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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.

Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging

Today I want to suggest an exercise that has the potential to improve your blogging profoundly if you build it into your daily routine.

Look at another blog

Image by zev

Image by zev

OK – this may not sound that profound – most of us read other blogs every day but it doesn’t revolutionise what we do – but stick with me for a second while I explain HOW to do it in a way that could have a big impact.

Here’s what I do every day

I choose a blog and then spend 5-10 minutes reviewing it. My aim is not to ‘consume’ it as a reader…. but rather to review it with the view of learning about blogging.

What I’ve found is that my spending 5-10 minutes every day looking at another blog in this way that I learn so much! In fact I’ve learned so much over the last few months that last week in my team meetings I’ve introduced the idea of us doing this as a group – each week we’ll review a blog to see what we can learn.

The objective is not to do these reviews to copy what others are doing – but rather I find in looking at other blogs I often find inspiration and insight for my own blogs. The learnings cover a wide range of areas – from design, to product ideas, to content, to increasing engagement, to use of social media, to marketing etc.

Let me dive a little deeper into how I do it:

Choosing a Blog to Review

I review a blog every week day so over a year I’m potentially reviewing 260 blogs so I don’t have a single criteria for choosing which blog I’ll review.

When I started doing this a few months ago I started doing it mainly with photography blogs (those in my own niche) but I’ve since moved outside my niche too. While it is great to know what competitors in your niche are doing there’s a much to learn by going beyond it too.

Not only do I mix up the niche but I’m also trying to mix up the size of the blog. There’s a lot to learn from the biggest blogs who have lots of readers, staff, developers, professional designs etc – but you can learn a lot from medium and smaller blogs too.

Also I like to keep my eye open for those blogs that are up and coming – those that seem to burst onto the scene quickly – because these blogs are often doing something new or innovative.

Lastly I like to try to mix up the style of blogs. While I mainly focus upon creating ‘how to’ content blogs I also regularly review blogs that focus more upon ‘news’, ‘reviews’, ‘personal’, ‘opinion’, ‘entertainment’ etc.

So if you’re just starting to do daily reviews – do start with blogs in your niche – but mix it up too, and you’ll discover a lot that you can apply in your own blogging.

Tips on Conducting Your Review

I don’t have a set routine for reviewing the blogs that I look at, but there are a number of things that I tend to do.

I usually start by viewing the blog on my desktop computer which has a nice, wide, 27-inch display. However I also try to view the blog on my iPad and phone which is often quite illuminating from a design viewpoint.

I generally will start by reviewing the front page of the blog and pay particular attention to my first impression and feelings about the site (first impressions are often lasting ones), but will always dig around deeper into the site and review ‘posts’ (both recent and those in the archives) and also any ‘pages’ (about page, advertising page, contact page, etc).

Questions to Ask As You Review

There are a variety of areas that you can review when looking at another blog. I tend to break things down into the following areas and find myself asking questions like those that follow.

Note: I don’t ask all of these questions every time I do a review – but I hope by presenting them you’ll get a feel for what directions you can explore.

Content

  • what voice/s are they writing in?
  • what is their posting frequency?
  • how long are the posts that they write?
  • what type of posts are they majoring on (information, inspiration, engagement, news, opinion, etc)?
  • what style and medium of posts are they using (lists, imagery, video, podcasts, etc)?
  • what blend of original vs curated content are they using?
  • what topics/categories are they majoring on?
  • what type of headlines/titles formulas do they use?
  • do they use multiple authors/guest posters or a single writer?

Community

  • how do they engage readers?
  • what calls to action do they use and what is being responded to?
  • what type of posts get the most comments, shares, likes?
  • do they use tools like polls, surveys, quizzes or other engagement triggers?
  • what social media sites are they using and how they using them for engagement/community building?
  • do they have a newsletter – how do they incentivise signups? What type of content do they send?
  • how much do the writers of the blog engage in comments?
  • do they have a dedicated community area? (forum, membership etc)?
  • do they have ‘discussion’ posts or ‘assignments’ or ‘projects/challenges’ that give readers something to DO?

