Copyblogger http://www.copyblogger.com Content marketing tools and training. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:57:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 Want Copyblogger to Answer Your Specific Business Question? Here’s Your Chance http://www.copyblogger.com/authority-sonia-garrett-qa/ http://www.copyblogger.com/authority-sonia-garrett-qa/#respond Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=37884 We see it all the time: questions from people like you who are looking for answers to specific challenges. Questions like: What are the best business models for a hyperlocal site? Do I have the right “Big Idea” for my business? How can I expect a certain content strategy to affect my SEO? Will my

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image of an old school rotary phone

We see it all the time: questions from people like you who are looking for answers to specific challenges.

Questions like:

  • What are the best business models for a hyperlocal site?
  • Do I have the right “Big Idea” for my business?
  • How can I expect a certain content strategy to affect my SEO?
  • Will my strong political or religious views interfere with my Google authorship business profile?
  • Just how can I make the time to get all this content written, anyway?

These are the long-tail questions that either we haven’t gotten an opportunity to address on the blog yet, or are so specific to your business that the only way we can answer them is during a question and answer call …

Like the one we are doing next Friday, April 25, 2014.

That’s right, Sonia Simone and Chris Garrett will take an hour to answer as many questions as you throw at them … and you can ask them anything.

They are the brains behind great content like:

And many more over the years. Trust me, it will be hard to stump them.

You can ask Sonia and Chris when you should create a landing page versus a category page … how to structure pricing and contracts for recurring clients … or what’s the difference between a refund policy and a guarantee.

You can ask a long question or a short one.

It’s up to you.

There is a hitch, however. You have to be a member of Authority (you can join here).

Once you join, we will give you an opportunity in our forums to ask any question you want — and, yes, all of the questions above were based on past questions asked by members. We hold these sessions at least once a month, and often twice, as part of our regular calendar of exclusive content for members.

Oh, and …

Have you heard about our certification program?

Not long ago we launched the Copyblogger Content Certification program — a program designed to educate real writers about the underlying strategy that makes for really strong content marketing, as well as supporting and promoting well-qualified content creators.

When you join this program we’ll hand-review your work and certify that you are among the best writers — ready to tackle projects and create terrific work.

If you’re a writer and you’re interested in becoming certified, you need to join our (free) MyCopyblogger marketing library to hear about it. We’ll eventually notify everyone in that group when the next round of applicants for the program will be accepted.

So, if you haven’t joined us already, take care of that by entering your information here: register for the free library.

In the meantime, feel free to drop us line over on Google+.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Tim G. Photography

About the author

Demian Farnworth


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

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How to Choose Arresting Images for Your Blog Posts (And Why You Should) http://www.copyblogger.com/lede-arresting-images/ http://www.copyblogger.com/lede-arresting-images/#respond Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=41037 You’ve read the headline. You’re intrigued. “But,” you might be thinking, “Why didn’t you choose a different, more arresting image for this post?” Good question. First, because The Lede is a regular post series, and the graphic that Rafal created for us is a clear visual cue to our audience that a new episode has

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You’ve read the headline. You’re intrigued.

“But,” you might be thinking, “Why didn’t you choose a different, more arresting image for this post?”

Good question.

First, because The Lede is a regular post series, and the graphic that Rafal created for us is a clear visual cue to our audience that a new episode has been posted.

Second, because we are posting this episode a day early, meaning that the visual cue is extra important to let people know a new little audio gift is unexpectedly waiting to be unwrapped.

But, if we didn’t already have an arresting post image logo to use for The Lede, we would have had to choose something else … something that would have seized attention, created an emotional response, and compelled a click.

(Something like this, perhaps?)

In this episode of The Lede, Demian and I continue our series on the 11 essential ingredients of a blog post by discussing:

  • Why you should bother with images at all
  • What it means for an image to be “arresting”
  • How images help you create an emotional response in your audience
  • Why the emotion of the image needs to match the copy
  • Where to find great images online
  • Why trusting your instincts and building the right relationships will help you choose better images

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 …

Where do you find great images for your posts?

Do you want to take Robert Bruce’s side and argue against the usefulness of images?

Tweet me and Demian to discuss, or you can join the discussion over at Google-Plus.

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 Choose Arresting Images (And Why You Should)

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m your host, Jerod Morris. If you want to get a content marketing education while you shower in the morning or while you’re mowing your lawn on Saturday afternoon, this podcast is the way to do it.

Last week Demian and I took a break from our series on the 11 essential ingredients of a blog post to speak with Sonia Simone about our recent decision at Copyblogger to remove blog comments. If you missed that episode, I highly recommend catching up.

This week, the series continues. The last two ingredients were seducing your readers through story and maintaining attention via the power of internal cliffhangers. Today we go into detail about images.

Now you might say an image isn’t necessarily essential for a blog post. Technically, you’re correct. But if your goal is to connect with your audience on an emotional level, the right image can make all the difference.

Demian Farnworth joins me now. Demian, how are you?

Demian Farnworth: I’m doing well, thank you Jerod.

Why bother with images?

Jerod: Demian is here to provide insight on images and a few tips you can use to get better at choosing the right image for your blog post.

So Demian, to begin, tell me if you agree with what I’m about to say.

An essential component of any winning media strategy is maximizing the medium. So for a podcast, that’s going to mean a complete de-emphasis on how something looks and a focus on connecting with an audience through sound. For video, it means a combination, right? Moving images are combined with words, so they both need to be compelling and work together.

When it comes to a blog post, it’s important to remember that words are not the only weapon that can be wielded in the battle for attention, because remember, the internet is displayed on powerful screens capable of producing beautiful, pixel-dense imagery. So why not take full advantage of that?

So unless you’re going full minimalist, you should consider incorporating images into your blog posts. Images that complement your words, evoke emotion that sparks the fire of entry that leads to the burning embers of attention you’re looking to develop from your audience.

In other words, a blog post needs an arresting image. One that latches onto a reader and won’t let go.

Demian, agree or disagree?

Demian: I totally agree.

I learned this several years ago when I was reading about an interview with Tim Ferriss. Tim Ferris was interviewing, actually, Robert Scovill, and Scovill was telling Tim Ferriss how he read about 1,000 blogs a day. And of course, reading is an overstatement. But what he was telling Tim was basically that he looked at — he scrolled through the blogs on his blog feed, and looked at, stopped at, those ones that had captivating headlines, but more than that, though, it was the ones that had the captivating, the arresting image that he stopped at and paid attention to.

So with that, I realized that we’re all fighting for attention, and we’re all fighting for the attention of people who are basically overloaded. So sharing an image that is arresting is huge.

What does it mean for an image to be “arresting”?

Demian: When we think about what we’re trying to do when we say “arresting,” what we mean is to seize. We mean as in “a police officer seized my mother today.” Took her into custody. So the second sense is to attract, catch, hold, and fix attention. And synonyms you might think of when thinking of arresting would be striking, stunning, seductive.

Jerod: Isn’t that kind of subjective, an eye-of-the-beholder type thing when you talk about arresting images? I mean, how is the audience supposed to know what type of image will arrest their particular audience?

Demian: Yeah. In some sense that is true. You might prefer to drive a Porsche, while I will take the Buick. But both of us would agree they are good-looking cars. You know, we like them for different reasons. And you and I are also going to find the same sunset beautiful, and the same mountain range beautiful, but for different reasons.

Yet there is some objectivity to that. And again, it’s an accepted truth that a face that is looking at the reader is going to draw more attention than a face looking elsewhere. But even that is not a perfect example.

How images help you create an emotional response in your audience

Demian: Take those photographs of abandoned sections of Detroit that circulated the net a few years ago. Do you remember those?

Jerod: Of course. They were harrowing.

Demian: Yes. Right. And so large, empty libraries filled with rubbish, just huge empty buildings, abandoned, and trash everywhere. Those were arresting, and they created an emotional response.

Now take a different set of photographs from Detroit: Photos that show the same degradation, the same emptiness, but this time these photographs were filled with people. The poverty-stricken, and they’re staring out at you. However, those photographs did not go viral.

Jerod: Why?

Demian: Well, because it was depressing, right? And this was a point — that they were depressing photographs. Ryan Holiday, in his book “Trust Me, I’m Lying,” made this point. He made this exact comparison.

He says in one example you have these photographs of where there aren’t people in there, and so the way we emotionally respond to those is in such a way as “I’d love to be here, I’m sort of envious of the photographer who got to go on this adventure and go into these,” sort of, even though they’re old, decrepit places … it was sort of interesting. It was neat. It was new.

Yet when you have people staring back at you who are obviously in a lot of need and help we feel guilty. That sort of strings with our guilt, and our consciences sort of suppress that. And so if you’re going to share something like that on your Facebook, you’re going to depress people. And Facebook doesn’t like it when you do that, right?

Jerod: So in other words, arresting images will create different emotional responses. Am I summing up what you’re saying correctly? To say — does that mean that we want to lean to the positive when we’re choosing arresting images for blog posts?

Demian: Yeah, that’s a good question, and I’ll answer that by pointing to a study.

There’s a 2012 study published by a team of researchers out of Utah Valley University, and the study was called “They Are Happier and Having Better Lives Than I Am, The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others’ Lives.” And their conclusion was that you get more explicit, implicit cues of people being happy, rich, and successful from a photo than from, say, a status update. And so a photo can be a very powerful way to provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger these feelings of inferiority. So you see your friend, who is hanging out in Southern California, and I’m stuck here in Illinois, and I’m going to envy that person, right?

So the same sort of impact can be made with an arresting image. You can create that emotion with them. And yeah, it could be positive. It really just kind of depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with the copy so that it really kind of brings in the question of what kind of emotion are you trying to generate with an image, which is the same question that you ask when you’re about to write copy. What kind of emotion? What is the response that I want out of the reader? What kind of an emotional response do I want him to have?

