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The Practical Guide to Writing Conversational Copy

This is a guest contribution from Monika Mundell, communication strategist and copywriter.

Image by Flickr user Rohit Rath

Image by Flickr user Rohit Rath

Conversational copy is one of the best ways of creating engagement with a reader. It sets a welcoming, familiar tone that invites readers in. Famous copywriter John Caples delcares conversational copy to be about “You + Me.”

Many people believe they have to be a skilled copywriter to write conversationally. You don’t! If you can hold an engaging conversation with a mate at the pub, or a girlfriend over a lazy coffee date, then you have the ability to write conversational copy.

However…

Before you sit down to write your heart out, consider the tips in this guide. You should know: this guide has been written for bloggers, business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking to build more engagement with their readership, and to help them build trust with their community.

Having said this, there is nothing stopping you from using this guide to write amazing letters to a dear family member, or pitch your partner on a hot mystery date – because the principles of conversational copywriting stay the same.

Getting the Basics Right

The basics of conversational copy are simple: write like you speak. Think of it as having a conversation with your dream client. It helps if you tune into and visualise your reader before crafting words into digital pixels. You want to make your reader feel welcome and appreciated.

You want her to think that she’s the ONLY person that receives your message. And you want to show her that she can trust you because you totally understand the problems and frustrations she might be having. You and your blog or business are here to fill a need. Here’s a simple example:

“I know how you feel right now, because I’ve felt the same way. But when I discovered [the solution], things changed.”

So the most predominant word in your message should be “YOU.”


Message to Market Match

Effective conversational copy is congruent. Avoid slang and abbreviations if you don’t talk like this in person. It will come across as fake and you’ll end up turning people away from you instead.

Dan Kennedy calls this process “message to market match,” meaning your message must be written with your target market in mind, also known as targeting.

Which brings me to an important point – you must have an idea of who your readership is.

It is hard to write compelling conversational copy when you don’t know anything about who is reading your site. In order to write persuasively, you must have a clear picture of to whom you are marketing in the first place.

  • Who is this person you’re trying to attract into your tribe?
  • What are her likes?
  • What is she frustrated about, angry about?
  • What issue of hers do you have to solve to keep her engaged?
  • What interests and hobbies does she have?

You can ask hundreds of questions to build an accurate reader profile (like Darren does here), and the best way to profile your audience is to ask them lots of questions… on your blog, in your newsletters, on social media. Over time you’ll build a fantastic and powerful swipe file of your market’s needs, wants, desires and frustrations. Don’t be afraid to ask for permission to dig around in their heart and listen for the golden nuggets!

Why You Must Feed the Desire

Have you ever been told to feed the desire of your readers when writing copy to market your blog or business?

You can do this in a number of ways:

  • You can demonstrate indisputable proof that your product works, by showcasing tons of case studies and/or testimonials.
  • You can demonstrate how they’ll get an unfair advantage by buying your product (needs to be congruent and NOT hypey!)
  • You can write about their hot buttons, and drill deep into them.

You should keep in mind when writing your copy: it is a lot harder to sell prevention than it is to sell a solution.

Why? Because people do just about anything to relieve pain. They’re less motivated to buy prevention. Pain motivates!

Personally I’m not too fond of negative-ridden copy that continues to ride on the reader’s pain (hype). I believe today’s savvy consumer wants more authentic engagement and less rah-rah.

Tell Stories

Stories are an everyday part of our lives. You probably tell many stories throughout the day, and chances are you use one of the seven story archetypes in every story you tell. Watch this kooky guy as he introduces these archetypes in a short stop-motion video.

Stories rock! When you tell stories, you lower the B.S. guard of your audience. Stories build trust. And they have the power to engage your readership like nothing else. They’re also far more interesting to read than bland sales copy.

Think about how you can weave stories into your online presence. The people in your community will always want to hear your stories  to get to know you better.

How to Write Concise Copy with Heart (Brevity Rocks)

Concise copy is good copy. When you ramble, people tune out. The definition of brevity is this: concise and exact use of words in writing or speech. (E.g. fluff-free copy.)

Brevity is sexy. It helps the reader to digest your message in small junks of information.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Use more powerful verbs (doing words) and less adjectives (describing words). Let your sentences be active,  not descriptive.
  • Keep your sentences short (aim for less than 13 words per sentence).
  • Eliminate jargon and clichés where possible (I admit I’m guilty as charged).
  • Check your readability stats (Google how) and aim for a low Passive Sentences score, a Flesch Reading Ease score of above 60, and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of below 9. This article here explains how to activate this on Word 2010.

Creative Ways to Give Your Copy Cult-Like Resonance

Apply the tips within this practical guide to let your copy sing.

With just a few simple and conscious applications, you can write compelling conversational copy that rocks your community and builds your tribe. As long as you remember to identify with your reader’s problem you can’t really go wrong.

Use words to paint the outcome. Take readers on a journey of discovery: from problem to solution, in a few (simple) steps.

The best way to build cult-like resonance is to be generous with your knowledge!

With that said, I want to hear from you!

Tell me in the comment below how you intend to apply some of the information within this practical guide. I’d love to know.

Monika Mundell is the go-to communication strategist + creative copywriter for sassy women in business. Monika explodes her client’s profit potential with her fresh, funky, and fun writing style. She created her FREE Sales Letter Love Script to help you magnetise your perfect client + make love, with words. Connect with her on Facebook.

The Psychology of Color: Is Your Color Choice Making or Breaking Your Website?

This is a guest contribution from Thai Nguyen, of The Wantrepreneur Journey.

Image by Flickr user Kari

Image by Flickr user Kari

Along with the human emotional response to music, perhaps there is nothing more universal in experience as the human response and perception of color (of course unless you are color-blind). Despite the ubiquitous nature of color in reality and indeed our daily encounter with different colors, the concept and understanding of color psychology seems to be somewhat lacking and even esoteric in practice. So much so, that when we choose colours for our website, we may not have thought about what effect it can have on our readers.

