Tag Archive | "don’t"

How to Craft Question Headlines that Don’t Flop

During last week’s Editorial call here at Copyblogger, we had a lively discussion about ham. But that’s not the H-word I’m going to talk about today. More commonly, we analyze headlines. There’s nothing more disappointing than a unique, thoughtful, and helpful piece of content that has a headline that doesn’t do it justice. Great content
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Law firms spamming Google My Business: Don’t trust your money or your life to them!

Many local businesses are guilty of violating Google My Business guidelines to game the system, and columnist Joy Hawkins has observed rampant problems within the law vertical.

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Killer Resources for Freelancers … and an Option for Those Who Don’t Want to Go It Alone

This week, Stefanie Flaxman and I yielded the floor to a pair of smart gentlemen who we don’t hear from quite as often as we used to. And we featured a writer you haven’t seen on Copyblogger before. Her debut post for us is a must-read for writers who like being able to pay their
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Why You Don’t Need to Be a Thought Leader

"Saying 'thought leadership' instead of influence has always reminded me of Homer Simpson calling his garage a 'car hole.'" – Sonia Simone

We all want to get traffic to our websites. We want to build audiences who are interested in what we have to say and responsive to our offers.

And so it’s natural to think that we should become “thought leaders.” (Or, to push the expression a little further down Jargon Lane, “thought leaders in our space.”)

Perhaps even more coveted than “going viral,” thought leadership is that elusive, glittering prize — the Golden Snitch of web publishing.

Most of us (I hope) know better than to self-identify as thought leaders. But we think it would be kind of great if other people started calling us that.

I’m not buying it. And here’s why.

First, the petty part: I just hate the term. It’s a clumsy verbal construct that has no need to exist.

Saying “thought leadership” instead of influence has always reminded me of Homer Simpson calling his garage a “car hole.”

But I have real reasons, too.

Let me be clear: I think it’s smart to publish the kind of content that people pay attention to. I think it’s smart to publish good advice. I think it’s smart to be smart.

But thought leadership implies that you have some kind of shiny, new insight that no one has articulated before. To be a thought leader, what you’re saying can’t just be interesting, well-reasoned, and useful — it has to be new.

Novelty is not wisdom

Allow me to propose a radical notion:

We don’t actually need a bunch of new thoughts. We need to pursue and implement the existing thoughts that make sense.

I’m not talking about innovation in technology … that’s going to happen whether we have “thought leaders” or not.

I’m talking about people who claim completely new insights about how the world fundamentally works — whether it’s health, business, the environment, or anything else we care about.

Most thought leaders create novelty in one of two ways.

The first is to repackage old advice in a sparkly new wrapper. Marketers have done this forever, and I don’t actually have a problem with it. New wrappers make things more interesting, and that gets us to pay fresh attention to those darned fundamentals.

But don’t kid yourself and think it makes you a thought leader. It makes you a good teacher. Which is better, because it’s useful.

The other way, of course, is to make up some nonsense.

Tell us all about how the future will belong to left-handed people, that in 2030 the global economy will be based on bacon, or that you’ve identified breakthrough, new research showing that eating nothing but transparent food will make you 17.684 times more intelligent.

If you are in possession of special, unique wisdom that no one else knows about, either you’ve dressed some old wisdom in a new suit or you are pushing a great big pile of BS.

And by the way …

Every expert you know is wrong about something

My other problem with thought leaders is that their audiences start to see them as cult leaders.

I’ll never forget reading some guy’s 50-line-long comment on a Tim Ferriss blog post, asking about what and when he should eat to correspond with variations in the timing of this person’s bowel activity.

This is literally a person asking Tim Ferriss how often he should take a shit.

We expect an authority to be smart about their topic. Economic authorities should be smart about the economy. Nutrition authorities should be smart about nutrition. And so forth.

We expect thought leaders to be quasi-religious figures, blessing us with their deep thoughts and profound insights, and showing us their unique sacred path to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Implicit in this idea of a thought leader is the notion that you need someone to tell you how and what to think. And that, frankly, is a terrible idea.

Thought leadership is a bubble

My other issue with thought leadership is that it’s a catchphrase for a bubble that doesn’t need to be reinforced.