Why the emotion of the image needs to match the copy

Jerod: And let me guess, the emotion that you want to generate from the image should match the copy, right?

Demian: Yeah. Exactly.

So you know, do you want people to be angry so they can then go out and accomplish some sort of social justice cause? Do you want them to be sad, excited? Your image should match that emotion.

But it’s more than just about emotion. A good image should also match your personality. It should say something about who you are. And I think this is where we get to the point when we talked about, when we mentioned subjectivity. See, you and I might write about the same topic, but we are going to choose a different image. Something that we find complements our personality and says something about us.

So for example, the images that I choose tend to evoke sort of feelings of cynicism or sarcasm, maybe brooding or biting. Yours, on the other hand, Jerod, would probably be different because you’re more of an upbeat, optimistic guy with a different background and personality. Neither one is better than the other one, by the way, but it’s all really about being genuine to yourself in choosing those images.

Where to find great images online

Jerod: You and I also have different places where we get our images, too. I remember when I first started with Copyblogger I would go to iStock a lot because I hadn’t done a whole lot of finding images.

Demian: Right.

Jerod: And I quickly — I mean, look, iStock has its place, and you can get some good stuff there. But I quickly got bored with images there and found Flickr to be a place that — I didn’t realize how many Creative Commons images were there, and so many of the images now that I find come from Flickr, and it’s just a great place. Of course, you want to make sure that you use the advanced search tool to filter, to look for only photos and only Creative Commons. But for me, I found that to be one of my favorite places to find images.

You, I know, have a much more diverse list of sources. So where do you find your images?

Demian: Some of the places — Flickr is one of them. But I also look on Tumbler or Reddit, sometimes even Google-Plus.

There’s even a site called Society Six that I like a lot that allows illustrators and graphic designers to share their graphics, and then there’s a website called Quipsologies that shares a lot of stuff that’s — you know, things that attract them, and they share that. And I’ve got a list — in fact, I’ve got a list on article called “The Misfit’s Guide to Finding Interesting Images for Your Blog Posts.”

Of course, as you mentioned, too, look for images with no restrictions, or even just ask for permission. And recently one of my favorite sources for finding images comes from Dustin Stout, who did a wonderful job. Sort of a roundup of sites that offer free images, and a lot of times these are without copyright restrictions.

Why trusting your instincts and building the right relationships will help you choose better images

Jerod: So I want to end here with tips, and so one tip from my perspective is, trust your instinct when it comes to images.

I’ve put images in posts and looked at them, and something just doesn’t feel right. I wouldn’t be able to explain it, I couldn’t articulate it, it just doesn’t feel right. So get rid of it. Especially if it’s your site or if you’re in charge of a site and you know you understand the editorial voice of that site, trust your instinct on it. Because I think a lot of times you’re trying to develop a visceral emotion in the audience with the image. Well, you’re the one choosing it, and so if it doesn’t feel right, find another image.

There are a couple of times where I’ve gone with an image that didn’t feel right and ended up regretting it later. So I think it’s very important as you go through that process. Trust your gut, trust your instinct.

Demian, what is your tip for the audience when it comes to images?

Demian: Yeah. So one of the things I like to do is find a photographer or an illustrator that I like, and build a relationship with them. I tell them that I love their work, and then get permission to use their work, and then — what I mean by that is if you find a photograph that you love, e-mail them and say, “Hey, do you mind if I use this? Here is how I’m going to use it.” And if you can, share a draft of what you’re going to use it on so that they can get kind of some sense of it. But then come back to them occasionally and say, “Hey, I really love your work. What are the chances that we could just, you know, I’d love to keep on doing this if that’s okay with you,” and keep on going back to that resource.

And this is a great way to not only get great images, free images for your site, but also to help build exposure up for this particular photographer or illustrator. Which, you know, if you find someone who is just starting out, or maybe if your audience is bigger than theirs, then of course there’s an easy advantage to them for going with the relationship.

So yeah, just simply building that relationship, finding someone that you like and just working with them, and kind of partnering with them in bringing exposure to that person as well.

Jerod: Well Demian, that’s nine ingredients down. We have just two more to go in this series on the eleven essential ingredients of a blog post. And the next one is close in style. I’m looking forward to that one.

Demian: Me too. Thank you, Jerod.

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

Demian: Thank you.

Jerod: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Lede. If you are so inclined, we would greatly appreciate a rating or a review on ITunes, or please, if you’re enjoying these episodes, tweet out a link to the show or share it with a friend. Whatever is easiest for you.

We’ll be back next week with yet another episode. It will likely be the tenth installment in our essential ingredients of a blog post series, but it might — might — be another edition of The Hangout Hotseat. You’ll just have to check back on Friday to find out. 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 Director of Content for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter, , or at JerodMorris.com.

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The Simple Truth People Forget When Trying to Grow a Business http://www.copyblogger.com/smaller-target/ http://www.copyblogger.com/smaller-target/#respond Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=39683 You want to grow your business, right? You want downloads of your app, people buying your products, readers on your blog, and evangelists on social media, don’t you? Fair enough, that’s what we all want. But you’re missing something essential. People won’t ever know you, hear from you, understand you, follow you, or engage with

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first person view image of gun aiming at small target off in distance

You want to grow your business, right?

You want downloads of your app, people buying your products, readers on your blog, and evangelists on social media, don’t you?

Fair enough, that’s what we all want.

But you’re missing something essential.

People won’t ever know you, hear from you, understand you, follow you, or engage with you because of one simple flaw.

Your target isn’t small enough.

Seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? It isn’t.

Building an audience online should be born the same way it is offline: from person-to-person.

First, define who you are

For example, you wouldn’t run into a movie theatre and yell, “I’ve got a wonderful product!” and expect a positive response would you?

None of these people know you, none of them understand you, and none of them have engaged with you before.

None of them would respond.

You have to define your own core values, what you stand for, who you are as an organization, a company, a person … and speak from that voice.

Then, define your core target

You have to target a defined group.

In SEO it’s hard to rank well for a very generic term, one that has a ton of visits but also a lot of competition. This can take months and months of effort, and one algorithmic change can wipe the slate clean.

But it’s rather easy to rank for a “long-tail” phrase that doesn’t get as many searches and has very low competition. Get enough of those and you’ve got a substantial increase in visitors — visitors that are now your customers, if you’re building correctly.

It’s the same principle.

You have to find your core group of engagers — the people who really care, whose principles align with yours, and who are willing to share.

Now, let them spread the word

The share is the motive.

You don’t get to 10,000 sales by targeting 10,000 people, you get 10,000 sales by targeting 1,000 people who will spread the word once they’ve bought.

You have to have an audience that will share first and foremost. If you target everybody your chances of reaching anybody are limited at best.

With exclusivity comes engagement, with engagement comes adoption, and with adoption comes growth.

This is why authors like Tim Ferriss prefer a good guest blog to promote their book rather than going on NBC to spout off to millions of people who don’t know or care who Tim Ferriss is. He would rather feed off of someone else’s audience that is already engaged in content like his own.

You don’t need 1,000,000 people to buy your book to hit the top of the New York Times’ Best Sellers list, nor Amazon’s best sellers list. You need about 10,000 people who are willing to leave reviews and advocate for you.

The most blatant example is Facebook.

People see Facebook’s billion+ users and are convinced that, “I have to target a huge audience to get that much traction!” (Let me let you in on a secret: there is no possible way to target 1 billion people, ever, with any marketing.)

When it started, Facebook targeted one school — granted, it was a very large school. But it all started with just one email list, to a group that was known to engage in content of this sort. It caught on like wildfire because of the deep engagement that it had with that tight-knit group.

Now we use Facebook as social proof, liking brands that our friends like; and that’s essentially how Facebook itself started – engaging in things that our friends were engaging in.

Are you struggling to get traction?

Are you dissatisfied with your progress attracting visitors to your blog, subscribers to your newsletter, followers on Facebook and Twitter, or whatever else it may be?

Your target isn’t small enough … so make your target smaller.

Tighten your scope, find your tight-knit group.

And reach more in the long run.

Want to discuss? Reach out to me on Twitter or join the discussion on Google-Plus.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Vladimer Shiosvhili

About the Author: Sean Smith is a content marketer and social media strategy consultant, having worked with brands like Best Western, Holiday Inn, Bidsketch, and Baker Hughes to boost revenue through clever content and community building. He’s also the Co-founder of SimpleTiger digital marketing, and a consultant for hire. Get more from Sean on Twitter.

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Are You Really a Writer … Or Just a Copyist? http://www.copyblogger.com/writer-or-copyist/ http://www.copyblogger.com/writer-or-copyist/#respond Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=40972 There is a terminology problem plaguing the content community. It’s confusing marketers, it’s misleading clients, and it’s causing an identity crisis among content creators everywhere. It seems that no one really knows what it means to be a writer. And Merriam-Webster isn’t much help when it comes to defining this person. A “writer is someone

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Image of person sitting against wall with sign that says Will write for food

There is a terminology problem plaguing the content community.

It’s confusing marketers, it’s misleading clients, and it’s causing an identity crisis among content creators everywhere.

It seems that no one really knows what it means to be a writer.

And Merriam-Webster isn’t much help when it comes to defining this person. A “writer is someone whose work it is to write books, poems, stories, etc.” Or even more vague, a writer is “someone who has written something.”

And as Sonia Simone recently pointed out here at Copyblogger, there are even some people who think RealWriter is a software that uses algorithms to string together words. (You can’t blame Sonia when options like content generators and article spinning tools actually exist.)

This vague definition and the disparate views on what it takes to be a writer are allowing people to create their own idea of a writer and slap all kinds of connotations on it.

And this is really distorting the writing industry.

Which is why it’s time to draw some clear lines in the sand.