Many ancient cultures have practiced forms of color therapy, otherwise known as chromotherapy, light therapy, or colourology. Even today there are groups practicing such therapies as part of holistic and alternative treatments. Artist and interior designers have long understood the relationship between color and human emotional response.

Some of the most intriguing research on color response has included:

  • students exposed to the color red prior to an exam having negative effects- reducing scores and grades.
  • wildlife and park rangers have planted red flowers to deter people from entering into certain areas.
  • sports teams dressed in black are more likely to receive penalties.
  • warm-colored placebo pills get more of a response than cool-colored placebo pills.
  • the installation of blue-colored streetlights have suggested a reduction of crime in those areas.

Here is a breakdown of the major colors and their parallel emotional response:

RED
Positive: courage, strength, warmth, energy, excitement
Negative: defiance, aggression, danger.

BLUE
Positive: intelligence, trust, serenity, calmness, coolness, reflection.
Negative: distance, aloofness, emotionless, unfriendliness.

YELLOW:
Positive: optimism, confidence, self-esteem, extraversion, friendliness, creativity.
Negative: irrationality, fragility, depression, anxiety.

GREEN:
Positive: harmony, balance, refreshment, love, restoration, equilibrium, peace.
Negative: boredom, stagnation, blandness, enervation, envy

VIOLET
Positive: authenticity, truth, quality, awareness, attunement, luxury, royalty,
Negative: Introversion, decadence, suppression, inferiority.

ORANGE
Positive: comfort, security, abundance, fun, passion, stimulation/hunger/food.
Negative: deprivation, frustration, immaturity, frivolity.

PINK
Positive: tranquility, nurture, femininity, sexuality, love, delicate.
Negative: inhibition, emasculation, weakness, fickle, claustrophobia.

GREY
Positive: grey is psychologically neutral.
Negative: lack of confidence, lack of energy, depression, hibernation, reclusiveness.

BLACK
Positive: sophistication, glamour, security, emotional safety, efficiency, substance.
Negative: opression, coldness, menace, heaviness, intimation.

WHITE
Positive: purity, cleanness, simplicity, sophistication, efficiency, clarity.
Negative: elitism, sterility, distance, isolation, coldness.

BROWN
Positive: earthiness, connectedness, reliability, support, grounded, stable.
Negative: heaviness, lack of sophistication, lack of humor, dullness.

In light of the impetuous development of technology in our current day and age, and life becoming more online, perhaps nothing could be more pertinent than the need to consider not only what our choice of color conveys about our personality, but what kind of a response is evoked from the color we use on a website layout.

Some considerations in choosing color schemes for your website:

What is the nature of your work?

Media? Environmental? Music? Business? Religious? If your theme is environmental and you are heavy on the use of red and orange, this would produce a conflict in the reception of your message. In like manner, if you are a religious organization, then a dominant use of pink might not be very appropriate.

What is the purpose or mission statement of your business or website?

What kind of a response are you trying to elicit from your audience? Once they spend time on your site, think of some words to describe the way you would like your audience to feel. Inspired, encouraged, relaxed, at peace, energized? Match up these responses with the color and response list.

What artwork or photographs are featured on your site?

Do these match up also with the message that you are trying to convey? You may have chosen great colors but you can easily undermine your color/message synchronicity with a photograph or piece of art that is not in line with your color scheme.

It is also important to have consistency if you are going to use a variety of colors, keep in mind that colors are grouped and divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and work best when used in these relations. Variations are perhaps best used in individual blog posts when you are writing on a specific topic and trying to bring about a certain response- this is very important when you are choosing photographs to be incorporated into the post.

Thai Nguyen is the founder of www.wantrepreneurjourney.com the site dedicated to inspiring people to step out build a business around their passions- to make a living, living the dream. Thai has been a successful chef and athlete, and now teaches on the topic of personal growth.

5 Reasons Your Blog Needs A Kindle Book

This is a guest contribution from Stefan Pylarinos, author of Kindle Money Mastery.

Kindle books have been getting a lot of buzz lately amongst the internet marketing community, and with good reason. Amazon has made it extremely easy for anyone to publish their own Kindle book for sale on Amazon.com, and many bloggers are taking advantage of it.  You might have thought in the past that writing and publishing your own book could be a challenging pursuit, but I’m about to prove you otherwise.  By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be crystal-clear why publishing your own Kindle book is something that you won’t want to miss out on.

1. More Money

This is the most obvious reason.  Selling your own Kindle book to your audience is a great way to monetize your blog.  If your audience enjoys your writing and content, then it’ll be an extremely easy sell for you that will pocket you extra money every month.  Not only that, but by promoting it to your blog audience, it will help boost your Kindle book on Amazon.com.  Amazon is currently the #1 paid search engine in the world, with over 300 million credit cards in their system, which means that they will help sell your book for you to their visitors.  Even if you don’t have a blog, a Kindle book is still a fantastic way to make money if you know how to rank your Kindle book on Amazon.

2. Builds More Trust

A Kindle book is a fantastic way to build more trust and a deeper relationship with your readers.  In your book, you’re able to share stories and deliver immense value, which helps your readers to connect with you even more.  Often times people will skim over blog posts or not receive the value of them fully, simply because it’s free content that people take for granted.  With a Kindle book, people will actually sit down without distraction and read from start to finish with their Kindle e-reader, tablet or on their computer.

3. Makes You An Authority

Publishing your own Kindle book immediately makes you an authority in your marketplace.  Not only do you gain the status of being a “published author”, but you can also quite easily attain the title “Amazon Bestselling Author”.  I remember when I published my first Kindle book, Life Mastery, and posted the news on my personal Facebook page.  Immediately, I received a massive response of praise and admiration from friends and followers.  People put authors on a pedestal and will begin to see you differently. You instantly become an expert.

