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The Language of Selling – Are You Using It?

BEAUTY

 

This is a guest contribution from Richard Akhmerov.

Benefits, benefits, benefits. We’ve all heard that benefits sell, not features. Create needs, not wants. But this is all rehashed information. And no amount of reading will make you better at the following if you don’t practice it by trying.

But there is one thing missing from all of this marketing talk. And it has to do with the epicenter of marketing and copywriting. What creates the language of selling, and how does it work?

The language of selling is not a single language. In fact, every product, idea or service has a different language for selling. In order to find out the language your product is using, you need to live the product. But there are a few ways to make this easier to understand…

You can activate the language of selling by finding out the core buying emotions used with prospects of the product or service.

This can be accomplished in multiple ways. The most important thing to do is listen. Any category most likely has a forum associated with it. Whether it’s car parts, video games, weight loss, relationships, etc…

To find out the core buying emotions, you need to learn the language of these prospects. By surrounding yourself with prospects, you have the ability to listen to the way they talk, the way they discuss their problems, and the way they feel about certain subjects.

This is gold.

Few marketers go to these steps to find out what their prospects ACTUALLY want. Most marketers will sit there and guess as to how their prospects will react. This isn’t a powerful tactic, and will not generate huge results for your marketing efforts.

Remember, forums aren’t the only place to find networks. You can join Facebook groups, watch Youtube videos and read the comments, or go to established sites with a following.

Your prospects are located in the comments. And by reading them, you will quickly gain an understanding of what they’re looking for.

If you go on a tech site like Engadget or Gizmodo, you can quickly discover what is lacking from a certain product. These customers know what they want and what they’re looking for, unfortunately, few big companies spend the extra time to hear out their customer’s needs.

But it is all right there in front of our eyes. And this applies to any subject and any product.

For example, let’s say that you have a product in the weight loss category. You can visit more established websites and go through the articles. Most articles will have a comment section below…

Read the comments, and see how the customers react. You WILL find problems that are addressed but never solved. Here is your chance to change that by incorporating it into your product.

Find out the needs of your customers and solve them. Use their language to connect with them. Now you have a winner.

Richard Akhmerov is from Devore Agency, you can learn more great information by visiting the website.

Be a Better Blogger by Doing as Little as Possible

problogger.netWhen you make the decision to grow your blog and hopefully create an income from it, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of doing everything all at once in the name of getting as much exposure as you can. You’re blogging every day, you’re promoting those posts to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, you’re ensuring all posts have a Pinnable image, and you’re Instagramming the behind-the-scenes for your followers. You’re working hard, commenting on other blogs, finding interesting things to retweet, staying up half the night with your editorial calendar, reading sites like this one about how to make money, and signing up with the next big thing in case it can help grow your blog (Vine, anyone?!).

It’s pretty easy to get to a stage where your blog is running you instead of you running your blog. You’re drowning in emails, you can keyword posts in your sleep, you’re a slave to your stats, and you will scream if Facebook changes its algorithm one more time.

But that’s not all. You’ve had ideas for a Blog Series, several eBooks, a podcast and an eCourse. You’re keen to get started – in fact, when you see how successful others are, you wish you started years ago.

But what if you’re stretched so thin that you’re doing everything, and none of it as well as you could? What would convince you to cut back to only a few things, and putting your heart and soul into making them great?

A while ago I was listening to the How they Blog Podcast with Kat Lee. Kat is a blogger, a podcaster, and a stay-at-home mom of three. She has two blogs (each with their own podcast), the usual number of social media sites, eBooks, a small blogging course, coaching sessions, and seemingly a huge number of things that need her attention on a daily basis.

But one thing she said in conversation with another blogger really caught my attention: her motto is “do as little as possible as well as possible”.

Each year, each season, she has different things she focuses on, and is happy to let the others take a back seat. I decided to ask her more about it, in the hopes that the way she came to streamline her online presence might be inspiring to those of you who are a little bit overwhelmed and over it.

First things first: How did Kat adopt the mantra?

“I’m an ideas person,” she says. “I love being creative and starting things, but while this can be a definite advantage, it can also be a huge disadvantage – I realized that every time I started working a new idea, I was actually also giving up on something else. And if I kept moving on to new things, I’d never develop anything excellent.

“We all have a finite amount of time in the day. I’d rather be excellent at one or two things than dabble and be average in twenty things.”

For the people I know who have turned their backs on “having it all” and have shifted gears to hone their talents in one or two areas at a time, it was usually because of burnout. Trying to be all things to all people at all times had forced them to make a change. Kat says it wasn’t quite like that for her, but she still needed to make that change.

“Honestly, I think I hit “plateau” stage rather than “burnout” stage,” she says. “I wondered why things weren’t taking off like they used to. I finally realized that greater levels of success require greater levels of sacrifice. That’s why you don’t see Olympic athletes at McDonald’s or Disneyland the day before their gold medal event. We all have a limited capacity for…everything. So the only way to increase our capacity for one thing is to reduce our capacity in another area – hence “Do as little as possible, as well as possible.”

“This past year, I’ve focused a lot more on podcasting (and less on writing) and as a result, my podcast [Inspired to Action] is consistently on the Top of the Kids and Family charts on iTunes. The beauty of this is that I’m not eternally confining myself to anything. Just because I’m currently focusing on podcasting, doesn’t mean I’ll never write another epic blog post. It just means not right now. “This season is for learning how to consistently create excellent podcasts and building systems and skills that will make it all relatively habitual. As I build habits, podcasting requires less effort. Eventually, much of it will become second nature…which then increases my capacity to add something else back in – like writing.

Gary Keller says, “Success comes sequentially, not simultaneously.” Ronald Reagan was a famous actor and President of the United States of America, but not at the same time. We just don’t have the capacity for simultaneous excellence, but we can build on our knowledge and skills so that we can have sequential success. I want to do things with excellence and excellence can only be achieved with focus on one thing at a time.”