The world is made up of a lot of different kinds of people. They come from different places; they look different; they do different things on their days off; they have different family lives and social circles and work histories.

But thought leaders all look eerily alike.

Do we really need more Business Insider types telling us how the world works? Could we maybe hear from some people who don’t have the exact same CV, the same vocabulary, the same haircut, and the same sports jacket?

Might it not be useful to determine our paths for ourselves, based on our own observations and intelligence, reflecting our individual experiences, striving to see the larger picture, and weighing the informed opinions of actual authorities who back their assertions with credible evidence?

We don’t need thought leadership … we need leadership

Thought leaders strive for new ideas. Leaders strive for good ideas.

You don’t need someone to tell you what to think. I trust you to have that covered.

Your audience doesn’t need it, either. They’re smart. But they have questions, and you can help with that.

I believe it’s useful to step up and share your experience. I find it’s massively useful when someone who has done something difficult talks about what they’ve learned along the way.

I believe in expertise. Some people are better at a given skill than others. Usually because they have a lot of practice doing it.

I believe that most of us have days when our confidence fails, and we can use a pep talk.

And I believe that it’s powerful to let people know what you believe in. Not because you’re telling them to believe the same way, but because you’re inviting those who do to walk with you.

So, what if you actually come up with a new idea?

New ideas do actually come up sometimes. Maybe you’ll come up with one of them.

If you have a new perspective or insight, and it’s supported by credible evidence, that can be a powerful thing.

Write about it. Question it. Investigate it. Teach it. Promote it.

Just like you do with all the good advice you offer. Whether your idea is good or bad doesn’t depend on an overused label.

The world doesn’t need you to chase after some empty notion of thought leadership.

Leading your audience with your expertise, your confidence, your integrity, and your passion for their well-being is enough.

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Don’t Get Flattened on the Attention Superhighway

"Lots of sites are desperate for traffic. But traffic is just the start of the story." – Sonia Simone

When we talk about content marketing strategy, it’s amazing how often people think that means:

Can I Haz Moar Peoples!!!

(English translation: How can I get more traffic to my site?)

That’s not new — the quest for eyeballs is as old as online business.

And it does matter. It’s important to have a critical mass of folks who know you exist. Ask anyone trying to get a business off the ground with an email list of 34 people, 8 of whom they’re related to.

You need a big enough audience to allow for a meaningful response when you try out a new content idea, or craft an offer for your product or service.

But there’s no shortage of online publishers with big audiences and tiny businesses. If all you do is stand on the Information Superhighway trying to flag people down, you’re going to get flattened.

Instead, craft a thoughtful, well-designed path. Lead prospects from the noise and clutter of the larger web to a sustained and valuable connection that solves the problems they care about.

Smart business isn’t about gaining a massive amount of attention. It’s about gaining the right kind of attention from the right people … and continuing the journey from there.

Copywriting formulas

When you want to persuade, it’s useful to take a look at the classic “formulas” of copywriting — because copywriting is simply persuasion that takes place (partly or completely) without the help of an individual human salesperson.

Most of these formulas begin with the letter A — which stands for attention. And that’s what most marketing strategy tends to focus on: how to get the attention of all those distracted folks zooming around the web.

The granddaddy of persuasion formulas is AIDA. That stands for:

Attention — Interest — Desire — Action

Back when copywriting was very, very hard, you had to do all of those steps with one piece of content, often something printed on paper and delivered by post.

Today, we get a lot more shots. We can handle each of those elements with individual content. Even better, we can craft multiple pieces of content to serve different functions.

So if you need to spend more time addressing a topic that interests your audience, you can craft a content series, or even an entire content library.

Another time-tested formula is P-A-S.

Problem — Agitate — Solve

This one doesn’t start with A, but it does kick off with a compelling audience problem, which inherently tends to grab attention. Agitation means getting into the problem in a deeper, more emotionally resonant way … and then the business can step in to solve the problem.

These are good formulas, and they still have their place. But in a content marketing environment, they tend to dramatically underestimate the complex role of those middle letters.

What happens in the middle?

Attention strategies are fun to learn about. Potent headlines, exciting images, killer hooks.

But when you’re working on a landing page, a video sales letter, an infomercial, or a 15-second radio ad, the middle can be the toughest part.