4. Will Help You Get More Traffic And Subscribers

Amazon provides a lot of opportunity for you to promote your Kindle book on their website.  One advantage they have is something called the KDP Select program, which means that your Kindle book becomes exclusive only to Amazon for 90 days.  During that time, the main benefit you receive is being able to run a Free Promotion on your Kindle book for up to 5 days.  During these 5 days, your Kindle book will be listed for free on Amazon and they will do the promoting for you.  It’s not unusual for a Kindle book to get a couple hundred or couple thousand downloads during those 5 days.

I’ve had a Kindle book get me over 22,000 downloads in five days.  You might be wondering, “how the heck does this help me get more traffic and subscribers for my blog?”  The primary way is by optimizing your Kindle book to promote your blog.  For example, you could have links in your book to different articles on your blog, to a squeeze page, as well as your social media accounts.  By taking advantage of this strategy, you could easily gain hundreds or thousands of new, highly targeted, quality visitors and subscribers.

5. Can Lead To Much Greater Opportunity

Being an author on Amazon can lead to much greater opportunity, such as media exposure or speaking opportunity.  I’ve been contacted by members of the media and been interviewed many times, getting me a lot of extra exposure, simply by having my own Kindle book.  I’ve also been invited to speak at different events and seminars.  Even requests for coaching and consulting can begin to become frequent.  Like I mentioned earlier, others look up to you as an expert and authority in your marketplace.  You’re no longer just a “blogger”, but you’re an AUTHOR.

These five reasons should be enough to really persuade you into writing and publishing your own Kindle book.  If you’re already writing content and articles for your blog, then it should be a fairly easy process for you to write your own Kindle book.  I see writing a Kindle book similar to writing a series of blog posts.  These days, a book doesn’t have to be super long either.  You could publish a 40 or 50 page book and sell it for $2.99 or $4.99, in which case Amazon will pay you a 70% royalty for every sale.  You can make even more if you create a paperback version of it also, which is extremely easy using CreateSpace.  The opportunity is there and it’s something that you’re going to want to jump in on sooner, rather than later.

Get going on it and don’t miss out!

Stefan Pylarinos is an Amazon Bestselling Author and founder of Kindle Money Mastery.  Stefan’s Kindle Money Mastery course teaches you step-by-step how to create, publish and market your own Kindle books so that you can make a full-time living through Amazon.

7 Out-of-the-Box Ideas to Write Effective Marketing Copy

This post is from Leslie Anglesey, writing coach and a contributor to Essay Tigers

You may be asking yourself: “How do I write copy that sells?” – Too many of us get distracted by myths about the rules of communication, marketing messages, and stuff like that.

Today’s post blends together seven out-of-the-box ideas for effective marketing writing into a comprehensive guide that can drastically improve the value of your blog. While there’s little left in this contemporary culture that could be considered out-of-the-box, these ideas are most definitely not orthodox.

If you want to make your blog writing memorable, follow these tips to make it shine.

Idea #1: Actually Get to Know the Audience

While it may seem cliché, in reality very few marketing-based writers take the time to get to know their audience beyond the bare essentials. The devil’s in the details ladies and gentlemen. We’re in an era of big data and the analytics abound. Use them. Many of these sources of information are free, for example Alexa.com, while other more specialized software options can be pricier but well-worth the investment.

Regardless, what separates the sheep marketing writers from the shepherds can be quantified in consumer behavior tracking, bounce rates, conversion rates along with split-testing. DATA. Oftentimes even the most creative and accomplished writers must bow and sacrifice for data that says, “This audience prefers this over this.” Typically that means shorter sentences, more precise statements and verbiage that first-graders consider elementary.

Idea #2: Base Your Marketing Writing on the “SEO of Tomorrow”, Not Today

How effective would your marketing copy be in terms of ranking (exposure/traffic) if it was written according to the SEO status quo of five, or even one year ago? Yeah, that’s how fast search engine technology and algorithmic innovation is moving. Take a look around at what the status quo considers to be highly optimized marketing writing today and then project a mere six months into the future. Where are we headed?

  • Conversational: The cryptic corporate-speak of the advertising world is no longer effective. At the slightest hint of unwanted sales pitches consumers click away. Marketing writing must speak the conversational language of the particular audience searching for and reading it.
  • Human: The more authentic, genuine and informative the writing the more valuable it will be even if the topics include technologies and things which are rapidly evolving. Forget about writing for search engine algorithms and write only for human beings.
  • Mobile-Friendly Inquiries: The inquiries of tomorrow will be spoken, not typed into search bars. Think about that carefully as you consider how to title your writing and craft it.
  • Authority: All marketing-based writing should to some degree seek to build/maintain perceived authority to be of any use in the online marketing realm of tomorrow.

Idea #3: Throw Traditional Outbound-Voice Completely Out the Window

This has to do with being transparent, conversational and human. The modern person’s brain completely shuts off the moment it perceives/hears a blatant pitch. Instead, write in an inbound-style that seeks to educate and inform the audience into making a purchasing decision without asking for it. Ideally, without even mentioning products or services until deeper within the sales funnel.

Idea #4: Consider What Your High-Brow Competition Isn’t Doing

Speaking of the SEO of Tomorrow, make your marketing writing stand the test of time by being the most important things a) relevant and b) authentic. No matter how amazing your writing may be, if it’s about a common subject it’s going to be almost impossible to stand apart from the crowd. Moving forward simply repurposing content isn’t a viable route. It has to be not only relevant, but authentic.

This means branding, updated user experience (the design that is shaped around your writing), and incorporating something unique. For example, a bamboo company can’t expect to rank by simply regurgitating common bamboo knowledge at this point. But, if they involve images, video and marketing writing that involves their farm, their day-to-day operations, their installations etc. that is unique. That’s what most of the competition ISN’T doing.

