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Beginner Week – Katie180′s success story

Theme WeekKATIE180 (2)

The name “Katie 180” was gaining traction in Australian blogging circles before Katie Rainbird’s site was even launched. Two short months after she first pressed “publish”, Eden Riley, one of Australia’s best bloggers, pointed her out in the crowd of a Digital Parents conference. “If you want to know how to start a blog,” she said, “just go and read Katie180”. This caught the attention of one Darren Rowse in the audience, who quickly secured her to speak at his own conference later that year.

So how did someone who had only a handful of posts to her name get the attention of the Aussie big guns – something we all would have loved in our early days?

Well, let’s find out.

The Beginning

With a long-held dream of writing, Katie believed she could seamlessly marry her newfound nutrition knowledge with her love of prose. Eschewing the more traditional route of diet advice private practice, Katie took to the internet with her smarts and a burning ambition: Write. Be seen.

“Whilst studying nutrition I started planning to take my knowledge and put it to paper, so to speak,” she says. “Originally I thought about freelancing, but once I discovered blogging it was a real ‘ah-ha’ moment for me and I just KNEW that was the way for me to go!”

Without wanting to rush into things, Katie ensured her site was properly designed and she was finished her studies before launching. A far cry from some of us who blog first and ask questions later!

“Well I didn’t really wait long when you consider that I only decided upon blogging in my final year of college (two years ago),” she says. “I wanted to be qualified before I started blogging about nutrition, and I wanted it to be perfect – ha! But I set my mind to a New Year launch, and even though my blog design wasn’t up to my perfect standards, I hit publish on my first post on January 10th, 2013.

With all that time to tinker before birthing her blog baby, she did a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation. A list that looks a little something like this:

  • Firstly I applied to a call out for guest bloggers on an American based raw food blog, which was accepted and I posted for them with strict deadlines, word counts and of course, content – although I was a nutritionist I wasn’t a raw foodie so it tested my skills.
  • I attended writing and blogging courses held at the Australian Writers’ Centre.
  • I “collected” other nutrition or healthy/foodie types of blogs (even those I didn’t really like or align with) to get a feel for what was going on in this genre and I would take note of which posts received the most commentary or interaction.
  • I tested the waters with a Facebook group on my personal Facebook page, which was also called Katie180 and I would post there a couple of times a week: recipes, photos of food, summaries of nutrient actions and fast facts kind of stuff. It was quite well received and gave me a lot of confidence that so too would my real blog once I started it. It also provided me with an audience ready to follow me over.
  • I also did this with Instagram, I built up a following and a fair few people asked after my blog before it was even launched so I knew that I’d have readers there too.
  • I outsourced my blog design to a professional team and spent many months working with them on my logo, header, colour scheme, format etc.
  • Once I was blogging I quickly joined Twitter and set up a professional Facebook page and I’d plug every post across these two platforms plus my original Katie180 Facebook group and Instagram (even though that’s a bit cheeky but I wanted to catch readers any way I could!)

But with all that preparation and forward-thinking, Katie was still plagued with the concerns that any new blogger has: that no-one would read her blog. “That I’d put all this effort in and it would just be sitting there, sad and alone!” she says.

As usually happens, the excitement of starting a blog soon overshadowed those early-days concerns. Katie says it was a relief to have her voice heard, as was “breaking with convention insofar as my study path was concerned, not going into practice, not waiting around for people to come and find me, rather putting myself out there loud and proud!”

Before the Blog: What did she learn?

“The most important things I learned were from other bloggers (just from reading their blogs): to write in my own voice – be authentic, brave and passionate. To connect – respond, reply, interact across social media because that makes readers feel important and promotes loyal readership (and word of mouth.) To blog regularly – keep in their faces, keep relevant, be out there!”

Early Days: what did she learn?

“The number-one thing I learned was that it takes SO much more time than you think,” she says. “Imagine being asked at 5pm to submit an essay by 9am the next day – one that would entertain and inspire people and if possible include artistically styled photographs and full references to all sources of information. That’s kind of what writing my blog feels like considering I have young children and most of my writing is done after hours.

“Then there’s recipe sourcing, tweaking or inventing plus All the cooking, photographing etc.

And now?

“I work on my blog every day, even the days I don’t post – I’m replying to comments, emails and connecting via Facebook and Instagram,” she says.

“Another important point is that my target audience changed from who I imagined them to be to who they actually are and I began to write for them rather than bang my head on my desk wondering why my posts weren’t being received the way I wanted them to (the heavier reading/educational posts.) I don’t see this as a bad move because I have more readers now and, as such a bigger audience for when I do choose to publish longer articles.”

