s business philosophy: always begin by building the audience first. He coined the concept of the minimum viable audience.

You want to attract an audience with meaningful, creative content, and once you understand their worldviews and get involved with them, you have a pool of people and resources that you can eventually pull from.

You can ask them questions like, “What problems are you facing? What can I do to help you succeed in your career, in your life, in the sports that you play?”

Then build the product around their wants, desires, and needs, so you actually solve a meaningful problem. That was the concept around Teaching Sells. Brian and Tony Clark asked their huge audience, “If we built this, would you buy it?”

The audience said “yes,” and they had loads of orders for a product they had not even built. All they had to do was build the product, and it was ready made. There was always cash there.

You also avoid deadweight loss. It’s concept economists talk about — during Christmas you always get that gift that makes you think, “Yeah, I really didn’t want that.”

It’s the same thing with a product people don’t want — it’s a deadweight loss. It’s going to cost you money. It’s ultimately going to sink you unless you have the resources and the money like a big brand, say Procter & Gamble or Apple, to pour into the branding and the building of that desire.

That’s why you have to build that audience first, and understand your audience, before you actually build a product.

Empathy’s role in marketing

Jerod: Let’s talk about how empathy fits into that. How do you define empathy, and why does it matter in the context of marketing?

Demian: Empathy consists of two parts. First, there’s an intellectual identification with the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of someone else.

And then there’s what we’re interested in: the vicarious experience of those feelings, thoughts, or attitudes.

Here’s an example. A nurse can relate to a suffering patient although she might not know what it feels like to have cancer. She might have even lost her parents to cancer. She’s able to share the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of a particular cancer patient.

So in that way, she wants to help him. She’s driven to want to help him. The reason why we use empathy and talk about empathy in the business world is so you understand — you show that you care about your customers. You show that you care about your client.

It relates to that classic Roosevelt quote:

Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

You enter the conversation that’s already going on in your customer’s heart. And I use the word “heart” because that’s where it begins.

It’s that emotional tie-in that you want with people, and people make buying decisions based upon emotions — no matter how logical, how analytical, how smart they are. They use the logic and their rationale to justify those decisions, but they always start with emotions.

Whether it’s pride, a desire to belong, a desire to be loved, a desire for fame or for wealth, etc. Those are all emotions, and they drive buying decisions.

We have to be able to relate to people and understand their desires or beliefs. Our job, as we’ve said in the past, is not to create or change that belief, it’s simply to confirm and validate that belief through the products and content we create.

Real-world examples of empathy in marketing

Jerod: We’re going to talk about strategies for getting to that point of understanding, but first let’s provide a few examples of empathy in action — especially in a marketing context. I know you’ve got a couple of examples, and I have one too.

Demian: Yeah.

Jerod: All right. Let’s start with yours.

Demian: The “Thank you, Mom” Procter & Gamble Olympics commercial displays athletes who — if it wasn’t for their moms who did their laundry, who got them up on time, who made their breakfast — would have had a harder time achieving their goals.

If it wasn’t for Moms who helped them, raising them from someone who was helpless to someone who now succeeds on the global athletic scale, then these people wouldn’t be there. It’s a tribute to that, and that’s empathy.

Through the commercial, without using words, Procter & Gamble subtly says, “We understand you, Mom, so we make products for you to help you do your job. We understand why you do your job.”

It’s not like P&G creates products so Moms can do the laundry faster or more efficiently. It’s deeper than that. P&G wants to communicate that they know Moms want to take care of their children — that they “get” the pride that goes into raising a child.

The other side of that coin is the Dear Sophie commercial by Google, which is about a dad who records his daughter from her birth as she’s raised, through Google products, whether it’s email or a Google Plus hangout.

Again, it’s tying in: “We understand you, Dad. You’re proud of your children. You want to collect these memories.”

The emotional connections show empathy, and neither of these are making any direct sales. But their audiences get it, and they think, “Yes, I want to be a part of that,” or “maybe that will help me in some sense.” It makes that connection.

Jerod: Yes, it’s indirect selling. When I started prepping for this I thought of the Budweiser Superbowl commercial from 2013 that a lot of people probably remember.

It’s with the Clydesdale trainer who raised a Clydesdale from when it was just a young foal to when it’s ready to go out and hit the big time.

They show these shots of him peering in at the young foal through a window, almost like he’s at a hospital looking at a newborn, and feeding it with a baby bottle. It taps into emotions that parents have probably experienced.

But in the commercial, you’re looking at a horse trainer, and then of course at the end, he goes and sees the Clydesdale when it comes into town, and the Clydesdale breaks away from the pack and runs up to him.

It’s this really emotional scene. I literally get teary-eyed when I watch this commercial. And Stevie Nicks singing “Landslide” certainly helps set the mood.

How emotions create positive brand associations

Demian: And then plus, you want to drink a Budweiser, right?

Jerod: Yeah, and that’s why I think it’s a brilliant emotion to tap into — this idea of longing, missing, and wanting that special reunion.

Because I think a lot of times beer is involved with memories we have of friends and family, right? It’s that indirect association. They tap into that emotion, and it supports that positive brand association.

Demian: Exactly, and that’s what many companies, including Budweiser do. They make the point “when you buy our products, you are part of this bigger thing.”

People want to associate with this appeal of the Clydesdales. The Clydesdales have been with Budweiser forever, and so there is that history there, that tradition.

