Archive for December, 2009

The Best of Copyblogger 2009

December 29, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://www.dysontech.com/1546/the-best-of-copyblogger-2009/)

Best of Copyblogger 2009

You didn’t think we’d close out the year without a “Best of 2009” post, did you? Well, you’re not getting off that easy.

Here’s the best Copyblogger content of the year, based on your enthusiasm via comments, links, retweets, and gratuitous offerings of produce-based holiday deserts. We thank you all for your continued support (even though we threw out the fruitcake. Sorry).

Let’s get started.

  • The First Rule of Copyblogger – It’s a wonderful thing to wake up one morning, check the blog, and see that your Senior Editor has made a Fight Club reference that also establishes the underlying theme of the entire publication. Her name is Sonia Simone, her name is Sonia Simone . . . .
  • The Winnie the Pooh Guide to Blogging – Adding to a Copyblogger portfolio that includes drag queens, cross-dressing and what women really want, James Chartrand kicked off the year with blogging lessons from everyone’s favorite Pooh bear. And you were shocked that he is really a she? Really?
  • 5 Steps to Going Viral on Twitter – Want traffic from Twitter? Read this post. Want the most possible traffic from Twitter? Post about Twitter.
  • How Twitter Makes You A Better Writer – In the most counterintuitive post of the year, Jennifer Blanchard makes the case that being confined to 140 characters improves your writing skills. Coming in 2010 – How Beer Makes You a Better Driver.
  • The Art of Writing Great Twitter Headlines – Twitter reinforces the single most important component to attracting online attention — the headline. Well, that and fake celebrity deaths. Better to stick with the headline skills.
  • 10 Secrets to More Magnetic Copy – First-time guest writer Jason Cohen knocks it out of the park with these quick and witty copy tips. He also forces us to retire the magnetism metaphors indefinitely.
  • How to Turn Affiliate Marketing Disclosure Into a Selling Point – Everyone seemed surprised that the FTC said compensation disclosure laws apply to bloggers and social media just like other forms of media. I could say I told you so back in 2006, but I won’t. Even though I did. Not that I’d mention that.
  • The Eminem Guide to Becoming a Writing and Marketing Machine – All you other Slim Shadys are just imitating, but you could do worse. Sean Platt lays down what Marshall Mathers III can teach you about taking your online game to the next level (without getting picketed).
  • The 7 Harsh Realities of Social Media Marketing – Did you notice all the “make money quick and easy with social media” hucksters that slithered out from under a rock (and then disappeared just as quickly) in 2009? This one’s for those guys, and anyone who considered following their lame advice.
  • How to Write With a Knife – Check out this post if you want to improve one of the most important aspects of any type of writing — tight editing. Or if you want to see a cool picture of a blonde with a samurai sword. Whichever.
  • Since When Are Blogs Not Social Media? – Social networking went mainstream in 2009, prompting some who hopped on board in late 2008 to say they were giving up social media for blogging. What?
  • Blogging is Dead (Again) – The “blogging is dead” meme comes up at least once a year, but I only feel the need to respond every other year. I feel the same way about voice mail.
  • The 7 Deadly Sins of Blogging – Sonia reveals the seven sins that will cause you to fail faster online than hiring Robert Scoble.
  • Is Commenting on Blogs a Smart Traffic Strategy? – This was a rant in disguise after I’d had enough watching the less-than-smart strategies of some bloggers who left comments. Ironically, the post got 270 comments (and counting), but lame comments on Copyblogger subsequently decreased by 270% (or something).
  • Why You’re Too Qualified and Respectful to Produce Great Content – This post is an absolute must read for everyone, unless of course you already know you should write assertively, or if you’re busy doing something else, or just don’t feel like it. Maybe later.
  • Seven Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School – Sonia and I would have liked to qualify this post a bit, but I’d like to see you try that with Jon Morrow when he’s got a head of steam. So, a few English teachers got a bit upset, but we placated them with bouquets of gerunds.
  • Why Content is No Longer King (And Who’s Taking His Place) – The content marketing revolution demonstrates that mere content is no longer king, and this post tells you who’s taking over. No, it’s not Elvis, nor is it a prime minister appointed by the Queen as Lord of Parliament and majority leader of the House of Commons.
  • The #1 Conversion Killer in Your Copy (And How to Beat It) – What do trolls, sea monkeys, shady carnival barkers and chronic halitosis have to do with online conversion? And what was Tiger Woods thinking? (Tiger’s not in the post, I just really want to know).
  • 9 Proven Headline Formulas That Sell Like Crazy – Dean Rieck resurrects an old Copyblogger standard with these insanely effective headline templates. But please go sell crazy someplace else . . . we’re all stocked up here.
  • Why You Can’t Make Money Blogging – Poor Fake Steve Jobs discovers he’s better suited for day jobs. Read this post to learn why “I want to make money on the Internet” is not a business model.
  • Is Your Tribe Holding You Down? – The post that defined the Third Tribe was inspired by a challenging email from Seth Godin and our refusal to switch to decaf. What does it all mean? You’ll see in early 2010.
  • On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas – No joke here, simply the post of the year. Thanks Jon, for sharing with and inspiring us all.