When you’re new or you’ve just made the decision to turn your blog into a business, the internet is a world of possibility. It can take time to get to a point (whether burnout or plateau or otherwise) to really narrow down your focus. You might not want to do less, you’re happy to just be on the playing field. Kat explains the situation well:

“I think the biggest reason [for that] is because newer bloggers aren’t sure what they want,” she says.

“That’s not a bad thing, but until they figure out what they want, it’s hard to find the motivation to say no to other things. Just like kids participate in 24,976 different activities – their job as a child is to figure out where their talents and passions collide. Once they find that sweet spot they can then arrange their effort around pursuing it with excellence.

“It’s the same with a new blogger. Until they know their audience, their message and their voice, it’s hard to say no to all the opportunities that are out there.”

In fact – Kat thinks it might be worth newer bloggers shifting priorities at the start to ensure that when they do focus, they’ve got a solid foundation from which to grow.

“I think that a new blogger needs to focus on writing and connecting with their audience,” she says. “Increasing traffic and building a platform and refining their message should come AFTER they actually know what they want to say. Otherwise, they spent all that energy possibly building their platform in the wrong location.

“However, I do think they can follow the motto by applying it to the process of finding their message, audience and voice. Be focused about writing and honest about what resonates with you and your readers. Instead of spending energy on increasing your page views, focus your energy on understanding what you want to say and who needs to hear it.”

So how does the motto manifest itself in Kat’s reality?

“I’ve narrowed down what I do online,” she says. “Ironically, I blog less and podcast more. I’d rather have a Top 10 podcast and an average blog and social media presence, than an average everything. Of course, as I mentioned before this is temporary. Once I have a system for podcasting with excellence, I want to return to writing and learn to do it with excellence.

And as someone who has spent a lot of time being intentional about how she divides her attention, she has some advice:

What’s the best tip you’ve found to help you pare back?

To use physical folders. It’s easy to expand digitally, but if I have physical folders for projects I’m working on and limit those to 6 at any given time, I have a concrete reminder when I over commit.

Did you read any books or resources that helped you refine your schedule?

Simplfy by Bill Hybels, The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst and Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews

 

What would be something you’d like to pass onto bloggers who are feeling overwhelmed?

Why are you blogging? What message burns within you that you know will help others? Who are you blogging for? Once you know the answers to those questions, it’s so much easier to separate the blogging wheat from the blogging chaff. Just like a hunter might have a super powerful gun that can down any deer from a mile away, if he isn’t locked in on the target, that powerful gun doesn’t do him a bit of good. Find your target, then scale down your vision to focus on it – success comes easily once you do that.

So what do you think – is simplifying but excelling something for you? What would you focus on? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she 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.

Top Five Things to Learn from the Greggs vs Google Twitter Debacle

This is a guest contribution from Mark Potter.

Greggs is the UK’s largest bakery chain, famed for its sausage rolls and steak bakes. They have always enjoyed a strong social media presence, winning a Digital Impact Award in 2013 for a ‘Sandwich Maker’ Facebook app.

As a relatively low-budget food chain, they are a popular target for online abuse. As a result, they have already developed a robust strategy for dealing with complaints and controversy:

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Things turned particularly sour in August, when the Google algorithm accidentally replaced the official Greggs logo with a highly offensive fake version. The gaffe spread like wildfire across the internet, and the Greggs Twitter account was rapidly inundated with tweets.

However, the social media team kept their cool, and handled the crisis with aplomb. Almost 300 tweets and a new hashtag later, the correct logo was restored – and Greggs had emerged as a Twitter champion.

Here are some tips on handling a crisis on Twitter, as demonstrated by the social media team at Greggs:

Rise Above It

The whole internet is teeming with trolls, but Twitter is a particularly virile breeding ground. Although many people sympathised with the situation, Greggs was also subjected to a fair amount of abuse.

When Twitter catastrophe strikes, never stray from the Golden Rule – DON’T FEED THE TROLLS. Hitting back with an angry retort can only ever backfire, making a bad situation worse. Make like Greggs by responding in a polite, classy manner – or simply don’t reply at all.

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Crack a Joke

Twitter partly revolves around competitive comedy – the accounts with the funniest tweets often have more followers. Therefore, humour can be one of the best ways to divert a Twitter crisis.

However, before making light of a disaster, you should always use discretion. In some situations, comedy is inappropriate – as many brands soon discovered during Hurricane Sandy.

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Hire an Expert

Twitter disasters are occasionally brought about by the company itself – as with McDonald’s ill-conceived #McDStories. However, as Greggs discovered, crises can also be caused by external forces. These unpredictable situations are perhaps the most dangerous, as many companies don’t have the resources in place to deal with them.

If social media forms a large part of your marketing plan, you should hire a professional social media consultant to manage your online image. As many people noted during the Greggs debacle, they’re worth their weight in gold when disaster strikes.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Ellen’s infamous Oscars selfie is currently the most retweeted message in the history of Twitter. This highlights the importance of imagery on social media. Pictures are far more likely to be shared by followers, and are therefore invaluable to social media marketing campaigns.

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As Greggs demonstrated, pictures can also prove helpful during a disaster. This simple shot cost next to nothing, yet received an incredible 83 retweets and 589 favourites – making it one of the most successful tweets Greggs has ever posted.

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A follow-up tweet, posted when the correct logo had been restored, garnered a similar number of favourites and retweets:

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Monitor for Mentions

It goes without saying that you should reply to direct questions and comments on Twitter. Throughout the crisis, the official Greggs account was inundated with questions and comments – and each one was met with an appropriate response.

However, not every tweet about the situation was directed at Greggs. The social media team was forced to go a step further, proactively ‘butting in’ to other people’s conversations about the debacle.

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If you have an online presence, sign up for a monitoring service such as Google Analytics or Topsy. These automatically scour the web for brand mentions, notifying you when people are discussing your company online. If you see a comment – whether defamatory or positive – about your business, you will be poised to reply and set the record straight.

No two Twitter debacles are the same. However, by studying the reactions of different companies to their own crises, you will be able to respond effectively when disaster comes knocking at your own door.