Here’s a little cultural fact for you: Budweiser is here in St. Louis, and before they were bought out by InBev, August Busch, the former CEO of Anheuser-Busch, came up with the “whassup.”

Jerod: Whasuuuuuup! (Laughs)

Demian: Whasuuuuuup! There you go! He came up with that, and that’s the goofiest thing you’ve ever heard, but it started something, right? It went viral, and people associate it with Budweiser.

Jerod: (Chuckles) Yeah.

Demian: So again, it’s this idea of keying into and understanding who your audience is. The same guy also came up with the bullfrog one.

Jerod: Bud … weis … er.

Demian: That’s right! You’re great today, man.

Jerod: Those commercials are classic. Budweiser has a lot of them.

Demian: They create empathy and people who buy the beer associate those concepts with Budweiser.

But now Budweiser has distanced themselves away from that and moved more toward the traditional family and responsibility. The Clydesdale commercial reminds me of the Ram truck one about why God made a farmer, which has almost the same type of appeal.

Why emotional ads outperform informational ads

Jerod: It’s funny because we’re talking about these Budweiser commercials, but here’s the thing. I don’t drink Budweiser. All of this sounds good theoretically, but does this type of advertising actually work?

Demian: That’s a great question. According to an extensive study by the World Advertising Research Center back in 2007, emotional ads outsell informational ones by about 19 percent.

Informational commercials just inform you about the product. Emotional ads, as we demonstrated beforehand, inform you, but they inform you in a way that touches your heart rather than your head.

The informational ones just hit your head.

How to use an empathy map

Jerod: Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of empathizing in a meaningful way. There are proven processes that content marketers and audience builders can use to understand their audiences and empathize with them.

Demian: There are a number of ways. We’ve talked about worldviews and personal profiles, and another way is using an empathy map, a concept created by Dave Gray.

The empathy map emerged out of web design user experience, in attempt to empathize with users. It’s a simple process.

You take a large poster board or whiteboard and draw four quadrants, which you label “thinking, seeing, doing, and feeling.” Some people take it a little bit further by adding two other boxes labeled “pains” and “gains.”

Then you fill in each section with sticky notes. To get started, you sit down with your team and ask questions like:

  • How do our consumers think about our product?
  • When they use our product, what do they think?
  • When they see our ads, what do they think?
  • What do they say or feel when using our product?
  • What are the pain points when using our product?

You can inform this empathy map too, if you have already determined worldviews and personas. You look through each core quadrant and think:

  • How do my prospects think about their lives, their careers, this product?
  • How do they see their lives going?
  • What do they want to do with their lives?
  • How do they feel about success and failure?

Look for language they use that you can use in your own advertising to help resonate with them, to help empathize with them.

The nice thing about the empathy map, too, is that you can adapt this from a large scale, where you figure out how to empathize with your customers at a global level, to just writing headlines or articles.

When you want to write about a particular topic, you can just draw a sweet, little, simple empathy map on a blank sheet of paper and think:

  • How do my ideal readers think about this topic?
  • How do they see themselves within this topic?
  • How do they feel?
  • What do they want to do with this sort of topic?

As a writer, I’ve worn out plenty of tools to create headlines and this idea of the ideal customer. But in the end, we never stop learning about a reader, and we never stop learning about our customers.

You always want to understand who your prospect is inside and out.

Jerod: We’ve got a downloadable PDF of this empathy map that you’re talking about in the Show Notes that people can download and use.

Here’s a final question: If you’re struggling to understand what your audience might be thinking or feeling, what do you do to bridge that gap, to get that knowledge that you need to fill out the empathy map?

Demian: I would just make a couple of phone calls, or track down people who are your ideal readers or clients. Talk to them, and ask these questions. You don’t need a ton of people, maybe 10 to 15, and you’ll get a lot of information.

Take somebody out to lunch who’s your ideal reader or prospect, or take a couple of them out to lunch, or have a conference call with them.

The nice thing is, people like to give their opinions. So you call and say “Hey, I need to pick your brain, can you help me out?” And people want to oblige you and it makes them feel flattered. It’s a great thing to do.

Trust me, if the idea of doing that makes you nervous, you’ll enjoy it more than you probably think. Once you do one, you’ll want to do more. The only problem will be stopping once you have enough information.

Always look for ways to understand your customer

Jerod: We’ve now come to the end of our three-part series on content strategy. We talked about worldviews, story boarding, and empathy maps — all methods we can use to better understand our customers.

Through these strategies, we aim to create feelings and emotions that help us create a response from them.

Any final thoughts on content strategy before we wrap this up, Demian?

Demian: Content strategy is a long-term, continual process for marketers and businesses who always need to create more content. A common issue is that they don’t have the resources to create more content, and they usually feel like that content is not up to par.

A content strategy and looking for ways to understand your customer will help you satisfy the needs of your readers and your prospects. So never give up.

Jerod: Feel free to tweet us ideas for our next series: @JerodMorris, @DemianFarnworth.

Let us know what topics you’d like to hear us cover on The Lede because, obviously, we want to cover topics you all want to hear about.

But otherwise, Demian, this has been fun and we will chat again soon.

Demian: Here’s an idea for our next podcast: You can just make animal noises the whole time.

Jerod: (Pause) Whasuuuuuup! (Laughs)

Demian: For a moment there you didn’t answer, and I thought, “He doesn’t know what I’m talking about.”

Jerod: No, I was waiting for an opening to go full-bore with a “whasuuuuuup!

