Copyblogger http://www.copyblogger.com Content marketing tools and training. Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:03:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Here’s How Shane Snow (Founder of Contently) Writes http://www.copyblogger.com/writer-files-shane-snow/ http://www.copyblogger.com/writer-files-shane-snow/#respond Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43371 If you are going to run a company around a slogan like “Tell Great Stories,” or rally your troops by adopting the Native American proverb “Those who tell the stories rule the world,” then it pays to build an environment that fosters great writing. Large photographs of your favorite writers covering one wall is appropriate.

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If you are going to run a company around a slogan like “Tell Great Stories,” or rally your troops by adopting the Native American proverb “Those who tell the stories rule the world,” then it pays to build an environment that fosters great writing.

Large photographs of your favorite writers covering one wall is appropriate. As is a collection of your favorite books along another wall.

And that’s just the environment Shane Snow has created for the employees of his company.

Shane is the co-founder of Contently, a high-end brand publishing firm. In fewer than five years, Contently has courted the likes of Coca-Cola, GE, Walmart, and Google as clients, providing both software and creative talent to help satisfy media objectives.

His credentials

By trade, Shane is a journalist. He has written for Wired, Mashable, and Fast Company and occasionally contributes to publications like the Washington Post, The New Yorker, and New Scientist.

He received his master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

He has also been invited to speak at Columbia University, SXSWi, BlogWorld, Social Media Week, and Search Marketing Expo, among others.

In 2012, Shane made Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 and the Silicon Alley 100 Coolest People In New York Tech lists.

And let’s not forget that he was valedictorian and class president at Bonneville High School in Idaho.

Naturally, he’s not one to squander time.

From journalist to entrepreneur to author

Shane moved to New York City in the back half of the last decade to rub shoulders with some amazing tech editors. In the bargain, he hobnobbed with some severely ambitious people — entrepreneurs who accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.

These business owners had a profound influence on Shane. So, in 2010, he decided to become an entrepreneur himself.

Enter Contently — a business with a mission of “building a better media world for publishers, creators, and consumers.” And if that wasn’t enough, Shane also wrote a book while running his fast-growing company.

It’s called Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success (released September 9, 2014).

I think it’s safe to say that Shane is a model and inspiration for those of us who want to build a career or business around publishing online. Reading his story can easily arouse a little ambition.

But lest you think Shane is all work and no play, take a peek behind the curtain to discover how he relaxes, his unorthodox hiding method (so he can write), which two dead writers he’d love to have dinner with, and more.

About the writer …

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Shane. By day, I help run Contently, which I co-founded in 2010. By night, I attempt to commit journalism and, occasionally, urban exploration.

What is your area of expertise as a writer?

In descending order: Technology. Business. Media. Science. Pizza.

Where can we find your writing?

Journalism: shanesnow.contently.com

Blog posts: linkedin.com/today/posts/shanedsnow

Book: sha.ne/Smartcuts

The writer’s productivity …

How much time, per day, do you read or do research?

I spend more time reading than probably anything else. Unfortunately, most of it’s email. I try to read something every night before bed, and I’m always reading while on the train. Research happens in bursts. Or on neurotic impulse, like when you decide you need to know now how they get the caffeine out of tea to make decaf.

Before you begin to write, do you have any pre-game rituals or practices?

I usually try to find a place where I can be alone. Sometimes in public is the best place to hide. I also try to write immediately after exercising, as I find some of my best ideas pop out then.

Do you prefer any particular music (or silence) while you write?

I listen to a single song on repeat over and over again to simultaneously create psychological movement and white noise. Currently, I’m about 500 plays into Timbaland’s “The Way I Are” and am considering finding a new track.

How many hours per day do you spend writing (excluding email, social media, etc.)? When is your most productive time of day?

Between two and 20 hours, depending on the day. Usually early morning or late night. Or late night turning into early morning.

Do you write every day or adhere to any particular system?

When I was working on my book, I wrote every morning from 6:00 a.m. to
8:00 a.m, and every evening from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. for 12 months. Otherwise, I usually just schedule a few hours depending on the writing project. Saturday is almost always a marathon writing day.

Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?

I haven’t experienced it. But I also write nonfiction. The story is already there. You just need to find it and tell it. Fiction seems really hard.

The writer’s creativity …

Define creativity.

Going to unexpected places.

Who are your favorite authors, online or off?

Jon Ronson’s writing makes me so jealous I want to quit. And I would kill to have lunch with Oscar Wilde.

Can you share a best-loved quote?

Prepare to put mustard on those words. For you will soon be consuming them along with this slice of humble pie, that comes direct from the oven of shame, set at the gas mark ‘egg on your face.’ ~ Richard Ayoade

How would you like to grow creatively as a writer?

I’m jealous of writers who have distinct voices. I’d like to develop that.

Who or what is your Muse at the moment (i.e., specific creative inspirations)?

Ryan Gosling. Okay, that’s a joke. But I like the guy.

What makes a writer great?

One of my favorite editors, Paula Span, used to say, “Great writing speeds you along.” The best writers in the world are those who can whisk you through
1,000 words in what feels like 10 seconds, or 100,000 words in 30 seconds.

The writer’s workflow …

What hardware or typewriter model do you presently use?

There are about seven antique typewriters laying around my house right now. All seafoam green. But I write on various Mac devices.

What software do you use most for writing and general workflow?

Evernote for research and drafts. Google Docs for docs. Various surfaces for notes, including the whiteboard wall to the right of my desk. At present, there is a paper plate on my desk with notes all over it from an inspiring conversation in my office kitchen. My co-founder, Dave, recently called it, “The Plate of Knowledge.”

Do you have any tricks for beating procrastination? Do you adhere to deadlines?

No. Though I hear amphetamines help. Too scared to find out. Deadlines are sacred, so I try to file early whenever possible.

How do you stay organized (methods, systems, or “mad science”)?

My favorite system for reporting is to record interviews in Rev (in-app or upload to Rev.com), which sends audio out for automatic transcription, and then to beam that directly into Evernote.

When I write notes, I make little checkboxes next to action items that occur to me during a meeting. I periodically go through my notebooks and check off the boxes, usually when it’s way too late.

How do you relax at the end of a hard day?

Sleep.

Just for fun …

Who (or what) has been your greatest teacher?

I had a high school teacher named Mr. Lemons who cared so much that it had a really big impact on me. When his wife got cancer, he shaved his head so they could be bald together. Everyone should love people the way that guy did.

What do you view as your greatest success in life?

Being a good person. Hopefully I’m not failing too badly at that.

What’s your biggest aggravation at the moment (writing related or otherwise)?

Editors who assign stories and then don’t get back to you for months after you file. Makes me want to lose my mind. And yes, this is happening to me right now.

Choose one author, living or dead, that you would like to have dinner with.

Oh man, I said this already. But I’m going to use this as an excuse to pick a second: Douglas Adams. That would be an amazing dinner.

If you could take a vacation tomorrow to anywhere in the world, where would you go (cost or responsibilities are no object)?

I’d probably go back to O’ahu, where I used to live. Go surf with friends, then for a swim at Cockroach Cove.