Finding Readers

  • where do they seem to be putting most of their energy in terms of generating readership (social, guest posting, media etc)?
  • which social media sites are they primarily using for outreach and what are they doing their?
  • what type of content seems to be being shared the most on their site?
  • how do they try to ‘hook’ new readers once they’ve arrived (newsletter, social, RSS etc)?
  • what type of reader is this blog attracting?
  • how does the blog rank on Alexa? What does Alexa say about sources of traffic, type of reader that the blog has?

Monetization

  • how are they monetizing?
  • if advertising, what advertisers are they working with directly?
  • are they using an ad network like AdSense?
  • how many ads are they showing per page?
  • where are they positioning ads on their pages?
  • what size ads do they offer advertisers?
  • do they have an advertiser page? Do they publish their rates, traffic or other interesting information on it? Do they have a media kit? What is their main selling point to advertisers?
  • if selling products – what type of products seem tot be selling the most?
  • what can you learn from the way they market their products?
  • what affiliate programs/products are they promoting?
  • do they offer premium paid content or community areas on their blog?
  • do they have a disclaimer/privacy page? What can you learn from it about how they monetize?

Design/Tech

  • what layout do they use?
  • what navigation/menu items do they have?
  • what first impressions does their design give? What is the first thing they seem to be calling people to DO when arriving?
  • have they used a designer or blog template for their blog?
  • how do they communicate what their blog is about (do they have a tag line)?
  • how are they using their front page? Is it a traditional blog format, portal or something else?
  • what do they have in their sidebar?
  • do they have a ‘hello bar’ at the top of their site? What are they using it for?
  • what do they put in ‘hot zones’ on the blog (above the fold), below posts, etc?
  • what type of blogging tool do they seem to use?
  • what can you observe about their approach to SEO?
  • what kind of commenting technology do they use?
  • what widgets and tools do they have that make the reader experience more interesting?
  • how do they use images in posts?
  • what’s their logo like?
  • what colours are they using in their design?
  • how do they highlight ‘social proof’ in their design?
  • do they have an app?
  • is their design responsive to mobile/tablets?
  • do they use any techniques to increase page views?

Email/Newsletter

  • do they have an email newsletter?
  • if so – how are they driving people to signup? Popups, forms, hello bar etc?
  • are they incentivising signups with something free?
  • signup for the newsletter and watch what kinds of emails they send. Is it an auto responder or more timely broadcasts?

Social Media

  • what social media accounts do they promote on their blog?
  • how are they promoting their social media accounts?
  • are there social media mediums that they are ignoring?
  • which type of social media seems most active/important to them?
  • where are they getting most engagement?
  • how often are they updating their accounts? what times of day seem to get most engagement?
  • what techniques are they using on social that seem to get most engagement and build community?
  • what techniques are they using on social to drive traffic?
  • what techniques are they using with social to monetize?
  • what feedback is this blog getting from readers on social? What are they known for (both positive and negative)?

Other Questions to Ponder

  • are there opportunities to network or partner with this blog/blogger?
  • do they accept guest posts – could you write with them?
  • do they have products that you could promote as an affiliate?
  • do you have a product that they could promote as an affiliate?
  • if they are in your niche – what ‘gaps’ in their content could you be filling in your own blog?
  • what are they doing poorly that might provide you with an opportunity to have a competitive advantage?
  • what are they doing well that you’re not doing to the best of your ability?

What would you add?

The above list is not something I systematically work through for every blog that I look at – rather it is the type of questions I find myself asking as I review a blog and might be useful as a starting point for you to work from.

I’m sure there are other areas you could dig into further and I’d love to hear your suggestions in comments below.

Learn From The Actions of Others

Let me finish by coming back to the motivation for doing blog reviews like this.

What I’m NOT suggesting is that you review other blogs to simply steal other peoples ideas and replicate what they do.

What I AM suggesting is that you will learn a heap by looking at how others blog.

It might sounds odd coming from a guy writing a blog about blogging but I think you’ll actually learn as much – if not more – by doing the above exercise each day than by filling your RSS reader full of blog tips blogs. There’s only so much theory you need to hear – much more can be learned by watching people practice their craft.