This article was written by Mark Potter of Namecheap.com, a leading ICANN accredited domain registrar and web host.

How Blogging In College Got Me My First Job

This is a guest contribution from PR specialist Caitlin Dodds.

I remember sitting alone in the airport with three hours to kill before my flight to Madrid. Squirming on the hard plastic chairs at my boarding gate with my laptop perched on my knees, I typed my first post on my new study abroad blog.

You know the saying, “the rest is history”? Well, that cold January day is a big part of where I am today because my little study abroad blog helped determine my career and land my first job. Here’s how I did it.

Getting Started with my Travel Blog

All my friends that had spent time in Europe kept blogs that were updated every few weeks with a snapshot of their crazy jet-setter lifestyle. But as their semesters progressed, updates got shorter and less frequent. I loved writing, and I jumped at the chance to blog about something exciting.

I set up my WordPress blog, customized the layout, learned how to use widgets, set up category pages and everything else that mattered. I obsessed over themes, the tagline for the blog, and the ‘about me’ page.

I didn’t know how much time I would have to write but week after week while my friends’ updates became few and far between, I stayed up late writing detailed recaps of life in Spain, the trips I took, the people I met, the food I ate, etc. I was obsessed with editing, picking the perfect pictures, writing, rewriting, and editing posts to perfection. When I discovered WordPress built-in analytics, “stats,” I was hooked. I loved seeing where my readers were coming from (all over the world!) and what brought them to my blog.

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All these things got me thinking – I was studying for a marketing degree, but hadn’t figured out what to do yet. I had friends that worked in web development and SEO and I was sort of interested in Internet marketing. I loved managing my blog, so why shouldn’t I try to blog (or at least write) full time?

Turning My Blog Into a Resume Piece

When I returned to Grove City College for my senior year, my Content Marketing professor encouraged me to use my blog for the final project. He had me expand the blog and turn it into a travel resource for students trying to study abroad on the cheap. He challenged me to find ways to monetize what I loved and apply SEO strategies to it.

In the Spring I was taking a class in SEO and job searching for digital marketing jobs that would allow me to write for a living. Through a friend of a friend, I found a position in Lancaster, Pennsylvania at Web Talent Marketing, a digital marketing agency. I applied for the position and to prove my experience – I sent the hiring manager a link to my blog with a short snapshot of it’s stats, growth, and success. Within hours I had a voicemail asking me for a phone interview. When I went to visit the company and interview, I was able to use my blog for specific examples of things I had done, the knowledge I had of content marketing, and my writing ability. I was able to talk about the type of promotion I did for it, how I tweaked blog posts to perform better, and how I used analytics to determine the content my audience liked best. I had a job offer within three days.

If you’re blogging full-time, or maybe just part-time, and in the market for another job, don’t underestimate how you can leverage your blogging experience to land that job!

Here’s how my personal blog made me more marketable:

1. It helped me stand out in a competitive job market of college grads because I could market it as “real life experience.”
2. I could showcase my writing ability in a fun and engaging way.
3. I gained experience in the number one CMS platform, WordPress, and proved I could implement technical changes on a blog for SEO.
4. It demonstrated my ability to analyze content through statistics and use that data to improve my content for increased visits, dwell time, and engagement.

I’ve used my blogging experience to help my clients maintain better blogs and succeed in content marketing. I even became one of the first members of our PR team and have helped grow Web Talent’s SEO blog by being a top contributor every month.

I’m not blogging for myself on a regular basis anymore, and I’m nowhere near monetizing my efforts. Still, I know that having that blog during my time in Spain is the reason I have my job and career, and who knows? Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to monetize my personal blog.

Caitlin Dodds is an Online PR Specialist for Web Talent Marketing with a focus on content marketing and social media. She enjoys blogging in her spare time and tweeting at @caitlinjdodds

 

Your Blog as Part of an Overarching Business Strategy

This is a guest contribution from Sabina Stoiciu.

So you have a business blog (you DO have a blog for your business, yes?). Well it’s a great decision, and a decision that is growing in popularity. In a 2012 HubSpot study, 62% of respondents claimed to run a company blog. A number which has consistently grown from 52% back in 2009.

Business blogging stat

Today is also not the first time somebody tells you a blog will bring several advantages to your business. You’ve heard professionals tell you that writing blog posts gives you the opportunity to leverage the human side of your business. Or to showcase your products a little bit more, all while still offering value to your readers and not just babbling advertising copy.

What I’m telling you now is that your company blog should be a piece in your overall business puzzle, that perfectly fits among the other pieces. Your blog is not just the place where you write something for someone. It’s a place where you engage with your audience. On the other hand, your blog is also the place where you can run a marketing action, like a contest for your customers and potential clients. And the functions of your blog as part of your overall strategy don’t stop here – bear with me, the full list is coming.

So, your blog fulfills the role of…

1. Branding

As stated above, your company blog is the place where you write about yourself. About who you are, what you do and why you do it. And perhaps even why you do it better than others. But beware: the catch here is that you have to tell a story, not to repeat the corporatist, stiff copy you traditionally display about your company. Get emotional, be honest and be relevant – that’s what your readers are looking to see. Give your business that human touch we are all attracted to. And most important, try to put yourself in the shoes of your audience: what would you like to read about on a company blog? I’ll bet my lunch that it’s not an advertising catalog or a constant “look how awesome we are”.

If you want to be relevant for your readers, and even become an industry resource, always offer more than expected. Add that plus of value people will come back for over and over. That means that besides posts talking about you (in a moderated way, of course), you should strive to extend your content towards covering more general, yet still related industry topics. Have a look at the Hootsuite blog for example. In case you didn’t know, Hootsuite is a social media management service you can use to easily handle your social networks. On their blog, they not only speak about Hootsuite features or company updates, but also about more general topics, such as how to publish articles on LinkedIn or what a social media manager should check off their daily to do list. You see, while the posts are somewhat related to Hootsuite (it’s their blog, after all), the content exceeds their own functionality and becomes more useful to readers.