Can you offer any advice to fellow writers that you might offer yourself, if you could go back in time and “do it all over?”

Read as much as you possibly can when you’re young.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

My first book came out September 9. It’s called Smartcuts, and you should totally get a copy or something. :)

Please tell our readers where they can connect with you online.

On Twitter, @shanesnow, or ShaneSnow.com

And finally, the writer’s desk …

Every serious writer builds a shrine of some sort with which he hopes to entertain the Muse, whether it entails selecting the perfect table at a coffee shop or carving out a quiet nook in his home.

Shane’s just happens to be out in the open — with a well-worn and used appearance. This is where he has poured out the sweat, blood, and tears to run a business and publish a book.

image of shane snow's writing desk

And we are grateful. Many thanks go to Shane for taking time out of his busy schedule to find the words!


If you’d like to read more scribe wisdom …

Check out The Writer Files archives.

If you’ve already subscribed to Copyblogger via email or RSS, the next installment will be delivered to you just like the rest of our content.

If not, go ahead and subscribe right now so you don’t miss a post.

And if you’d like to join in the discussion about our featured writer Shane Snow, head over to Google+.

About the author

Demian Farnworth


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

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Which of These New WordPress Themes is Right For Your Audience? http://www.copyblogger.com/new-wordpress-themes/ http://www.copyblogger.com/new-wordpress-themes/#respond Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43768 Is your website’s design the right fit for the audience you want to attract? I urge you to do more than simply nod and say “yes.” Really think about it. Who are the people who make up your audience? What are their worldviews? And what specific design elements will allow your visitors to have a

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Image of Genesis framework on three different devices

Is your website’s design the right fit for the audience you want to attract?

I urge you to do more than simply nod and say “yes.”

Really think about it.

Who are the people who make up your audience? What are their worldviews?

And what specific design elements will allow your visitors to have a human experience on your website — the kind that lays the foundation for them to know you, like you, trust you, and ultimately join your audience?

Choose the design that best serves your audience

If you run a church website, there are design elements that fit your needs that won’t fit a food blogger’s goals (and vice versa).

If you run a school website, you want to make different design choices than a real estate agent.

And if you have an offline business, then your web design needs to align with your business objectives. The design choices made by an online business will differ, perhaps drastically.

Over the course of the last year, our StudioPress design team has released six themes that fit each one of these examples.

The important similarity between all six: they are all child themes for Genesis 2.0, meaning they are built on HTML5, mobile responsive, fast, and secure.

The differences will let you make the best possible choice for your audience.

So assuming you know who you’re designing for, let’s run down each of these six child themes that have been released this year. One of them will probably be right for you. (And if not, I guarantee one of these will be.)

Outreach Pro: the theme for churches

A church’s web presence is vitally important and can serve many key functions — from making sermons available online to generating awareness and support for worthy causes.

Outreach Pro gives churches the ability to reach out online and easily be reached right back.

outreach-screenshot1

Check out the Outreach Pro demo here.

Daily Dish Pro: the theme for food bloggers

The goal for any food blogger is to present content like it’s the most appetizing dish at a reader’s favorite four-star restaurant.

Daily Dish Pro is designed to do exactly that.

daily-dish

Check out the Daily Dish Pro demo here.

Education Pro: the theme for schools

Schools need to convey a lot of information online, and they need to do it with simplicity and flexibility.

Education Pro was designed with this in mind, and helps schools present everything from idyllic scenes to admission and curriculum information.

education-pro

Check out the Education Pro demo here.

AgentPress Pro: the theme for real estate agents

Real estate agents can’t just put up a website and expect to build a business. They need to clearly display listings with eye-catching imagery in a mobile-responsive way that will impress visitors.

Visitors appreciate these details that help build the know, like, and trust factor — a vital component when the business transaction is as pivotal as buying or selling a house.

agentpress-pro

Check out the AgentPress Pro demo here.

Enterprise Pro: the theme for your brick-and-mortar business

Even offline businesses need to be online. (You know this.) And a business website built on Enterprise Pro is a bright, engaging online communication hub for customers and prospects alike.

In other words, it’s much more than just an online business card.

enterprise-pro-screenshot

Check out the Enterprise Pro demo here.

Centric Pro: the theme for your online business (and more)

Last, but certainly not least, is Centric, which fulfills the single most important purpose of a website: it draws your reader in and leads him down the page.

All you have to do is define the purpose and provide the calls to action. Centric does the rest.

centric-pro

Check out the Centric Pro demo here.

Which one is for you?

So … which theme is the right fit for your audience?

Let us know by sending a tweet to @copyblogger (and don’t forget to include the #genesiswp hashtag).

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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Follow This Superstar’s 7-Step Example to Dominate Your Industry http://www.copyblogger.com/dominate-your-industry/ http://www.copyblogger.com/dominate-your-industry/#respond Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43384 I woke up like this. I woke up like this. Flawless. After listening to “Flawless” five times, Evette went to the mirror, and told herself the lyrics in the Beyoncé song were true. She believed it. She internalized it. She embodied it. Ready to dominate, Evette strutted over to her computer to fire off a

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black leather platform heel crushing a cupcake

I woke up like this. I woke up like this. Flawless.

After listening to “Flawless” five times, Evette went to the mirror, and told herself the lyrics in the Beyoncé song were true.

She believed it. She internalized it. She embodied it.

Ready to dominate, Evette strutted over to her computer to fire off a blog post. A post that would enable her to claim her rightful place atop her industry.

The same way Beyoncé dominates her industry.

You’ve met an Evette before, right?

Someone who thinks she’s so flawless, all she has to do is show up and everyone will bow down to her.

But it doesn’t quite work that way. Not for the Evettes of the world. And not even for Beyoncé.

As a result, instead of showing the world she’s a rock star like the Queen Bey, Evette ends up looking more like this.

No bueno.

But there’s a better, more strategic way.

The blueprint for dominating your industry

As talented as Beyoncé is, it’s tempting to believe that she does indeed just wake up flawless.

But the Queen Bey is human. Just like you and me.

The difference between Beyoncé’s mega-success and yours is a matter of executing the right game plan to make the most of your abilities and opportunities.

That’s what Evette is missing.

So if you want to dominate your own industry, follow this Beyoncé-inspired, seven-step blueprint for consistently crushing your competition.

1. Stand on a soapbox

Women’s empowerment has been a consistent theme throughout Beyoncé’s career. Through songs like “Independent Women Part One” with Destiny’s Child, to “Run the World (Girls)”, and “Flawless” as a solo artist, the singer has a long history of touting girl power.

The self-proclaimed “modern-day feminist” also has a 10-piece, all-woman band dubbed The Sugar Mamas. Her motivation for forming the band was to inspire young women to get involved in music.

Beyoncé’s commitment to promoting women even led her to write a piece on gender equality in The Shriver Report earlier this year.

If you want to dominate, you must elevate your tribe.

Lead them. Empower them. Make them better off for having you in their world. To strengthen your tribe, you must stand for something bigger than the products or services you offer.

Fashion designer Tory Burch, for example, strengthens her tribe by supporting economic empowerment for women.

The Tory Burch Foundation provides small business loans, mentoring, and entrepreneurial education for women. Tory was recently named an Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship by the Obama administration because of her commitment to her cause.