The basics: Design, Hosting, Content, oh my!

With an overwhelming amount of advice out there on how to get started, Katie cherry-picked the pieces that would work for her pie.

“I had read a number of blogs with posts focused on ‘What I learned this year’, or ‘How to start a blog’, and so on, and I knew that WordPress was preferred,” she said. “I wanted to give my money to an Australian company so I typed “blog design Australia” into Google and found The Blog Designers (clever name guys!) who were very friendly at my first phone call and had a set price of $500 for the entire job so that was that!” (theblogdesigners.com)

“I bought a domain name, I couldn’t get a .com so I went with .au. The team at The Blog Designers recommended a host so all of that techie/design stuff wasn’t in my hands, which took a major load off because that ‘aint my bag!

“My husband and I set up a company, Rainbird Media because he works for himself and via my blog I hope to also, so all these kind of costs can be factored in as expenses.

The next step: being seen

Blogging is never ‘build it and they will come’, more ‘get out there and be a part of the blogosphere’. How did Katie manage that in her early days? “Follow, ‘like’, comment, share, recommend, email directly, stalk – ha ha! It’s no different than how you connect offline,” she says. “You start hanging around and then you make small talk and if you hit it off then you have new friends.”

Looking back – what worked, what didn’t?

Hindsight is super-useful, and it’s no different with blogging. Looking back, Katie says the things she learned that she would do differently this time was to: “Write three months worth of posts and keep them in my drafts folder for rainy days. Do much more planning, recipe testing and photographing in advance. Learn about how to use WordPress, my camera and all the other gadgety bits that make blogs sexier for readers.”

Katie’s Top Takeaways for newbie bloggers

1. Know your specialty, you won’t be able to write with oomph unless you personally dig it.

2. Pay attention to formatting and punctuation. Take a writing course if you can afford to.

3. Hang out at other blogs, get a feel for how you’d like your blog to function and look like. Whilst you’re at it, make friends with the bloggers and regular readers/commentors because these are your people now!

4. Outsource design and tech support if you can afford it.

5. Allow time for it, because it’s going to take time, even if it’s “just” a hobby blog. But if your plans are to use it as a platform to earn money then treat it with the same respect you would an internship at the best job you could ever imagine!

You can read Katie at her blog Katie180 (including her post on how she started blogging), join her (very supportive and informative!) Facebook page here, tweet her here, or follow in Instagram here.

*We are also offering 50% off the ProBlogger Guide to Your First Week of Blogging for this week only! Enter the code BEGINNERWEEK at the checkout.

Beginner Week: Bite the Bullet and Start Your Blog with this Seven-Point Checklist

Theme WeekWelcome to ProBlogger’s second theme week – where we take a topic you’re interested in and drill right down to bring you all the information we can find to be of use to you. This week we are focusing on newbies – what do all beginner bloggers want to know? What are the first points of reference we should use, and where do we go from there? Today, please welcome Ali Luke from Zen Optimise, who has put together a handy checklist of things you should do in your first week of blogging to get yourself off the ground. There is also a fantastic deal on Darren’s “ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging“, full of hints, tips and practical exercises for the beginner blogger. Even if you’ve had your blog for a while, it’s a great refresher of what really works in getting your site some traction. You can find all the content for this week’s theme at the bottom of this post.

Without further ado – here’s Ali.

Have you been reading ProBlogger for weeks, or even months, so you can learn everything you need to know before setting up your blog?

You might be wasting your time.

That’s not to say that the content on ProBlogger isn’t hugely valuable: of course it is. As a new blogger five years ago, I devoured a large chunk of the archives – and even today, I still get inspired (and pick up a few new tips) from posts here.

But I also know how easy it is to fall into the trap of reading post after post, struggling to make sense of it all, and wondering how you’ll ever take in all the information out there.

“Be Prepared” Can Go Too Far 

While it’s great to do some research before diving in and starting a blog, it’s easy to end up reading post after post after post … without taking any action.

Until you get your blog up and running, you won’t really know what you need to know. You might be reading about topics that you’ll never need to concern yourself with – or you might be missing out on information that’s going to be crucial.

Launching your blog can feel like a huge step. You want to get every detail right; you want it to be perfect right from the start.