Demian: Nice. Nice.

Jerod: But yes, okay. Next on The Lede, animal sounds for 15 minutes. Done.

Demian: That’s right.

Jerod: We’ve got it.

Demian: Take care, Jerod.

Jerod: All right, I’ll talk to you soon.

Demian: Bye, everybody.

Jerod: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Lede. If you enjoyed this episode and feel like you learned a thing or two, please consider leaving the show a rating or review on iTunes. We would appreciate it.

Don’t forget to head over to newrainmaker.com and get started with your 14-day free trial of the Rainmaker Platform. Over at newrainmaker.com, you can take a tour of the platform and read what other folks are saying about it to see if it’s the right fit for you and your content.

If you missed the previous two episodes in this series, remember you can always get caught up on iTunes or Stitcher, or you can listen right on copyblogger.com. Just go to copyblogger.com/category/radio to find every episode, plus the Show Notes and transcripts.

We’ll be back soon with another new episode. Talk to you soon, everybody.

# # #

*Credits: Both the intro (“Bridge to Nowhere” by Sam Roberts Band) and outro songs (“Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart) are graciously provided by express written consent from the rights owners.

About the author

Jerod Morris


Jerod Morris is the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter or . Have you gotten your wristband yet?

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http://www.copyblogger.com/lede-empathy/feed/ 0 How to Use Empathy Maps to Speak Directly to the Hearts of Your Audience
Guest Posting Best Practices From Copyblogger’s Guest Post Gatekeeper http://www.copyblogger.com/guest-posting-best-practices/ http://www.copyblogger.com/guest-posting-best-practices/#respond Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43844 Many years ago, when I began developing my personal guest posting strategy, Copyblogger sat atop my “Where I Want to Guest Post” list. Five years later, I achieved my goal. So, how did I spend the time between making my list and May 23, 2013 when my first blog post appeared on Copyblogger? Rigorously practicing

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gate opening to a property

Many years ago, when I began developing my personal guest posting strategy, Copyblogger sat atop my “Where I Want to Guest Post” list.

Five years later, I achieved my goal.

So, how did I spend the time between making my list and May 23, 2013 when my first blog post appeared on Copyblogger?

Rigorously practicing my writing, of course.

Although I had high hopes of guest posting for Copyblogger during the early stages of my online copy editing business, it was my rejection from Copyblogger that shaped my subsequent guest posting success.

Ironically, it also led me to my current position: Copyblogger’s Manager of Editorial Standards, where one of my duties is, yep, managing our guest author program.

A lot can change in five years. :-)

Rejection is not failure

I had been reading Copyblogger daily for two years before I submitted an unsolicited guest post via email to Sonia Simone.

Since I didn’t have any connections who could make an introduction, I opted for writing a brief and informative email with the completed post attached in a Microsoft Word document, as well as an html version in a plain text file.

It was a long shot, but I thought my post was creative. And the html, which included hyperlinks to other Copyblogger posts, could be easily transferred to WordPress. It was publish-ready, just the way editors like posts.

After two weeks without receiving a response to my all-in-one introduction and pitch email, I used the site’s contact form to follow up.

I’m horribly embarrassed to share the correspondence below, but the rejection helped my writing career grow more than if the post had been accepted for publication.

support-email

The editorial team never contacted me.

I didn’t persist and email anyone at Copyblogger again, but I didn’t give up either.

Without losing confidence in my writing ability, I accepted that my post wasn’t a good fit for the blog. This is when my outlook shifted to viewing the experience as a learning opportunity.

I decided I wasn’t ready to write for Copyblogger. There was more work to be done before the stars would align.

During the Guest Posting Best Practices Authority webinar coming up this Wednesday, October 22, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, I’ll be talking with Sonia (yes, the same Sonia I submitted that rejected post to) about finding the right sites for your writing and communicating with editors.

Click here to register for this Authority master class

What is your motivation for guest posting?

Even when it was in vogue to guest post for SEO purposes, I wasn’t interested in using guest posting simply to accumulate links to my website, Revision Fairy.

My objective was to expand my writing portfolio.

In order to build my digital media platform, my writing needed a presence online other than my own site. And through this presence, I hoped to introduce potential clients to the copy editing and proofreading services I offered.

You know, what Brian Clark has been talking about on Copyblogger since 2006: content marketing.

So after the rejection from Copyblogger, my next task was to find a better fit for the content I had written. Who else could I contact? More importantly, what other audience would benefit from what I had to say?

The size of the audience didn’t matter to me. Actually, I wasn’t even thinking about the term “audience.” I was thinking about people — people who could use the content I wanted to produce.

When this single factor drives your guest posting outreach, you’ll always find the best place to publish your post.

The secret to guest posting success

To reinforce the point that my desire to guest post was not about getting links to Revision Fairy, I never even included links to my site within my posts.

Because my posts weren’t about me.

They were about understanding people’s needs and why they visited a certain site. My focus was on utilizing a guest post to help those people by putting the educational information they needed on a website they read.

How could I complement the information already on a site? What knowledge or experience did I have that would add a fresh perspective to subjects discussed on a blog?

In order for an article to be a good fit for a particular site, that site doesn’t necessarily need more of the same information that the site’s regular writers contribute. Instead, the site often needs or wants articles about related topics that demonstrate expertise. In other words: original, useful content expressed through a unique writing voice.