What do you do to elevate your tribe?

2. Practice until your feet bleed

On Day One, Beyoncé wasn’t the amazing rock star she is today. She’s put a ton of work in over the years honing her craft. At times, she even practiced her choreography until her feet bled.

Even though she’s long-passed the 10,000-hour mark in performing, Queen Bey still puts in major work to keep growing.

Lacey Rose of Forbes noted:

Beyoncé constantly works and reworks her act, watching every two-hour performance on tour — even after the hundredth appearance — taking notes on how to improve.

If you want to dominate, you must work harder than most people are willing to work.

You must put in the work on the key things that propel you beyond your peers. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you’re already pretty darn good.

Jon Morrow stuck to an insane practice schedule early in his blogging career. Even while toiling away as Associate Editor at Copyblogger, he wrote 100 headlines a day, every day, for a year to master the art. In addition, for years he wrote at least 2,000 words per day.

As a result, he’s one of the most popular bloggers around.

What do you do to improve your craft?

3. Be a weirdo

Few others are able to do what Beyoncé does. Her knock-out performances, complete with strong vocals and epic dance moves, leave audiences spellbound and leave other artists struggling to compete.

Even with all that performance power, Jody Rosen in The New Yorker described the weirdness of Beyoncé’s music as her true point of differentiation:

She is such an effortless entertainer, such an unerring singer and hoofer, that it’s easy to overlook her music’s defining quality: strangeness. Beyoncé is an eccentric, a vocalist with truly weird and original melodic and rhythmic approaches. Listen to the slippery rap-style syncopations in ‘Say My Name,’ to the melodies that float and dart over the thump of ‘Single Ladies,’ to the jarring timbral and tonal variations in ‘Ring the Alarm’ and ‘One+One’. Those sounds didn’t exist in the world before Beyoncé. If they sound ‘normal’ now, it’s because Beyoncé, and her many followers, have retrained our ears.

If you want to dominate, you’ve got to be strange.

You can’t be another lame “me too” version of all the other businesses in your industry. You’ve either got to do different activities, or do the same activities in a different way.

Dance choreographer, author, small business, and personal development guru Marie Forleo embraces her weirdness. She uses it to deliver memorable and helpful training videos week after week.

Need further proof that people like weird? This episode of Marie TV has more than 350 comments and 1,300 social shares.

What makes you the type of weirdo your customers can’t live without?

4. Tightly choreograph your story

Beyoncé has also successfully managed her brand. The singer’s hand is in almost every detail of telling her story to the world. Like that time she wrote, directed, and produced a documentary about herself.

At the core of her brand, she has established herself as a prolific entertainer. With 10 studio albums under her belt, she’s maintained a steady presence in front of her audience.

She also stays present in front of her fans via a well-curated Tumblr account and through behind-the-scenes videos of performances.

After establishing herself as a strong force within the music industry, she expanded her empire through movies, merchandise, a clothing line, perfumes, and tons of endorsements.

If you want to dominate, you must shape and tell your own story.

Take control of your reputation by actively managing your brand. Position yourself for growth by consistently telling your story through action and message, regardless of the medium.

What is the story you communicate about your brand?

5. Assemble a rock star crew

Beyoncé’s career started off as part of Destiny’s Child. Upon launching her solo career, she formed an even stronger alliance when she began dating and later married rapper Jay Z.

This past summer, the entertainment power couple, with 36 Grammys between them, made their partnership work harder for them with their “On the Run” tour. Tickets for their co-headlined performances sold for 44 percent higher than their individual tours.

If you want to dominate, don’t go it alone.

Collaborations are game changers. Brian Clark has noted that the relationships he’s developed while building Copyblogger have made the difference in his professional life.

You’ll get further much faster when you have a crew of fantastic people around you to propel you toward your goals.

What can you do today to strengthen your network of rock stars?

6. Produce epic content

Part of staying at the top of your game involves continually changing the status quo. Innovations that get people talking.

Like performing a live concert fewer than five months after giving birth, or filming a star-studded fake movie trailer to promote your upcoming concert tour.

Or releasing a surprise visual album with no promotion.

Rolling Stone editor Rob Sheffield described the impact of the visual album:

Beyoncé has delivered countless surprises in her 15 years on top of the music world, but she’s never dropped a bombshell like this. The Queen Bey woke the world in the midnight hour with a surprise ‘visual album’ — 14 new songs, 17 videos, dropped via iTunes with no warning. The whole project is a celebration of the Beyoncé Philosophy, which basically boils down to the fact that Beyoncé can do anything the hell she wants to.

The visual album generated over 1.2 million tweets in 12 hours and more than 800,000 copies sold worldwide in three days.

If you want to dominate, don’t play it safe.

Entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau traveled to all 193 countries in the world by age 35. He also hosts the annual World Domination Summit.

Coincidence? I think not.

What type of epic project will you work on to get people talking about your business?

7. Transform yourself into a dominator

Beyoncé didn’t start off with a domination mentality. Like many, she initially approached her career with a “work hard, and all my dreams will come true” attitude.

She quickly learned that hard work alone wasn’t enough:

I thought of this performance, which was a real defining moment in my life as a child. In my mind, we would perform on Star Search. We would win, we would get a record deal, and that was my dream at the time. There’s no way in the world I would have ever imagined losing as a possibility. You know I was only nine years old, so at that time you don’t realize that you could actually work super hard and give everything you have, and lose. It was the best message for me.

Losing Star Search transformed Beyoncé into a dominator.

It transformed her into an artist who wouldn’t be satisfied with showing up and waiting for others to pick her.

She now creates irresistible offerings that compel droves of adoring fans to eagerly line up to get a dose of whatever she dishes out.

But you don’t have to lose Star Search to be transformed into a dominator.

Decide to dominate

Decide you’re not going to be satisfied with the results of just showing up, and then follow the blueprint.

In time, your own droves of adoring fans will tell you how flawless you really are.

Ready to dominate?

Strut on over to Google+ and let me know which part of the blueprint you’ll start today to begin your transformation.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Tanya Dawn.

About the Author: Sonia Thompson is the founder of TRY Business where she's on a mission to help entrepreneurs build businesses that ooze awesome. Jump on her free eCourse on how to get your customers to love you.

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Why You Must Not Ignore The Call to Adventure http://www.copyblogger.com/pursue-adventure/ http://www.copyblogger.com/pursue-adventure/#respond Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43627 The following is an excerpt from Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life. In ancient myths, most quests were ones of discovery or confrontation. A kingdom was under siege, so it required defending. A minotaur in a faraway land guarded a magic chalice, and

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closeup of hands holding a map

The following is an excerpt from Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life.

In ancient myths, most quests were ones of discovery or confrontation.

A kingdom was under siege, so it required defending. A minotaur in a faraway land guarded a magic chalice, and only the hero could wrest it back.

Happily, real-world quests offer more possibilities than storming castles and rescuing princesses, and with some exceptions modern-day quests can be placed into a few broad categories.

Travel is an obvious starting point.

As I searched for stories and recruited submissions from readers, I learned of many people who set out to circumnavigate the globe in different fashions or be the first to accomplish a challenging goal far from home.