A side note about Blogs about Blogging: The reality is that most ‘blog tips blogs’ are written by bloggers whose most successful blog is a ‘blog tips blog’. While this doesn’t discount them as people to listen to, it’s worth keeping in mind as you ponder their teaching and calls to purchase what they sell.

It also strikes me that the vast majority of successful bloggers going around are quietly going about building amazing blogs and not broadcasting their tips and learnings. Their focus is building their blogs – not teaching others how to blog. While it’d be great to get inside their heads the great thing is that almost everything they do is live on their blogs for all to see – hence the opportunity in spending time learning by watching what they do.

My Challenge to You

For the next week, review a blog every day. It need not include every question above – but put aside 10 or so minutes each day over the next week to look at another blog and see what you can learn.

I dare you! It could just be the most valuable 70 minutes of blogging learning you ever have!

If you take the challenge, I’d love to hear in comments below what you learn!

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.

Passion – Do You Have It?


Recently on Twitter I was asked for some tips on what sets ‘great’ blogs apart from the rest.

With millions of bloggers creating blog posts every day – how do you stand out?

It’s a big question, and the reality is that there are many ingredients to building a successful blog.

A variety of words came to mind as I struggled to come up with my 140-character guide to ‘standing out’.

I started to list them:

  • Credibility
  • Share Your Opinion
  • Great Writing
  • Ability to Connect
  • Understanding Readers
  • Injecting Personality

As I brainstormed, I realised 140 characters was not going to cut it:

  • Great blog design
  • Tell Stories
  • Use Great Visuals
  • Network with other bloggers
  • Be prolific
  • Be funny
  • Be smart
  • Be first
  • Write great headlines

I started to think of the blogs I love and what makes them stand out:

  • Be Useful
  • Be Entertaining
  • Take note of your readers
  • Have a different spin on things
  • Be Original

The list continued to grow and with it my heart sank a little.

“There’s no one way to stand out…”

But then I had two realizations:

Firstly – I love that there’s no one way to stand out! There are no rules. There is no blueprint – and that’s what is so simultaneously exciting and frustrating about blogging.

That’s why I love what I do. Constant experimentation, learning, testing and trying new things.

The second thing I realised is that there actually was a common feature about all of the blogs that came to mind as ‘stand out’ blogs.

Passion

There are plenty of bloggers that do the things in the lists above. There are bloggers sharing opinions, writing well, with a heart to connect, with great personalities…. bloggers who are smart, funny, prolific, original, entertaining and bundles of wonderful!

But something that seems present and that shines through in the blogs that I read and love is passion.

They are created by people with passion for the topics being covered, passion for the process of creating content, passion for their readers, passion for learning, and passion for pushing the boundaries of thinking and creating.

They love… they enthuse… they delight in what they do. By doing so they somehow draw others into their passion too, which is where the real magic seems to happen.

This isn’t to say that passion is the only ingredient needed for success – but maybe… just perhaps… it’s what binds it all together and helps a blog just click.

Are you passionate about your blog?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The 3 Ingredients in Our Best Selling eBook Titles


Over the last few days in Facebook groups I participate in, I’ve seen a number of people ask for advice on coming up with titles for new eBooks, courses and books.

Below is a combination of a few pieces of advice I gave in response to the topic:

Coming up with titles for our eBooks on Digital Photography School is always something that takes our team considerable time and debate.

There’s no right way to to create a title and many factors come into play but there are generally three main ingredients that I try to include in titles of eBooks:

1. Clearly Communicate What the Book is About

This is pretty obvious, but it can be tempting at times to come up with a title that is a little more cryptic. I’ve found that the clearer you are about the topic, the better (this also helps with after-sale customer service – you’ll get a lot less complaints if people know exactly what they’re buying).

2. Include a Tangible Benefit

I didn’t always do this but have noticed that our best selling eBooks tend to have one. A good example of this is the ProBlogger eBook – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Do this, and you’ll get this – show the people who are pondering whether they will buy your product what they’ll get as a result of doing so. What’s in it for them?

Sometimes putting the benefit in the title is tricky, particularly if you’re looking to create a short title. In this case, we would usually create a sub-title that we prominently display.