 

2. Presenting your products

Yes, I did say that your company blog shouldn’t be an advertising catalog. And I stick to that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your product or service. The tweak lies in doing this from a more objective point of view. Don’t be all braggy about how great your product is. Instead, think of advanced ways of using it to maximize the user’s experience with it. For example, if you sell ice cream machines, spare your readers from hundreds of words from the technical jargon. Delight them with ice cream recipes they can try while using your ice cream machines, and you will give them a reason to keep reading your content.

Furthermore, you can help customers and potential clients get a deeper understanding of your product by surrounding it with scenarios or real use cases of it. For example, at 123ContactForm (the company I work for – an online form and survey builder), we do run a blog  where we try to imagine all kinds of use cases for various form types, so that our customers can see the full potential of a form they’d like to use. Along with this, we aim at shedding light upon other apps and tools that are around, which people may see fit for their own business use.

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3. Showcasing your activity, accomplishments and campaigns

A blog tells a story. Like a fairy tale, where the main character is born in a far away kingdom, raised by fairies, exposed to magic challenges, and eventually defeats the evil, your company also goes to different life stages and experiences. Along the road, it might meet a new partner, open a new business unit, change its appearance, gain special prizes or run awesome CSR campaigns. All these tiny parts of what represents your company’s identity and existence are great blog material, as they put together an unique story: the one of your company.

Don’t forget to add characters to your story. What’s a fairy tale without Prince Charming? Or without the enchanting princess? Your company’s staff is definitely part of the company’s story. Whether their individual personality comes to life in collective posts about your team, in writers’ bio boxes or in single presentation posts about a team member, this kind of content helps you show the human face of your company.

4. liaison

4. Liaison between your business’ website, social media channels and other communication channels

A blog is a valuable asset for a business, since it is part of your overall strategy. Picture it as a link within a chain, where each link is strongly tied to its neighbours, and where you can’t take one link out, unless you destroy the chain.

The company blog has the power to establish a connection and link other communication channels you use within your business. How come? Well, think of how your social media icons are displayed on your blog, letting readers get to your company’s social accounts or share your blog content via social media. In a similar way, remember you can (or quite should) share your posts across your social media channels. Further on, your blog and company website are also linked, as each one of them refers to the other. This way, visitors can bounce from your official presentation site to your story telling corner and back.

In terms of content and its connection to your blog and other channels, remember that you should keep the content coherent. Each piece of it should form a part of the whole ensemble, and you should not ignore the proper tone for each channel. For example, your website presents a product in a more promotional, professional way. The blog adds a story to it. Social media then completes it with rich media and short, but strong messages.

5. Interaction with your audience

Just like other channels, your company blog is a communication tool. Customers and prospects can use it to get in touch with your company, whether they ask you about a product or feature, they engage on a topic you talk about, or solicit you some general advice you could help them with.

Don’t hesitate to engage back with them, answer them, challenge them to talk to you, so that you can strengthen your relationship to them. This can happen through your blog post content, your post comments, as well as through a contact form you may be using.

6. Feedback gathering

Don’t underestimate the power of your blog as a feedback tool, unless you want valuable data to get passed by you.

You have three options to harvest feedback on your blog:

  • specifically ask for it using a dedicated tool, such as a feedback form you share within a blog post (see a feedback form template here)
  • look at direct reactions of your readers in the post comments or messages coming through the contact form or social media comments
  • read between the lines, meaning you can look at Analytics, social media shares, likes and comments count, in order to observe your audience’s behavior and get an idea about their attitude towards you.

After you’ve received your feedback, it’s time to draw the conclusions and, based on them, take the necessary actions. There have been cases where people or companies were asking their audience for feedback, the latter offered it, and the ones asking failed at doing something with that feedback. So basically their effort was in vain. Don’t forget to implement your feedback as much as possible, whether it’s aimed at your blog content, product suggestions or ideas for your company.

7. customer care

7. Customer care aid

We’ve cleared this one off the myth list: your company blog is not just about you, but about your customers and prospects too. That means there will be times when your blog might turn into a customer service aid. Clients might stop by to read your content and then suddenly remember they needed assistance with something related to what they’ve read. And if they are already there, they will probably drop a comment that is directed towards your customer care team. Thus, this is how the blog can help readers solve their problems.

As it’s best practice to let customers and prospects speak to you through whatever channel they prefer, handling customer care matters on your blog will eventually add to your to do list. But wait: you can turn this into an advantage. Namely, other readers will see the responses too if you offer them in the comments section. Hence, if they have the same problem, they will find a ready made answer. Moreover, you can select common customer inquiries and turn them into detailed blog posts.

8. Running marketing actions – (contests, giveaways, announce special offers, etc)

As a place where you have the opportunity to present more in-depth content, your blog is a proper medium for hosting an online contest, a giveaway, or for announcing special campaigns. Since you won’t probably update your website as often as you do your blog, the latter is a good destination for hosting some of your marketing actions, also allowing a more interactive approach from users. Readers can engage through comments, see what others posted, and even reply.

Contests and giveaways can represent effective ways to entice your audience, so you should definitely give them a try if you haven’t up to now. Just think about a topic for your contest, or something to offer for free in your giveaway. Establish participation guidelines and think of the submission mechanics. Something like a contest entry form can help you in registering all people willing to take part in your marketing action, also offering an overview on all submissions. Or you can ask people to participate through blog comments or through engaging on another communication channel, such as social media.

9. Running marketing research

Besides marketing actions, you can use your blog for the purpose of administering a marketing research form at some point. Along with the research that concludes from what your readers tell you through comments, you can specifically ask them certain questions useful to you within a market research action.

Keep it short, though. Unless incentivized (as offered to enter the chance to win something by filling out your research form), and perhaps even then, people dislike never-ending surveys. A tool that might help you conduct a structured market research on a topic or some key point you’re after is a market research survey. You can find a template here if you would like to adapt and use it. Like with the feedback you are asking for, be careful to effectively make use of the data the research provides you with.

10. Lead gathering

We’ve reached the final point in our list: your blog can help you with getting new leads for your business. While this alone shouldn’t be your goal when running a blog, you may take it into consideration along with offering great content to your readers.