Idea #5: Play with a Niche-Focused Approach

Most marketing writing is meant to appeal to wide arrays of potential clients/readers, rather than being laser-focused on one specific niche. Instead of selling one type of bamboo to solve one issue or problem, common (ineffective) copywriters try to sell it to anyone willing to buy. As a matter of course, even the most conversation language no matter how finely formatted, comes across as generalized.

Moving forward the most effective marketing writing will be written by copywriters with specific knowledge about the niche/audience. Like studying the audience on a deeper level, being “niche” these days requires more narrowing.

  • The writing is for a specific kind of bamboo buyer from a specific region or location.
  • The writing focuses on specific benefits that these bamboo buyers need, ideally just one.
  • An example would be for hedging bamboo or privacy bamboo in particular using the most popular species of clumping bamboo.

See the difference between that niche-approach and writing basic post for the bamboo niche at large?

Idea #6: Understand the Dynamics between Genius & Creativity

Here’s how the most creative minds approach a problem, and it is a signifying trait of results-based genius (vs. traditional IQ tests). First, when presented with a problem, for example a 1200 word piece of marketing copy for a niche client, their minds go completely blank. Yes, nothing but mental cricket sounds can be heart initially.

Then, they allow the first random thought to surface without resistance and from there without any pattern go from one thought to another associatively. They sit back and wait until something relevant surfaces that leads to another until they can combine them into a creative and unique approach to the material. Once you understand how it works, you can employ this as well which makes writing first drafts far easier and less of a headache from a creative standpoint.

Idea #7: Elevate the Inbound Value of the Material

Regardless of how you define successful marketing writing, the bar is being raised whether you know/like it or not. What was considered premier web content a year ago is outdated and nearly irrelevant now. That’s a fact. Part of writing for the optimization of tomorrow is knowing that quality of content is measured in utility and accessibility.

Sometimes raising the inbound value doesn’t have to do with maxing the copy longer, or adding more unique geo-tagged photos or meta-data enhanced videos, but simplifying the message so that it’s genuine and almost child-like. Viral marketing has demonstrated this time and again through many well-documented marketing campaigns over the last decade.

Conclusion: Differentiation & Definitive Branding

Effective marketing doesn’t only make a sale or convert organic traffic, it expands brands, builds online empires, established internet credibility, generates perceived authority and differentiates common knowledge through unique content.

Voice is a component of branding, and intonation is the main ingredient of effective human communication. Everything needs to come together in harmony: branding, niche copy, conversational human engagement, excellent scanner-friendly formatting and a focus on concepts/platforms rather than rudimentary keywords. That truly is a quality recipe for effective marketing writing that you can bank on.

Leslie Anglesey is a writing coach and a contributor to Essay Tigers, a website that provides writing tips for college students and recent graduates.

4 Ways to Sell More Products Online

This is a guest contribution from Rosie Scott of The New Craft Society.

As we discussed recently in this post, making money via blogging is far more than fanciful thinking; for an increasing number of dedicated bloggers, it’s a rewarding reality. But there’s a difference between, “Hey mom! I made 30 cents this month using nothing but my typing fingers!” and, you know, actually making a living. Whether you generate sales through coaching, services, eBooks, physical products or any of the many other ways bloggers can pull a profit, selling more products online means thinking more like a business. Don’t worry – it’s not as intimidating as it might sound, and you won’t lose suddenly turn into a heartless corporate shill.

1. Optimize Your Website for Sales

It may sound obvious, but if you’re going to sell products through your blog, you’ve got to get it primed for sales. This is intuitively done on business websites, where the focus is all on the product and there’s all of one section devoted to a blog. It can be a little less natural, however, when blogs are the central focus. Here’s how to get it right.

Make a separate tab for your store. Each product or service you’re selling should have its own, dedicated page. If it’s a digital product, it should be downloadable in as few clicks as possible. If you’re using a shopping cart, that should also be easily accessible, with few to no barriers to purchase, like long contact or sign up forms.

Don’t fear the long-form sales page. When in doubt, it’s better to give more details than too few. Don’t skimp on shipping policies, product details, contact info, technical specs, product FAQs – anything you can think of that a customer might need to know. You can separate this easily with on page grids or columns. However, even a long form sales pitch can be highly effective, as long as it tells a great story (and as a blogger, isn’t that what you do?). Take a look how writer and writing coach Alexandra Franzen does it for her I <3 Email course. That is one long sales page, but it’s broken up well with catchy headlines, all the essential details about the course, bullets, testimonials, and at one point, an easy sign up, but it’s off the site now as the course has sold out. The point is, if you’ve got the details, make ‘em known.

Take excellent photos. Customers may like the convenience of online shopping, but there’s just nothing quite like holding a product in one’s hands to really get a sense of it. Photos go a long way towards mitigating that problem, allowing customers a much more in-depth look. As such, it makes sense to invest in a good photographer to take clear, high quality product photos, from just about every angle you can imagine.

Make sharing easy. These days, having a social bar on a sales page is essential, so that customers can easily share products or services they think are great on their favorite social networks. Whether it’s at the bottom, on the side, or several places throughout the page, you’ll do best when sharing is one-click easy.

Encourage feedback. Reviews are by and large one of the biggest deciding factors for potential customers. In this social age, they’re also a form of social proofing (i.e. if that personable looking guy thinks it’s good, it probably is). Three weeks after purchase, email your customers directly to ask for a review, and feature the good ones prominently on a testimonial page.

Consider a third-party selling platform. Managing shopping cart software on your own can be difficult, not to mention handling payments. It can be a lot easier to simply integrate a third-party platform like Shopify into your site, as you’ll get to retain the look and feel of your site while Shopify does all of the backend heavy lifting. Alternatively, for certain kinds of bloggers, sending followers to a different site altogether can be an even better option, especially if you want to keep your blog from getting to sales-centric, and it makes things much simpler from a design standpoint. A good guide to Etsy, for example, will get you quickly set up to sell on that particular site without any of the work you’d have to do to fit a store onto your personal blog. Doing so will also enter you into a wider pool of sellers that customers already trust, thereby broadening your reach and doubling your efforts.