The middle starts to look like actual work.

You’re cultivating the relationship. That means a significant part of the “middle” of your content marketing is about offering value generously and being a decent human.

You nurture the relationship with the audience by offering:

  • Interesting educational material that helps them do things they want to do
  • Content that shows your audience who you are and what you believe
  • Opportunities for small, low-risk commitments, to test the waters and experience what you have to offer

Where are the rough patches?

Most paths have some rough spots — places that aren’t as easy to navigate.

When we’re talking about your content marketing path, these include the objections your audience will have to moving forward with your offer. These are things like:

  • It seems expensive.
  • It seems complicated.
  • It seems like it only works for other people.
  • It seems hard to get started.
  • It seems like a long time before I’ll see results.

A smart, well-structured content path will include work that speaks directly to these objections.

You might tell stories that show the audience how someone else wrestled with the issue. Or offer clear, simple explanations of product features — perhaps an infographic or explainer video — to show how your solution overcomes the problem.

If I were going to write a persuasion formula

If I wanted to craft a persuasion formula for the 21st century, what would it look like?

I’d need to start by knowing who I wanted to speak with. What do they care about? What kinds of problems could I help them with? So the first letter might be K for Knowledge or E for Empathy.

From there, I think I’d go to Connection rather than Attention — simply because attention today is so fleeting. I’d try to spark a moment of connection instead, to have some chance of a more enduring relationship.

In my experience, building connection usually combines speaking to a problem the audience cares about and speaking from a position of shared values.

That kind of principled problem-solving constructs a content path that is marked by Usefulness. What kinds of content could I create that my audience would find valuable? What problems could I solve? Is there some “low hanging fruit” I could help my audience pick?

What Objections could I address? What risks could I manage for my audience?

Along the path, I’d try to craft some introductory Offers that helped people try my ideas out for themselves. In other words, some inexpensive ways they could pick up products or services — maybe even free products or services — that would help them get something they want.

If there were key Beliefs, assumptions, or convictions that the audience needed to adopt to go further, I’d also talk about those. For example, at Copyblogger, we believe it’s unacceptably risky to put your entire business on a platform someone else controls, like Facebook or Tumblr.

I’d use my useful content path to make the Case for my solution to my audience’s problems — keeping an eye open for the audience’s responses and desires, not just my own assumptions about what they need or want.

Along the path, I’d remember to Ask for the audience’s action on a more significant offer and Measure how they respond.

Put another way, I’d measure their Engagement by seeing if there’s a product or service they feel ready to buy.

Did they like the offer a lot? Did lots of folks complete the transaction? I’d Iterate and craft more offers like that one. Did they hate it? Did just a few or no people take me up on the offer? Again, iteration would lead me to put something together that was better aligned with the audience’s desires.

Finally, I’d work on Sustaining the relationship. It’s great to do business once — but it’s more satisfying (and makes better business sense) to create long-term relationships in which the audience and the business grow together.

To that end, I’d make a commitment to Delivering value over time and keep looking for new ways to serve that audience.

That leaves me with something like ECUOOBCAMEISD. Hm.


OK, how about ECUBED?

  • Empathize
  • Connect
  • Useful, make myself (Yoda-talking I am)
  • Beliefs, speak to
  • Engage audience action by making an offer
  • Deliver value over time

I definitely had to massage a few things to come up with a decent acronym. So, how would you tweak it?

Let us know your thoughts and suggestions on what this kind of “formula” might look like in the comments. :)

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Don’t get duped by duplicate content: 8 quick checks for every SEO

Duplicate content can often arise without our knowledge, despite our best efforts to prevent it. Columnist Stephanie LeVonne shows how you can identify and fix it.

The post Don’t get duped by duplicate content: 8 quick checks for every SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Why Don’t Some Online Courses Sell?


Online courses are a great way to build a business. They’re also a great way to get better-qualified clients, or build an additional revenue stream by providing an alternative to your services.

But sometimes, things don’t go as planned. Your course isn’t selling as much as you’d like, or worse, it’s not selling at all.

There’s a methodical analysis you can perform to see if you can spot the problem. Of course, this is the same analysis you should perform before you create a course.