Writers wanted (copyists need not apply)

The terminology trouble is creating problems for markets trying to find writers, and for writers trying to find jobs. “Writers Wanted” jobs are hoping to target writers who are:

  • Journalists
  • Storytellers
  • Researchers
  • Investigators
  • Industry experts
  • Bloggers
  • Copywriters
  • Authors

But far too often, those who apply aren’t any of these things. They aren’t writers. They are copyists.

A copyist can be defined as a person who:

  • Wants to be paid to write a certain number of words
  • Is drawn to writing as a job, not as a calling
  • Is not trained or highly experienced in any specific writing style
  • Doesn’t have any industry specializations
  • Doesn’t have a unique perspective to share
  • Isn’t expecting to be highly compensated as they don’t expect to provide high-quality work

Merriam-Webster defines a copyist as “a person who transcribes” or “an imitator.”

It might seem silly to think that these attributes could be tied to a version of a writer, but the keyword-focused online marketing industry created and fueled a market that was looking for this exact type of writer.

But even now that the rules of the Internet have changed, and quality content written by real writers is all the rage, the copyists are still around.

And it’s time for them to go.

Creating a clear definition of a writer

In the State of Freelance Writing 2014 white paper, CopyPress first identified the need to stop thinking of writers as copyists, and start remembering what it really means to be a writer.

…writers were journalists. They were storytellers. They were researchers and investigators. They were trained in grammar and AP style. They held degrees in English, journalism, and creative nonfiction. They were people who wanted to be writers their entire lives, people who were passionate about writing and telling original stories from unique points of view.

So, the first step in clearing up the confusing definition of writer is identifying what the term is not: a writer is not a copyist.

The next step is identifying what the term is: a writer is an author or freelance commercial writer.

Ditching the copyist mentality

It’s pretty easy to tell if you are a copyist.

  • You are not passionate about writing. If you were offered a new job in another industry, you would leave writing behind without a second thought.
  • You accept all types of work-from-home jobs. The work-from-home aspect of writing is what draws you to the industry, and you also work in other kinds of work-from-home jobs.
  • You don’t read for pleasure. You don’t regularly read books, magazines, or newspapers, and you don’t have any favorite blogs.
  • Your finish line is a word count. When you receive a 500-word writing assignment, you write exactly 500 words.
  • You are not proud of your writing. The thought of sharing your writing with loved ones never crosses your mind.
  • You don’t write in your free time. You think writing is work, and if no one is paying for it, there is no reason to do it.
  • You think your writing is good enough. You don’t spend any time working on improving your craft. You don’t seek out constructive feedback and you don’t make revisions.

If you identified with one or more of these statements, it is quite possible that you are chasing the wrong career. Maybe you aren’t a writer after all.

But don’t be discouraged if you identified yourself as a copyist if you truly want to be a writer.

It’s not impossible for copyists to become writers — it just means you need to change your mindset and embrace the role of author or commercial freelance writer.

Embracing the role of author

One of the best definitions of an author is “a person who starts or creates something (such as a plan or idea).”

You are an author if:

  • You have original thoughts, perspectives, and opinions you want to share. Your writing doesn’t always rely on reiterating ideas from others. You use your own knowledge and thoughts to create original content.
  • You like to research and follow trends. To help you create your own thoughts, perspectives, and opinions, you are educated, engaged, and immersed in news that relates to your work.
  • You love reading. You frequently read books, magazines, and blogs. You are interested in the substance of the content, and also the delivery of the content. You read to see how other authors deliver their work.
  • You write in your free time. Even if you have no paid work in your queue, you are writing. Whether you are writing on your blog or an article that you hope to sell or even just jotting down ideas in a notebook, you are always writing and thinking about writing.
  • You have a portfolio. You have published samples of work (with bylines) that prove you are a powerful writer — even if the samples are self-published.

If you decide you are an author, there are a few things you can do to elevate your career.

1. Become a contributor. 

Guest posting and contributing to other blogs isn’t dead – especially not for authors.

Google’s Matt Cutts went after some kinds of guest posting because they were seeing too many copyists trying to contribute bogus content. But as they said, “There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there.”

That means authors can still benefit from the exposure that guest posting brings.

2. Pitch like a professional. 

We typically associate pitching with guest posting, but try approaching this like a traditional journalist.

Write a query letter that matches the tactics that magazine writers use when pitching print publications:

  • Share your idea
  • Explain why you are qualified to write it
  • Tell them how it will benefit their audience

This will help you attract more paid writing gigs.

3. Start blogging. 

You don’t need someone to pay to you to get your writing career going.

You are building a business and you need to start somewhere. Think about the free writing that you do as a start-up writing cost. It is marketing your writing.

So spend some time creating your own blog and writing about your topic.

4. Network. Network. Network. 

Connect to influential people in industries aligned with your niche market. Building relationships with them will help connect you to jobs and writing gigs.

Also connect to people who are less influential than you. Proving yourself as a helpful expert to people with less experience than you will lead them back to you when they need to hire someone for help.

With the appropriate mindset of a writer, and by following these tips, you’ll be able to land more jobs aligned with your skills and passions. 

An easy way to identify a job that is right for an author is to see if it includes a byline. The jobs that are a fit for authors include:

  • Feature articles
  • White papers and ebooks
  • Columns
  • Thought-leadership articles
  • News stories
  • Guides (that are not technical guides — technical writing is another genre entirely)
  • Blog posts (that are meant to represent industry ideas and opinions, not represent a brand)
  • Info videos (that are meant to represent industry information, ideas, and opinions)

Embracing the role of freelance commercial writer

A freelance commercial writer can be described as a “writer of advertising or publicity copy.” You fit the description of a freelance commercial writer if:

  • You are interested in marketing. You identify yourself as a writer as much as you identify yourself as a marketer. You know that commercial writing is as much about writing as it is about marketing and advertising.
  • You are can naturally imitate the voice of others. You have no problem absorbing the established tone of a brand, business, or person and mimicking it in the tone of your copy.
  • You know how to sell through words. You don’t write for words; you write for strong messages that encourage readers to act.
  • You like to write concisely. You have no problem cutting half of the words out of your first draft because you know that there is no room for flowery, ornate language.
  • You love reading advertising slogans and sales pitches. You like to analyze headlines, taglines, and ad copy to identify why the words work or why they don’t.
  • You know how to match your creativity with client goals. While you are great at thinking outside of the box and coming up with creative ways to approach editorial objects, you still understand the importance of aligning with client goals, perspectives, and opinions.

If you decide you are a freelance commercial writer, there are a few things you can do to elevate your career.

1. Create a website. 

While freelance commercial writers don’t need to blog quite as much as an author, they should still create a website that promotes them. Create a simple site that shows off your ability to sell through words.

Also, create a portfolio that features work you have done for clients, even if it doesn’t include a byline. (It is good practice to get client permission before featuring work you have done for them on your site.)

2. Brush up on your marketing and sales education. 

Don’t think that a writing background is enough if you want to succeed as a freelance commercial writer.

Continue to learn about the art and science of creating direct-response content that gets people to take some sort of action.

3. Network with other types of creatives.

Digital and visual media are continuing to grow in popularity, so network with other creatives that can help you create a variety of media like videos, infographics, and interactive apps.

Form relationships with designers and developers so you can complement each other’s skill sets in order to create high-end media that features copy along with images, graphics, and interactive elements.

Jobs that are best fits for freelance commercial writers are mostly jobs that promote a product, company, or service. Those projects typically include the following types of work.

  • Landing pages
  • Sales copy
  • Email newsletters
  • Web copy
  • Product/ecommerce copy
  • Press releases
  • Romance copy (copy that lures the reader in)
  • Blog posts (that are meant to represent and promote a brand)
  • Info video and commercial scripts (that are meant to promote a brand)

A clear definition benefits us all

With a clearer definition of what it means to be a real writer, there will be many winners:

  • Authors and freelance commercial writers will benefit as the industry will now have a better idea of what to expect from them.
  • Clients and marketers will benefit by being able to more easily identify writers who will be able to help them achieve their goals.
  • Audiences and readers will benefit by being exposed to more high-quality, effective, and enjoyable content.

How do you define a real writer?

And what about you … are you writer or a copyist? (And if the latter, do you yearn for change?)

I would love to hear your thoughts. Join the discussion over at Google-Plus.

And if you want a sneak peek at the The State of Freelance Writing 2014 white paper, you can read the first six pages for free (and even without registering) right here: Look Inside The State of Freelance Writing.


The next step for real writers

Copyblogger now has a Content Certification Program to support, educate, and promote writers.

If you’re a writer — a real writer, not a copyist — and you’re interested in becoming certified, you need to join our (free) MyCopyblogger marketing library to hear about it.

Registration for the program is currently closed while we focus on making it a great experience for our most recent group of applicants. But if you’d like to join our next round of students, register and keep an eye on your MyCopyblogger emails, as we’ll let you know as soon as the program is available again for new members.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Ritesh Nayak

About the Author: Raubi Marie Perilli writes guides about blogging, copy writing, and freelancing for CopyPress Community -- an online network of writers, designers, and marketers. Get more from Raubi on Twitter.

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12 Examples of Native Ads (And Why They Work) http://www.copyblogger.com/examples-of-native-ads/ http://www.copyblogger.com/examples-of-native-ads/#respond Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=40879 Despite all the hype, native advertising remains a fuzzy concept for most marketers. According to our 2014 status report: 49 percent of respondents don’t know what native advertising is 24 percent are hardly familiar with it Another 24 percent are somewhat familiar Only 3 percent are very knowledgeable So, given the lack of awareness (and

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Guinness Guide to Cheese advertorial

Despite all the hype, native advertising remains a fuzzy concept for most marketers.