Branching out beyond travel, the categories of learning, documenting, and athleticism were also fairly self-explanatory.

The happiness of pursuit

When an independent learner from Canada decided to tackle the four-year M.I.T. Computer Science curriculum in just one year, publishing his test scores along the way, this was clearly a quest oriented around learning and achievement.

When a young woman who competed in international competitions decided to adopt and train an especially difficult horse — eventually placing near the top in an important European championship — this was clearly an athletic pursuit.

Perhaps more interesting than topical categories is the broader question of why people pursue quests and adventures.

The answers can fit into categories too, albeit ones that are not as tightly boxed.

A taxonomy of adventure

As I traveled the world and traversed my inbox, a few themes kept coming up:

Self-Discovery
Just as heroes of old set off on a horse to chase their dreams into an enchanted forest, many people still follow a path to “find” themselves.

Nate Damm, who walked across America, and Tom Allen, who set out to cycle the planet from his town in England, originally left home merely because they could.

They wanted to challenge themselves by learning more about the world. Some of their friends and family understood their desire to set out on a big journey — both gave up jobs to do so — but others didn’t get it.

“This is just something I need to do,” Nate said. “It’s about letting a little risk into your life,” Tom explained.

Reclaiming
In days of old, reclaiming was about taking back the land.

Recall Mel Gibson in his classic Braveheart performance standing on a hill and shouting “Freeeee-dooom!” in defense of Scotland against the tyrant Englishmen from the south.

Many people still pursue quests of reclaiming, though not usually with swords and shields.

Sasha Martin, a woman raising a family in Oklahoma, had grown up living abroad and wanted to introduce her household to an awareness of different cultures. She couldn’t travel to foreign lands, at least not at the time, so she decided to make a meal from every country, complete with an entire menu and mini-celebration.

From the frontiers of Alaska, Howard Weaver led a scrappy team that took on an establishment newspaper. In an epic battle that stretched for years, Howard and his staff fought to present a “voice of the people” against a better-funded, big-business paper.

Response to external events
Sandi Wheaton, a career employee for General Motors, was laid off at the height of the auto industry’s downturn in 2009.

Instead of choosing the usual strategy (panic, then do everything you can to get another job), she took off for an extended trip, taking photos and documenting the journey as she went along.

My own quest to visit every country initially came from a post 9/11 experience, after which I wanted to find a way to meaningfully contribute. My soul-searching led to four years on a hospital ship in West Africa, which sparked everything that would come later.

Desire for ownership and empowerment
Julie Johnson, a blind woman who trained her own guide dog, said that she was motivated at least partly by the pressure put on her not to do it her own way.

“Probably the biggest reason is that it felt right,” she told me. “I needed to do this Big Thing. I didn’t know then that it was a Big Thing. I just knew it was something that I needed to do for myself. If I didn’t, I’d always wonder about what could have been.”

This perspective — “If I didn’t try, I’d always wonder what might have happened” — showed up again and again in the stories I came across.

Taking a stand for something.

Some people I met were essentially missionaries or crusaders for their cause, sharing their story with anyone who’d listen and building alliances along the way.

Miranda Gibson, for example, spent more than a year living in a tree in Tasmania, protesting illegal logging.

Others devoted their lives toward something they believed in, sacrificing income and time (and sometimes more) to give all that they could.

There’s an adventure waiting for you, too

In The Happiness of Pursuit, you’ll encounter dozens of incredible stories. You’ll meet the people I’ve mentioned thus far and many more.

And, fortunately, you’ll realize that the vast majority of these stories are about normal people doing remarkable things.

Real-life adventure isn’t only about traveling the world (although many of this book’s stories do involve travel) nor is a quest always about leaving home (although it often involves breaking out of a comfort zone).

Sure, there are exceptions: the story of John “Maddog” Wallace comes to mind.

Wallace pulled off the feat of running 250 marathons in a single year, ignoring a legion of sports doctors and athletes who all said such a thing was impossible.

You may be interested in why he did it, or even how he did it — but it’s not likely you’ll try the same thing.

That’s okay, though.

As I’ve said, most of this book’s “cast of characters” are ordinary, in the sense that they don’t have special powers or abilities.

Their quests — and in many cases, their accomplishments — were extraordinary, but for the most part these individuals were successful not because of innate talent, but because of choices and dedication.

Much of the time, the goal grew in proportion with time and experience.

Those I interviewed often spoke of their perceived feebleness, or of their belief that “anyone” could do what they did — but as you’ll see, few would have the resolve to persist as they did.

Attempt something remarkable

In addition to satisfying my own curiosity, I wrote this book to inspire you to attempt something remarkable of your own. Look closely here and you’ll see a path you can follow, no matter your goal.

Everyone who pursues a quest learns many lessons along the way. Some relate to accomplishment, disillusionment, joy, and sacrifice — others to the specific project at hand.

But what if you could learn these lessons earlier? What if you could study with others who’ve invested years — sometimes decades — in the relentless pursuit of a dream?

That learning opportunity is what this book is about. You’ll sit with people who have pursued big adventures and crafted lives of purpose around something they found deeply meaningful. You’ll hear their stories and lessons.

You’ll learn what happened along the way, but more important, you’ll learn why it happened and why it matters.

Your next step

It’s my job as the author to provide a framework and issue a challenge. It’s yours to decide the next steps.

Perhaps, instead of just reading about other people’s stories, you’ll think about your own life.

What excites you? What bothers you?

If you could do anything at all without regard to time or money, what would it be?

As you progress through this book, you’ll see that it advances a clear argument: quests bring meaning and fulfillment to our lives.

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s more to life, you might discover a world of opportunity and challenge waiting for you.

You could think of your first quest as reading this book.

Make sure to pick up your copy of The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life.

Image by Sylwia Bartyzel via Unsplash.

About the Author: Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.

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5 Ways Listening to Community Data Can Expand Your Content Marketing Strategy http://www.copyblogger.com/use-community-data/ http://www.copyblogger.com/use-community-data/#respond Tue, 09 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43261 When talking about content marketing, discussions often focus on decisions about topics, headlines, platforms, and distribution. But how much do you consider the data that supports these decisions? I’m not talking about demographics, like age, gender, or location — although those matter, too. Rather, I’m talking about the answers behind qualitative questions: Who are your

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rainbow over a neighborhood of houses

When talking about content marketing, discussions often focus on decisions about topics, headlines, platforms, and distribution.

But how much do you consider the data that supports these decisions?

I’m not talking about demographics, like age, gender, or location — although those matter, too. Rather, I’m talking about the answers behind qualitative questions:

  • Who are your community’s influencers and why?
  • Which events are your community members attending?
  • What will be your first touchpoint with your community?
  • Where is your community getting their information and news?
  • Where is your community having meaningful conversations?
  • How do you choose which headline will resonate best with your audience?

Gathering this type of intelligence will allow you to develop a stronger content strategy with better results and deeper relationships.

One of the best (and most efficient) ways to conduct this research is by listening to current and potential customers on the web and social media.

Web monitoring and social listening allow you to go directly to the source — your current and potential customers.