There you have it . . . the best of Copyblogger for 2009. Can we top it in 2010?

We’ll try pretty hard. Hope you’re along for the ride.

Happy New Year!

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and co-founder of DIY Themes, creator of the innovative Thesis Theme for WordPress. Get more from Brian on Twitter.


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Happy Holidays from Copyblogger!

December 24, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/XQl4w)

Happy Holidays

Well, it looks like it’s time to take the rest of the decade off. ;)

Here’s to a safe and joyous holiday season for you and yours. In case you’re actually looking for something to read, here are some Copyblogger gems for your solstice surfing pleasure.

See you next year!


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Five Smart Things You Can Still Do in 2009

December 24, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/iQX8x)

image of highway sign

Copyblogger is about to go on our annual holiday hiatus. We’ll be taking a break from posting while we catch up, get rested, and get excited about what we’ve got in store for you in 2010.

You may be taking a little time off yourself. Or you may still be going into the office, but the last week of the year is often a time when routine tasks slow down or stop altogether.

So what’s the smartest, most productive use you could make of the next seven days?

Here are five ideas that will let you take what some people think of as “dead time” and use it to jump start your year in 2010. Doing any or all of these will get you energized and excited for the year to come.

1. Create a quick product

The biggest obstacle most bloggers face when they want to make money is they don’t have anything to sell.

And the biggest obstacle to creating something to sell is that it seems overwhelming. We feel like we’ve got to distill everything we know into a 400-page ebook or 30-hour marathon audio course.

That’s why I was so impressed by a recent post from Dave Navarro about creating a product over a weekend, and his follow up post on
how to know if it’s the right time to create a product.

If you’ve got even one or two slow days coming over the next week, take Dave’s advice and create a small, low-cost product. It doesn’t matter if you have four blog subscribers, three of whom are related to you.

A few people may buy it, and that’s great. They’ll tell others about it, and that will start attracting the targeted audience you need in the future (generating more sales).

More importantly, it will elevate you in people’s eyes as a solution producer and not just a blogger. Big difference.

2. Write a series

If the idea of creating a product is still too scary, put it on your calendar for January. And instead, every day for the next seven days, write a post for a series for your blog or email newsletter.

What should your series be about? It should be about the most compelling, thorny problem your audience regularly faces that you’re passionate about fixing.

Solve some problems worth solving. Don’t wimp or waffle around, and don’t sell yourself short. Give your audience real answers they can start using right away.

3. Reconnect with your favorite bloggers

Sometimes the “social” in social media threatens to eat every minute we’ve got to give.

If you find yourself with a little down time next week, spend a few minutes and reach out to some of your favorite bloggers in your topic. You know, the ones you haven’t had any time to read in the last six months.

Read through their last 4 or 5 posts. Look through their archives or popular posts. Make some intelligent comments. If something useful presents itself, link to them in your series.

4. Create some audacious goals

I know, I know, nothing is more boring than telling you to set goals around this time of year.

But here’s the thing. Wildly exciting goals lead to wildly exciting results. (Not always, or even often, the precise results you visualized. Don’t let that worry you.)

Some time before December 31st, take an hour and write down the most perfect imaginable day for yourself. Where you wake up (and with whom), what you see, what you have for breakfast, what you do and where you go and how you do it. How you feel about everything you’re doing and seeing. How you look. What you smell and hear.

Use every ounce of writing skill you’ve got to make this description vivid. Sell yourself on it.

And try not to be too “realistic.” Let your dreams soar a little.

Then set a reminder in your calendar to take a look at this “perfect day” once every three months in 2010. Each time you revisit it, re-copy what you’ve written, making any tweaks you want to.

I promise you, in December next year, you’ll be a little spooked by some of the “unrealistic” things you wrote down this year, and how much more realistic they’ve become.

5. Sign up for some high-quality (free) education

If you haven’t joined us yet for Copyblogger’s free Internet Marketing for Smart People e-newsletter, you should sign up for it now. It starts with a 20-part course on some of the most important building blocks to marketing your product or service online.

The newsletter will give you the marketing tips and techniques that work in the real world, including the smartest strategies for marketing with social media. And we do it without the annoying sleaze and hype you see from too many other “gurus.”

If you’re planning on putting one (or all) of these into action by December 31, let us know in the comments! (And then come back on January 1 and let us know how you did.)

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.


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5 Lessons Learned from a List to Santa (All of Them Can Make You Money)

December 23, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/Cxi9Y)

image of Santa looking at Christmas list

In the eight Christmases since life changed my name to Dad, Santa’s list has never been more important.