According to our 2014 status report:

  • 49 percent of respondents don’t know what native advertising is
  • 24 percent are hardly familiar with it
  • Another 24 percent are somewhat familiar
  • Only 3 percent are very knowledgeable

So, given the lack of awareness (and people mistaking it for other things, like sponsorship), we thought it would be a good idea to walk you through about a dozen examples of native advertising — and why they work.

Let’s get going.

1. Print advertorials … starting with this classic example

Let’s start with the basics: the advertorial.

David Ogilvy’s “Guinness Guide to Oysters” is the quintessential advertorial — like the “Guinness Guide to Cheese” above. When people talk about advertorials they usually mention this ad — like Brian Clark did.

Quick glance and it looks like editorial content:

David Ogilvy Guinness Guide to Oysters advertorial native advertising example

Last week I explained what made this an advertorial (and next week I’ll go in depth on how to create an online advertorial that converts), so let me just say that for this to work it should appear among editorial content and match the context design.

In other words, if you removed the brand name, it would fit the style of the publication.

The Guinness Guide, however, is a print ad, which leads to this question: would an advertorial work online? Let’s see.

2. Online advertorials

This is IBM on Atlantic:

Example of IBM's branded content on The Atlantic

As you can see it’s labeled “Sponsor Content.” And except for the header and navigation bar, it is embedded among other IBM content. 

Furthermore, the article is written by David Laverty, Vice President of Marketing, Big Data, and Analytics at IBM. Yet it matches the editorial and design style of Atlantic.

Is this an advertorial? No. There is not a clear call to action. It is, therefore, sponsored or branded content.

This piece from Gawker is a better example.

The article sits on the Gawker root domain and the design and editorial style match Gawker’s.

example of an advertorial on Gawker

It is labeled “Sponsored.”

And just two paragraphs in, the intention of the sponsor is clear: WATCH OUR SHOW!

example of Gawker advertorial call to action

That is a clear call to action. The link drives you to the TBS website for King of the Nerds. This is an advertorial.

3. Online video advertorials

Naturally you can’t talk about online advertising and not talk about videos.

Yes, an advertorial can be a video, which is exactly what The Onion has done through their Onion Labs creative agency.

Last week I showed you one of their videos for Southwest Airlines. Here’s another one for a small, unknown outfit called Microsoft.

Microsoft gets the Onion treatment through this hilarious parody — but also gets its message across.

The call to action: give Explorer 9 a shot.

4. Advertorial … gone wrong

I think it is safe to say the Atlantic’s failed Scientology experiment embedded the term “native advertising” into our collective advertising consciousness.

Before their experiment, the earliest search for the term “native advertising” appears in February 2011, and it didn’t climb into double digit searches until November 2012.

Here’s the advertorial in question, one they pulled shortly after it was published:

Image of controversial Church of Scientology  sponsored post on The Atlantic

You can see the entire treatment at Poynter via PDF.

Why did they pull it? This is what the critics claim Atlantic did wrong:

  • Used a mushy expression “Sponsor Content.” It’s an expression Dan Gilmour, writer for the Guardian, says publishers use when they don’t want ads to look like ads.
  • The design layout looked too much like the design of Atlantic.
  • The editorial looks too much like Atlantic editorial.

They also forgot a clear call to action.

The joke, however, is on Scientology and not Atlantic. The religious organization is just a poor advertiser. In fact, I’m surprised Atlantic bowed to the pressure. If the ad was so sneaky, why did so many people complain?

Let’s look at sponsored content now.

5. Sponsored content

Sponsored content is what a publisher creates and then a brand pays for. This is what The Onion did for H&R Block.

example of sponsored content on The Onion for H and R Block

There is no clear call to action, so this content serves as brand awareness.

However, the article is embedded on a page surrounded by H&R Block banner ads.

Screen shot showing banner ads surrounding H and R block sponsored post on The Onion

Those banner ads contain calls to action, but good luck getting people to click them.

An offline example of sponsored content is Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. The insurance company Mutual of Omaha footed the bill for production. No call to action, just brand awareness.

6. Single-sponsor issues

In the print world a single-sponsor issue is when a single advertiser sponsors an entire issue of a magazine.

The most famous example occurred in August 2005 when Target bought all the ad space (about 18 pages, including the cover) in the August 22 issue of The New Yorker.

Image of two Target ads in the New Yorker

As Stuart Elliot wrote when he originally reported on the campaign, “The goal of a single-sponsor issue is the same as it is when an advertiser buys all the commercial time in an episode of a television series: attract attention by uncluttering the ad environment.”

Again, in this case, no clear call to action, just brand awareness.

The way this works online is similar: a single sponsor buys all of the ad inventory on a website (or network of related websites) for a certain time period — a day, half a day, or even just an hour. Subway, for example, does this often on sports websites, usually timed to coincide with specific noteworthy events.

When our Director of Content Jerod Morris was running the sports blog Midwest Sports Fans, he would get such opportunities about once a month via the site’s affiliation with the sports blog network YardBarker.

All it took to make happen was inserting a special code into the header, which would control the already-in-place YardBarker ads. Then all sites in the network that chose to take part would show the same ads from the same sponsor, and only those ads.

7. Branded content

The only difference between sponsored and branded content is that the brand creates the content for the publisher.

Here is a post by Dell on NYTimes.com. Notice all the signals that it is paid content.

dell-ny-times-branded-content

As you can see, being precise about our terms is confusing because there is not an advertising standard when it comes to paid content labels.

On all the examples I’ve shared above so far, and the examples I’ll share below, you’ll see a variety of labels placed on native advertising. David Rodnitzky thinks they might violate FTC rules on deceptive advertising. But that’s for another time.

You could lump branded playlists on Spotify into this category, too.

While the brand doesn’t always create the music (Sesame Street, however, did), they do curate the songs around a theme.

Jaguar USA, Abercrombie + Fitch, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (you knew he was a brand, right?) are great examples.

8. Product placement

A classic example of product placement was the bottle of Red Stripe in the 1993 film The Firm.

Or the Coke cups American Idol judges drink from.

Or the Reese’s Pieces in the movie E.T.

But what about online examples?

I don’t make it a point to read Vice (for reasons that will be clear here in a minute), but at one point in my research I wondered what they were doing in the native advertising landscape.

That’s when I hit upon this gem (NSFW): Talking to Girls About the Good Ol’ Number Two Taboo. It’s a slideshow that amounts to a runway show for American Apparel, and a few other clothiers.

The clue was a comment on page one (otherwise I would’ve ignored the slide show and moved on):

example of product placement on vice

Hmm. Ericha might be onto something. So I emailed the author of the article to find out.

She was a very polite Swede, Caisa Ederyd. I said I am a writer working on a series for native advertising and couldn’t help noticing all the photos in her “article” were mostly of models wearing American Apparel clothes. I asked if American Apparel had paid for the slideshow.

She said American Apparel did not pay for the editorial.

“It’s a Swedish editorial,” Ederyd added, “And due to no budget in this project we had to turn to labels who lend us their clothes for free. Beyond Retro and American Apparel happened to have most items that our stylist wanted to use.”

Okay, but then I followed up and asked her what she meant by “no budget in this project.” As of publication, she has not responded.

This was a clear example of product placement.

While money may not have exchanged hands, favors did. There is a cost to American Apparel for giving away free clothes, albeit small. And in exchange they got exposure — the article was a popular post for at least 24 hours).

I’ve seen product placement in Onion pieces, too, like this one for the Canon PowerShot S1100 IS digital camera:

Canon product placement in Onion article

Did Canon pay for this ad? According to their advertising department, no. So why the precision?

If there was no commercial intent, why not just say “a Canon,” or simply “a camera” for that matter? They have not responded yet.

Again, product placement is more about building brand awareness. There is no clear call to action. And unlike the H&R Block example, the content is not surrounded by Canon banner ads.

And now, a native advertising intermission

In the 2014 native advertising report I said that I didn’t consider promoted content like we’re about to cover below — such as sponsored posts in Facebook or promoted tweets — to be native advertising. I’d include in-feed ads and Google AdWords text ads in that claim, too.

The answer is in my native advertising definition:

Native advertising is paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations.

Facebook and Twitter fail this definition because neither are publishers. The same is true with Google AdWords. They do not have a conventional editorial branch to speak of.

In Twitter’s and Facebook’s case, this is user-generated content that brands pay to reshare. None of these are pretending to be publisher-produced editorial content. In Google’s case, it’s just an advertiser paying to get in front of an audience.

That’s plain ol’ advertising.

On this point Dan Greenberg, CEO of Sharethrough, would disagree with me. I confess, after further research, he’s got a point.

There is a sense that this species of advertising — sponsored posts and promoted tweets — is native because it appears in the social stream or among search listings. So, in the advertising taxonomy, promoted content would be related to advertorials. But, in my opinion, it has to be a different genus because it’s not editorial.

In other words, I’m admitting I was wrong. Sort of. :D

So, with that said, this intermission ends, and we get back to our last four approaches.

9. In-feed ads

You’ve seen these widgets that recommend content from “Around the Web.”

For example, on Slate:

Examples of in-feed ads on Slate

All these links do is push you to content on other publishing sites, with a few commercial mixed in. 

Companies like Sharethrough, Outbrain, and Respond provide the network to run such ads, and advertisers pay for the clicks.

The following in-feed ad, however, is different. It has clear commercial intent.

Example of commercial in-feed ad on Slate

The headline matches the editorial style of Slate, yet it is labeled “Sponsored.” Click the link and you land on a British Airways branded page with videos about the evolution of the airlines as the best in class.

And finally there are the in-feed ads that drive you to another website. You know what I’m talking about.

  • The one simple exercise that burns belly fat.
  • The arrest records of your local city.

The words sit underneath the bold black title “Trending Around the Web” with “ADVERTISEMENT” sitting quietly to the right in a light grey font.