Here are five ways to use community data to help expand your content creation process.

1. Identify and develop brand ambassadors

“Listening” online to what current and potential customers say about your brand, competitors, and related topics will allow you to build meaningful relationships with people who will actually use your product or service.

You can learn more about their interests and even recruit your first brand ambassadors.

If you’re a startup, building a community pre-launch can be incredibly beneficial.

To find and recruit your brand ambassadors:

Look beyond the numbers
At Mention, we recently analyzed one billion mentions delivered to companies across the globe and found that only 8 percent of people talking about a brand or company have more than 500 followers. Meaning, anyone can be a brand ambassador, and all interactions matter.

Conduct a search on social media channels or use a monitoring tool to discover who’s talking about your brand or related topics the most and what types of interactions they’re having. See who’s leading these conversations and reach out, no matter how many followers they have.

Be helpful and friendly without being overly promotional. Most importantly, add value to these conversations. And if they’re singing your praises, make sure to show them your gratitude.

Join the conversations
Our data shows that 31 percent of company mentions on Twitter don’t include a company’s handle.

It’s important to capture these potential community members with social listening and engage with them. Start a conversation, answer any questions they have, or offer a demo. Convert them to people who are not only talking about you, but also with you.

31 percent of tweets

Most importantly, make sure to answer every question, even if not aimed at you. Every comment and reply fosters more interaction, more brand awareness, and more committed readers who know you’re there to help. Do it right, and someone who might have just mentioned you once could turn into someone who will consistently recommend your brand.

Build relationships
After identifying your potential brand champions, get to know more about their interests. Converse with them and ask questions. If you’re trying to decide on a topic to write about, ask them directly which would be the most useful. Foster a relationship.

Or take advice from Courtney Seiter at Buffer:

Create alerts for your brand name plus words like ‘love’ or ‘great’ to find more positive mentions. Maybe you can reach out to your fans with a little token of your appreciation? (At Buffer, we try to surprise some of our fans with these awesome Stickermule stickers.)

buffer

I don’t know about you, but I love a good surprise and delight.

The tools
At Mention, we “drink our own champagne” — we use our own product for monitoring our key terms and joining in on our community’s conversations, but there are several other options on the market.

Rand Fishkin from Moz runs through them in this Whiteboard Friday.

You can also monitor hashtags and Twitter lists with a social tool such as Tweetdeck, interact in relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups, or join forums.

My personal favorite content, marketing, and community forums are:

  • Inbound for anything inbound and content marketing related.
  • GrowthHackers for all things startup marketing.
  • Hacker News for all tech and startup news.
  • Product Hunt for new, useful products and apps, and to find out what’s trending.

2. Turn support queries into quality content

Monitor support-related interactions where people ask questions, seek assistance, or ask for advice, such as “Does anyone know a good alternative to …?”

Social interactions are beginning to rival support through tickets and email. Take this as an opportunity to leverage your content to raise the bar in your customer service.

The tools
Listen to what your community has to say via social media and support queries, blog comments, etc., and then incorporate their questions into valuable pieces of content, such as:

3. Reach out to guest bloggers and journalists

Track topics closely linked to your product or service to discover people who are likely to be interested in your brand. Take a look at who is leading conversations on such topics, whose names appear the most in these conversations, or who is cited the most often.

Join these conversations and follow these thought leaders on social media or subscribe to their blogs. Build relationships with them by leaving valuable comments on their articles and social media posts (but please, exercise moderation to avoid scaring them).

Eventually, you will get to the point where you can invite them to contribute to your blog, or visa versa. This is a win-win situation, as you will both be broadening your networks and audiences.

The same approach can be used when identifying journalists for outreach. Use media monitoring to identify the reporters writing about relevant topics, then dig deeper into their interests.

Discover what other types of conversations they are having, and what their personal interests are. Find a shared interest you can use to strike up a conversation — a starting point for building a relationship.

The tools
A comprehensive media monitoring tool is ideal for identifying people who share interests related to your offering, but there are other options that can replace or complement such a tool:

  • Swayy pulls quality content that your social community is talking about based on your personal interests. The site, with email updates, is a great way to discover who’s talking about topics relevant to you and your community, and where they’re published.
  • Prismatic is similar to Swayy and pulls popular posts among your social network based on your topic preferences.
  • Rapportive for Gmail is useful for uncovering basic information such as a person’s title, company, photo, website, and links to her social media accounts.
  • Riffle by CrowdRiff, a Chrome extension, gathers important insights and displays information about an individual, such as Klout score, top hashtags, mentions, URLs used and shared, whether she’s an Android or iPhone user, links to her other social profiles, and an activity breakdown between items such as retweets and favorites. (We love Riffle so much that we added an integration in Mention.)

Riffle Example

4. Gather insights about your community’s needs and wants

A membership section of your site allows you to collect interesting and insightful information about your audience that you can use to tailor communication and gives your community a chance to get to know each other better, increasing the likelihood of them talking to each other.

When your community engages in conversations, you can learn critical information, such as:

  • their problems,
  • the advice they seek,
  • the resources they use,
  • tools they find valuable, and
  • popular events.

This data is gold when determining what to publish, where to publish, where to speak, and new touchpoints for your audience.

The tools
Hosting a community forum or members area on your site is the most direct way to gather this intelligence.

Another option is hosting a branded (or non-branded) Facebook or LinkedIn group. Pin a question to the top of the page and ask the community to introduce themselves and give a fun fact.

Other community and forum tools include:

  • Mightybell for hosting community conversations or meetings.
  • Meetup if you’re up for hosting IRL events.
  • Intercom, which we use for support at Mention, for A/B testing messages that resonate with your community.

5. Find speaking and sponsor opportunities

Social listening is a great way to learn about the events that interest your community.

Gather this information into a database of events that you can either attend, speak at, or sponsor.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to community members and let them know you’ll be there and would like to meet in person!

The tools
I use Google Sheets to keep track of events. I also have an alert in Mention for “Marketing Conferences,” where I can mark certain events as “favorites,” so that later I can pull a list of them and gather more information.

Speaker Opps

Content goes beyond the page

At content.NYC, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs (who is a fantastic presenter, BTW) introduced content as “everything the light touches.”

I couldn’t agree more. Content goes beyond blog posts, podcasts, webinars, forum submissions, social media posts, etc. You create content when you present at a conference, create collateral for a sponsorship, or reply to a question.

Content is any touchpoint with a human. Ask yourself: what does my community really want that hasn’t been given to them yet? Then produce, test, gather feedback, and repeat.

How have you used community data to strengthen your content marketing strategy?

Let’s go over to Google+ and discuss the factors that influence the type of content you create!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Tollen.

About the Author: Shannon Byrne is the Content & PR Manager at Mention, a media monitoring app, where she crafts words, creates strategies, and recruits loyal advocates. She’s based in New York. Get in touch with her at @ShannnonB.

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Permission to Kick Ass: Granted http://www.copyblogger.com/permission-to-succeed/ http://www.copyblogger.com/permission-to-succeed/#respond Mon, 08 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43625 What if you discovered that your own words and thoughts were wreaking havoc on your chances for success? They might be. What you say about what you do makes a difference. It makes a difference in your own mind. And it makes a big difference in how people view your work. At some point, you

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portrait of a grizzly bear

What if you discovered that your own words and thoughts were wreaking havoc on your chances for success?