In our house, the tradition is that each child requests a single gift from the big guy. The problem is, this year both kids asked for something a little beyond Santa’s typical reach.

Fortunately, my wife and I have learned enough about persuasion and selling to turn our trip to the store into an opportunity to keep the magic alive a little longer.

It’s important to me that Santa deliver what they ask for. My kids are five and seven, and still believe. I’d like to preserve that bit of childhood magic as long as I am able.

What do you want? No, what do you really want?

My daughter originally wanted to ask Santa for “Biscuit,” a battery-operated dog that does tricks on command and is roughly the size of a Shetland pony. I’m not positive, but I think Biscuit may require a car battery to start barking.

My son planned to ask Santa for the Lego Star Wars Imperial Cruiser. This thing has roughly the same number of pieces as a glass garbage truck driven from a rooftop, and a sticker price equivalent to my winter electricity bill.

Our mission: steer our daughter toward a Fur-Real Panda Bear which is just a fraction of Biscuit‘s price tag, and get our son drooling for Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter, which is smaller and more within our budget.

Entering the toy department armed with our strategy, here are five basic selling principles which we used to get our children to not only alter their wish lists, but want their new gifts even more than they did the old ones:

1. Scarcity

This one was awesome because I didn’t even have to try. There it sat, all the way at the top of a shelf so high not even my 6 ‘ 3’’ frame could tickle the Fur-Real Panda Bear. The rest of the selection lay littered along the bottom shelves.

“Uh-oh,” I said. “We’re going to have to ask someone to help us get the panda bear down.”

My daughter asked why the panda was up so high away from all the others. I told her it must be because everybody wanted him and there were only a few left.

“Oh,” she whispered. My daughter rarely whispers. Other people’s desires amplified her own. My daughter’s not greedy, but she is human, and humans tend to want something all the more the second it seems out of reach.

2. Storytelling

My son and I struck out on our own, leaving my wife and daughter to think about the panda.

I slipped into a story about Darth Vader and his planet-blasting Death Star. My voice rose in pitch, my hands in the air. I quieted to a whisper. I was an actor reciting Shakespeare and my son’s mouth was an open O.

“Hey, have you ever thought about asking Santa for Darth Vader’s TIE fighter?” I asked. “I bet he would get it for you.”

I pulled the box from the shelf and placed it in my son’s hands. His eyes lit up and he turned it this way and that through the air, the sounds of laser blasts spraying from his lips.

Information is important, but people connect to stories. If you want someone to both relate to your information and remember it later, deliver it in a “once upon a time.”

3. Address objections

My son was fondling the box. I figured he was about a third of the way to wondering why in the Hoth he had ever wanted a starship when he could’ve been asking for Darth Vader’s TIE fighter all along.

But we weren’t quite there yet.

“The TIE fighter’s a lot smaller,” I explained, pointing to Darth Vader’s home away from home. “The starship is like five times bigger.”

He asked how many pieces are in the starship. I smiled. It was like he was doing half the work for me. “It’s five times the size because it has five times as many pieces.”

Now even though my son LOVES pieces, this was an easy objection to get past.

“Hmmm.” At this point, I was actually stroking my chin like some cartoon character. “If you ask Santa for Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter, then we’ll be able to put it together and take it apart a lot more times.” I smiled wide and dropped to my knees so my eyes met my son’s. “We’ll get to play with it more because it will be put together more often.”

My son’s smile is always bright, but this one was even brighter than usual. You can’t ignore objections, but you can identify and address what the other person really wants. And in this case, it was to spend more time with his daddy playing.

Once you know what your buyers are really looking for, you can rob objections of their power.

4. Clearly state the benefits

When we rejoined the girls, my daughter asked how I would decide between the two toys. She’s a practical girl and, like her father, loves to linger on several sides of an argument.

“Well, at first I thought it was close,” I said, nose wrinkled, “but then I started thinking about it. Now I’d have to say the panda is the clear winner.”

She wanted to know why.

“Well, his size for starters,” I said. “Biscuit is so big, you’d never want to take him up and down the stairs.”

We live in a hundred-year-old Victorian, and there are times when going upstairs feels like it should come with the help of a Sherpa.

I also explained that because of its size, the panda could keep her company and sit next to her while she’s doing her homework or is at the computer.

I let that sink in, then added, “The panda could even sleep with you, I bet. Biscuit would probably just sit in one place most of the time.”

When you’re writing to persuade, don’t forget to articulate what’s great about the experience. Give them the wind in their hair and let them clearly feel the smile on their face.

5. Know your audience

I’m lucky enough to be around my children for most of the minutes they aren’t in school. Getting them to change Santa’s list was made simple by first knowing them inside out and then communicating as effectively as possible.

Working out a communication plan with my partner ahead of time, using the same principles that make a sales letter work, made it a paint-by-numbers process.