2. Up Your Content Strategy

As a blogger, you’ve already got somewhat of a built-in strategy; content is, after all, kind of what you do. But if you really want to up your sales, you’ve got to get organized about just what you’re posting, when you’re posting it, who you’re promoting it to and how you’re doing so.

Do some sleuthing to determine what readers want. Maybe you’ve already furrowed down into a profitable niche, or maybe you’re still just sniffing the ground to figure out where the best scents lead. Either way, it’s always worth doing a little detective work to determine just what your readers (or potential readers) want to read – all the better if that just so happens to tie into a service or product you’ve got for sale. To do this, take a look at some of the keywords that are bringing people to your blog, and be on the hunt for any questions you have yet to answer. Comments on both your blog and on other blogs within your niche are also a great place to look for this, as are trending topics on places like Google+ or Twitter. Or, hey, here’s something novel: just get on social media and ask your readers all about their deepest questions within your niche. Boom: you’ve got a wealth of posts, ready to go.

Change up your format. Sure, how-to blogposts and scintillating written stories are great to read. But why not change it up a bit from time to time? Videos, infographics, and especially contests and giveaways are a great way to engage readers, and they each provide plenty of room for your unique personality. Launching a new doggy daycare service on your pup-centric blog? (See, I can’t stop with the dog thing!). Have your readers send in cute photos of their pups for a chance to win free services. The more varied and creative you get with it, the more readers you’ll get sharing your work, the more products you’ll ultimately sell.

Get serious about an editorial calendar. In the old days, you could get away with blogging about whatever interested in you from post to post. When you’re trying to sell products and services, getting organized with an editorial calendar is key. This way, you can better vary your content and spread out your product marketing, so it’s not all “buy, buy, buy!” one week and random blogposts the next. In fact, depending on your product, you’ll still want to plan so that you’re primarily focusing on your regular blogging, with your promotions more widely staggered.

Organize your audience into categories. Readers who follow you on Facebook aren’t necessarily drawn to you for the same reasons as Twitter followers, nor do they expect to engage with your blog or products in the same manner in each place. Take some time to research your followers on each social media platform, and to curate posts and shares, whether promotional or otherwise, that really make sense for each one. Even if the ultimate message is the same, it should be communicated differently on each platform. Taking the time to tailor your social media messages will make the much more shareable on each one.

3. Engage More With Your Followers

This may be something you already do, but if not, it’s time to start engaging at a much deeper level and more comprehensively with your potential and current followers. In one respect, it makes sense again to think of yourself like a business with need for customer service representatives; if someone comments on your blog or tweets a complaint about a product, they deserve a response, even if it’s just a “Thanks!” or a retweet. (Caveat: You still retain a blogger’s right to ignore trolls).

However, it’s important not to take the customer service representative idea too far and let yourself turn into an automaton. Big businesses, after all, are increasingly trying to sound just as personable as bloggers, so you’ve already got a real advantage in that department. Which is to say: respond in your characteristic tone of voice, using the full force of your personality. Just be polite and encouraging wherever you can.

And hey, if you’ve already got a loyal following, use it! As you promote your posts and products on different platforms, reach out to followers directly with @mentions, as long as you think they’d truly be interested in what you have to say. Pose discussion questions, or host a Google Hangout where you can talk issues of the day or simply, well, hangout. The greater the response your followers get from you, the more they’ll feel like they know you and that you’re on the same team, the more willing to buy they’ll be.

4. Cross Sell 

On the other end of the corporate vs. personable blogger spectrum, there’s the essential art of cross selling. Hey, if the big guys benefit from it everyday, why shouldn’t you? If it’s done right, cross selling is really just the process of giving your customers even more of what they need, not just randomly throwing more advertising at them. Think of what happens when you book a flight on Kayak. It’s not like when you check out, the site offers you low, low, LOW prices on used cars or trucks, for a limited time only! Rather, the deals they offer are on hotels or car rentals at your destination. You know, stuff you’re probably going to be booking anyway.

Just how you cross sell will depend entirely on the kind of product or service, and you will be the best person to determine just what matches well with what. Cross selling might be done, as we just saw in the Kayak example, at the moment of checkout. It can also happen in the form of a bundle, like when Amazon offers you a deal or sometimes just the convenience of packaging three similar items in one. It can come in the form of an incentive, or in the form of data, by suggesting similar products or service that other people bought in conjunction with the one the buyer added to their cart. It can also come in the form of expert recommendations, or in a 2-for-1 type of offer.

Don’t have anything to cross sell yet? That’s fine. You’ll still want to draw the purchaser further into your brand by suggesting they sign up for your newsletter or connect with you via social media as they check out. The goal here is to think beyond the single sale.

The Takeaway

Chances are, you came to blogging so that you could talk about your passions, and you dreamed, too, of that passion supporting you full-time. Well, in order for that to happen, you’ve got to sell products or services, and doing that requires a good dose of business savvy. With a little education and experimentation, I know it’s doable for you. So get going, and have fun!

Rosie Scott is a content strategist at a digital marketing company. An avid blogger, you can find her at The New Craft Society or on twitter @RosieScott22.

 

Life After Keywords (Not Provided): What’s Next For Bloggers?

This is a guest contribution from Jim Burch, a copywriter from St. Louis.

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When you use Google Analytics to track your blog’s traffic, you may see (not provided) on your list of keyword searches. Simply put, this is Google’s way of encrypting keyword searches in the name of privacy and security.

If you heavily rely on keyword analytics for the content you produce, you may be in a bit of a panic. What was once a quantitative measure to strengthen search engine rankings is now much more qualitative. As a blogger, you want to see every piece of analytics behind every keyword, but in 2013 that’s just no way to do business.

The Web is the only medium where people write for machines instead of people. You get so caught up in keyword density, you may forget actual humans are reading the content.