The problem is, if that perfect ideal keeps you stuck, you’ll never have a blog at all. And a real, imperfect blog will outperform an imaginary perfect one in every way imaginable…

Start Your Blog This Week: Your Checklist

It’s time to bite the bullet. No, you probably don’t feel ready. Yes, there’s a lot you still don’t know. But you will learn so much faster from actually blogging than from simply reading about it.

Here’s what you need to do. If you tackle one task each day, you’ll have your blog up and running next week:

Day 1: Set a Clear Goal

What do you want your blog to do for you? “Make money” is a popular answer – but how?

Is your blog going to support your existing business and bring in new customers?

Do you have a service to offer, like design, writing, or coding?

Is it going to be market research – and a platform – for a book that you plan to launch?

Are you going to bring in lots of traffic and sell advertising space?

Will you review products as an affiliate, taking commission on sales?

All of these are perfectly valid strategies, but you need to be clear about what you’ll be doing right from the start.

Of course, your blog doesn’t have to be a money-making tool. Perhaps your motivation for blogging is to get your writing out there to the world, or to build up a strong reputation in your field.

Further reading:

Top 10 Blog Monetization Strategies, Ranked In Order (Blog Marketing Academy)

To do: 

Write your goal down, and keep it somewhere visible. You want to have your goal in mind over the next few days.

Day 2: Choose a Platform

There are so many different blogging platforms out there, and there’s a good chance you’ve heard of (and maybe tried out) a fair few of them. I’ll name a handful of them: WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr, Squarespace…

Let’s make this decision easy. Your best option is almost certainly WordPress.

It’s used by most of the top blogs (including ProBlogger) and it’s a hugely flexible and powerful platform.

Ideally, you’ll want to go with self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) where you install your blog on your own web space. If you can’t afford hosting, though, you can use WordPress.com – this is still a powerful blogging platform, but it has certain limitations.

Further Reading:

Self Hosted WordPress.org vs. Free WordPress.com (WPBeginner)

To do:

Decide whether you’re using WordPress.org (self-hosted, recommended) or WordPress.com (hosted, a good second choice).

The rest of these instructions assuming you’re using WordPress.org; if you using WordPress.com or a site like Blogger, you won’t need hosting, and you can choose not to buy a domain name. (If you don’t buy your own domain name, you’ll have one like yourname.wordpress.com.)

Day 3: Decide on Your Domain Name

Your domain name (sometimes called your URL or your web address) is what users type in to visit your site. ProBlogger’s domain name is problogger.net.

To get a domain name, you need to register it with a domain name registrar – a site like GoDaddy (well known) or Namecheap (popular for its high-quality customer service).

Domain names aren’t especially expensive to register, and will normally cost you around somewhere around $12 per year. Prices vary between domain name registrars, and some suffixes (the .com or .net etc) cost more than others.

When you’re choosing your domain name, aim to:

Keep it fairly short. Long domain names are hard to remember and type.

Keep it to two words or fewer if possible.

Make it match the name of your website. If Darren called this site “ProBlogging Tips” but had the domain name “ProBlogger” it would be confusing for readers.

Avoid using hyphens if you can: if another website has the same domain without a hyphen, readers may end up there by mistake.

Use a .com suffix if it’s available. If you really want a particular name and the .com is taken, you can use .net. If your readers are mainly from your own country, you can use your country’s domain (e.g. .co.uk for the UK or .ca for Canada).

Further reading:

Five Best Domain Name Registrars (Lifehacker.com)

To do:

Come up with several possible domain names. Use WHOis.net to see which ones are available. (Simply typing them into your browser won’t necessarily tell you if they’re available or not, as sometimes domains are registered without hosting so no site will show up.)

If you’re self-hosting WordPress and thus buying hosting, you may want to register the domain name through your host – this can make life slightly simpler.

Day 4: Buy Hosting

Many bloggers find “hosting” a tricky concept to get their heads around. Here’s how it works.

For your website to be online, all the files for it need to be kept on a computer that’s always connected to the internet. (It’s technically possible for you to host your website on your own computer – but there are a huge number of reasons why you probably wouldn’t want to do this, including security issues, and the cost of keeping your computer switched on all day and all night, all the time.)

Web host companies provide space for your site on their servers (huge computers), which are permanently connected to the internet. These servers also have special software that allows you to install WordPress on your site. You pay a monthly or annual fee for this, usually around $7 – $15 per month.

There are loads of web hosts out there; personally, I use Dreamhost for all my own websites – but I’ve included links to other suggestions in the further reading.