While it’s highly unlikely you’ll get prospects that you can know as well as your children, you can get to know them. Pay attention to the details, ask the right questions, and uncover not just what they want, but why they want it. Do that, and you’ll be able to meet their needs.

There is a laser-thin line between many of the principles of friendly, honest selling and highly effective parenting.

With both, you must allow the learner or buyer to stumble onto your solution as though it was their idea all along. Sure, you use the authority you’ve built, but you also let your audience come to their own conclusions.

Trust is the key

Of course none of these tactics would have worked if our children didn’t believe in us.

And trust is an integral part of these strategies. I’ve never lied to my kids (you and I both know Santa doesn’t count) and have never let them down. I have never done anything to damage our bond and so they trust me entirely.

I would never have sold them on the panda or the TIE Fighter if I didn’t believe they would love their choices. If your actions are based on integrity and you do what is right for your audience or clients, they will do what is right for you in return.

About the Author: Sean Platt is a direct response copywriter and independent publisher. Follow him on Twitter.


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How to Brainstorm Brilliant Ideas for Your Blog

December 21, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/mDNRL)

image of many lightbulbs

Brainstorming is one of the most powerful creative techniques ever devised. When used properly, it can produce more and better ideas than any other process. It’s based on the concept that two heads (or three, or four, or more) are better than one.

Many would argue that you can’t create by committee. I agree. Writing and other creative acts are best performed by individuals. Creating by committee, well . . . sucks.

But brainstorming is not about executing ideas. It’s simply about coming up with ideas. And it is almost always more productive as a group activity. The result of a brainstorming session should be a long list of potential ideas which you can evaluate at a later time, acting only on the best.

Sure, you’ll come up with a ton of dumb ideas, but so what? Once you get the ideas flowing, the great ideas will float to the top. And some of those ideas that seem dumb end up being pretty smart — once you try them.

It’s like panning for gold. You have to sift through a lot of sludge to get to the shiny nuggets.

How to brainstorm with other bloggers

If you interact with other bloggers frequently, you probably do a little informal brainstorming already. It’s not just a good way to solve problems, it’s a great way to keep your blog fresh and interesting.

In fact, I’m thinking about brainstorming for bloggers specifically because more and more bloggers are beginning to work together to write blogs, create products, promote each other’s content, and feed off of each other’s energy and ideas.

If you’ve had bad luck with brainstorming, it’s probably because you did it in a stuffy corporate environment where no one feels free to really open up. But if you can assemble the right group of people who feel comfortable with each other, a brainstorming session can be like throwing a match into a room full of firecrackers. There’s a sudden and powerful chain reaction.

What can you brainstorm?

Anything that will benefit from sharper ideas is good fodder for a brainstorming session. Try brainstorming ideas for post topics (or perhaps a series of posts), product ideas, marketing angles, positioning for your business, contests, link building strategies . . . the sky’s the limit.

Here are a few suggestions for creating some fireworks of your own. These guidelines are intended for in-person sessions, so if you plan to brainstorm by Skype, chat, or other means, you may want to adapt the rules a little.

Before your session . . .

Select a leader. When I conduct a session, I often serve as both leader and participant. It works for me, but you may want to select a leader who will remain fairly quiet while the others let their imagination go wild. The leader also needs to keep the group on track and on a time schedule, stifle negative statements, help the group develop ideas fully, and assure that each member contributes.

Define your problem. The leader should write a clear definition for the problem the group will address. All you need is a sentence or two that clearly outlines the situation.

Create an agenda. Outline what topics you want to cover. Prepare a few ideas in advance to get things started, and be prepared to suggest questions to keep the ideas flowing.

Set time limits. How much time you spend depends on the group’s endurance and everyone’s schedule, but it’s usually best to keep it short — 15 to 45 minutes. If you go longer, take frequent breaks to keep people fresh.

Set quotas. The idea is to work fast and produce lots of ideas, which will be evaluated at another time. So decide on a quota, such as a minimum of 100 ideas. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. If you come up with just two ideas a minute, you’ll have 120 in an hour. You can set an overall quota or individual quotas for each topic.

Select your group and announce a session. Choose a mixed group whose blogs are at about the same level to participate. Avoid control freaks and people who need to monopolize the conversation. When you set things up, don’t call it a “meeting.” That conjures images of big oak tables and idiots in neckties. Call it a “session.”

Circulate background information. Prime session participants with a simple statement of the problem, background information, and examples of the kind of ideas you’re looking for.

During your session . . .

Review the problem and background information. Don’t put people to sleep, just quickly go over the problem, background data, and what you hope to accomplish. If there are questions, answer them before you get started.

Establish the ground rules.