For example, our landscape Photography eBook is ‘Living Landscapes: A Guide to Stunning Landscape Photography‘. The benefit or result is (stunning landscape photography).

So as you’re creating your product, make a list of the needs/problems/challenges that your readers face that your product solves. You may come up with multiple benefits but choose the biggest one (one that readers have at the top of their minds and that the product solves), and use that in the title.

Keep the other benefits that you’ve brainstormed handy because they will be very useful when you’re writing your sales material for the eBook.

3. If Possible Say Something Aspirational that Touches Emotion

This is not something we always do, but particularly for our Photography eBooks, we know that as we’re talking about photography (which is an aspirational topic), that when we use words that evoke some kind of emotion that we generally get a better response from readers.

Note: there’s a fine line here between manipulation and hype, and doing this well.

The example of our ‘Living Landscapes’ eBook mentioned above is a good one. ‘Living Landscapes’ communicates something about what we’re trying to do with the eBook – i.e. help readers to bring the landscapes that they photography to life.

Also in the sub-title we use ‘Stunning Landscape Photography’ rather than just ‘Landscape Photography’. The addition of an adjective not only communicates our objective with the eBook to readers, but also gets them dreaming a little about the things that our eBook will help them to unlock.

You’ll also see if you dig into the sales copy on dPS eBooks, that many of our sales pages also use this more aspirational language in how we sell our products.

Another example of this is Transcending Travel: A Guide to Captivating Travel Photography which at the time we published it was our fastest selling eBook.

You can see in the title alone the same kind of formula. You can tell what it is about (Travel Photography), there’s a clear tangible benefit and words like ‘Transcending’ and ‘Captivating’ are aspirational.

Look at the sales page and again you can see that the copy starts by aiming to touch the ‘heart’ – getting readers to think about the feeling that we all know of getting home from a trip to find that the images we’ve taken don’t capture the true spirit of our time away.

Two Last Tips on Creating Great Titles for Products:

While the above three ingredients are things that we try to get into our eBook titles, it is important to re-emphasise that there is no right way to do this.

Our approach has worked for us with our readership, but I know others take different approaches (and I’d love to hear yours below).

The two last tips I’d give also come out of our experience:

1. Test and Watch How Your Readers Respond

Not all of our titles have worked, and there have been times when we’ve used titles that I had doubts about that worked surprisingly well!

The key is to experiment and see how your readers respond. There are a variety of ways of doing this including:

  • watching how readers respond to titles of blog posts – over time you’ll see some posts get read more than others and that certain words/topics/title formulas seem to resonate more than others
  • test how people respond to social media updates – tweet a link to a blog post you’ve written with two alternative titles for the link and see which works best
  • watching open rates of emails that you send your email subscribers – in the lead up to a product launch send an email to your list pointing them to a blog post on the topic and test different subject lines
  • As your readers which title they’d be most interested in reading – we’ve done this a couple of times on Facebook with readers, showing them two covers of eBooks and asking which they like more

2. Involve Others in the Process

I learned with my very first photography eBook how powerful it was to involve others in the coming up with titles and sales copy.

I was close to launching my first eBook with the simple title ‘Portrait Photography’ when I shot Brian Clark from CopyBlogger an email asking his advice. He came back with the title ‘The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography’.

The title was much stronger and the eBook sold very well.

While not everyone might have access to email one of the best blogging copywriters around (Brian is brilliant) even tossing a title around with friends, family, colleagues and other bloggers will help you to hone your title.

These days we spend days tossing around title ideas as a team before deciding upon one and I think doing so has helped a lot. You’ll also find that as you talk it through the marketing of the product will also become easier as you’ll get more clarity about the benefits of your product and how it will help readers.

4 Ways to Sell More Products Online

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

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

1. Optimize Your Website for Sales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Up Your Content Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

3. Engage More With Your Followers

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

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

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

4. Cross Sell 

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

 

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

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

empty-pews.jpg

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

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

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

This Is Good

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

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

Creating a Content System

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

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

Authors with Authority

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

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

Not Everything Changes

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

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

Bloggers Have It Best

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

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

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

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.