But not too unique. Guest posting success is about striking the right balance. Unique writing is only one part of the equation because websites have established standards. You become a guest in their editorial home, and you need to adapt your presentation accordingly to ensure your text and tone matches their typical publishing style.

After balance, your next key asset is flexibility. A flexible mindset allowed me to think of other interesting outlets for my writing. I became excited about giving those sites high-quality content even if they weren’t the first choice I had in mind.

My first choice was just a starting place.

Five critical components to practice

If you’ve been creating content for your own site for a while, you may write quickly and effortlessly. You may have mastered the techniques that allow you to publish on a regular schedule.

But when you publish on a site you don’t own, you’ve entered new territory. Clear and effective correspondence with a site’s editor is a prerequisite, and your guest post often needs to look quite different from the posts you normally publish.

Here are five factors to incorporate into your guest posting strategy:

  1. Think like an editor. When an editor decides to run a guest post, she’s vouching for that writer. You want your writing to overcome any objections she may have about accepting your content. And that has nothing to do with how nice you are to her in your email.
  2. Limit small talk. Let only the writing you craft display your worth. Professionalism and friendliness are important qualities when contacting editors, but they don’t make up for subpar content.
  3. Don’t mimic. Want to avoid submitting that subpar content I just mentioned? Practice creating new discussions about classic topics, instead of regurgitating traditional advice. It takes time and dedication to fine-tune both your writing and editing skills.
  4. Become a resource. If your guest post conveys information that could have been written by any content creator, the site you submit it to will not likely appreciate it as a special article. But when an editor can only get the content she needs from you, you become a treasured resource. You might even get asked to write again.
  5. Produce stand-alone articles. While hyperlinking to sources is useful, it’s often abused and the result is confusing, unfocused writing. Consider writing your guest post like a print magazine article. When a print article resonates with a reader, she’ll tear it out of the publication and pin it up on her refrigerator with a magnet. She doesn’t need to also attach 15 other articles to complete the text.

The entitlement pit of despair

Again, you can write for your own site all day, every day if you wish, but there’s no guarantee that one of your posts — even if you believe it’s the best content you’ve ever written — is going to be accepted for publication on someone else’s site. The content has to be a match.

When you think like an editor, as suggested in tip number one above, you broaden your perspective and begin to understand the experience of editing a multi-author blog.

If you don’t think like an editor, rejection may offend you and inspire a sense of entitlement.

When you don’t trust and respect an editor’s decision, and follow up with aggressive words — restating your case to someone who has already taken time to review your initial request — you damage your reputation.

There’s a reason why you’ve never heard someone say, “That person was such a jerk to me! I really want to do him a favor now!”

In some cases, editors may request a rewrite if your topic has potential, but let them make that decision.

If you become your own editor, you begin to naturally recognize on your own when a blog post is a good fit for a site and when it is not.

And when it’s not, it’s okay. The text may have great success as part of the content library on your own site.

Study; don’t follow

I like to take the “social” out of “social media.” This nonstandard attitude highlights an aspect of communication many people forget: listening.

How much do you actually listen in social situations and how often do you just wait to talk?

Although Twitter is my preferred social media platform, it’s a space where updates could be reduced to the phrase “I have an opinion about something!” People forget the value of listening.

On Twitter, a meaningless follow with the click of a button or witty @-replies can replace a genuine desire to learn through listening.

When you want to connect with an editor, research should be your first priority. During your exploration of a person or publication, you’ll likely discover a slew of social media profiles.

But don’t casually hit the Follow button on Twitter just yet. If you already follow hundreds or thousands of people, what do you hope to achieve with this addition? Will you actually pay attention to that editor’s updates? Do you think the “follow” will make him or her notice you?

Since I joined Twitter in 2007, I’ve only followed a select group of fewer than 50 people. The individuals on my current list are people who I want to learn from, and I am willing to dedicate time to listen to their writing.

For example, when I followed Brian Clark on Twitter years ago, I wanted to study the educational content he discussed, and I valued his opinion on topics that affected my online business.

Through this process of studying his timeline, I also gained insights about Brian’s taste in movies through a mix of Fight Club, The Big Lebowski, and Pulp Fiction references.

I collected information; I didn’t attempt to force a superficial friendship to serve my selfish ambitions.

So, unless it’s a “purposeful follow,” I wouldn’t suggest following me or any other editor.

I know I have severe opinions about how people use social media, and my view of the best way to use Twitter may be extreme, but I’m tryin’, Ringo …

Guest posting is a communication exercise

It’s a process and a practice. You must accept that you will make mistakes — sometimes you won’t get the results you want. But part of the process and the practice is recognizing those mistakes, regrouping, and pushing forward another way.

The communication exercise is less about what you want and more about finding an outlet that fits your current circumstances. There’s always a form of success waiting for you at your current level.

While you may want to guest post on your favorite website to benefit your business, the effectiveness of any post is always measured by the value it provides for others.

Pitch from this place of serving. When you do, you’ll recognize a variety of possible places to publish your writing.

And your accomplishment is not only publication. You will also gain communication experience and establish working relationships that can reap priceless rewards.

As one of my yoga instructors says, “The practice is the point.”


Practice leads to payoff …

Don’t miss my conversation with Sonia about Guest Posting Best Practices during this Wednesday’s Authority master class at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The webinar is free for Authority members. You just need to register here.

If you’re not a member, click here to try Authority risk-free.

You’ll get exclusive access to webinars just like this one nearly every week of the year, as well as networking opportunities, discounts, and education.