These ads have an editorial feel about them, as do the websites they drive you to — but clearly they have a commercial intent. Despite our distaste for these, I have a hunch they work for the advertiser. Because they have not gone away.

10. Sponsored posts (Facebook)

I could not find a good example of a sponsored post on Facebook. Is this because I am NEVER there? You more than likely know what I’m talking about, though.

Here’s my best shot:

example of a sponsored post on Facebook

You can read up on Sponsored posts here.

11. Promoted Tweets

Pretty basic stuff here. Nice one from the same company who created Twitter.

example of a promoted tweet

Learn more about promoted Tweets here.

12. Google Text Ads (Search Listings)

Can you spot the ads?

google-text-ads

Life on Bing is no different.

example of text ads on bing

Learn more about Google text ads here.

Where does content marketing fall in respect to native advertising?

They are born of the same stock and have the same goal in mind, but the main difference is this: with content marketing the brand becomes the publisher.

Exquisite examples of content marketers:

  • Red Bull
  • GE
  • Mint
  • Magnolia

We like to think we do a pretty decent job at Copyblogger Media, as well. Let’s just say our business results consistently meet or exceed our expectations.

In each case the brand creates content that informs, educates, or entertains. It’s how you build an audience that builds your business.

Native advertising, therefore, is paid content that drives traffic to that content.

And for a final comparison, guest posting is non-paid content that drives traffic to the content on your domain.

What’s next?

Here’s what you can expect next in this series.

First, an article on how to create an advertorial that converts.

Then, research concluding whether native advertising is profitable or not. We know it’s profitable for the publisher, but is it profitable for the advertiser? I aim to find out.

And let me close with a recent quote from Brian:

Good native ads are content that’s about the reader, watcher, or listener. But ultimately there’s an actionable goal for the advertiser, like opt-in to get a free report from New Rainmaker (you’ll see this happen from us soon).”

Want to discuss anything about this article? Share other examples of native advertising? Then join 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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http://www.copyblogger.com/examples-of-native-ads/feed/ 0 12 Examples of Native Ads (And Why They Work) Demian Farnworth walks you through a dozen examples of native advertising -- and why they work. guinness-guide-to-cheese David Ogilvy’s Guiness Guide to Oysters IMB-branded-content-on-Atlantic gawker-nerd-babe-advertorial gawker-nerd-babe-advertorial-2 scientology-sponsored-content-on-the-atlantic hr-block-sponsored-content-onion hr-block-banner-ads-onion target-new-yorker-ad dell-ny-times-branded-content american-apparel-vice-ad Canon-Onion slate-in-feed-ads slate-in-feed-ad-commercial fb-sponsored-post-example Twitter-Promoted-Tweet google-text-ads bing-text-ads
Removing Blog Comments: The View So Far http://www.copyblogger.com/lede-blog-comments/ http://www.copyblogger.com/lede-blog-comments/#respond Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=40805 Shockwaves. That’s what this post by Sonia Simone sent through the Copyblogger community. The post, you’ll recall, announced our decision to remove blog comments and gave the reasoning for why we decided to do so — reasoning that some accepted at face value, others parsed for hidden meaning, and the rest ignored before ZOMG’ing to

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Shockwaves.

That’s what this post by Sonia Simone sent through the Copyblogger community.

The post, you’ll recall, announced our decision to remove blog comments and gave the reasoning for why we decided to do so — reasoning that some accepted at face value, others parsed for hidden meaning, and the rest ignored before ZOMG’ing to their social account of choice to share the headline.

Agree or disagree, trust or question, the one constant was that everyone had a reaction.

Now almost three weeks later, it’s time for us to react to the reaction.

In this episode, Sonia, Demian, and I shed light on the following:

  • The super-secret, ulterior, Machiavellian motives that did (or didn’t) influence the decision to turn off blog comments
  • Why comment moderation is an underrated time suck
  • What it means when a company says it has “outgrown a comments section”
  • Why content is an asset to be controlled … but conversations might not be
  • Why a business never outgrows the need to listen to its customers
  • How removing comments has changed the experience for Copyblogger authors
  • What the “number one, most important reason to keep” blog comments is
  • Guidance on whether you should consider removing blog comments from your site

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 …

Now it’s your turn to react to our reaction to the reaction.

Tweet me and let’s discuss, or you can join the discussion over at Google-Plus.

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: Sonia Simone Discusses the Fallout From Removing Blog Comments

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m your host, Jerod Morris. If you want to get a content marketing education during a walk around the block or your drive home from work, this podcast is the way to do it. Today Demian Farnworth and I are joined by Copyblogger Chief Content Officer, Sonia Simone, to discuss blog comments.

As you probably already know, we removed blog comments at Copyblogger recently, and the decision created quite a bit of discussion. Sonia shares her thoughts on how the experiment is going so far, and how she would advise any site owner considering a similar course of action.

How super-secret, ulterior, Machiavellian motives did (or didn’t) influence the decision to turn off blog comments

Jerod: Okay, Sonia. So about two weeks ago, March 24th, we announced that we were removing comments from Copyblogger. And it’s obviously too soon to make any data-based judgments about the impact of that decision, but I’m very curious just to gauge your feelings, your general feelings, about how it’s gone so far.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s been really interesting.

One of the things that has come out that I did not expect is the number of people around the web who believe that I have super-secret, ulterior motives, and they’re trying to read the tea leaves to figure out, “What are they really doing?” Like, what’s the real strategy here?

So first thing is, I am really flattered that people think I’m that Machiavellian. I think that’s kind of a great compliment. But there are no tea leaves to read. Pretty much we said everything. Those were the real reasons that we laid out in the post.

And I think it’s been an interesting mixed bag. I like comments. I like blog comments. So it took me a while to lose that muscle memory of going into the dashboard and checking for the unread comments. But I’ve got to say, I’m spending about the same amount of time in conversation. I’m just spending a lot more of it having conversations with people, and a lot less of it looking at comments, trying to figure out whether or not I should be approving them. So that’s kind of a win.

Why comment moderation is an underrated time suck

Jerod: And that is part of the problem. The time spent. And that’s one of the responses that we’ve gotten as well. Spam filters catch everything, so that’s really not that big of an issue. But as you kind of alluded to, it really is, isn’t it?

Sonia: Yeah, and I think — it’s hard to talk about this without sounding incredibly snotty — but there are issues that come up when you have a lot of traffic that don’t come up when you’re not at that level of traffic.

I don’t like to get into “big blog, little blog” kind of nonsense conversations, but there are some issues that come up when you have a lot of traffic, and one of them is that your site really becomes a platform for a lot of grandstanding, for a lot of showboating.

I had an amazing number of e-mails from people, many of which really gave me kind of a chuckle and made me smile, from people who said, “You know, I wish you hadn’t turned off comments because I used to get all kinds of traffic to my site from leaving comments on Copyblogger.” And there were some other quite creative and innovative ways people would use Copyblogger comments to get traffic to their sites.

And I applaud all of their resourcefulness and initiative. I think that’s great. But there is a flip side to that, which is the conversation becomes skewed in the favor of a lot of self-promotion. And a lot of people — it’s almost like they’re on stage, you know? They’re using the stage, they’re using the blog comments as a platform. That doesn’t necessarily come up on a blog that doesn’t get quite the same amount of traffic.

And so a lot of people said, “Well, I don’t understand the problem they face.” And I think it’s just a question of we’re in really different contexts. So yeah.

The spam filters definitely caught almost everything that was posted by a robot. What they didn’t catch was a lot of seemingly innocuous posts left by various people, a lot of SEO firms leaving comments that really were not tremendously valuable. They really weren’t part of the “conversation.” They didn’t add a lot. They just created a lot of clutter.

And I hope nobody takes that all of the comments on Copyblogger were of low quality. And some people are saying that. “Oh, it’s worthless, the blog comment conversation’s worthless.” I don’t think that’s true at all.

I also don’t think that we cut off the most valuable conversation arena that we had just because of the nature of the platform, the visibility of it. People just tend to be more relaxed, more themselves, more genuinely conversational in our social accounts. Particularly our Google Plus presence.

What it means when a company says it has “outgrown a comments section”

Demian Farnworth: So Sonia, what does it mean when a company says that they’ve outgrown a comments section? Is that possible? What does that mean? What does that look like?

Sonia: I don’t think every company outgrows comments, and I don’t think any company outgrows the need to engage in a lot of very specific and very time-consuming conversation with their audience, their customers, their vendors, the general public.

Conversation is part of how 21st centuries do business. And I’m for that, and I think that’s a wonderful thing. The one thing our company was not lacking was opportunities for conversation. We have an embarrassment of riches there. So I think Copyblogger was in a very specific situation because we are very high visibility, and we do get an awful lot of traffic, and people use the comments section on Copyblogger the way that they might not in another company. So I don’t know if it’s outgrowing the blog comments.

I think it’s just more a question of making a call, making a business decision, about whether the comments are serving a valuable business purpose, or could that purpose be served a different way?

You know, any business owner, big company, small company, $10 million dollar company, $100 million dollar company, you need good listening posts. You need ways to observe how people think about you, feel about you, feel about your products, how they’re using your products. That’s important for a company of any size, and so we just happen to be really blessed with opportunities to do that because of the nature of the kind of business we are.

Having grown out of a blog, we have so many conversations around our business. But no, it’s important, and I don’t want anybody to take away the idea that companies should stop listening to their audiences, because that would be very foolish.

Demian: Mmm-hmm.

Why content is an asset to be controlled … but conversations are not

Jerod: Now I want to ask you how the concept of digital sharecropping played into this. It seems like there are two ways to look at it:

One way, that we talked about even when we were making the decision, was about wanting people who left these really substantial comments on the Copyblogger blog to use those to seed blog posts on their own site, and start conversations with their own audience. And then you’ve also got — I guess the argument could be made that we’re even digital sharecropping some — having these conversations on Google-Plus. How do you look at those two different areas?