  1. Each session participant must contribute ideas or add to another’s ideas.
  2. No one may criticize or evaluate any idea. Alex F. Osborn in Applied Imagination said it best: “Think up or shut up.”
  3. No one will hold back ideas. When something comes to mind, say it.
  4. The group will encourage wild, out-of-the box thinking.
  5. The goal of the session is quantity, not quality. Quality will be evaluated later.
  6. Develop ideas fully. Participants should hitchhike ideas on the ideas of others to produce more and better ideas.
  7. Once an idea is developed, the group will move on.

Take detailed notes. Whether written or typed, someone needs to rapidly capture the flow of ideas as they occur. One option is to record the session and transcribe the recording. I’ve found that a combination of note taking and recording works best. The notes serve as an outline of the major topics covered and the recording fills in the details.

After your session . . .

Allow for the incubation of further ideas. If you’ve had a productive session, ideas will continue to occur to people for hours or days after the session. Ask everyone to write down these ideas and submit them later to record along with the main session notes.

Type up and circulate all the ideas generated. The final product of a session will be a multi-page document that lists every single idea created. Nothing should be edited. Organize or classify these ideas for later evaluation. Don’t be surprised if you have literally hundreds of ideas.

Evaluate your ideas and choose the best. The same group can evaluate the ideas or another group can. It’s often best for those responsible for the problem to evaluate the ideas, but you can run into “idea ownership” problems. On the other hand, another group may not be able to grasp the significance of many of the ideas generated. You’ll have to experiment.

When the dust settles, you should find yourself with some surprisingly good ideas. And the whole process often energizes all the participants.

Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work perfectly the first time. It usually doesn’t. Assembling the right group, creating an open atmosphere, and producing the best results often takes time. As with so many other things in life, practice makes perfect.

For more tips on being creative, read 10 easy ways to instantly energize your creative powers at my Pro Copy Tips blog.

About the Author: Dean Rieck is one of America’s top freelance copywriters and publisher of the Direct Creative Blog and Pro Copy Tips, a blog that provides copywriting tips for smart copywriters.


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Should We Be Worried About Fast Food Content?

December 18, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://www.dysontech.com/1539/should-we-be-worried-about-fast-food-content/)

image of guy looking at a hamburger

Earlier this week on TechCrunch, Michael Arrington wrote an alarmed post about “fast food content that will surely, over time, destroy the mom and pop operations that hand craft their content today.”

Mom and pop operations and hand-crafted content sounds an awful lot like you and me, doesn’t it?

So is this actually something we need to worry about? Is what Arrington calls “the rise of cheap, disposable content on a mass scale, force fed to us by the portals and search engines” going to destroy the businesses we’re building on a foundation of high-quality content?

Arrington is deeply concerned about sites like AOL and Demand Media, which scrape and mash real content into something that’s theoretically legitimate (since it was compiled by a human being rather than a piece of software), but in practice gives no value to the reader.

This “mainstream spam” can be efficiently optimized for search, or thrust onto the unsuspecting eyeballs of AOL users. (Haven’t the poor things suffered enough already?)

Arrington believes there’s no hope against this onslaught of junk content, which is going to overwhelm all of the good stuff.

Clearly, we’re all doomed

Arrington advises content creators (that’s you and me) to:

Figure out an even more disruptive way to win, or die. Or just give up on making money doing what you do. If you write for passion, not dollars, you’ll still have fun. Even if everything you write is immediately ripped off without attribution, and the search engines don’t give you the attention they used to. You may have to continue your hobby in the evening and get a real job, of course. But everyone has to face reality sometimes.

Apart from the whining, the exaggeration, and the hysteria, the problem with Arrington’s argument is it’s based on a number of bad assumptions.

Specifically:

Bad assumption #1: Search engines and mega portals are the only way to get traffic

AOL is feeding their content slop to their “massive” audience (which, in fact, is shrinking at rates that would make Biggest Loser proud). Arrington makes the assumption that those AOL customers won’t come find your non-crap content, because the fast food stuff is the only thing on their radar.

This then leapfrogs to another bad assumption, that the only way anyone sees content is to find it on a mega site like AOL, or via a search engine like Google.

Links from your favorite bloggers count for nothing. Tweets from a friend count for nothing. Facebook pointers count for nothing. Email from your mom counts for nothing. No one ever points a friend to genuinely valuable content and says, “Hey, you should check this out, you would like it.”

The entire direction of social media and content sharing indicates otherwise.

Bad assumption #2: Readers will keep reading crappy content

AOL’s user base is still big enough that I’m sure they’ll get some readers at least skimming their stuff.

But when it comes to content, Darwin rules. If content doesn’t meet the needs of users, it dies. We can’t even force grade-school kids to read what doesn’t engage them. What makes us think that AOL can “force feed” their users anything?

And what makes us believe that even if those users do skim AOL’s lame content, that they’ll never read anything else, or that, when they have a particular need or concern, they won’t go actively looking for something more useful?

Business tip for TechCrunch: when you find yourself afraid of a stumbling dinosaur like AOL, there’s something gravely wrong with your thinking, your business model, or both.