All the points I mentioned above can conduct to gaining new leads. People that leave a comment, prospects who fill out your contact form, readers who take part in your contest or your giveaway, or who subscribe to the blog newsletter to get fresh content from you – they can all represent leads for your company. If you take good care of them, they might even convert to paying customers. So don’t neglect this role of your blog, but focus more on the value you deliver to your audience.

What about you? Can you relate to any of these roles above, supposing you run a company blog? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.

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.

How to Write Successful Emails (and Improve Open Rates)

SUCCESSFUL EMAILS

This is a guest contribution from Luke Guy.

Email is the key to a strong online presence. Like a binder to a book, so is the email list to blog/website. If used incorrectly, email marketing can destroy your business or it can build it into an empire. Strategy combined with creativity creates amazing profits and engagement.

What’s the best way to write successful emails? You must think as if you’re the receiving email user. What would you hope to see?

As an email user I look for emails that do one of the three if not all three:

 

  • Connect with me
  • Add value to my life
  • Helps me reach my goals

 

People think because of poor content, and scams, that email marketing will die. I have received my share of spam and marketing emails, but you know what? I’m still coming back. Why?  I’m waiting on the emails that change my life. Value and connection has never came any purer than through a simple email.

I’m willing to be spammed, get boring emails, and go through tons of junk just to get that one email from a friend or blog that will connect and enhance me with information that I need.

Think about it. The same thing happens to you, but you keep coming back. It’s like eating watermelon: it’s all good when you learn how to spit out the seeds.

So what’s the major reason why people have email?

 

  • Talk to a friend, or a business connection
  • Stay updated with the favorite blog
  • Get notified when you receive money
  • Know when a deal is being released. “A survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that people actually like emails based on previous shopping behaviors and preferences. In fact, 81% of US digital shoppers surveyed said they were at least somewhat likely to make additional purchases, either online or in a store, as a result of targeted emails” -Business2Community

All of this revolves around staying in the loop of some kind. People want to stay connected and updated on their interest. They want to keep a hot connection with the things they love. It’s the purpose of email. It’s more personalized and private compared to Facebook.

Facebook is great, but would you want Paypal to send public updates to you, letting you know how much money you received this month? No, that wouldn’t make sense at all. Is Facebook capable of sending personalized messages with your name in it from a Fanpage of 100,000? Nope.

So by using email to connect with your readers you could turn that list into your fanbase who’s dying to get your next email. And yes it can happen just like that.

Email is still the best when it comes to delivering private and personal information. Therefore email is the way in keeping the connection constant, private, and strong. Email can either make this happen, or make you look spammy.

So what’s something you shouldn’t do in an email?

One thing, never be general. Quit talking about the ways of nature and the purpose of life when people joined the list to learn about SEO. It’s okay to slip personal things within your email, that’s great! But make sure the point is still SEO-related in every email.

Second, once you’ve made your point, end the email. Never gab just to gab. Connect with your reader, and deliver the goods.

Third, if your email address says [email protected], it’s giving off bad signal. You’re emailing them, but they can’t email you back? You’re not about connecting when you do this and I believe these addresses shouldn’t exist for any blog unless it’s a notifier of some sort.

I’ve heard Gmail has a new filter system, could it hurt my open rates?

Just in case you’re not aware, Gmail now filters all emails based on key factors. So if you don’t make the cut, your open rates could sink if you don’t land into the Primary Tab. I talk more about this here.

No matter how sincere you are with the reader, if Gmail doesn’t like your email, your open rates are going down. Some feel like this filtering system will not affect their open rates because Gmail isn’t the largest email provider.

That was true a few years, but not anymore.

According to Gigaom, Gmail dominated the world market of email and broke the tie with Hotmail back in 2012. Gmail has over 425 million monthly users as of 2012 (last update by Google). So if you’re seeing low open rates, the Gmail filters could be why.

What are things you can do to improve open rates with Gmail?

By adhering to the Gmail’s filter system, it could raise your open rates. By making simple tweaks, it could increase open rates by leaps and bounds.

For Example:

I once performed a case study of my own  in my article The #1 Reason Why Your Email Open Rates Are Diving. And within that article I discovered one little thing that was hurting most businesses who used email. I examined over 640 emails, in my case study, and found something quite interesting.

FACT: 98% of emails that were sent to the Promotional Tab had a header.

FACT: 95% of my Primary Emails had no header. (Excluding sites like Paypal and Disqus)

So by simply removing the header it could help increase open rates. The reason being is because most headers have companies brand within them. Which means that the message most likely will have a marketing agenda. Thus, Gmail sends you to the Promotional Tab.

Go figure.

So let’s say the header is removed but the email is full of marketing gimmicks. Does it still land in the primary tab of Gmail? Sometimes it does. But soon Gmail will find you and send you into other tabs. There are other things you must do to maintain a high open rate.

To increase your chances try the below:

  1. Create A Great Subject Line (64% of people say they open an email because of the subject line.) – Chadwick Martin Bailey
  2. Amazing Content With Call-To-Action
  3. Email Frequently (1-4 times a month)
  4. Personalize emails with name and relevant information This report by Experian Marketing Services shows that including personalized product recommendations into emails can generate a 20% increase in revenues.
  5. Hold the images and links I’d suggest no images and 2-3 links at the max.

By doing the technical aspects along with creative writing, your readers would become raving fans. Which is what you want.

So what does this look like? I once received an email from someone and it really impressed me. Look at it here:

Subject: How to Write Blog Posts That Generate Leads

Hey, I just wanted to share with you the latest Quick Sprout blog post. Let me know what you think.

How to Write Blog Posts That Generate Leads

Do you know why I started blogging back in 2006? It was to generate leads for my consulting company. And boy, did it work well.

It worked so well that for every three blog posts I wrote, I generated one new customer that paid $5,000 a month for one year. In essence, I was generating $20,000 for every blog post I wrote. [click to continue]

Thanks

Neil

To me this does the job. I may would try to connect more with the reader, but besides that this was straight to the point. He gave call-to-action, and he delivered content that blew me away. That article was amazing and I look forward to Neil’s email.