They might be.

What you say about what you do makes a difference.

It makes a difference in your own mind. And it makes a big difference in how people view your work.

At some point, you have to decide if you want to be at the top of your field.

Does that sound like too audacious of a goal?

I’d like to propose that you consider it. That you eliminate “I’ll try” from your vocabulary. That you make it your aim to be the best, to surpass the competition, and to go for the top prize.

I propose that you make it your goal to do great things.

Not to expend great effort.

It’s OK to want to be the best. And as long as you don’t step on anyone else to get there, it’s the optimum goal you can have.

Let’s kick some ass. Ready?

First, adjust your focus

It’s OK to be singularly focused on success.

In the best of times and the worst of times, singular focus is how you make progress. Focus leads to accomplishment.

Back in May 1940, Winston Churchill gave his first speech to the House of Commons. Britain was in the midst of a long, difficult war with Germany.

Although Churchill went on to become a much-praised leader, he was not universally accepted when he stepped into office.

He had given many speeches over his 30-year political career, but this one proved to be his most memorable:

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. ~ Winston Churchill

Churchill rallied the politicians in the room, and the nation listening in. And you know how that story ended.

Saying no to the wrong things is as important as saying yes to the right ones

Part of focusing on success means sorting through all the opportunities that come your way.

When you’re first starting out, the best strategy is to make “yes” your default answer. But this state shouldn’t last for long.

As you log small victories, you may notice an uptick in the opportunities you’re offered.

When this begins to happen, it’s important to filter the possibilities through these three questions:

  • Will this opportunity push me closer to my ultimate goal?
  • Will I learn a new skill that will help me achieve my goal?
  • If I have to say “no” now, will this opportunity come around again?

One of my favorite quotes from Nobel-Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez is, “Lo más importante que aprendí a hacer después de los cuarenta años fue a decir no cuando es no,” or:

The most important thing I learned after forty was to say no when the answer was no. ~ Gabriel García Márquez

If you’re under 40 years old, why wait? Learn to say “no” now so you can maintain focus on what’s most important.

And if you’re over 40 now, what are you waiting for? Learning to say “no” confidently might be just what you need to push you down the path toward success.

A special note to women

I’m not sure why, but it seems even more difficult for us to aim high.

We have to deal with long-standing stereotypes about women in power. In my lifetime, I’ve seen these stereotypes begin to disappear, but — ask any woman — they’re not gone yet.

When you feel discomfort about aiming high and fear the repercussions, refer to these wise words from Amy Poehler:

I just love bossy women. I could be around them all day. To me, bossy is not a pejorative term at all. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind leading. ~ Amy Poehler

As women, we have to take bold steps toward what we’re aiming for, and be willing to brush off comments from the naysayers.

Behave like you’re already there

Years ago, I heard an excellent question from Marie Forleo.

If you were the best in the world at what you do, how would you behave? ~ Marie Forleo

Imagine the world is depending on you to deliver the information only you know:

  • Would you make time to do your best work by meticulously saying “no” to tasks that won’t further your cause, and keeping your time open for those that will?
  • Would you spend less time doing low-payoff tasks so you could reserve time to do your life-changing work?
  • Would you find it easier to turn off distractions and truly focus on the tasks at hand?

If you behave as if you’re already the top-most expert in your area of authority, you’ll be well on your way to becoming that person.

What does victory look like for you?

Finally, before you embark on your ass-kicking process, decide what victory will look like.

I have had amazing results from taking the time to actually write down my goals. There’s something about converting your thoughts into words, and referring back to them periodically, that works like magic.

My unscientific theory is that writing down your goals embeds them in your subconscious mind.

That means they’re easily available to:

  • Help you sort through your opportunities
  • Encourage you to keep working
  • Push you to continue even when you’re ready to give up

If you’re ready to kick ass, take the time to answer this question, in writing:

What does success look like to you?

Decide for yourself:

  • Is it a number, like earnings, or audience size?
  • Is it a lifestyle you want to achieve? One with freedom, simplicity, or travel?
  • Is it a state of mind, like complete confidence, happiness, or peace?

Have a clear vision of your aim. Put it in writing, and find a way to look at your goal on a regular basis. This might mean printing it on paper and putting it on your refrigerator, or making it the desktop background on your computer.

Regular exposure to your written goal will help make it happen.

Don’t wait: get started

There’s no time like right now to begin kicking ass.

Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.
~ Napoleon Hill

Now go, and aim high.

Let’s meet on Google+ and continue discussing what success looks like to you!

Image by Thomas Lefebvre via Unsplash.

About the author

Pamela Wilson


Pamela Wilson is Director of Special Projects at Copyblogger Media. Follow her on Twitter or Google+, and find more from her at BigBrandSystem.com.

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The Key Element of 21st Century Persuasion http://www.copyblogger.com/rainmaker-modern-persuasion/ http://www.copyblogger.com/rainmaker-modern-persuasion/#respond Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43999 Back in the 1950s, a bedridden man faced certain death from inoperable, terminal cancer. Tumors the size of oranges had invaded the man’s neck, groin, chest, and abdomen. The patient’s only hope was a new experimental cancer drug called Krebiozen. Three days after the initial treatment, the man was out of bed and joking with

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The Key Element of 21st Century Persuasion

Back in the 1950s, a bedridden man faced certain death from inoperable, terminal cancer.

Tumors the size of oranges had invaded the man’s neck, groin, chest, and abdomen. The patient’s only hope was a new experimental cancer drug called Krebiozen.

Three days after the initial treatment, the man was out of bed and joking with his nurses. As treatment continued, his tumors shrunk by half.

Ten days later, he was discharged from the hospital … the cancer was gone.

That’s pretty amazing in itself. The more amazing thing is that Krebiozen didn’t actually work.

We’re back for the fall season of the New Rainmaker broadcast, this time looking into the unstoppable power of belief, and what it means for doing business in the 21st century.

In this episode you’ll discover …

  • The one human drive that can drive the future of your business
  • Why you need to pay close attention to the placebo effect
  • How the wine industry was enhanced by a better story, not better grapes
  • How to build the unwavering trust of your audience
  • The key to finding prospective customers who take action
  • Why research is where your marketing efforts are won or lost
  • Why you shouldn’t waste time convincing anyone of anything

Head over to New Rainmaker right now and listen to The Key Element of 21st Century Persuasion.


Want even more than this one episode?

We’ve just put together two weeks of training that will change the way you think about online marketing. It consists of seven foundational lessons (audio and text formats), three webinars (with transcripts), and follow-up lessons and case studies. And of course, it’s totally free for you. Register right now.

About the author

Brian Clark


Brian Clark is founder and CEO of Copyblogger, and uncompromising evangelist for the Rainmaker Platform. Get more from Brian on .