Sonia: Yeah. And that conversation came up a lot, and I was glad, because it means that people who care about our stuff are really taking that digital sharecropping message to heart, which is awesome.

And just for the record, here’s how I see it. I don’t put my business assets on a platform that I don’t control. So I don’t put my content on a platform I don’t control unless I have it somewhere I can keep it and benefit from it. I wouldn’t post original content to Facebook. I would just never — it doesn’t make a lot of sense, other than just a post, a simple throw-away kind of a post. So our content lives on our domain, in our e-mail lists. These are assets we can control.

I think the difference is I don’t see the conversation as an asset. I see conversations as an experience that the business does not own, and I think actually businesses are delusional if they think they do own the conversations around their product, their topic. The conversation is an experience a business has that it uses to get better, and that it uses to grow and evolve and serve the audience better. And so conversations are meant to be ephemeral.

It’s funny because we’re in this 21st Century digital age, and we want to archive everything. We want everything to be, you know, backed up and triple backed up, and if a meteor comes tomorrow and takes out all the servers that house Google-Plus, and we lose those conversations, that’s a shame. But they’re conversations. To me they’re not meant to live forever. What they’re meant to do is educate me, inform me, change how I think, change how I feel.

The change, the transformation that the conversation creates takes place in me, so it’s fine with me if it’s on another platform. And you know, I’m a control freak about everything. But I am not a control freak about my conversations because the valuable part is how it changes me, not the words on a server somewhere.

How removing comments has changed the experience for Copyblogger authors

Jerod: And to close this out, Sonia, I do want to get your thoughts on, guidance for other people who may be facing this decision.

Before we do that, though. Demian, I’m actually curious to get your perspective as a writer who’s had some posts go up since then. Has it changed the experience for you at all? Having the comments and conversation in a place other than right underneath the post where it had always been?

Demian: That’s a great question. I don’t think so. What changes is where you look for the responses.

The nice thing about Google-Plus is I’m notified when someone actually mentions my name, or if I’m following that discussion then I’m notified within Gmail or Google-Plus, any one of the Google products. So it’s nice in that way. There’s a lot more ease of use.

You know, with Copyblogger it used to be we’d get emails every time somebody commented. But that can get overwhelming if you have a lively discussion. But then, eventually we pulled that feature. And so now I just have to go on there and look. So I like the idea of being notified, and again, the only real habit change was just where to look for the comments. So outside of that, though, no.

When should you keep blog comments? When should you not?

Jerod: All right. Sonia, to close this up here, one of the — I suppose you could call it — criticisms of the decision, is that people thought that we would be leading a lot of other sites to close comments when those comments could still be valuable for them. And I’ve seen, just on our Twitter account, people talking about how they’ve been thinking about doing this, and maybe felt more empowered because we had done it. What kind of advice or guidance would you give to people who are considering possibly turning their comments off?

Sonia: First, the very first thing is, and Ramsay Taplin brought up this in his post, and I thought it was really important: If you’re really enjoying it, if you’re really enjoying the experience and your comments are really giving you energy and you’re enjoying that conversation, that’s the number one most important reason you should keep them, even if it makes — even if you could find a business reason to turn them off. If you like them, please keep them. Lots of people love the comments on their blogs. So that’s excellent.

And I think the other thing to really keep in mind is the importance — it is still important to have those conversations and to get those reactions, and for most blogs your comments are a great place to do that. It’s right there, it’s all in one place, it’s convenient. So we were in a very unusual circumstance. I think most blogs would probably want to go ahead and leave comments there.

But where I do challenge people is I’m seeing some responses that, you know, “a blog without comments isn’t a blog,” or that it’s somehow morally or ethically not okay (chuckles) to take your comments off. If it’s something you’ve really been wanting to do, and you have other ways of talking to people, then this can be — you know, for a lot of businesses this means taking a customer out to lunch twice a month and just sitting down and talking to them about their experience with the business. Blog comments are not the only way to talk to your customers.

So if you are dying to do it, and you feel like that value isn’t there for you proportionate to the work, because man, moderating spam comments is the singularly low productivity behavior.

Demian: Yes. I second that.

Sonia: I mean, it’s way down there. Having your teeth cleaned is like, way more enjoyable and actually useful. So yeah. I think it comes down to your preference, and then do you have another way to make the connections to have a conversation to listen?

What you don’t want to do is use it as an excuse to quit listening to what people have to say, including those conversations that are uncomfortable or inconvenient. Those are part of doing business. So as long as you have that in place, then I really think it’s up to your judgment as a business owner.

And also, it’s not like you turn off comments on your blog and then you can never turn them on again. If you find that you miss them, or that you’re having an unintended scenario and you think you should, bring them back on. So that’s the great thing about these kinds of tools. They have a lot of flexibility and you can do experiments.

Ours was a little bold, but that’s how we roll.

Jerod: Yeah, and we will be analyzing it and figuring out the pluses and minuses …

Sonia: Sure.

Jerod: …and the impacts, and will be reporting out on that. Well, this has been a very hot topic, Sonia, and I appreciate your taking the time today, and letting everybody get your insight on it.

Sonia: Awesome. Thanks, Jerod. Take care.

Jerod: All right. You too.

Thank you for listening to The Lede. If you like what you’re hearing, please consider leaving us a rating or a review on iTunes. You can also tweet about the show or tell a friend, and to those of you who have included The Lede in your best-of podcasts posts, like James Dillon of Gorilla SEO, thank you so very much. We greatly appreciate any love that you all give us.

We’ll be back next week with another episode, most likely the next in our eleven-part series on the essential elements of a blog post. 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 Director of Content for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter, , or at JerodMorris.com.

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Agile Content Marketing: How to Attract an Audience That Builds Your Business http://www.copyblogger.com/agile-content-marketing/ http://www.copyblogger.com/agile-content-marketing/#respond Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=40713 It’s the question I get more than any other, and it’s one of the most important questions you’ll answer in marketing your business: How do I create a content marketing strategy that actually works? That will take several thousand words to answer, and then you’ll have to create your own strategy. Yep, ultimately it’s up

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Image of Hemingway Editing a Draft

It’s the question I get more than any other, and it’s one of the most important questions you’ll answer in marketing your business:

How do I create a content marketing strategy that actually works?

That will take several thousand words to answer, and then you’ll have to create your own strategy. Yep, ultimately it’s up to you.

The first step is to get your head right.

In other words, you need to begin with the correct perspective to succeed with online content as a marketing tool.

Mainly, you need to begin with the end (the result you want) in mind. This is where content marketing strategy fails … essentially when there isn’t an executable strategy in place at all.

Agile content marketing is the answer. Because no matter how wrong you get it at first, you can always make it right if you abide by this general philosophy.

Once again, we can borrow methods that have been proven to work by others. Some software companies have been using an agile methodology for quite a while.

The word agile used in this sense comes from the world of software development, and is based on iterative and incremental development. Meaning, as with lean manufacturing, you start with something simple, understand that it needs improvement, and quickly make those improvements based on feedback.

With agile content marketing, you’re not starting with a minimum viable product. You’re first trying to build a minimum viable audience using the same lean principles of iterative and incremental development, so that you understand how to grow the audience further and better understand what they want to buy.

This is the way stand-up comedians create content that cracks audiences up. Let’s start with them …

How Stand-Up Comedians Develop Content

When applied to content marketing, agile development can be best understood by the way stand-up comedians write, test, and refine their acts.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not some isolated act of creative genius; it’s a process of iterative and incremental joke development.

First, a comedian writes material. These jokes are based on what the comedian thinks is funny based on an educated guess of what might be funny to the audience.

The comedian knows the act needs to be tested and improved. So, she heads out to small comedy clubs and performs the initial jokes in front of a live audience.

Based on audience response (laughter, or lack thereof ), after each performance the comedian cuts certain bits, tweaks others, writes new jokes, returns to the stage, and repeats. At some point, she arrives at a honed set of material that is then taken to larger venues, an HBO comedy special, or other important setting where a more polished performance is crucial.

Simple, but not easy. You’ve got to have the courage to just put it out there, and then objectively and progressively adapt.

How to Create Content that Isn’t a Joke

Similarly, agile content marketing follows the same 3-step process:

  1. Start with an educated guess for a content approach
  2. Release content knowing it’s likely flawed
  3. Optimize constantly based on feedback

It’s that rare approach that encourages disciplined execution and constant innovation at the same time. This ready, fire, aim methodology actually boils down to four distinct steps:

1. Research

This is the phase of the process where you’re making your own educated guesses. Those guesses come primarily from general market research into who you’re trying to reach, what they’re currently buying, what they need to learn to solve their problems and/or satisfy their desires, and how that relates to a general class of products or services they want to buy.

2. Release

Research is vital, but at some point you need to settle on the overall positioning of your website, and start putting content out. You don’t need a theater or stadium-sized audience, just the equivalent of a small comedy club. Even then, you’re going to have to work to get your content viewed and shared enough to generate meaningful feedback.

3. Optimize

The first three steps are repeated endlessly for the life of a project, just like the evolving editorial focus of a magazine, production cycle of a TV series, or career of a stand-up comedian. Mistakes are made and pivots performed. But you’ll also discover the content that is fundamentally crucial to your website, which can be organized and optimized as a constant workhorse for your content marketing efforts.

4. Connect

In this sense, connection refers to the relationships, alliances, and networks you build in order to spread your content and grow your audience at an accelerated rate. From guest blogging for related sites, to content promotion partnerships, to the growth of your social networks, you must work constantly to get your content the maximum exposure it deserves.

Need More Detail?

I know, I know … but as I said at the beginning, getting into an agile content marketing mindset is the first step. Without this philosophical framework in place, your efforts can quickly slip from iterative to idiotic.