So there ya go! Implement this and see if you’re open rates, profits, and engagements aren’t soaring!

Luke Guy blogs at Lukeguy.com. He researches email marketing and how to grow businesses doing it. He talks about other things but usually it involves emailing. If you need further help with your email challenges, you can join him here!

Rebranding Your Blog: The Resources

REBRANDING YOUR BLOG-

Last week we had Jodi from Practising Simplicity talk us through the decision behind rebranding her six-year-old established blog.

Many of you had questions about the technical details of moving a blog, so I’ve rounded up some resources to help. You will find everything from changing social media handles to 301 redirects. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and we will try to assist!

Before you even start, get clear on WHY you want to rebrand: Nuts and Bolts Media // Things to Consider Before Rebranding Your Blog.

The Lotus Creative // How to Rebrand Your Blog Has a step-by-step guide right from the very beginning – choosing a name and getting a .com. Kate also discusses traffic loss due to the switch, and what you can do about it.

This post also goes into moving a blog from an SEO perspective to keep your traffic high : Search Engine Land // How to Rebrand Without Losing Your Hard-Earned Rankings.

Freeing Imperfections // How I Rebranded My Blog goes into more design issues – how to find a customisable theme and how to make your blog visually reflect you the blogger.

Tico and Tina has an entire series on Rebranding Your Blog which should have you brainstorming taglines and making decisions about navigation in no time.

There are step-by-step images and screenshots on exactly how to switch to a new domain here at Elizabeth Loves // Rebranding Your Blog 101: The Technical Stuff.

And for seriously in-depth discussion (with a little bit of humour!) about the nitty-gritty of seamlessly rebranding your social media accounts, Moz has got you covered with How to Rebrand Your Social Media Accounts. They include just about every social account you can think of. More than I could think of, actually!

What kind of hiccups have you encountered when rebranding your blog? Is it even making the decision to do it?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she 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 Power of “TK” in Content Writing (and How it Can Help You)

Sometimes blogging is just slooooww…

If you’ve ever been struggling (painfully) to write a couple of paragraphs that would make sense, only to find yourself with 400 words after two hours of effort then you know what I mean.

There can be many reasons why this is possibly your reality at the moment.

Maybe it’s just not your day.

d1

Maybe you have some kind of a
writer’s block.

d2

But maybe you’re just
slowing yourself down
by getting hung up
on a missing word
for minutes at a time.

Yep, maybe that’s the case …

But the problem here is that
it’s against human nature
to leave blank spaces
or to keep writing when there’s clearly a word or phrase missing.

We – humans – just don’t like such [_ gaps _]!

d3

This is where
the concept of “TK”
comes into play.

It’s the oldest trick in the book that all of our journalist friends have known for ages (shush!).

In short, TK stands for “to come.”

Here’s how to use it :

Whenever you have a word missing
(any word, verb, noun, specific name) …

… put “TK” in its place
and keep writing like nothing ever happened …

… With some practice, this will allow you
to continue going forward
without breaking your flow.

Some examples:
(1) “There are tons of people who TK at blogging because they took too much TK upon themselves.” (2) “You can get such functionality with a plugin like TK.” (3) “It performs a number of checks against things like TK, TK, and a lot of other stuff.”

d3

Then, once you’re done writing,
you can go back to every instance of TK
and replace it with the actual word or phrase.

“But wait a minute, ‘to come’ is TC!” You say.

Right, but the combination of
the letters “T” and “K”
is much more practical
as it almost doesn’t occur
in the English language
naturally.

Therefore, when you’re going through your piece
during the editing phase,
searching for every TK
won’t get you any false positives
.

d3

How about you? Do you TK much?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance writer, published author, founder of NewInternetOrder.com and a blogger at Bidsketch.com (delivering some cool freelance blogging and writing tools, advice and resources just like what you’re reading now). Whenever he’s not working, Karol likes to spend time training Capoeira and enjoying life.

5 Crucial Link Building Strategies After Google Panda 4.1

This is a guest contribution from Rizvan Ullah.

Many people have been affected by the chain of Google Panda updates which began to roll out in February 2011. With an influx of information readily available, it’s become more important to provide only the best results for those using Google while skimming through search results. Google has said numerous times that their mission has always been to be the best search engine providing users with solutions to everyday problems, questions, references, etc. However, people are finding clever ways to manipulate the search results affecting the quality of information presented within the search results.

Since much of the manipulation occurs by using deceptive link-building techniques, Google Panda was engineered to find ways to detect these factors and eliminate the websites using them. Just to give you a better understanding of Google’s efforts, they have been focusing on eliminating black hat techniques from February 2011-to-now where they rolled out the latest update recently.

Going forward you can rest assure that Google will continue to tweak their search algorithm to perform better providing more “high” quality results. I’ve always been a strong believer that the success of your website and/or blog has to do with providing “high” quality resources to your readers and using authentic link building techniques.

From my experience, there have been five crucial link building techniques that have stood the test of time and continue to provide high quality traffic to my blog WITHOUT being penalized by Google algorithm updates.

Let’s get started…

1.  Google Ranking Criteria

I’m very surprised at the amount of people that don’t read through what’s changing within the search algorithm because you’ll learn a lot about what direction Google is heading in. If you understand Google’s changing “ranking” criteria, it’s very simple to stay on the clean side of things. First, each time there’s an update, you can find over 50 resources that will provide you with a breakdown of what’s changed. You’ll notice Google Panda 1.0 when it rolled had tweaked a few things which are still relevant today. For example:

  • Eliminating low quality content websites which provide little to NO value to the reader. They compare “value” by comparing the user engagement usually pulled out of Google Analytics.
  • Eliminating websites which contain “thin” content pages. Much of the problem seen was that people would often create one high quality content page hoping to use that as their ranking page. All other pages on the domain would be low, or poor quality content.
  • Eliminating aggregated content websites which distribute content published on other websites or duplicated content. If you are building links from within duplicated content that can impact your rankings within the SERPs.