Further reading:

How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting? (WPBeginner)

To do:

Choose your host and sign up for an account. Don’t spend hours agonising over the choice – you can always switch hosts in the future if you decide they weren’t the best option for you.

Day 5: Install WordPress

Assuming you’ve chosen a WordPress-friendly host, you’ll probably have a simple and easy way to install WordPress – often with a “one-click installation” option.

Follow your host’s instructions, and get WordPress installed on your site. During the installation process, you’ll be prompted to enter:

The name of your site.

The username for an administrative account.

A password.

Your email address.

The only bit you can’t change later is the admin username. Avoid using “admin” as that’s way too easy for hackers to guess!

To login to your site, go to www.yoursitename.com/wp-login. You’ll automatically be directed to your dashboard – the “behind the scenes” view of your WordPress site – after logging in.

You’ll also have the option to make your site invisible to search engines. This can be reassuring while you’re developing your blog, but if you switch this on, don’t forget to switch it off again later! (You can do so in your WordPress dashboard under Settings Reading.

Further reading:

Secure Your WordPress Blog Without Touching Any Code (ProBlogger)

To do:

Get WordPress installed. It will probably be easier than you think! If you have time to spare, poke around in the WordPress dashboard to get a sense of all the different options and functions.

Day 6: Choose Your Theme

The look and feel of your blog is determined by its theme (sometimes called the template). You can switch your WordPress theme without losing any of your content – your posts, pages, sidebar widgets and so on are stored separately.

To change themes:

Go to your WordPress dashboard (www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin).

Click on Appearance  Themes

Choose a theme you like and click Preview to see how your site will look in that theme.

Click Activate to switch your site over to the new theme.

There are thousands of WordPress themes available online, so if you don’t find anything you like in the current themes section, look around. Free themes tend to be more limited in functionality and design; premium (paid for) ones often have lots of new options.

Further reading:

How to Pick a WordPress Theme That Doesn’t Suck (StuffedWeb)

To do:

Select a “good enough” theme – it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re creating a website for an existing business, consider using a premium theme that’s tailored to your industry. (E.g. there are restaurant themes, band themes, guest house themes…)

Day 7: Write Your About Page

Once you’ve got your theme up and running, there are still a lot of tasks ahead. New bloggers often wonder what to prioritise. Getting their sidebar spruced up? Posting lots of content? Adding their “Services” page? Including an option for readers to get posts by email?

All of those are important – but one of the very first things you should do is get your About page in place.

New readers will very often look for and click on “About” (or “About me” or “About us”) to find out who you are and what they can expect from your blog. If the page doesn’t exist, or if it’s badly put together, they might shrug and go on their way (and never return).

A good About page needs to:

Tell the reader what your blog (or company) is about and how it can help them. It’s often a good idea to put this information up front, perhaps after a few words introducing yourself (“Hi, I’m Bob Jones, and I blog here about…”)

Introduce you so that the reader feels a sense of connection. You can do this in a straightforward way, or with humour, with a list of interesting facts about you, with your credentials and experience, with an inspiring story … whatever fits with the tone and brand of your blog.

Include a photo of you. This isn’t an absolute rule, but it helps readers come to trust you – and if you’re selling them products or services, or promoting affiliate products, this is important.

Be updated regularly. Your blogging mission might change; facts about you and your life might change. If your About page is clearly years out of date, your blog is going to look cobwebby at best … and abandoned at worst.

Get the basics of your page in place, then, once you’ve been blogging for a couple of weeks, update it and:

Link to two or three of your best posts. This is a great way to draw readers further into your blog.

Let readers know how to subscribe to your blog by email. Even if you’ve got a big email sign-up box in your sidebar, readers may not notice it.

Further reading:

Are You Making These 7 Mistakes with Your About Page? (Copyblogger)

To do: 

Write your About page. You might find it easiest to split it into two sections, “About the Blog” and “About Me”. If you can, ask a friend or colleague to look over it and give you feedback – they may have ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of.

And that’s it! Your blog isn’t only online, it’s looking good, and it’s ready for you to publish your first post. This is just the start of an exciting journey – and I wish you all the best with it.

Ali Luke is Head of Content at Zen Optimise, where she leads small group courses on blogging and writing for the web. Once you’ve got your blog set up, check out 7 Rules for Creating Highly Successful Posts for powerful tips plus handy further reading suggestions.