Bad assumption #3: Google would rather serve fast food content than your content

Now I hold no illusions that Google is a benevolent, all-knowing deity that rewards the just and punishes the wicked. But based on observation, it’s pretty clear that Google would rather serve good content than scraped and mashed junk content.

Google wants their searchers to find a good experience on the other side of their search result. If sites like Demand Media, a video producer that slaps together 4,000 videos a day in what amounts to content sweat shops, can deliver content worth watching, they’ll do well.

If they don’t deliver something worth watching, they don’t give Google’s searchers the experience Google wants to deliver. Which means Google becomes less valuable.

Google can’t be “force-fed” any more than readers can. There’s no reason to believe they’ll treat this “hand assembled” spam more kindly than the bot-created kind.

Bad assumption #4: Content means news

Arrington also says that sites like the New York Times are “outright stealing” his content and passing it off as their own. (And he warns you, little mom and pop, that your content’s going to be stolen without attribution as well.)

By “stealing,” Arrington apparently means that when TechCrunch publishes a breaking story, the New York Times often writes a story on the same topic, using their own reporters and neglecting to thank him for his tireless journalistic efforts.

If you’re not TechCrunch, this is not a problem that you need to spend even four seconds thinking about. You already know from hanging out on Twitter and reading blogs that news spreads more quickly than anyone’s ability to control it, and that nobody “owns” a breaking story.

For those of us who create “hand-crafted” content, what we say isn’t nearly as important as how we say it. We rarely break news (although occasionally we become the news.)

If readers want the latest news, they rightly go to a site like TechCrunch, the Times, or, increasingly often, Twitter.

It’s when they want useful knowledge, insight, or analysis that they come back to us. Plus, there’s a reason we get you to focus on delivering educational content versus commodity news, right?

We’re valuable precisely because we can cut through the noise and give them only what’s useful and relevant to them.

I’m sure it’s irritating to Arrington not to get a linkback from the Times, but that’s his headache, not ours. He seems to be doing ok without it.

Bad assumption #5: You need millions of eyeballs to make a living

There’s an implicit bad assumption behind all of the explicit bad assumptions in Arrington’s post, which is that the only way you’ll be able to make a living with content is to attract huge amounts of traffic.

In other words, the only possible model is to attract enough attention (via search engines, for your breaking news) to monetize your site with advertising.

But you already know that’s not a business model for the real world.

Let’s say you have a blog that gives business advice to yoga teachers. You’ve paired that with a simple but effective marketing system to sell group coaching, individual consulting, and information products to readers who want to go further with what you’re teaching. You only need to find a few hundred customers a year to make a very nice living.

  • No fast food content generator on earth is going to outrank you for “how to run a yoga studio.”
  • If a cheap, scratch-the-surface video or post does outrank you for that #1 spot, the reader quickly finds out that the fast food content doesn’t meet her needs at all. Click goes the back button, and she’s looking for you again.
  • Your content collects links from like-minded people, because it’s cool and valuable.
  • Other yoga teachers (and herbalists and organic co-ops and past-life regression therapists) will spread the word about you faster than Google ever could.
  • You have no reason to run advertising for anything other than your own products. So you don’t need to pull hundreds of thousands of “eyeballs” to make a decent living. You just need to make a great connection with the right 300 people.

So what should a “whole food” content producer do?

Exactly what you were doing yesterday.

Keep your eyes on your audience, not Chicken Little pundits telling you (again) that you can’t make a living.

Keep following the First Rule of Copyblogger. Keep creating content that rewards the reader for consuming it. Keep cutting through the clutter and noise by being smarter, more relevant, and more interesting.

Fast food content is just the latest incarnation of an old affliction — spam. If it hasn’t killed us yet, this new version isn’t likely to make much of a dent.

For content-based marketing strategies that work in the real world, sign up for the free Copyblogger email newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People. It’s packed with the information and advice you need to create real business success, and it’s 100% hysteria-free.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.


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What charities do you donate to?

December 18, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/k7cdP)

Every year I like to ask what charities people are leaning toward.

So here we go: what organizations, charities, or good causes are you supporting this year? Lately I’ve been interested in transparency and reform in government, so organizations like the Sunlight Foundation, MAPLight (Money and Politics), and Change Congress are on my list. I’m also looking at Free Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I’d also be interested in hearing about 501(c)(3) organizations that support open-source software, ideally with very low administrative costs. Does anyone know of good groups in that area?

Finally, is there a charity or group that wants to make videos of college journalism classes? Right now if a blogger wanted to take an online journalism class, I’m not aware of many resources in that area. I found a good book called Electronic Media Law that I like, but it would be nice if people around the world could learn the basics of journalism by watching a series of college lectures on video.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What charities would you like to mention, support, or call out?

How Your DIY Attitude Is Keeping You Poor

December 17, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://www.dysontech.com/1536/how-your-diy-attitude-is-keeping-you-poor/)

image of hammer and nail

The way people talk, you’d think there are like four customers in the world. Maaaaybe five if you look around really hard — but that’s about it.