This Is Good

The first point to understand is this is an improvement for the Web. Adjustments and transitions will take time, but in the end, the general quality of content is about to increase. Imagine if off-Web content was written to fulfill SEO and keyword standards. What would an Ernest Hemingway novel look like if it needed to rank for “great American author” on Google? Hemingway didn’t write for Web crawlers and neither should you.

“Content is king” and all those wonderful cliches still apply, but there’s a little more work to be done now. Digital marketing agencies are looking ahead on this. The marketing blog at iAcquire recommends implementing a “content system” to create content that is both high-quality and consistent to get the jump start on life after (not provided).

Creating a Content System

A content system is an efficient way for bloggers to produce high-quality content while staying organized and consistent. The switch to (not provided) keywords is seen as a restriction by some, but really it’s an invitation to rock some of the best and most-effective content the Web has ever seen. You just have to add the layers to form one delicious cake. What does a content system look like? There are a few elements:

  • An editorial calendar that is both active and consistent. Follow it and use it to keep up with consistent social media and blog posts.
  • When you’re constructing blog posts and social media, keep the themes consistent. You can thoroughly cover a topic and keep readers engaged through all social media platforms.
  • Stop writing for keywords and start writing for people — your audience.

Authors with Authority

Gaining Google Authorship or collaborating with a writer with Google Authorship can be a big asset to your blog’s rankings. Google’s most recent update may give more power to authors who use Google+ and Google Authorship.

Who writes a post could be as important as the site on which it’s published, in the eyes of Google’s web crawlers. This makes the relationship between the author and the publisher mutually rewarding — the publisher will get stronger rankings from quality authors and the author will drive up his or her own authorship ranking with each post.

Not Everything Changes

Keep in mind, just because Google isn’t providing raw data on keywords doesn’t mean its algorithm doesn’t count them. So don’t throw the whole strategy out the window.

These changes are designed to refine existing strategies, not rewrite them. If your work help boost rankings in the past, keep doing them. The addition of better, more consistent content will help rankings in a more organic manner, even if you can’t see feedback from specific keywords.

Bloggers Have It Best

While marketers are scrambling to adjust methods for better rankings, bloggers are good to go. Chances are, you were always writing for an audience first and search rankings second. This method of organic content is going to pay off now that Google rewards both concepts and authorship more than ever before. It’s time for players who cut corners to step back in second place. Bloggers who do it the right way, have been doing it the right way, are about to take the lead.

What do you think? Will the new Google strategy help or hinder your blogging?

Jim Burch is a copywriter from St. Louis. Jim has spent the last 2 years specializing in writing for SEO and helping some of the worlds biggest brands build out their content marketing strategies. He specializes in advertising and marketing and also covers a variety of health and fitness topics. 

The Unexpected Way to Write Killer Content: Blog from Your Heart and Break All the Rules

This is a guest contribution from Tova Payne of TovaPayne.com

If you asked me two years ago about blogging, well let’s just say I must have been living in a cave, because I didn’t quite understand what blogging was all about or why people did it.

I’ve loved writing my whole life, but never realized how blogging was associated with business, or getting your message out to the world.

So I started off with writing a newsletter to an e-mail list I had, and slowly, as I was studying more about business, I recognized that my natural passion for writing could reach a wider audience through blogging.

This gave my writing a greater purpose—the ability to spread my message to a wider reach, to share what I love and hopefully help inspire others too.

Simple enough…Or so I thought.

The more I learned about business (and I bet you can relate), the more you start hearing about the “shoulds,” the rules, and the “right way” to blog and write in general.

You learn about techniques such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and how to craft the PERFECT headline so people will read the damn message. Let me be fair—these things contribute to the success of your blog. BUT, what I see and hear people tell me all the time is how they can’t write their blog because they are not sure if they are doing it the right way, or they can’t hit publish until they find that perfect headline.

What’s the problem with that?

Well, it’s an easy way to stay in fear-mode. Too scared you’re doing things wrong that you don’t send your message out to the world. Too scared you didn’t get the right SEO key terms that you never press “publish”. You keep waiting to have everything right until you hit that magic button.

Well, I’ll tell you—the fastest way to sabotage your blogging efforts is waiting to get things right.

Blogging, like anything in life, is a muscle. You need to work it to strengthen it. Through your dedication to blogging and through your consistent posting you will inevitably start crafting better headlines. You will receive feedback on what creates a more popular post and what works best.

And it’s not by spending 80% of your time reading about blogging and 20% of your time starting that blog you never post. The only way to really learn and get better is to get started: Write. And publish. You need to publish to learn.

Secondly, when you try so hard to fit into every blogging rule—you run the risk of seriously dulling down your message to fit the rules, which takes away from the feeling, the inspiration, and the heart of your message.

What posts go viral? It’s the messages that inspire people to share it with their friends. Not the ones that fit the perfect SEO-box.

And I know this from my own experience. Sometimes when I write for other publications I have to write SEO-driven content, and I’ll tell you it just doesn’t feel the same and it never brings me as many likes or new fans as the ones that come from pure heart and passion.

Now, like anything in life it’s a fine balance. I mean if the essence of your writing is to reach people, and if tweaking a few words here and there will help reach more people—then take a few minutes to tweak a few words. Certainly, take advantage of the tag words and writing a good excerpt if you can—but do NOT stress over it, and don’t waste more than a few minutes on this.

Like all rules, they are there as a framework to guide you. But the magic happens when you can chuck the framework and make up your own rules. To allow your intuitive guidance to help you in the decision processing that you make. And yes, this pertains to blogging and all areas of your work.

Certainly, SEO matters to some degree, but when you write from your heart and share your message from that place of passion, the right people will find you.

My vote is to spend more time creating from the heart and press “publish” more often (as you sweep the rules under the rug). So what are waiting for? People are waiting to hear your message. Get to work—Write. Publish. Repeat.