Beginner Theme Week Posts on ProBlogger

New Blogger Katie180′s Success Story
We Asked Veteran Bloggers to Reflect on Mistakes Made in Their Early Days
Darren’s 43 Dos and 25 Don’ts of Blogging
Resource Roundup – 1o Links New Bloggers Can’t Live Without

How to Blog Effectively When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Outtake - Nooo! [Overwhelmed]
This post is from ProBlogger Managing Editor Stacey Roberts.

Blogging is a voracious beast, and there is literally always something you could be doing to improve your traffic, find new readers, interact with other bloggers, and make some cash. The more you put in, the more you get out – but how do you cut through the (almost) infinite internet and create a manageable blog environment? Well, like anything, it takes trial and error. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is alive and well, but soon we all get to a point where it can all get too much to keep up with, and something’s gotta give.

These tips could work with anything that you find overwhelming, not just blogging. Just started a new job? Want to start your own business? Want to write the Great American Novel? Well, don’t panic – let’s get some perspective.

Break it down

Once you realise the magnitude of what you’re about to do, hyperventilation is only a moment away. Get back on top by sitting down for a minute and taking the task apart. Once you see it in sequence, it can be much easier to achieve. Yes you might need to blog, then tweet, then share on Facebook, then read six articles on blogging, then respond to comments, then find something to write for the next day, but it doesn’t all need to be done at once. Break it down and spread it out.

Don’t let your head run away with you

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Our brains conjure up worst-case scenarios, which in turn scares us and makes us think it’s not possible to succeed. Recognise when you’re about to board the Paranoia Train, and get some facts straight. You can survive (and thrive!) with just doing a little every day. Don’t just assume it’s too much and you won’t ever make it so you shouldn’t even try. Get out there and do what you can, for something is always better than nothing. Even one tweet can be useful.

Get some perspective

Often when you write down your tasks and responsibilities, you can see that they’re not so overwhelming. A list of things you need to do is a tangible thing to help you get your head around the job at hand. It’s common to then realise it’s not as crazy as you thought, and in fact is actually quite do-able. Identify the parts that aren’t important, or not viable at this time, and focus on the things you can actually do. An overview is incredibly useful when you’re liable to get carried away.

Find five things you can do right now

This helps make everything seem even more manageable, and gives you that perspective you need. Once you’ve got five easy things done, you feel much more productive, which inspires and motivates you to do more. Maybe it’s just one extra tweet, editing some photos, or even writing a couple of post intros. Each journey begins with a single step, as they say, and you’ve just taken five.

Set mini deadlines

Want to write brilliant posts, but don’t know where to start? Time is of the essence, and you’ve got none? Set yourself a deadline and get stuck in. It might be a post a day, it might be two posts in the next hour, but give yourself a time to have achieved at least one thing on your list. If there’s an even bigger deadline (guests post submission cut-off date or something), then set mini deadlines before then so you’re not frantically scribbling something at the last minute. Have your post ideas sorted by Monday, a rough draft by Wednesday, and a well-thought-out, well-written post and image by Friday. It might only take five minutes a day, and that’s infinitely more do-able.

Ask for help

You might need someone to watch the kids while you write. You might need someone to show you how to create good video content. You might even need to ask a blogging veteran to share a tip or two – don’t be afraid and think that your questions are silly, or that you should know this stuff by now. Or that blogging isn’t important. If you need help, reach out – you might even make a new friend in the process.

Spend some time getting acquainted

The first thing I do when asked to write for a publication is spend some time hanging out in the archives to see what’s been covered, where’s a knowledge gap I can plug, and what the vibe is. That can work for anything – if you’ve been asked to guest post, or if you want to see what is the trend in your blogging niche. What are people looking for? What can you provide that’s missing at the moment? What are other people Tweeting? What’s getting engagement on Facebook? Getting a feel for what you will be doing is essential for toning down panic and turning up productivity.

Just do it

Stop talking yourself out of it. Stop reading this! Go and kick some blogging goals.

But come back to ProBlogger when your’e done! What’s one thing you can do today to cross off your overwhelming to-do list?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

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.

Do Something Different Today to Help Grow Your Blog

DIFFERENTIt is a truth universally acknowledged that if one has a blog, one is in want of readers. We want people to stop by and read our stories, hear our messages, see our videos, listen to our podcasts. We want to connect, we want to share, and we want to engage.

But sometimes we get stuck in a rut marketing ourselves to our audiences. It might be from a lack of time to spare, it might be from fear of the unknown – but it happens more often than we think. It’s usually always a good idea to give yourself a bit of a shake-up and move out of your comfort zone, (even if you’re only taking baby steps) but it can be another thing entirely actually doing it.