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The Right Way to Think About Google http://www.copyblogger.com/how-to-think-about-google/ http://www.copyblogger.com/how-to-think-about-google/#respond Wed, 03 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43967 You may have seen last week that Google abruptly — and almost offhandedly — announced it was terminating a key element of its future strategy for ranking content. The Authorship program, which would let Google rank content according to the authority of the person who created it, was nuked on Thursday afternoon at the end

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mesmerized crowd looking up

You may have seen last week that Google abruptly — and almost offhandedly — announced it was terminating a key element of its future strategy for ranking content.

The Authorship program, which would let Google rank content according to the authority of the person who created it, was nuked on Thursday afternoon at the end of the business day on a Google+ thread.

It’s not really new behavior. Google is abrupt, secretive, and dismissive of the time and energy it encourages its users to put into its various programs.

Google giveth, and Google taketh away.

And to be honest, this can get right on your last nerve. But if it causes you more than a few moments of irritation, you may benefit from shifting the way you think about the web’s favorite 800-pound gorilla.

Here’s how I’ve learned to think about Google (courtesy of advice from Copyblogger’s founder, Brian Clark). Which means when they pull stunts like this — and they do, with some regularity — my pain is limited to a few curse words and some moderate tweaking.

I have five rules for keeping my sanity when dealing with Google.

Rule 1: “What’s my plan if this goes away tomorrow?”

Any time you use a tool from Google (or from any third party you have no control over), this question will help you.

Sooner rather than later, ask yourself what your backup plan is — if and when the tool dissolves overnight.

You’ll notice that Brian asked and answered this question publicly about the Authorship program way back in April, 2013 — making us all look like Big Damn Heroes when Authorship did, in fact, blow up.

Did we think that would happen? Actually, we didn’t.

Were we prepared when it did? You know it.

Ask yourself right now what you’ll do if Facebook disappears tomorrow, or Twitter, or your Google search results position, or your pay-per-click campaign.

When tools and programs disappear in the online world, they often do so literally overnight. You need a solid plan in place for when that happens.

Rule 2: Google owes you nothing

Ranking in the search engines is not a civil right.

You don’t “deserve” to have your content found by Google. (Or Bing, or Yahoo, or anywhere else.) That’s not a service that Google has promised you.

Weirdly enough, Google won’t even promise you that they’ll accept large amounts of your money to run advertising on their AdWords platform. They can take that away any time as well. Without necessarily giving you a reason.

Too often, we think that because we put a ton of work into being found on the search engines, that we are somehow entitled to that juicy position on the results page. It doesn’t work that way.

The greater your sense of entitlement about what companies like Google owe you, the more frustration and anger you’ll feel when you get smacked. Which you will, if you’re in the game long enough.

Rule 3: You owe Google nothing

You also don’t work for Google. They don’t send you a paycheck or have you under contract.

Whether or not you want to abide by their thoughts on best practices is completely up to you — and you should make that decision like an adult, weighing the pros and cons and keeping Google in its proper perspective.

Spending hours picking apart every syllable Matt Cutts may utter, trying to understand what he thinks the definition of is is, and making violent changes to your business model because Cutts mentioned he likes or doesn’t like something, is a sucker bet.

Refer back to Rule #2. It doesn’t matter how many hoops you jump through. Whether or not you do everything “the way Google wants,” (which you usually have to guess at, because they have no interest in telling you), they don’t owe you that search result.

As I’m fond of saying, Google is a lot like that really mean girl from high school. Your best shot at getting her to like you is to ignore her while you go about getting social sharing, links, and publicity because you’re trying to reach people. The less you care about what she thinks, the better light she tends to see you in — because real people already like you.

(And if she never gives you the time of day? Meh, you don’t need her anyway. Truly.)

Rule 4: Use the tool for what it’s good for

None of this is to say that having a good search result isn’t helpful. It can be, especially for some topics and business models.

We earlier recommended including the Authorship markup on content because it was quick and easy to do with Genesis, and the potential looked promising.

All of our SEO recommendations work that way. If you can tweak your content without messing it up for your human readers, and without putting every hour of your day into it, go ahead and do that. Use a few simple tools that will let you get your content optimized efficiently.

And if your company has the resources to hire a strong team that devotes all of its time to search, that’s fine as well. But don’t do it if you can’t genuinely afford it, and don’t do it if you can’t weather the inevitable storms.

Recognize that search is a long game. Put it in its proper place. Use other ways to connect with and engage your audience. And if a great search placement shows up over time, that’s terrific.

Rule 5: Serve the audience first

This is the granddaddy of them all.

Google robots don’t have credit cards. They can’t buy your product or service.

Instead of trying to serve Google, serve the people who will eventually become your customers. Create content that interests them and meets their needs. Make it useful. Make it entertaining. Give it some real time and attention.

The audience is where everything good comes from. Google is just one way for that audience to find you.

How about you? What’s the last thing Google did that made you want to throw something? Let’s get meta and talk about it over on Google+.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Igor Zalbidea.

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 Marketer’s Guide to Using Quizzes to Reach and Engage Your Audience http://www.copyblogger.com/quiz-guide/ http://www.copyblogger.com/quiz-guide/#respond Tue, 02 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=43304 On July 5, 2014, a food blog called Food52 shared a quiz on Twitter titled, “Which cake are you?” The quiz was built to raise awareness for several new cake recipes on the site, and the results of the quiz showed each quiz taker’s “cake type,” as well as a link to check out the

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two question mark cufflinks

On July 5, 2014, a food blog called Food52 shared a quiz on Twitter titled, “Which cake are you?”

The quiz was built to raise awareness for several new cake recipes on the site, and the results of the quiz showed each quiz taker’s “cake type,” as well as a link to check out the recipe for said cake on Food52′s blog.

By the end of the day on July 7, just three days later, the quiz had been viewed more than 20,000 times — it was a hit.

Food52′s quiz-success story is not the only recent one. In the last six months, quizzes have been popping up at an increasing pace all over the web.

Content marketers are itching to get involved, but the elements of a successful quiz are complicated.

To help ease the entry into the world of quizzes, I’ve put together guidelines based on more than 1,500 quizzes I’ve helped brands create.

Then, I’m going to outline three top examples of content marketing quizzes, and finally I’ll discuss various distribution methods that drive traffic to your quiz.

Let’s get started.

Part 1: How to create an intriguing quiz

There are several key aspects to keep in mind as you construct your quiz.

Pick the right topic
Before you get started writing a quiz, you’ve got to come up with an idea. For some companies, the answer is obvious, such as “What kind of dog are you?” for a dog blog, but for others the best subject is not so clear. Here are some tips on picking a topic:

  • Know your audience. Create your quiz for a specific group of people. Trying to reach the whole world is both impossible and a recipe for failure. If your quiz addresses a group of people that is very interested in the quiz, it will be much more likely to succeed, even if that group is not large.
  • Write to one person. Think of one person who would really enjoy your quiz and write to him. This will help you develop a friendly tone and comfortable writing style. Also, if you can’t think of one person who would like your quiz, you may want to rethink the idea.

fauquiernow

Write irresistible titles
The title of your quiz is its pickup line. Without a good one, you’ll repel potential quiz takers and fall into the oblivion where bad quizzes go to die. The good news is that there are title templates that consistently perform well and encourage clicks:

  • The “actually” title: “How much do you actually know about world cup soccer?” The “actually” title is just a knowledge test, but once you add the word “actually” or “really,” it becomes a challenge, and no one wants to back down from a challenge.
  • The “Which (blank) are you?” title: “Which cake are you?” These quizzes are based off of the traditional Meyers-Briggs personality quiz; just replace the personality types with the appropriate results for your quiz topic.
  • The celebrity comparison title: “Which celebrity hairstyle should you get?” This template is similar to the personality quiz, but you can place different results into the quiz that relate to your business.

soccerquiz

Craft the questions
The questions of a quiz are where you get the chance to create a conversation with quiz takers and build rapport. This is where quizzes really start to show their magic. Unlike many other forms of content, quizzes are a one-to-one medium where you can speak directly to each person who takes your quiz.