Luckily, this is an excerpt from an ebook called The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing. You can grab the entire thing, plus 14 other powerful online marketing ebooks here — at no charge.

About the author

Brian Clark


Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and host of New Rainmaker. Get more from Brian on .

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Why Parallax Design Doesn’t Have to Tank Your SEO http://www.copyblogger.com/parallax-design-seo/ http://www.copyblogger.com/parallax-design-seo/#respond Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=40762 Can parallax design be bad for a website’s SEO? Absolutely. Hence the chatter. But this shouldn’t deter you from considering parallax effects for your site, because any design style can be bad for SEO if it causes a site to load slowly or reduces it to a single URL. But those are issues of execution

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image of Parallax Pro for Genesis screenshot

Can parallax design be bad for a website’s SEO?

Absolutely.

Hence the chatter.

But this shouldn’t deter you from considering parallax effects for your site, because any design style can be bad for SEO if it causes a site to load slowly or reduces it to a single URL.

But those are issues of execution and architecture, not blights on the parallax style of design itself.

Parallax effects on websites are hypnotic. That’s why you are seeing parallax effects pop up all over the web.

And parallax can actually help, not hurt, your SEO.

Here’s how.

Parallax pulls your audience in

I told you not long ago that parallax effects help your website tell a better story.

As I mentioned in that post:

No other recent web design technique has done more to impact the way we tell stories online than parallax.

And if your site is telling a better story, then it’s connecting more with your audience.

And if you are connecting more with your audience, then important visitor behavior metrics are better and your content is likely being shared more widely.

And if your content is being shared more widely, then you are probably increasing your presence in social media and getting more attention and links from influencers.

All of which is not just good but essential for optimizing your content for discovery and conversion (which is what you really mean when you say “SEO”“).

This is why parallax design can be such a boon for your content optimization.

Provided you’re not a nincompoop about it.

Avoid these parallax pitfalls

There are some pretty simple ways that parallax design, when overdone, can negatively impact your site’s SEO:

  • When it reduces your website to a single URL: A single page seriously restricts how search engines can see what you do, plus gives you just one URL that can appear in search results. Not good for discovery. (Be prepared to get cozy with jQuery if you want to implement a workaround for this.)
  • When it causes your website to load slowly: Bloated code will reduce load times, especially on mobile devices. And site speed matters.
  • When it limits the investment you can make it content and promotion: What is the opportunity cost in time and money of a large-scale, custom parallax design? Because it won’t come cheap and be good. Your site may look pretty, but will you have the resources left over so it says anything of note? Or so that you can drive people to it?

Put simply:

If the search engines have enough information to properly index and rank your site, it loads quickly enough, and your content is good and getting found … then your site is well on its way to being optimized.

The problem, of course, and the reason why you’re reading this, is that avoiding these pitfalls is easier said than done when you add parallax effects to a site.

So don’t do it yourself.

Let Parallax Pro for Genesis do the heavy lifting

If you want your site to be optimized, then it’s important to layer a design on top of an optimized core architecture, not the other way around. Foundation first, right?

WordPress provides a solid optimization foundation, and the Genesis Framework sits right on top to optimize it even more. (That’s why optimization is Feature #1 right here.)

And while the release of Parallax Pro for the Genesis Framework was an “amazing” event for our StudioPress team, nothing about Parallax Pro counteracts the SEO benefits Genesis was geared to deliver.

The reason is because the parallax effects of Parallax Pro are not overdone, nor do they reduce a site to one URL — so you keep the WordPress post and page architecture that you (and the search engines) love.

What our StudioPress team did is add a subtle parallax effect that doesn’t require a bunch of additional code. In contrast, most parallax sites have tons of layers and hardcore animations, which may look slick but are sure to increase load times and cost a pretty penny.

Parallax Pro enables you to add the parallax effects to your homepage that draw your audience into your story … but without the site shrinkage, code bloat, and cost explosion that can kill the optimization (and more importantly, the ROI) of a parallax project.

Bottom line: it’s a win-win that — at less than $100 — fits any design budget.

But enough talk.

Want to see it in action?

Here are three sites using Parallax Pro

Each of these sites is built on Parallax Pro for Genesis, and each is well regarded by audiences and search engines alike:

http://fsboi.ca

image of fsboi.ca website using parallax effect

—–

http://iredline.tv/

image of iredlinetv website using parallax effect

—–

http://dustn.tv/

dustin.tv website with parallax effect

What I like about the dustin.tv design in particular is how the navigation bar is invisible upon first navigation to the page, thus highlighting attention on the logo and call to action.

Once you scroll down (indicating to the site that you aren’t ready to convert right now), then the nav bar appears to help you find your way.

And speaking of finding your way …


Get started with Parallax Pro today

In addition to all of these, one of the major benefits of every child theme for the Genesis Framework is that you can have one installed on your WordPress site, customized, and live for your audience within 15 minutes of purchasing.

Parallax Pro is no different.

And it’s the best way to get the state-of-the-art storytelling device on your website without sacrificing SEO.

Get Parallax Pro for your WordPress site today

About the author

Jerod Morris


Jerod Morris is the Director of Content for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter, , or at JerodMorris.com.

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5 Ways to Build Long-Lasting Authority http://www.copyblogger.com/long-lasting-authority/ http://www.copyblogger.com/long-lasting-authority/#respond Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=40569 Authority is where it’s at these days. Of course, as a Copyblogger reader you know that already. Google values authority so much that it’s trying to build an authority measurement into its algorithm. Authority has simply become the way to stand out and get ahead. Business owners need to create authority around their business ideas.

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Authority Intensive Post Image of John Jantsch

Authority is where it’s at these days.

Of course, as a Copyblogger reader you know that already.

Google values authority so much that it’s trying to build an authority measurement into its algorithm.

Authority has simply become the way to stand out and get ahead.

  • Business owners need to create authority around their business ideas.
  • Marketers need to create authority around the brands they represent.
  • Sales professionals need to create a kind of personal authority that turns them from unwanted pest to welcomed guest.

A great deal of the information put out on the topic of authority building centers on ways to create authoritative content, places to amplify that content, and even on the various plugins, SEO tactics, and networks one must use in order to build authority.

While much of that advice is relevant and essential, it often overlooks how the kind of authority that lasts is actually developed.

Long-lasting authority, the kind that evolves into a bankable asset, isn’t about tools and techniques — it’s about decisions you must make concerning how you show up day in and day out.

Surface authority is something a clever writer willing to spend a few extra hours a week to amplify content might be able to create.

Long-lasting authority takes some combination of the following five acts.

1. Say “No” more often

It’s easy to get talked into doing things you know you shouldn’t or, worse still, couldn’t, because you fear saying no would shut off other opportunities.

You know what shuts off future opportunities and erodes authority? Saying yes and doing a lousy or unfinished job.

People will respect you when you say no in the right way.

The key to saying no is to have a clear picture of what and why you do what you do.

Understand your true value and let go of constantly considering what others think about you. I think that last point is why saying no causes so much stress for some.

Here is a quote that is a great reminder of this idea:

What other people think of me is none of my business. One of the highest places you can get to is being independent of the good opinions of other people.

~ Dr. Wayne D. Dyer

2. Say “Yes” when you’re afraid

Saying yes is not simply the flip side of saying no.

Most of what we need to say yes to more often is the stuff that scares us.

In fact, think about that thing in your business right now that you don’t want to do, that you fear could be too hard, too risky, too big — that’s what you need to say yes to.

That resistance, as Stephen Pressfield calls it in the War of Art is a big fat call to say “Yes.” And you need to charge in eyes wide open, like … now!

3. Charge what you’re worth

This is one of the greatest traps for most business owners: charging too little for what you do, or remaining in the vise grip of hourly thinking.

Hourly thinking is rampant in pretty much any service business, and it’s a bit like quicksand as it will suck you under faster than any other business dynamic. You can’t make more time, so your only option is to fill every minute and charge more by the hour.

As a business owner, the value of what you are capable of delivering goes up with each passing day.

As you build more experience, more audience, more wins, and more results to draw from, your 15 minutes of brilliance on behalf of a client is worth thousands. So why are you still giving it away like it’s oxygen?

Here are some of the things your mind is telling you:

  • “I’m not worth that much.”
  • “If I don’t ask much, they won’t expect much.”

Or, the worst, worst, worst of all …

  • “That’s all they will pay.”

My friends at Freshbooks created a wonderful little free ebook on this topic called Breaking the Time Barrier — How to Unlock Your True Earning Potential (you can get a copy here).

Here’s my advice if you want to ramp up your authority quotient quickly: double your prices.

To make it work, figure out …

  • What would you have to do?
  • Who would you have to become?
  • What would you have to create?
  • Who would you need to start hanging out with?

That’s all there is to it.

4. Build fewer, deeper relationships

Back when I started my business, back before we officially had something we called social media, (yes, we somehow managed to have thriving businesses back then), I had a Friday habit that always paid off in a variety of ways.

Each Friday I would go through my customer and prospect list and pick out at least five people I had not spoken with or heard from in a few months. Then I would pick up the phone and try to connect. Even if I got voicemail I would leave a message stating I was just checking to see what was up. I continued this practice for years via email as well.

The thing that was always amazing was about 25 percent of those “reach outs” turned into a return call saying, “I was just thinking about calling you, I need such-and-such.” I may have gotten that call sometime later regardless, but I wonder.

Today I have a list of close relationships in a CRM tool called Nimble and settings that let me know when 30 days have passed since my last contact.

We have to stay in touch with and nurture our networks with intention. It’s where the greatest opportunity to build authority rests.

5. Say “Thank you” more often

I don’t think that it’s possible to say thank you enough, but it’s worth a try.

I know that I’ve worked my butt off the last few decades, but I owe whatever measure of success and authority I’ve built to people who have both outwardly aided me and those many, many more whom I’ve never met that subscribe, share, and promote my efforts.