Since Panda 1.0, this has been the focal point on which Google is trying to improve their search results. Anyway, once you understand the direction in which the search algorithm is heading, you can start to take a proactive roll to ensure that you stay away from specific things.

Read over the Google’s Panda Trends to get a better understanding of how things are changing and what criteria you should follow when incorporating a link building strategy of your own.

2. Diversity In “Everything” Is Good

Thinking that eating salads is the only way to lose weight is the same as thinking “article directories” provide the only real authentic link building juice. However, if you sniff around and do research, you’ll uncover 5-6 awesome techniques that are legit and will provide value to your SEO efforts. The problem is, if you stick to only one method, then Google might think you’re NOT important enough. However if you find the line in between, you’ll be surprised at the value added. It’s true what they say, it’s not always about quantity but quality, and this applies to link building as well.

Over time, I’ve narrowed it down to 3-4 methods which have proven to be very effective…

Guest Posting:

One of the best ways to generate targeted traffic to your blog involves utilizing the traffic of top bloggers within the industry. As experienced bloggers get busier and are unable to create content regularly, they often rely on others to produce content for them. Guest posting opportunities is a great way to get your experienced noticed and you’re rewarded with a link back to your personal blog.

Follow these quick guest posting guidelines…

  • Find “guest posting” opportunities on relevant blogs
  • Make sure the content is high quality since it can lead to more guest posting opportunities.
  • Link to your relevant content within the post and make sure that link is relevant to your guest post.
  • Contact other bloggers directly to build a personal relationship with them. This can lead to further guest posting opportunities increasing the chances of link backs, traffic and user engagement.

Article Directories:

After the recent Google update, people are beginning to question the power of article directories. However, for me, they are still a vital link building strategy if utilized correctly. Here’s an awesome strategy I use:

Only publish content on the best article directories. Look for high PR, DA and PA websites which ONLY publish high quality content. It’ll be a great idea to choose websites which are moderated closely and only publish you’re content once within each article directory. Google has said numerous times it’ll penalize websites which have external and/or internal links from duplicated and/or aggregated websites.

High Quality Content:

When I first starting writing content, I didn’t pay any attention to link building and instead wanted to publish the best pieces of content available on the web. I figured if I published the best content, Google will automatically rank my page higher because it was in-depth and provided the ultimate solution to my readers. You know what…I was right!

When I look through my report, I’ve noticed I’m ranking for keywords WITHOUT any link building efforts. It was amazing what happened and I contribute my rankings to two things…

First, high quality content creates user engagement because I had more social shares then any of my competitors which ranked my content higher than them. When people tend to share your content, it increases the chances that people who own blogs will link back to your content.

Next, Having written content which is 2000+ words provided more leverage allowing me to diversify my keyword portfolio. I was able to increase the keyword density and include LSI keywords (latent semantic keywords). Matt Cutts, head of Web Spam at Google has said having LSI keywords within your content will enhance the flow allowing you to add more related long tail keywords. At this point, when Google indexes my content, it picks up on keywords both “targeted” and “related” improving my chances of ranking for of them.

Forums:

People have been interacting on forums long before sophisticated search engines like Google were created. User forums were the first ever information hubs which provided a Q&A interface. They are still very effective in providing solutions and if you can create a solid profile for yourself, you can benefit from the traffic. Once you’ve gained credibility, you’re given the opportunity to set up a “signature” located below your forum posts. Many of these are “do-follow” counting as a link back and can generate enormous targeted traffic.

3. Relevance is Important

After Google Panda, relevance is beginning to play an even more important role in link building. Google understands the importance of providing information which is organized and relevant to its users. The challenge is to be able to do this effectively especially with so many people using manipulative strategies that have worked in the past. Previously, it was about getting high authoritative links from high quality websites. It’s recently changed to getting high authoritative links from “relevant” high quality websites.

In the future, when building links, it’s important to pay close attention to the content on their website. It’s even more important to pay attention to the sites linking into the site you plan on building a link from. Consider link building a chain effect, meaning, finding websites not only relevant to you but a group of websites relevant to each other.

4. Anchor & Related Keywords

There have been many questions regarding “anchor” text and the correct way to use it within your content. Google has adopted a new strategy where head and/or anchor text no longer holds as much value as before. Google uses latent semantic indexing to relate phrases together so phrases like “small business web hosting” are the same as “corporate web hosting plans”. How come Google made this change?

People have been changing the way they search for information. They use long tail keywords and are becoming more specific. Google being able to relate phrases together allow them to provide more specific search results from a variety of search phrases. It increases the natural flow of the content and provides a more specific user experience.

What can you do?

It’s time to start mixing up your keyword phrases so that things look more natural in your content. For example, include both “targeted” and “related” keywords in your content to increase the diversity of the links. There are many tools that can generate variations of keywords from your “targeted” keyword. The easiest is to use Google search bar…

For example, when you type in the phrase “building a website”, Google automatically displays several related searches right below. Make a list because you can include them when creating your content.

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 3.59.09 pm

5.  Don’t Follow Competitors, It Can Hurt You!

We all love competition because it keeps you motivated and it can provide you with valuable information. You can use tools to find the “link” profile of your competitors and use it to build your own backlinks. However, things are beginning to change and carving out your own identity is the way to go. Many of your competitors have been around for years and some might have used link building techniques that might be considered “black-hat” or flagged by Google. If you use these strategies today, it can have a huge impact on your rankings often causing a decrease of 30%-40% and/or even getting you banned from the SERPs (search results).

After Google Panda 4.1, it’s important to build your own brand which includes using strategies outside the box.