Tova Payne is a Published Author, Writer, Blogger, and Entrepreneur. She helps creative entrepreneurs take action on their dreams. Visit her online home to grab a free copy of 5 Keys to Starting + Finishing your Dream Projectwww.tovapayne.com

Connect with Tova on Facebook here.

Building a Magnetic Blog: How to Keep Your Readers Coming Back for More

This post is from Nick Amann, the founder of SpecificFeeds

As bloggers, we tend to be a little obsessed with numbers – we check our stats compulsively to see how many more hits we got today than yesterday and freak out if we lose a couple of followers on Twitter or Facebook.

However, most bloggers are focusing on the wrong numbers. Having a highly trafficked blog sounds great and it may well be, but what’s even more important that having lots of visitors to your site is ensuring that a high percentage of them are recurring visitors.

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to improve your blog’s SEO to bring in more search engine traffic, how to get more likes on Facebook and so on. All of this is great advice but a web visitor who clicks through to your site, stays for five minutes and leaves forever is probably not very valuable to you.

What we really should be concentrating on is encouraging our readers to come back to our site and read our content on a regular basis.

Why Recurring Readers Are More Valuable

Blogging is not so different from any other business – to be successful it’s important to gain a sufficient number of customers (readers). As with many other industries, selling to pre-existing customers is not only easier but is also likely to be more successful.

A high customer retention rate means that you don’t need to spend as much time and effort in trying to win new customers, as you can spend most of your energy focusing on your existing clientele.

Your regular readers don’t need any convincing to click through to your content. They are eager to read anything new you publish and they value your opinion and recommendations. A blog’s subscribed readers are its most valuable asset.

How to Encourage Subscriptions and Recurring Blog Visitors

Creating a blog that people want to come back to time and time again always comes back to the keystone of excellent content. If you’re not producing content that is helpful, entertaining, easy to read and interesting, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start again.

That being said, there are a number of ways that you can encourage first-time visitors to your blog to become regular readers. Human beings tend towards laziness so you need to make things as simple and accessible for your readers as possible. If you don’t make it easy for people to access your content on a regular basis, the chances are they just won’t bother.

To encourage casual visitors to become regular readers, you should offer a number of different ways to follow your blog that are clearly visible within the design:

1. RSS Feeds – Still Alive and Kicking!

RSS is not dead, despite what the naysayers may claim. After Google Reader closed, the most popular alternative RSS reader, Feedly, gained an additional 3 million new users. If your blog doesn’t have a working RSS feed, you’re forcing your readers to come directly to your site to read your content and for many people, that is more effort than your blog is worth.

2. Email Opt-in Form – The Money is in The List!

In general, email subscribers are worth much more than RSS subscribers as there is a higher likelihood that they will read your posts. People tend to dip in and out of their RSS readers for entertainment and it’s easy for them to skip over posts when they’re busy. Emails have a higher perceived importance and are much more likely to be read.

Emails also feel a lot more personal than blog posts and allow you to customize your messages to each individual reader (e.g., by addressing them by their name). This can really help your followers to feel like you are talking directly to them and can help to increase your conversion rates.

3. Social Networking – The Future Present is Social!

Since Google Reader bowed out, its former users have had to hunt out alternative ways of keeping up with their favorite blogs and some have abandoned RSS readers altogether. Publishing links to your blog posts to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ provides an easy way for people to follow your blog, as well as encouraging reader interaction.

Like email, posting updates to social media has a more informal feel than using your RSS feed and people are more likely to read your posts when they’re mixed in with other updates from their friends and family.

Having social media accounts for your blog and making your posts easy to share is also an excellent way for growing your fan base. When someone likes your page on Facebook (or Google+ or whatever) it acts like a recommendation from one reader to all their friends and followers. This is a great way of getting new readers who are interested in what you have to say.

And if you’re a site where users can sign up as members, social media integration is a no-brainer anyway. Signing up through an existing social account takes much less time than filling out a form and avoids the problem of lost login credentials – that’s why the majority of social media users prefer this option.

4. New Emerging Technologies – Keep Your Finger on the Pulse!

Internet technologies go in and out of fashion extremely quickly and it’s not always possible to predict what will be the ‘next big thing’. However it’s never a bad idea to experiment with a couple of newer subscription technologies, particularly if they make life easier for your blog readers.

There are a couple of interesting options that are starting to make a name for themselves since the demise of Google Reader. One of these is SpecificFeeds which resolves many of the weaknesses with RSS by allowing users to customize feeds to their individual needs. Check out the Problogger specific feed to get an idea for how the service works.

The Pros and Cons of Pop-up Opt-in Forms

Pop-up windows went out of favor in the early 2000s but they are now back with a vengeance as technology has allowed them to be more user-friendly and they’ve been proven to improve conversion rates by an impressive amount.

There’s still a fair amount of controversy surrounding pop-ups – some people say that you should always use them in order to maximize your newsletter sign ups, while others claim they are an abomination that should be struck from the internet.

For a compelling argument of why you should use pop-ups, have a read through this article right here on Problogger, in which Darren illustrates how using a pop-up signup form caused his daily subscribes to shoot up by over 800%, overnight.

Pop-ups are of course intrusive by nature, and you do run the risk of annoying your readers and causing the opposite effect to what you intended. This article at Copyblogger discusses the downside of using pop-ups, ponders whether it is worth the risk, and offers some viable alternatives.

In the end It comes down to personal preference whether you use pop-ups or not, but there’s no denying that they are incredibly effective when it comes to increasing your email signups.

Perhaps an acceptable compromise is to make use of the sophisticated pop-up technology that is now available for blogs and show pop-ups only to first-time visitors or have the pop-up appear only when the user has read an entire article and scrolled to the bottom of the page.

Growing Your Subscribers is The No.1 Way to Grow Your Business.

The arguments for focusing on your existing readers are compelling. It’s said that a business needs only 1,000 true fans to be successful. What is a true fan? Someone who wants to consume everything you produce, whether you are an author, singer, artist or blogger.