Proven traffic-drivers and ways to engage your readership are talked about a lot. There are tons of articles on what social media platform might be best for you, how to write a great comment so you get noticed on other people’s blogs, and how to be seen. Why not take a tip you’ve never used before and give it a go?

Think Outside the Box

Different things work for different people, but some of us also are guilty of sticking to our old favourites. What I’m suggesting is we look outside our usual channels and see if something might be useful. What are new bloggers doing that we aren’t? (Darren’s post on reviewing blogs as part of your research is a great start). What are bloggers in different niches doing? Is Instagram worth a shot to broaden your brand? Are we neglecting what Facebook can offer? Should we get started on Pinterest? Have we forgotten about Twitter? (I have!).

Let’s do a little experiment. Let’s take a new tactic that’s working well for someone else and give it our best shot. It might be successful and we have a new trick in our arsenal. It might get lost in the arctic wasteland of the internet. But we’ll have learned something, and will have more of an understanding of where our readers are and where new ones could be.

Stacey Roberts is the content ninja at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

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.

Tapping into Joy and Disappointment: Lessons from Our Biggest eBook Launch Ever

Over on dPS last week we launched an eBook on Posing Portraits that has sold faster than any other eBook launch I’ve been a part of.

While talking with a friend about the success of the launch, he asked why I thought it had done so well. I thought I’d share my response here as I think there’s a couple of good lessons to take away from it.

There are certainly a number of factors at play that helped with our launch today including:

  • almost eight years of daily posting and building up a readership – this of course is the foundation for all we do and cannot be overstated.
  • a repeat author for the eBook - Gina, who wrote this eBook, has written two previous Portrait and Portrait Lighting eBooks and has contributed on our blog over the last couple of years. As a result she’s familiar to many of our readers.
  • a popular topic – portraits is a topic that many of our readers are interested in – in fact it’s the number-one type of photography that they do
  • a well-honed sales page – we worked hard on our sales copy for both the sales page and emails that we sent our subscriber list
  • a beautiful book – the cover and sample pages we showed of this eBook are beautifully illustrated and designed – it’s certainly easier to sell something with visual appeal
  • readers trust our products – this is our 16th dPS eBook. We pride ourselves on producing quality and useful eBooks and this builds trust/credibility over time.

But Perhaps the Biggest Reason Is…

As I was pondering our launch today a reader left this comment on our Facebook page:

Posing feedback

Then I spotted this comment just now on the blog post announcing the eBook:

Posing ebook feedback

When I saw this feedback I realised that probably the biggest reason that this eBook has been so popular with our readers is that it fulfils a felt need that many people have.

As that last comment says – most people know the feeling of seeing a photo of themselves (or others) that is awkward or stiff. This is a disappointment that we can all relate to as we realise that the image taken doesn’t really reflect the person in the shot.

On the flip side are those times when you see a shot of someone which captures their true spirit – feelings of joy accompany these moments!

At dPS we see both the joy and disappointment that many experience when shooting portraits and it was this very reason that we wanted to publish this eBook.

While at the time I don’t think we realised just how much it would connect with readers, now with hindsight we should have expected it.

Take-Home Lesson

Do everything you can to get in touch with the challenges that your blog’s readers face. What problems do they struggle with? What disappointments do they encounter? What moments of joy are they chasing?

Tapping into disappointment and joy is a powerful thing.

I think creating products (and for that matter writing blog posts) that respond to those things is a great recipe for success.

On a practical level this can mean manny things including:

  • identifying your own challenges, disappointments, joys (past and present)
  • watching the comments on the posts you (and other bloggers) write
  • asking readers to submit questions or identify problems that they face (further reading on one way I do this)
  • watching what search terms people are searching for to land on your blog
  • running focus groups with readers to ask them about their needs
  • running polls and using surveys to tap into reader needs (learn more on how I’ve done this here)
  • share your own needs/challenges/disappointments as stories on your blog (this often unearths other peoples)

The main thing is to keep putting yourself in the shoes of readers and let that experience inform your blogging direction.

PS: a Word About Manipulation

It is worth noting that tapping into the disappointments of readers is something that can at times lead to manipulation.

Playing on fears and problems and promising solutions is something that can definitely drive sales, but unless you’re backing it up with a solid product that actually solves those problems, you’re running the risk of manipulating your reader. Apart from helping you make a quick buck, it’s a ploy that doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

Instead of letting your readers disappointments inform empty marketing spin, let it inform the actual products you create to increase their actual value to those who buy them.