So whatever you do, if you’re lucky enough to have one of those customers, you’d better not do anything that minimizes the income you receive from them.

You’d certainly better not share them. You’d better cut your expenses to the bone on the back end, and hey . . . if you know that a competitor is courting one of the other three or four customers? Well, then you’d better get over there and work on stealing them away.

Right now, you’re rolling your eyes at this dumb picture I’m painting. But just for fun — just to see if I’m totally off base — ask yourself the following:

  • Are you willing to partner with someone if it means that you’ll make less profit per customer, but have access to more customers?
  • Are you willing to pay handsomely for referrals — 50% or more in some cases?
  • Would you be willing to share your business with a competitor who does the same basic thing as you do?

If the answer to any of the above is no, then you’re suffering from a scarcity mindset.

You don’t really believe there are a lot of fish in the sea. You believe there are only a few fish. Or, maybe there are more fish way out deep, but in order to get to them, you’ll need to charter a boat, which means trusting some skeevy boat captain. And what happens when you get into a boat with someone who you can’t trust? You get whacked while baiting your hook, like Fredo in The Godfather.

I’m going to suggest getting over that perception.

There are a LOT of fish in the sea. And the sooner you learn to work with other people to help you get them, the faster you’re going to get ahead.

Anatomy of a successful partnership

One of the things I do in my business is set up WordPress blogs for clients. Just a few months ago, I met Genuine Chris Johnson of Flat Rate Web Jobs. Now, Chris does something interesting in his business. He sets up WordPress blogs for clients.

So what did Chris and I do with this apparent conflict of interests? We teamed up, of course.

See, if you do business in the way I tell readers and consulting clients alike, you’ll soon realize that there are “your people” and there are “not your people.” And once you figure that out, you’ll see that most of your seeming competitors really aren’t competitors after all. Even if your services are the same, your people probably are not.

Yes, Chris and I both set up blogs, but our audiences are very different. Chris’s customers come mainly from the offline world and are learning the power of blogging for the first time. My customers usually already understand the internet and the blogosphere.

The way he finds and contacts clients (often including a phone call) is very different than the way I do (social networking and blogging, never using the phone). The questions and pain points that he addresses for clients (”What’s a blog, and how will it help my business?”) are different than the ones I address (”How quickly can I get my blog off of Blogger?”). His packages include a ton of training material. My customers don’t usually need much training, at least in the basics. Accordingly, our prices are fairly disparate.

Lastly, our personal strengths are different, and complementary. Chris is very good at sales and would rather that someone else handle customer service and implementation. Conversely, I don’t want to sell. I’d rather implement and do customer service.

We could pretty easily have decided that we were competitors. Chris could have kept selling his packages, and been bogged down each time with building sites, answering emails, and so on. I could have stuck solely with “my people,” and worked to sell each job I did.

But instead, the partnership has allowed each of us to make thousands of extra dollars a month.

Now, that’s a dramatic example (side note: it gets more dramatic when you realize that Chris dated my wife before I met her, a fact that caught both of us by surprise), but there are a few ways that you can increase your business through strategic partnerships that don’t necessitate seeking out apparent competitors.

Here are a few ways to start small:

1. Get a team

Or at least get an assistant. You can only do so much as one person, and insisting on holding all of the reins yourself ensures that not only will your business not grow past a certain point, but also that you’ll be stressed out and unable to take time off.

2. Start paying for referrals

A lot of people are reluctant to pay for referrals (or to start an affiliate program) because it means shrinking your profit margin.

That’s short-sighted thinking. If you offer commissions to people who send you business, those people send you more down the road.

Remember, a referral is business you would otherwise not have gotten. So be cool and kick a thank-you to the person who sent it your way. For services and tangible products, 10-20% is a good commission rate. For digital products, it should be 50% — or even more.

3. Bundle your products with other people’s products

If you sell your Widget Buster Extraordinaire for $50 and another person sells Widget Smashing Secrets for $50, consider making a deal to sell both products together for $80 and split the profits.

Yes, you’ll make $10 less each time you sell a Widget Buster. But the new Buster + Secrets offer is so much more attractive to customers that you’re almost certain to sell enough more to make up for it.

Don’t be short-sighted. Assuming your margins still support it, 50 sales at $40 is better than 25 sales at $50.

Getting beyond doing it yourself

There’s a certain romance in “going it alone,” especially for bloggers. But taking the DIY (do-it-yourself) mindset too literally just ensures that your business will never be able to grow beyond the capabilities of one person.

Trust me, other people are cool. Partnering with them is fun. And doing so is absolutely the way to accelerate your progress. So have a little faith and try it already.