Rather than focusing on trying to increase your blog traffic, instead shift your focus to converting your existing occasional readers into subscribers. If your blog can manage to obtain 1,000 truly engaged subscribers, you can safely call yourself a successful blogger, whatever niche you write in and whatever your method of monetization or business model you use.

Growing your subscribers is not something that happens overnight but with consistent effort and a well-thought out plan, it is possible.

To sum up:

Publish excellent content

Engage with your readers and be approachable and friendly

Offer a highly visible link to your RSS feed

Include an email subscription form

Add sharing buttons for the social networks you want to focus on

Look into new subscription technologies like SpecificFeeds

Consider a popup signup form.

Do you have any other tips for optimizing your blog subscribers? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the importance of site traffic versus RSS and email subscribers so join the discussion in the comments if you have any opinions or further points to add.

Nick Amann is the founder of SpecificFeeds, a free service aiming to send only relevant news to subscribers. On his blog, he’s writing on the topics of productivity and managing information overload.

5 Ways to Find Out What People Really Want From Your Blog

This is a guest contribution from Sabina Stoiciu, blogger, photographer and traveller. 

While it can be quite redundant to pose this question, here it goes: Why blog? Let’s have a look at a few key stats that’ll convince you to set up a blog in the next two seconds, if you haven’t already got one:

  • 77% of Internet users read blogs
  • nearly one quarter (23%) of the time spent on the Internet is directed towards blogs and social networks
  • small businesses that run blogs increase their leads number by 126%
  • offering valuable content is one of three reasons why people follow your brand on social networks
  • 81% of US customers give credit to recommendations coming from blogs they’re fond of

(see the full stats on socialmediatoday)

One thing that happens to many fresh bloggers is not knowing what to write about or what would best benefit their audience, in order to convince them to subscribe to that blog and to make them desperately wait for another post to be published.

Supposing this little problem of not knowing exactly what to blog about might occur to anyone, not only to blogging rookies, it’s a good idea to think about what people want from your blog.

By not knowing this, you make yourself a disservice because:

a) you can fail at attracting new readers if you’re not aware of what they seek and

b) you might lose some of your current readers if you don’t meet or keep up with their expectations.

When talking about blogs, it’s important to know how readers see them. Some people read blogs to live other people’s experiences. Others look for tips they can apply to themselves. Several people look for business information, while there are many others who seek entertainment material. As Darren wrote, a good question is also what your content is centred upon – information, inspiration or interaction.

Generally people find a blog, like it and become a reader because they value the content and the way in which it’s written, but wouldn’t it be great to actually know what your visitors want and to use this knowledge to attract them towards your blog for converting them into full-time readers?

Below you will find 5 ways that can help you in the quest of finding out what people really want from your blog.

1. Listen to them

You can do so by offering them a way to express their content related desires and by actually reading what they tell you.

Two places where readers can share what they would like to find are the comments section of every blog post and the “contact me” form you can embed into your blog. A form like this provides people a short and easy way to get in touch with you and to keep discussions private, in comparison to the comments section. 123ContactForm is an online form and survey builder that could help you in several ways. For example, it offers a free plugin for WordPress based blogs that can help you create a customisable contact form with almost no effort – you can access one here.

2. Ask them

You can also run a survey in which you kindly encourage them to tell you what they would most love to see on your blog.

The benefit of a survey is that it can help you in two ways: with your current readers and with potential readers. Why is that? Because you can publish it on your blog, where you’re addressing it to your current readers, but you can also publish it on other websites, partner blogs or social media channels, where you can reach a whole bunch of other people that aren’t necessarily your readers yet.

A free survey tool like the one from the already mentioned 123ContactForm can help you publish your survey on any of the above channels and personalise it as you wish, if you want people to recognise your brand.

While point 1 and 2 refer to the “ask the readers what they want” part, points 3 to 5 handle the more technical aspect of the user vs. content research, that is letting the data speak about what topics you should cover.

3. Keyword research

Get to know what is trending by doing some keyword research on Google, as well as on your blog. Both types of search can help you.

Here’s how: if you find out what people are looking for right now, you can start covering those topics (supposing you haven’t already) and drive organic traffic to your blog. On the other hand, knowing what people have been looking for on your blog can point you towards popular topics which you can afterwards choose to cover more in-depth.

As of the free tools that can help you do the research, you may want to try out Google Trends, the already popular Google Analytics and your blog’s stats. Again, this tool works for current and future visitors.

screenshot_Google_Trends

4. Check post traffic

Another indicator of what drives your visitor’s interest is the post traffic. Articles that readers find relevant and valuable will show an increased traffic volume compared to ones that are not so appealing.Thus, keeping an eye on your blog’s traffic data from Google Analytics or the blog stats is always a good idea that might also define or at least improve your content strategy.

One thing to bare in mind when talking about post traffic is also how well you optimise your posts for search engines. By using relevant and targeted keywords, clearly expressing your ideas, using a friendly, yet catchy headline, setting helpful tags and image descriptions, you allow visitors to find more easily what they’re looking for. And Google will love you for that.

You can also check out Darren’s post on how to optimise a blog post that performed well in terms of traffic.

5. Analyse engagement

The last point on our list (but definitely not one that should be neglected) is to analyse the engagement around your blog posts and around their reverberance in social media.

To be more specific, take a look at the number of likes, shares and comments a post received directly on your blog, as well as on the social media channels where you shared it. Naturally, posts that sum up a lot of engagement have always proved themselves to be a hot topic for those engaging with them. Hence, why not consider exploring more of these topics that your readers were so keen on?

These are some ideas on how to find out what your blog visitors are looking for. Remember, you can always test to see what works out best and let the results point you towards the direction worth following.

Sabina Stoiciu enjoys blogging, photography, traveling and finding ways of gathering and sharing relevant business knowledge. You can follow her on Twitter. She also writes for 123ContactForm, the online form and survey builder – try it for free.