In this episode of Unemployable with Brian Clark, Brian discusses:

  • How to be absolutely sure what works
  • Why re-examining existing market demand is step one
  • How incorrect pricing can kill your sales and profits
  • What to do to increase your targeted reach
  • Copywriting techniques that work for courses
  • Testing demand with the MVP process
  • How split-testing reveals the truth

Click Here to Listen to

Unemployable with Brian Clark on iTunes

Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM

About the author


Rainmaker.FM is the premier digital commerce and content marketing podcast network. Get on-demand digital business and marketing advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

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Email Marketing: Don’t let email own the ecommerce showroom floor

Email marketing is one of the most frequent sources of ecommerce traffic for organizations across every revenue range. Read this MarketinSherpa Blog post learn from Ben Pressley, Head of Worldwide Sales, Magento, about why you shouldn’t let email own the ecommerce showroom floor.
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Email Templates: Don’t let routine cramp your style

Routine is often a mix of comfort, habit and autopilot. Watch this video to learn from Jessica Andreasen, Digital Marketing Manager, ZAGG, on why routine is slowly killing your email marketing.
MarketingSherpa Blog

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Why You Don’t Need to Freak Out over Google’s (Not Provided)

Image of Zombies on Broadway Poster

We all know that SEO is evolving, right? The SEO world is prone to earthquakes, and the ground has been moving a lot lately. One of the latest temblors is a development known not-so-affectionately as “Not Provided.”

In the good old days, a useful thing you could do was to log into your Google Analytics setup and see exactly what words and phrases people were using to find your site.

Then Google started to hide that information for some searches. And in September, Google decided to make 100% of that search term data “not provided.”

So we web publishers have had a major piece of data — the precise strings of words that folks are using to find us — taken away. Which should be a major bummer for those of us who want to give web searchers a great experience with our wonderful content.

But it’s not worrying us here at Copyblogger, and it doesn’t need to worry you either.

Here’s why.

First, Google isn’t the only search engine

OK, it’s the important one. According to the July 2013 report from ComScore, Google’s market share was 67%.

But that leaves 33% of search coming from other sources … and as of now, search engines like Bing and Yahoo continue to pass keyword information to analytic applications. So your analytics program is still seeing a sample of the types of keywords that users use to find content.

33% is a lot better than zero, and it can still give you some strong data about what’s going on with your site.

You also have some keyword data still available in Webmaster Tools. It’s not as robust as what we had before, but it will give you some clues.

But you have other resources, too.

You know your audience better than Google does

Don’t get us wrong. The engineers at Google are pretty damned smart. But the most sophisticated and elegant algorithm on the planet can’t beat the mighty power of your brain.

This (in Sonia’s opinion) is where SEO professionals can go off the rails. They work very hard to think like Google’s algorithms — when they’d be better off thinking like the intended audience.

Smart content marketers start their process (as they always have) by forming a deep understanding of what the audience wants. That is where smart keyword research begins. That is the starting place for headlines that get the click.

It’s too bad that Google won’t confirm your instincts and intelligent understanding of what your audience wants. Too bad, but not fatal.

You may ask, “But what about the data that is (not provided)? Don’t I still need to confirm that I am getting the search traffic for the terms I’m trying to rank for?”

Yes. And you already do.

A real world example

To help show you what we mean, Sean has pulled an example from Copyblogger.com. We’ll be discussing the data for this post.

Take a look at a screen shot of the keyword terms in Google Analytics:

The first thing you may notice is that for the past 30 days, more than 68% of the keywords are (Not Provided).

This is not surprising since a) Google’s market share is about 67% and b) the post would appeal to a broad audience segment that is likely to use the full range of search engines.

An additional 15% are (Not Set). That can be any number of factors, including referrals from other sites, clicks from emails, etc.

Starting at line number 3, we’re seeing the data coming in from other search engines. In fact, for that 30-day period, we see more than 500 unique keyword phrases.

Now as we mentioned, Google Webmaster Tools (as well as Bing Webmaster tools) does provide a sample of search queries to a site based on the query entered by users. For the same period, Google Webmaster Tools recorded 81 unique keywords.

And when we compare the keywords available from Google Analytics (which shows the terms people use in other search engines) to the keywords in Google Webmaster tools (which shows keywords people use in Google) we see some interesting patterns.