Many times link building is NOT what to do compared to what to do which is why you should try different things and stick to the ones which work well. For example, guest posting on relevant blogs can produce amazing results driving “targeted” traffic to your website. Next, you can decrease the websites you use to build links from i.e…

  • Focus on high authority websites with high PR
  • Focus on websites with higher than normal domain and page authority
  • Focus on websites which are relevant to your blog and/or website
  • Only build links from the best article directories
  • Only build links from the best forums

Before, the focus was on building links from as many websites no matter what their link profile, PR, reputation and relevance. Now, however,  it’s time you tweak your strategy. Start to pay close attention to the websites you publish content on or build direct links from. You’d be surprised how many of them can harm your efforts just because they have a poor link profile and are known as lower quality websites.

Just remember to think outside the box and try things which your competitors are NOT doing. This can help build your brand and add value to your blog in such a way that it will increase your rankings within the long-run. Here’s a great example:

Recently, I started to experiment with PBN (private blog networks) which consist of creating smaller “high” authority websites. The twist is that you purchase websites and/or expired domains which have already built their authority but the owner forgot to renew them. What’s does this provide for me…

  • A relevant domain with an established PR
  • A website with an established domain and page authority
  • A website which can provide awesome link power right from the start

It’s a great way to streamline the process of building a website from the beginning and one with a solid reputation. There is a strict criteria that needs to be followed when building these websites however if done correctly, they can provide awesome ranking power for years to come. I’ve been performing a PBN case study and the results have been pretty impressive. However, the point I’m trying to make is you need to try things that others aren’t. You need to tweak different strategies so that it’s both beneficial to you and does NOT raise any red flags with Google. Private Blog Networks are perfect as long as you’re adding value and NOT spamming.

Rizvan Ullah is the founder of Ranktactics, which provides internet marketers with tutorials on traffic generation, social media marketing, product reviews, and case studies. Learn how to create a profitable blog step-by-step from the ground up. Get started by reading his expert roundup post on effective link building techniques. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Things Bloggers Should Know Before Using Google Adwords

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 12.01.53 pm

This is a guest contribution from Jignesh Gohel.

Google Adwords has been the most popular tool for online advertising. It is easy enough to set, optimize and start reaping the profits. However, a few know that it can be a highly relevant tool for bloggers too. Many popular blogs are already using Google Adwords to popularize and monetize the sites. While you might already be using other advertisement platforms, Google Adwords opens new ways to rise to the top.

Adwords, as such integrates several different methods for advertising. Trying to get deeper, you can actually be astonished by the largely unnoticed tools that were right there in front of you all this time. Things like advertising on keywords with paid search, advertising on display networks including local news websites or YouTube, etc can be quite fulfilling. Remarketing is another way that Google Adwords leverages the power of paid searches and is considered the highest ROI variant of online advertising. While many bloggers believe that only organic content is the best way to get to the top, paid search too can lend a helping hand. Promoting your content with paid search marketing provides additional opportunity in content marketing. Google Adwords allows bloggers to create ads and generate paid traffic for blog, but with some underlying constraints. Google adwords has pre-defined policy and strict monitoring system which reject or even ban the advertisers who violate their policies. Here are few important policies for bloggers or content marketers.

Google Adwords policies to drive traffic

As said earlier, Google Adwords presents a great platform for blog promotion but also integrates several important restrictive policies

1. Arbitrage

Among the most important Adwords policies, Arbitrage doesn’t allow promotion of blogs that have specifically been designed for the showcasing advertisements. This is line with Google’s favor for unique, original and useful content. Excessive advertising makes your blog unsuitable to advertise with Google Adwords and in some cases; the account can even be suspended. If your blog or websites is primarily focusing on following types of content, it may come under radar of “arbitrage” policy.

  • Websites designed primarily for ads
  • Websites showcasing interstitial ads (pop up ads)
  • Websites with scraped content
  • Pre-generated and template content
  • Auto-generated and gibberish content
  • Websites involving deceptive navigation, indistinguishable content or malicious ads
  • Websites integrating ad keywords irrelevant to the core content

2. Bridge Page

Adwords doesn’t support websites/blogs with Bridge Pages. Also referred to as doorway pages, it means landing pages that automatically link up to a completely different site. This is the characteristics with most affiliate websites but aren’t Adwords compliant. As such, these are also the pages that offer the visitor with no/marginal content and are solely meant to redirect traffic.

3. Information Harvesting

Websites/blogs that involve content meant to collect personal information from visitors aren’t supported under Adwords. These would involve websites that offer “free gifts” in exchange for personal information or web pages harvesting sensitive information (bank account details, credit card numbers, etc) over unsecured connections.

If your website is not harvesting information but collect sensitive information from customer, you must install SSL certificate on your website. Google Adwords information harvesting policy strictly recommends that the information mentioned below should transmit over secure processing servers (https):

  • Debit and credit card numbers
  • Bank/investment account details/numbers
  • Wire transfer numbers
  • Checking account numbers
  • Social security, pension, national identity, driver’s license, health care or Tax ID numbers

If you blog is running on HTTPS, it also had added advantages in Google organic search result. You can easily get FREE SSL certificate from startssl or ssl2buy that can easily installed on your server by following these simple steps.

Tips for bloggers to adhere to Google Adwords policies

The primary goal of Google remains the same – to provide unique, original and representative content to its users. Adwords, as such integrates the same policies to make the experience on the search engine more comfortable for users. Bloggers who plan to be successful with Google Adwords need to:

  1. Use original and unique content as opposed to scraped ones
  2. Stop using intestinal and excessive ads
  3. Stop using blogs solely for the purpose of advertising
  4. Create campaigns with content relevant keywords and format
  5. Avoid trying to harvest user/visitor information
  6. Understand and follow Google adword policies strictly

Creating good content is always half the battle won. It is more important to get it to people who would consider it benefitting. Content promotion strategies integrated into Google Adwords for bloggers can get you ahead of your competitors. As such, experienced content marketers spend as much on promotion as they would on trying to generate the likable, linkable and sharable asset. Google Adwords seems to be a relevant tool that every bloggers should try.

Jignesh Gohel is Founder & CEO of online business consulting agency OLBUZ specializing in eCommerce, products and small business marketing. In his minuscule spare time, Jignesh enjoys nature photography and yoga. You can follow him on Twitter or reach out to him via Linkedin.