Here are a few tips on building that conversation:

  • Let your personality shine. Or use an alternate personality and let that shine. The best quizzes create a connection with people by injecting some personality — whether it’s your own or a character you create.
  • Follow the pub rule. Ask questions as if you were sitting in a pub with friends. This rule is named after the Irish Post , a UK newspaper that effectively reached Irish people living in London with a clever quiz that had a conversational question style.
  • Don’t be afraid to get personal. Encourage people to tell you about themselves through their answers to your quiz questions.

chucknorrisquiz

Design results that get shared
The results of your quiz are your chance to get shared, promote products, and get clicks to your website. There are some simple rules to follow to maximize your chances of success:

  • Be positive. We prefer to share things that make us look good on social media. Make the results of your quizzes positive to maximize the possibility of people sharing your quiz.
  • Don’t lie. While you want to be positive, don’t just blow smoke. Base your positivity on real facts. For example, if you tell someone he is a truck, note how reliable and useful trucks are and avoid mentioning that trucks are big and dirty.
  • Prepare to be shared. There is a specific formula for how quizzes get shared. It goes like this: “I got [my result] [title of the quiz].” For example, “I got Chocolate. Which cake are you?” When writing your quiz, make sure your quiz results and quiz title play nicely together when shared.

peterbilt

Part 2: Three ways to use quizzes

A quiz is a fun, interactive piece of digital media that doesn’t feel like traditional marketing.

Here are three examples of ways companies have used quizzes to promote their businesses.

To drive traffic from the social web
Quizzes can bring social traffic back to your domain where your sales funnels can then go to work.

The Food52 quiz I mentioned at the beginning of this post did an excellent job in this arena. Each quiz result included a link to check out a recipe, and the quiz drove thousands of visits back to Food52.com from Facebook and Twitter.

quizzes-cake

To generate new leads
You can use quizzes to collect new email leads by presenting an opt-in just before displaying the results of a quiz.

A good example of using a quiz to generate new leads comes from Worth Global Style Network (WGSN), an analytics company for fashion.

WGSN created a quiz called “What’s Your Customer Type?” and shared it with prospective customers. The quiz content demonstrates the solutions that WGSN provides for their clients. Just before showing the results of the quiz that reveal your customer type, the quiz asked for an email address so that WGSN could send more information about customer analytics.

wgsn

The same principle can be used with any business — just swap out the call to action and you’re all set.

To gather valuable information about your visitors
Quiz analytics can reveal extremely useful data about your web visitors. By understanding what kind of people are on your site and what their interests are, you can design future content that will help your audience.

A good example of this comes from Zlien, a site that helps contractors get paid. They created a quiz about payments and shared it on their blog. After the quiz had been taken a few hundred times, analytics began to show where readers were struggling, and Zlien used that information to create new articles that educate readers in these areas.

Zlien

Part 3: How to distribute your quiz

Once you’ve created the perfect quiz for your marketing purposes, you’ll want to promote it so people can take it. Here are four easy ways.

On your website or blog
A quiz can be embedded into any webpage, just like a YouTube video. When a quiz is on your website, all the social shares, links, and comments happen on your domain and you don’t risk losing people to the abyss of social media.

environmentalist

On Facebook
There are two different options for sharing quizzes on Facebook that have distinct advantages:

  • On your timeline. Sharing on your Facebook timeline is the easiest option for getting your quiz out there. All you need to do is grab an image (or use one from your quiz) and share it along with a link to take your quiz either on your blog or on a dedicated quiz page.
  • In a custom tab. To use a quiz as a more permanent fixture on your Facebook page, you can embed it into a custom tab. My favorite example of this comes from UC Davis. They embedded a quiz “Which Famous Aggie Are You?” onto their new students page so that prospective scholars could feel a connection to the school.

ucdavis

On Twitter
The formula for sharing your quiz on Twitter works the same way as sharing on a Facebook timeline, and it’s helpful if you use an image to visually represent your quiz. Share your quiz on Twitter in the middle of a day on a weekday, then share it two more times in the next three days, and don’t share it again.

twitterquiz

In an email newsletter
You can share quizzes through an email newsletter that drive engagement to your website. Provide a link to your quiz that leads to a dedicated page on your site with just your quiz and nothing else.

Over to you …

Food52 attracted an audience of 20,000 in three days using a quiz, and you can do the same for your site.

Building popular quizzes is not simple, but once you understand how quizzes can be incorporated into your content marketing, you can use them as a new way to reach and engage your audience.

Have you used quizzes before to market your business?

Which topics interest your readers the most?

Let’s go over to Google+ and continue discussing quiz best practices!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Oberazzi.

About the Author: Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. He enjoys sports, a good beer, and marketing that doesn't suck. Get more from Josh on Twitter.

The post The Marketer’s Guide to Using Quizzes to Reach and Engage Your Audience appeared first on Copyblogger.

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A Quick Note About the History of Labor Day That You May Not Realize … http://www.copyblogger.com/labor-day-2014/ http://www.copyblogger.com/labor-day-2014/#respond Mon, 01 Sep 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=42085 The first Monday of September is upon us, which means that it is Labor Day in the United States (and Labour Day in Canada). Have you ever wondered why North America celebrates Labor Day in September, while many parts of the rest of the world celebrate International Workers’ Day on the first day of May?

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This plaque appears on the memorial statue erected where Samuel Fielden was speaking when the riot broke out.

The first Monday of September is upon us, which means that it is Labor Day in the United States (and Labour Day in Canada).

Have you ever wondered why North America celebrates Labor Day in September, while many parts of the rest of the world celebrate International Workers’ Day on the first day of May?

Turns out, U.S. political leaders in the late 19th century probably wanted to avoid association with the violent Haymarket Massacre that served as part of the inspiration for International Workers’ Day. (It’s a remarkable story, if you don’t know it.)

Yes, while we think of Labor Day now as a glorious, relaxing long weekend that marks the end of the summer, its origins are far less … tranquil.

On behalf of our entire team here at Copyblogger, I want to wish you a pleasant Labor Day — whether you spend it chilling on a lake or in a backyard with friends and family, or demonstrating (peacefully, I hope) on behalf of workers’ rights.

It’s your day. Do what makes you happy.

Then return here tomorrow for a tutorial by Josh Haynam on how to use quizzes in your marketing.

Happy Labor Day. We’ll see you soon!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Chicago Crime Scenes.

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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