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant is a website builder and consultant extraordinaire who wants everyone to know that he’s raising his rates on January 1st — so if you’d like to work with him, now’s the time. (Contact him now and he’ll even build you a free blog.) You can also follow him on Twitter, where he’s moderately amusing.


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How to Make a Living as a Social Media Rock Star

December 17, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/hLnur)

Freelance X Factor

Earlier this year, Brian and I created a course called Freelance X Factor.

It was designed for the “typical” Copyblogger reader. (Smart, interested in writing, pretty savvy about social media . . . but possibly “not there yet” when it comes to packaging all of that up and turning it into income.)

The course is designed to give you a “business model in a box,” to take what you’re great at and start using it to make a better living. Our focus was to take social media writers and turn them into effective businesspeople.

While we were at it, we included a lot of content to help you become a social media rock star, if you weren’t there already.

And, in honor of the worst global economy since the Great Depression, we packaged all of this up at an incredibly attractive price.

Why bring all this up now? Because everything that made the course so valuable remains true. But we’re just about to raise the incredibly attractive price to something that’s merely “very attractive.”

We’ll be taking the offer down before the end of the month. In early January, we’ll be raising the price for Freelance X Factor from $87 to $147. Which is still, frankly, a hell of a deal.

If you’re a writer and you think the Copyblogger business model could help you re-position yourself for more income, fewer hassles, more respect, and more fun, well, you’re right. Click here to find out how to do that for the best possible price.


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Warning: Are Your Words Helping or Hurting Your Business?

December 16, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/8Mlfs)

image of evergreen branch

Earlier this week we saw a stark lesson in the power of a label when it comes to promoting your business.

Using the right vocabulary is everything when it comes to writing powerful copy. And though I adore words even more than donuts, it was only recently that I realized I had been using some of them all wrong.

In fact, for far too long, I was beating my thick head against a wall I never should have built in the first place. A wall I built by using the wrong words, or by using them in a way that didn’t support my business.

Shedding a comfortable skin

When Writer Dad first started to take off late last summer, the most frequent responses were compliments on the strength of my writing.

So, like Pavlov’s dog I started to salivate every time someone sent any sort of praise my way.

I began to focus on the way I was writing more than the thoughts that my writing conveyed. I was losing sight of the fact that people were reading my words because of the ideas behind them, not because of the way they were strung together.

There were times I wrote posts with sentences I thought were good enough to frame. But it was doing nothing to pay my bills or push me forward in any significant way. James Chartrand, on more than one occasion, kindly warned me, “clarity over cleverness.” But of course I didn’t listen.

I was a writer. Not only would I reinvent the wheel, I’d make up a new word for it too. Perhaps wheelovation.

Eventually, I swallowed Morpheus’s red pill and started writing something that actually made some money: search engine optimized copy.

At first, I kept it contained to my clients’ site, and a few niche sites I was developing. I didn’t let any SEO copy near the hallowed grounds of my home site.

My secret SEO life

I felt like a clergyman making bucks on the side by writing pornography. This SEO writing wasn’t art.

But it was starting to do something that my “art” wasn’t doing. Namely, paying some bills.

It wasn’t long before I found my utilitarian copy outperforming my “best work” at every level, other than the purrs pointed at my own ego.

I might have been rocking the comments on my primary blog, but the “dirty” copy I kept under my online mattress was garnering traffic, gathering links, and gaining major headway in search engine results.

All of which led me directly to what was probably the single best lesson I have learned in my first year online.

The best word isn’t necessarily the most elegant, intelligent, humorous, fitting, or rhythmic.

The right word is the one that generates the opt-in, sells the product, or invites the link.

Labels matter

Last August, Brian Clark and Sonia Simone released a course for freelance writers, called the Freelance X Factor.

I came away with (among other things) some critical new insights about language. I learned the labels for my business that I should add to my vocabulary, and the ones I should abandon forever.

The course led my business partner and I to make some changes to our promotional web pages. And they’ve made all the difference in the results we’re seeing with our clients.

We no longer use the vague (and undervalued) catch-all label “freelance writers.” Instead, we’ve distinguished exactly what we do at each of our sites: ghostwriting, illustrations, or direct response copywriting.

Seem like a small thing? Tweaking these labels didn’t just communicate our value more effectively to our clients. It also allowed us to tighten our focus and deepen our own understanding of what we need to deliver.

I am not a freelance writer. I’m a direct response copywriter with social media marketing experience. Wearing another hat, I’m a ghostwriter, which means I know how to disappear and let you keep all the credit.

Using the right labels for your business will lead to better clarity in your thinking. It sharpens your focus, and shows your clients exactly what you can do for them.

Want more of the right words to support your business? Subscribe to the free Copyblogger email newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People. It will keep your business moving forward with marketing advice that doesn’t insult your intelligence.

About the Author: Sean Platt is a direct response copywriter who writes about creativity at Collective Inkwell and slings ink for hire at Ghostwriter Dad. Follow him on Twitter.


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