See you Wednesday, October 22 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Sarah Joy.

About the author

Stefanie Flaxman


Stefanie Flaxman is Manager of Editorial Standards for Copyblogger Media. Study her one-word updates on Twitter.

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Why Copyblogger Is Killing Its Facebook Page http://www.copyblogger.com/bye-facebook/ http://www.copyblogger.com/bye-facebook/#respond Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=44720 Have you ever stared at something, knowing you’re doing everything right, but it still won’t … freaking … work? That’s how Copyblogger has felt about its Facebook page for quite some time. As of today, the page has 38,000 “fans,” but Copyblogger’s presence on Facebook has not been beneficial for the brand or its audience.

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thumbs down

Have you ever stared at something, knowing you’re doing everything right, but it still won’t … freaking … work?

That’s how Copyblogger has felt about its Facebook page for quite some time.

As of today, the page has 38,000 “fans,” but Copyblogger’s presence on Facebook has not been beneficial for the brand or its audience.

Just over three months ago, Brian Clark reached out to me for some extra help on the page.

He thought that, given the success I have with my own Facebook page, several others I’ve managed for clients over the years, and the rapidly growing Your Boulder Facebook page I manage for him, maybe I’d be able to bring some life to Copyblogger’s Facebook presence.

Yep, I said. Let me at it.

Well, today I’m here to tell you that we’re deleting the account. This is the last day you’ll see the Copyblogger Facebook page.

If you’ve ever been frustrated with an aspect of your social brand presence, you’ll want to keep reading — because there are countless reasons why Copyblogger is killing its Facebook page.

Fan numbers mean jack

Here’s the first thing you need to know about social brand presences: Your fan and follower numbers mean absolutely jack. (Complete the phrase with the word of your choice after “jack,” if you feel so inclined.)

When I began managing the Copyblogger Facebook page, I ran into a few problems.

First, the page had an overwhelming number of junk fans. These are accounts with little to no personal status update activity that just go around “Liking” Facebook pages. They’re essentially accounts tied to “click farms” — ones paid pennies for every Facebook page they Like.

In other words, these fans are useless to your brand. Why? Because fake fans damage the visibility of your posts in Facebook’s algorithms.

I spent over a week cleaning up these junk accounts and also placed geographical limiters on the page to avoid accumulating any more of these fans. I’ve included a screenshot below so you can create settings for your own page as need be.

facebook1

Since Copyblogger never used paid ads to acquire fans, the entire team was shaking its collective head to figure out just where these useless fans had come from. What was in it for them to click on Copyblogger and give it a “Like?”

Remember those companies that promised to get Facebook fan page owners thousands of new fans seemingly overnight? The video from Veritasium explains why they’re the source of many brand page woes — even if you’re not buying fans or advertising for higher visibility.

It’s nine minutes of essential viewing to anyone in charge of a Facebook fan page. And that bit I shared about how fake Likes harm page engagement? You can find that at the 4:30 mark in the video.

But we cleaned up the page and blocked future fans from coming in from those sources.

Then it was time to take care of the legitimate fans we had earned …

Let’s talk about social media strategy

Before I came along, Facebook hadn’t been a brand darling for Copyblogger. And that’s perfectly okay. Not every social media outlet is an ideal fit for every brand.

Copyblogger has found value actively engaging with its community through Twitter and Google+. Since Facebook was never a preferred social media outlet, my job was to:

  • Evaluate the fans of the page.
  • Assess those fans’ content preferences and build a strategy based on those preferences.
  • Explore the possibility of creating a culture of regular, enthusiastic participation (which is what Copyblogger is all about — everywhere).

See, Copyblogger’s main focus is serving its audience. And if that audience wasn’t engaging on Facebook, then there was no real reason for us to pour energy into it. That’s energy we can put into other areas — ones you appreciate more.

Here are the types of posts we experimented with next:

  • Sharable Graphics: We used quotes from some of our most popular blog posts and turned those into graphics. We then linked to the blog. We found that people liked the photos but didn’t see any increase in clicks to the posts.
  • Forced Shares: My personal brand audience on Facebook loves Copyblogger. So I did some forced shares (read: I shared Copyblogger posts I love directly to my brand page). These were eaten alive, devoured, and reshared. While a smashing result, a brand’s Facebook strategy can’t thrive on someone like me sharing every blog post. The posts I didn’t force share just sat there with an average of six to seven “Likes.” Ew.
  • Questions: We asked the audience questions. Our most notable? Letting the Facebook audience ask the Copyblogger team anything they wanted. Out of 30,000 people, we received three questions. Pass.

These results prompted us to compare Copyblogger’s Facebook audience to other brands on Facebook. We began with ones we had first-hand knowledge of, like Your Boulder and my own brand page.

Comparing apples and Toyotas

As soon as we lined up the statistics side by side, it was clear that we were comparing apples and Toyotas. Oranges didn’t even show up on the radar.

Here are some comparable statistics:

facebook2

Whugga.

So, you may be saying, “But Erika, these are different types of pages. Different brands. Different audiences! How can data from one mean anything for any of the others?”

Simple. It shows Copyblogger that, despite good intentions, best practices, and having a slew of fans, Facebook might not be the best place to invest brand time and energy.

And don’t get me wrong — I love Facebook and it’s wildly successful for both Your Boulder (one of Brian’s projects) and my own brand. But I refuse to tell a brand that they should spend time on efforts that don’t pay them back.