First, 32% of the queries used by people in other search engines exactly match the queries people use on Google. So users of other search engines are not some radically different type of human being.

90% of the top ten frequently used words contained in the search queries for both Analytics and Webmaster Tool match exactly, with the only exception being the word “timeline.”

TL;DR, what does that mean?

All this just means you’re still getting data on how people are searching for the content you create. And while it may not be as complete as it once was, it’s a lot better than zero.

But there is something else we can discover.

Even if you didn’t read the post in this example, can you take a guess on what the title is? We’ll save you the click … it’s:

How to Create a Cover Photo for Your Facebook Timeline

Even without reading the post, you can tell (because of a clear headline that spells out the benefit to the reader) that the author was trying to target people who were looking for ways to create a cover photo in Facebook for the timeline.

Non-surprising fact of the day: the words that people used to find the content aligned with the actual content.

So how do you know people will find this content on search engines? In other words, is there a way to predict the type of search terms people will be using to find this particular piece of content?

Before this post was ever published, we knew the type of keywords and terms people would use to find it.

How? We used Scribe.

Predictive keyword analysis

Analyzing this post in Scribe (our content optimization software) allowed us to know how the search engines would see the content before it was ever published.

First, Scribe gave this page a score of 100 out of 100, showing how well this content aligned to our recommended best practices for SEO copywriting.

Second, Scribe showed a site score of 63 out of 100. That means that this page was a good fit for the Copyblogger site — we weren’t trying to rank for something that was completely outside of we’re known for.

In other words, if this had been an article about six-pack abs or natural flu remedies, we would have had essentially zero chance of ranking for it. But because it was related to what we already write about, year in and year out, Google figured we probably had something intelligent to say on this topic.

Maybe most important, the two Primary Keywords found in the page were Facebook and Cover Photo. In other words, we were confident that the search engines would see the article the same way we saw it.

If Scribe had discovered different Primary Keywords, that would have meant that the search engines would likely become confused as to what the article was about. Which would have meant a little intelligent tweaking until we were on the same page again.

Not all keywords are created equal

When we created Scribe, we knew that not all words found on a page were equal. So we created a way to rank keywords (and filed a patent on the process).

When a keyword is ranked as Primary, it indicates that search engines would index this page for the Primary Keywords discovered with a 95% degree of statistical certainty.

So even before this page was published on the web, Scribe showed that the search traffic to the page would include one or more of the terms Facebook and Cover Photo.

Now, look back at the analysis of the search queries people used.

Notice how many queries contain the Primary Keywords? Every one contains either one or both of the terms.

In other words, Scribe predicted what terms the content would rank for before the content was published.

There’s no substitute for your judgment

Sure, it’s still a good idea to do some keyword research to discover the terms that general people are using to find content like yours.

Sure, it’s still a good idea to check the partial data we do receive, and see if the traffic is coming in for the terms you think it should come in for.

But at the end of the day, while mechanistically trying to reverse engineer the data has its place, it isn’t even close to the whole story. Abstract analysis should be an enhancement to your judgment as a business owner. Because you know your audience better than anyone else can.

SEO expert Jenny Halasz was recently quoted on Search Engine Land as saying,

There’s no doubt that not having keywords provided will make it a little harder to discover customer intent, but there are a lot of other ways to get clues about that, including actively engaging with your customers on social media and such.

And we’ll leave you with the words of our own Executive VP of Operations, Jess Commins:

We still have general data in Webmaster Tools, Bing, and various data-stitching methods for analysis. But really, it’s not about the keywords bringing people in … it’s about what you do with them when you get them, and whether you deliver on why they came to you in the first place.

Great content will not lose in this battle. And tools like Scribe are even more important now, because they can help writers fine-tune their message for readers, not engines. They’re the ones who matter.

If this year is the year of the writer, changes like Hummingbird signal that next year will probably be the year of the reader. Writers run the show, but shows won’t matter if you can’t keep an audience in their seats.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned on Copyblogger for more thoughts on the Hummingbird algorithm in the coming weeks …

About the Author: Every once in awhile, Copyblogger’s chief content officer and CFO Sean Jackson write a post together. This has not torn a hole through the very fabric of space and time. Yet.

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