You know this to be true as well, so make thank you a habit.

  • Take gifts wherever you go.
  • Publicly acknowledge the help you receive.
  • Always remember what it felt like in the beginning before you were one of the cool kids.

Authority building is a lot of work.

You have to work at it consistently over the long haul.

But mostly, you have to work on the most important things first.

What do you think?

Which of the five ways to build long-lasting authority described above do you think is the most important?

What are some other important elements in building real authority that lasts?

Join us to discuss over at Google-Plus.


Editor’s Note

John will be a featured speaker at our content marketing and networking event — Authority Intensive — taking place May 7-9, 2014, in Denver, Colorado. The show is sold out, but stay tuned for details on next year’s Authority Intensive.

About the Author: John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine, and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. His latest book, Duct Tape Selling -- Think Like a Marketer, Sell Like a Superstar is available online and in bookstores May 15.

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Copyblogger’s 2014 State of Native Advertising Report http://www.copyblogger.com/native-advertising-2014/ http://www.copyblogger.com/native-advertising-2014/#respond Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.copyblogger.com/?p=40710 Native advertising is paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations. Think Captain Morgan’s campaign on BuzzFeed in general, their 15 Things You Didn’t Know About 15 Captains, Commanders And Conquerors article in particular. First off, the theme of the article matches the brand’s values: Captain Morgan was a real

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blog post title image for Copyblogger's 2014 State of Native Advertising Report

Native advertising is paid content that matches a publication’s editorial standards while meeting the audience’s expectations.

Think Captain Morgan’s campaign on BuzzFeed in general, their 15 Things You Didn’t Know About 15 Captains, Commanders And Conquerors article in particular.

First off, the theme of the article matches the brand’s values: Captain Morgan was a real live pirate who thrived on adventure and raw conquest — a theme not too foreign to BuzzFeed readers.

Moreover, the article matches the editorial standards of BuzzFeed: a list with big images and short, quirky copy — a format their audience expects.

Three important points need to be noted here:

  • The content is clearly labeled “BuzzFeed Partner.”
  • Nothing is being sold. The call to action is to visit the Captain Morgan YouTube page.
  • The Captain Morgan BuzzFeed author page is branded.

This is classic sponsored or branded content. Now let’s look at another example of native advertising, this time a historical one.

My apologies in advance if it makes your mouth water.

Advertorial as native advertising

“The Guinness Guide to Oysters” by David Ogilvy is a classic advertorial. Brian Clark examined this ad several weeks ago, and the salient points are as follows:

  • Relevant context: No doubt you would’ve found this ad in lifestyle and food magazines or as a poster in pubs and clubs (I reached out to Ogilvy & Mather for publication history, but nobody could help me).
  • Clear call to action: Drink Guinness when you eat oysters. Heck, drink Guinness even if you don’t eat oysters. Just go to some pub and drink Guinness.

This guide is a clear example of an advertorial, and it served the same function that cookbooks did for companies like Betty Crocker by providing more useful ways to enjoy their products.

In other words: ignite the imagination of consumers and sales go up.

For modern examples you need look no further than IBM on Atlantic or The Onion Lab videos for Southwest Airlines (see video below or here).

In every case the content is clearly branded.

After sponsored/branded content and advertorials, next in line are in-feed ads, content widgets, product placements, and promoted posts and listings.

And as Paul Keers said:

Success, of course, lies in creating content which is right for the brand, which is paying for it; right for the publisher, which needs to retain its identity; and right for the audience, who must find value in the content if they are to engage.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The results of Copyblogger’s 2014 State of Native Advertising survey

The point behind this long introduction is that I simply wanted to establish a working definition before I rolled out the native advertising survey results (like I promised).

If you want the quick and dirty, here is a shareable poster designed by Copyblogger’s Lauren Manke.

Below the poster are the results with some commentary, plus a few choice quotes from the 2,088 survey respondents.

blog post title image for Copyblogger's 2014 State of Native Advertising Report

Embed this poster on your own site

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

Survey results and quotes, with commentary

Let’s start with the basics. We received:

  • More than 2,080 responses.
  • More than 640 individual comments.

And of course, my favorite comment from the survey was this: “What the feck is it?” Well now you know, voter number 348.

1. Do you know what native advertising is?

  • No. Not at all — 49%
  • Hardly familiar with it – 24%
  • Somewhat knowledgeable – 24%
  • Very knowledgeable – 3%

With almost 50% of respondents clueless to native advertising, and then another 48% with a shaky understanding, my suspicions are confirmed that native advertising is an ambiguous advertising model.

2. Which of these are considered native advertising?

  • Promoted Tweets – 9%
  • Advertorials – 16%
  • Branded content – 14%
  • All of the above – 23%
  • I don’t know – 38%

The correct answer is “All of the above.”

I asked this question because I really wouldn’t consider “Promoted Tweets” or “Facebook Sponsored Posts” to be native advertising (I’ll explain why later in the series), but a few sources did during my research.

3. What are your feelings about native advertising?

  • Couldn’t care less. – 25%
  • Oppose it. Evil. – 3%
  • Love it. – 21%
  • Skeptical. – 51%

There is a good chance that every bit of the 25% who “couldn’t care less” also didn’t know what native advertising is. (This is where using Gravity Forms’ conditional feature would have been a good idea. Lesson learned.)

4. Do you (or your company) have a native advertising budget?

  • Yes – 9%
  • No – 91%

No surprise here.

5. How much of your advertising budget do you spend on native advertising (per month)?

  • $0 – $100 – 91%
  • $101 – $500 – 5%
  • $501 – $2000 – 2%
  • $2001 – $5000 – Less than 1%
  • More than $5000 per month – Less than 1%

That last one surprised me with a total of 16 people saying they have a native advertising budget MORE than $5,000 a month. Now I want to know who they are.

6. Freelancers and agencies: How much of your work consists of native advertising?

  • None at all – 81%
  • At least 25% — 13%
  • At least 50% — 3.5%
  • At least 75% — 1.5%
  • All of it – 1%

Again, no surprises here.

7. How likely are you to offer native advertising as an advertising or service option?

  • Not at all – 37%
  • Hardly likely – 22%
  • Somewhat likely – 30%
  • Very likely – 11%

Clearly more people are not going to engage in native advertising than people who are, but just an 11% difference is not that big — a gap that probably could be cleared as we learn more about native advertising.

8. Name one brand effectively using native advertising. Here’s a list of the top ten most mentioned brands.

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Buzzfeed
  • Coke
  • Copyblogger
  • Nike
  • Red Bull
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • Virgin Mobile

No real surprise here, but I’m curious if some people think that all content marketing is native advertising. I’m not aware of Amazon or Starbucks engaging in native advertising, but I also don’t know everything. At all.

9. Does native advertising mislead readers?

  • Yes – 39%
  • No – 61%

A few of you asked for a “Sometimes” or a “Maybe” on this one. Good point. It’s hard to tell which way the data would’ve went if there was such an option.

10. How much would it concern you if a brand created content in a publication like the New York Times?

  • Not at all – 33%
  • Hardly – 18%
  • Somewhat – 31%
  • Very much – 18%

As some of you mentioned, The New York Times is already doing native advertising. Thank you for paying attention.

The results interest me because they are almost split down the middle. The top two percentages equal 51%, the bottom two 49%.

Quite different than what we see with BuzzFeed …

11. How much would it concern you if a brand creates content in a publication like Buzzfeed?

  • Not at all – 45%
  • Hardly – 27%
  • Somewhat – 22%
  • Very much – 6%

As one respondent wrote, “Aren’t they already?” The answer is yes.

The negative (or bottom two answers) only amount for 28% while the positive gets 72%. My hunch is that The New York Times is seen as serious journalism while BuzzFeed is seen as something completely different.

12. How much would it concern you if a corporation or advertiser reported the news?

  • Not at all – 19%
  • Hardly – 12%
  • Somewhat – 25%
  • Very much – 44%

Striking results here: almost half of the respondents would be very much concerned. I say striking because corporations already do report on the news. Just about every publication is in business to make a profit. They are corporations.

I pulled out some choice comments from the survey:

“The last few questions are the money questions in my opinion. At first thought we should be concerned about paid advertising mixing with news content creation and production. Meaning the integration of editorial and branded writers under one roof (church and state). But most people don’t trust the news anyway, which is why I think a lot of people are not concerned about native ads. In the end, if the content is entertaining and informative I don’t care who is responsible for funding its creation.” No. 631

“Doesn’t seem like it is very new. Advertorial at best. Very sneaky at worst. I say it is propaganda.” No. 15

“As long as it’s crystal clear in some way that the content the customers are consuming is from a corporation/brand then I don’t see a problem with native advertising in media outlets. I think it’s a very easy way to build a connection with customers so long as it’s done well. Subtlety.” No. 1417

“Depends which side of the fence you are sitting on. Advertorials are a great tool to promote companies, but in my experience, wordsmiths such as myself can create the perception that a company that knows absolutely nothing on the subject, is an authority on it. It is misleading but a necessary marketing tool for companies to get ahead. In the end however, it can only take them so far. Success shows in results, not marketing fluff.” No. 1822

“Content presenting itself as editorial content but being created by a brand gives me the feeling of being misled when I realize what it is.” No. 971

In the next article, we will dig deeper into the definition of native advertising, explore its origins, and discuss the three most recent disruptions in business that have made the landscape ripe for native advertising.

Stay tuned.

Want to discuss the results of the survey?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Write a blog post about our 2014 State of Native Advertising Report (using Lauren’s poster as a centerpiece if you wish), and tweet the link to @copyblogger so we can take a look.

You can also join the discussion over at Google-Plus.

About the author

Demian Farnworth


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

The post Copyblogger’s 2014 State of Native Advertising Report appeared first on Copyblogger.

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