Which is why Copyblogger is, today, saying farewell to Facebook.

How do brands figure out where to best spend their time?

Great question.

I’ve worked with diverse brands over the years ranging from a quirky, yet powerful cremation urn company (not a good fit for Facebook) to two internationally-known fly fishing manufacturers (awesome fits for Facebook).

The bottom line?

While sometimes, as William Faulkner said, you must kill all your darlings, a brand’s first responsibility is to know what’s useful to its audience.

We all might love Facebook for a wide variety of reasons, but that means jack if our audiences don’t interact with us on Facebook.

It’s not our job to tell our audience where we live. It’s to grow communities where they live.

copyblogger-facebook

The Copyblogger Google+ community’s statistics blow Facebook away by miles. Twitter is an amazing platform at both the brand level and for many of the individuals in the company (plus, you retweet posts like nobody’s business).

And we’re grateful.

Which is why Copyblogger is going to continue putting its energy into those outlets and the Copyblogger membership communities (free and paid).

We’re focused on your preferences

Leaving Facebook gives us more time and resources to focus on the places where you already love interacting with Copyblogger.

You’ve told us loud and clear that Facebook isn’t your favorite place to find us. We got the message.

So, here’s the part where I — as a trusted part of the Copyblogger family who is on call for various projects (and delightfully so) — get to say thank you.

Thank you for letting Copyblogger know where you live … and where you don’t.

Thank you for stopping by the page … and for sharing a Like every now and then.

And thank you most of all for helping one of my favorite brands in the universe grow. Because you’re vocal. You’re not afraid to say, “Hey, we live over here.” And you’re just as liberal with your praise as your critiques.

If half the brands I have the privilege of getting unstuck had an audience like Copyblogger, they’d be most grateful.

Which is why Copyblogger is ever so grateful for you.

So we’ll see you around the web — just not on Facebook. And we admit (begrudgingly) that we’ll miss those cute Facebook videos from BuzzFeed.

What are your thoughts on the decision?

Have you ever interacted with Copyblogger on Facebook? Will you miss the page?

We look forward to hearing your thoughts over on Google+ or at Twitter.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via MKHMarketing

About the Author: Erika Napoletano is bigger than a taco but smaller than an Airstream trailer. She works with restless brands and entrepreneurs to artfully create their NEXT. We all get stuck. Erika gets people UNstuck and on to the business of being awesome. She gave a widely popular TEDx talk about being unpopular. You can also see her work at American Express OPEN Forum, Entrepreneur Magazine, and her uncensored digital home, erikanapoletano.com.

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5 Ways to Prevent Business Burnout When Your Inspiration Starts to Flicker http://www.copyblogger.com/prevent-burnout/ http://www.copyblogger.com/prevent-burnout/#respond Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=41802 In a space as fast-paced as the Internet, you know there are many tasks you “should” perform to reach more people with your story. You’re well-aware of other businesses with meteoric rises to fame and companies thrown into the spotlight seemingly overnight. In order to seize opportunities, you know you have to stay ahead of

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fingers holding a lit match directly above a lit candle

In a space as fast-paced as the Internet, you know there are many tasks you “should” perform to reach more people with your story.

You’re well-aware of other businesses with meteoric rises to fame and companies thrown into the spotlight seemingly overnight.

In order to seize opportunities, you know you have to stay ahead of the game with relentless focus.

So when it comes to creating content, there is palpable pressure and stress to get everything right.

If you feel a little frazzled by all of your content marketing duties, here are five ways to keep your cool and stay on track to meet your goals.

1. Don’t fret missed opportunities

Watch any TV talent show and you will always find a young contestant who tells the audience that the show is his or her “last chance” to become a superstar.

Time travel with me to the early 1960s when a 20-something Neil Diamond began his career writing songs for $50 a week.

From then on, day in and day out, he was a songwriter. He wrote hits, he wrote flops, he wrote songs that never saw the light of day.

There was no “one” chance, no “one” hit that defined his career, no “one” opportunity that would make or break him. Just a persistence that built a songwriting empire.

When I first wrote guest posts for Copyblogger, my submissions were pretty sporadic.

Months down the line, I found out one of my good business friends had been submitting posts with more frequency, roughly every six weeks, until she’d been asked to write as a regular contributor.

Doh!

I berated myself for not doing the same and wished I could have gone back and submitted more content.

Sometimes this happens. You miss the deadline for submission, find out guest posts are no longer accepted, or discover the blog you wanted to write for isn’t interested in the subject of your post.

I’ve learned that nine times out of 10 you can make a comeback. If a door closes, there might be another way in, or you might find a new opportunity somewhere else.

The key takeaway is that there is no one opportunity.

So if you miss out on something, don’t worry — keep writing, taking action, and looking out for your next chance.

2. Step away from the Internet

There is a common perception that business success online happens quickly. Even though news can spread in seconds on the Internet, business growth is a different story.

If you’ve been writing content without seeing the results you want, you may have not covered the issues and problems that are important to your readers.

You may need to spend a little more time promoting your content to new audiences. You may even need to study techniques for making content sparkle, stand out, and attract customers.

But before you plow into another tutorial, consider bookmarking it and spend time away from the Internet. Find local brick-and-mortar businesses and talk to the owners.

Ask them how they got started, how quickly their businesses grew, and how they became profitable. Chances are it took a lot longer than how quickly businesses seem to grow in “Internet time.”

Studying businesses that have grown steadily over years can be a great source of comfort and inspiration.

3. Distinguish between a lesson and a distraction

If you write and publish content online, you likely also read a lot online. Which means you probably get a ton of great ideas from your favorite blogs before you even finish your morning coffee.

While it’s important to stay current with the latest news and developments, too many distractions can impede your productivity. How do you find a balance?

A simple tip I stole from Mark Forster’s Do It Tomorrow is keeping a pad of paper by me whenever I work. If I want to learn more about a topic or have an idea I want to explore further, I write it down, forget about it, and get back to work.

When I had an idea during my workday before I adopted this method, I’d hit the Internet to investigate and fall down a rabbit hole for a good 15–20 minutes.

With this technique, you then have to review your list at the end of the day, schedule tasks that are worth your time, and scrap trivial items that are not relevant to your goals.

I found that a lot of my ideas wouldn’t actually move me closer to what I wanted. They were distractions, not lessons.

In addition to a productivity boost, you also reduce the stress from having all of those ideas swirling around in your head.

4. Stay positive despite criticism

Criticism escalates pressure. Just as talent judges can reduce contestants to tears, a social media stinger or an angry email can have you doubting yourself in no time.

At some point, someone is going to hate what you write and tell you. If you’re not careful, negative feedback can seriously dent your confidence and affect your writing. From then on, you might be tempted to play it safe.

But if this does happen, you can use it to your advantage.

Criticism is an opportunity to learn. Even if your critic has a bad attitude, consider if there is any merit to his or her claim. If so, you get to make a change and improve your content. Writer: 1, critic: 0.

Also, if the criticism sounds over-the-top angry, in my experience, it’s rarely about you. In five years, I’ve only ever had a handful of complaints about my content, but some of them have been real humdingers.

One was a lengthy email tearing me to pieces, and I’d like to say I didn’t take it to heart … but I did, and I thought about it longer than I should have.

It took a lot of patience and understanding to respond politely, but the following day I received an apology and an explanation that she’d been having a bad day and I just happened to be there.

You often remember criticism and forget kind words, which is why you should keep every testimonial, thank you note, and compliment somewhere you can access quickly.

The kind-word reminders won’t stop you from taking criticism personally, but they should be soothing antidotes to help maintain your confidence.

5. Produce one piece of content at a time

It’s easy to feel intimidated by content powerhouses that seem to have a never-ending archive of valuable materials.

But those archives weren’t created overnight; they were built one piece of high-quality content at a time.

You may have heard of the “Seinfeld productivity technique.” Comedian Jerry Seinfeld had a simple system for producing comedic content: write every day. He would place a red mark on his calendar every day he wrote, building up a chain of these marks with the one goal of not breaking the chain.

You don’t have to write a post every day — just find a way to keep showing up. Remember, even if your blog post isn’t immediately a smash hit, content you produce never goes to waste.

Each time you think about your audience — while jotting down ideas and writing helpful information — you fine-tune your skills, improve productivity, and build your authority.

You can do it, and it doesn’t have to make you crazy.

Your burnout prevention routine

What habits help you prevent burnout?

Do you have ways to deal with dips in productivity?

How do you stay focused when you feel overrun by tasks?

Don’t be shy — share your tips in the discussion over on Google+

Editor’s note: If you enjoyed this post, we suggest you also read How to Fix the Content Marketing Problem by Brian Clark.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via C/N N/G.

About the Author: Amy Harrison is a copywriter and content trainer. She provides workshops for businesses that need to write captivating content. She’s the host of AmyTV, an irreverent look at writing better content. As a Copyblogger reader, click here to get your free sales page and content writing gifts.

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Want to Hook Your Readers? Apply These 10 Principles to Create Captivating News Stories http://www.copyblogger.com/captivating-news-stories/ http://www.copyblogger.com/captivating-news-stories/#respond Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43583 Writing well-structured articles that inform, educate, and entertain is not as easy as it looks. There are billions of webpages out there that contain poorly written, unimaginative, boring content. But those aren’t the descriptions you want associated with the media you produce, right? As all content marketers who want to grow their digital media platforms

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group of reporters with cameras and microphones eager to interview a source

Writing well-structured articles that inform, educate, and entertain is not as easy as it looks.

There are billions of webpages out there that contain poorly written, unimaginative, boring content.

But those aren’t the descriptions you want associated with the media you produce, right?

As all content marketers who want to grow their digital media platforms know, audiences reward websites that offer special resources, whether they’re up-to-date blogs, in-depth ebooks, smart podcasts, or evergreen whitepapers.

There is, of course, a definite knack to writing well, especially about a newsy topic. And the print industry is particularly adept at understanding how to tell this kind of story.

Journalists are trained to write content that will hook readers from the first sentence and make them want to read on.

These journalistic principles can be adopted by content marketers to help engage their audiences.

Below are ten rules for writing a captivating story on a hot topic, whether in print or online:

  1. Begin with the most important facts first. The intro to every article needs to grab the reader’s attention instantly and summarize the story with around 25 to 30 words.
  2. Make your text thorough but succinct. The first few sentences need to include “who, what, where, when, why, and how.” Remember most people will not read more than 250 words before they start to skim. You should try to give them all the information they need as quickly as possible.
  3. Use the active tense. It is faster and uses fewer words. For example, “Argentina was beaten by Germany in last night’s World Cup final …” takes longer to read than “Germany beat Argentina …”
  4. Communicate what’s new or different. Why would the reader care about what you have to say? Why is it relevant to them? Is there a trend happening in pop culture or the world that you can incorporate? What are people talking about right now, and how does this tie in with what you do?
  5. Focus on human interest. While people may be interested in the latest political polls, a new cancer treatment, a food or product recall, or what the weather will be like tomorrow, if you can put a human face to the story, you will create an emotional connection that will draw readers in and keep them engaged.
  6. Avoid jargon. Every industry has its own language, including journalism. For example, do you know what a byline is? (The name of the author included in a box at the beginning or end of a story.) How about a NIB? (News in brief: short snippets of news, which run down the outer edge of a newspaper page.) Or a splash? (The lead story.) Think about the language you use — keep it clear, concise, and to the point.
  7. Write acronyms out in full in the first reference. Consider the following acronyms: ROI, ASBO, PCT, SATs, and FTSE. What do they stand for? Answers, respectively: Return on investment, Anti-social behavior order, Primary care trust, Standard Assessment Tests, and Financial Times Stock Exchange.
  8. Use quotes. It’s powerful to convey important thoughts with someone else’s words. However, when you quote others, make sure to get it right. Double check the spelling of your interviewee’s name, and make sure you don’t take quotes out of context in a way that distorts the person’s intentions.
  9. Keep it real. Although journalists often joke about never letting the truth get in the way of a good story, you should never, ever write something you know is untrue. We all make mistakes, but a mistake is very different from a lie.
  10. Have someone else proofread your work. Very few people can spot their own mistakes, so it’s wise to have a colleague double-check your work before you publish. Remember that the human brain reads words rather than letters, so if the first and last letter of a word are correct, we will often read it correctly, even if the others are jumbled up.

So, how can digital marketers apply these rules when they write a piece of content or break an industry-related news story?

Let’s take the subject of self-publishing as an example.

Lead into the story with 25 intriguing words

Can you hear the death knell echo over the world of traditional publishing? It’s making way for a new dawn — the rise of self-publishing.

Answer pressing questions immediately

Online businesses, such as Amazon, Google, and Apple, have made a huge impact on the traditional publishing market by increasing competition among self-published authors.

These changes may have flung open the door of opportunity — allowing more writers to share their stories and giving readers access to more books than ever before — but they also signify that the traditional publishing industry is in turmoil.

The 2013 merger of two of the world’s largest publishing houses — Penguin and Random House — is additional proof.

In the past, the path to a book deal for an aspiring author entailed writing a book proposal and sample chapters. With or without the help of an agent, these materials would then be sent to a publisher.

If the publisher was not interested, the author would either get no response or, after a long wait, the transcript would be sent back unopened or accompanied by a letter of rejection.

Now, various tools for self-publishing have taken down these barriers for authors. Bestselling self-published authors have also helped remove the negative stigma associated with self-publishing.

Since writers have become millionaires by publishing their own ebooks, traditional publishers now fight for popular writers, instead of the other way around.

Quote a source to establish authority and support claims

One such author is Holly Ward, who publishes under the name H.M. Ward. She self-published her first book, Damaged, as an ebook on Amazon and became a number one bestseller in the new adult genre.

Speaking about her success and why she chose to go down the self-publishing route, Holly said:

“The literary market is in a state of flux, and [self-publishing] allows me to try new things that aren’t really conducive to publishing traditionally. It also gave me freedom from a system that’s in the ‘adapt or die’ phase of life. With ebooks on the rise and brick-and-mortar stores such as Borders closing, self-publishing is a good place for me to be.”

Add details

So what does the future hold for traditional publishing?

According to Nielsen BookScan, most publishers report an average of 2,100 submissions per year, totaling 132 million submissions, but they accept less than one percent of them for publication.

Out of the 1.2 million titles tracked by BookScan in 2006, almost 80 percent sold fewer than 100 copies, 16 percent sold fewer than 1,000 copies, and only two percent sold over 5,000 copies. Due to this trend, the mega-publishers now select fewer debut authors and less fiction.

Craft a satisfying conclusion

Substantial discounting by online stores and supermarket chains has had a significant affect on traditional publishing too, forcing many specialist book chains and independent booksellers to close up shop. Consequently, traditional publishers have less outlets to sell their wares.

It would, therefore, appear it won’t be long before the final nail will be firmly hammered into the traditional-publishing coffin — making self-publishing the future for aspiring writers.

Put on your press hat

The print industry may be dying, but journalism certainly is not.

Journalistic principles can be applied to digital marketing to help you stand out as an authority.

I truly believe the art of storytelling is as relevant today as it has ever been; the platforms may have changed, but the delivery is the same.

What tactics do you follow to create compelling stories with your content?

Let’s continue to sharpen our journalistic skills by discussing additional tips over on Google+

Editor’s note: To see additional examples of journalistic skills applied to content marketing, read Demian Farnworth’s series on native advertising, starting with this post: 5 Ways to Rankle an Old School Journalist.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Philippe Moreau Chevrolet.

About the Author: Julia Ogden is Head of Content at Zazzle Media, a data-informed, content-led digital marketing agency, based in the UK. A former newspaper journalist, with more than 20 years experience in the regional press, Julia understands the value of creating quality content to help build a business’s online presence and ultimately increase revenue.

The post Want to Hook Your Readers? Apply These 10 Principles to Create Captivating News Stories appeared first on Copyblogger.

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