Archive for February, 2010

The Mr. Rogers Guide to Blogging from the Heart

February 26, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of Fred Rogers

As bloggers, we put a lot of effort into telling our readers how to do things.

We believe that if we can just give them enough informative content that they’ll subscribe to our blog and never leave. We try to become the best teacher we possibly can, instilling wisdom down into short, usable posts that our readers can put into action right away.

But what if that’s not what they really want?

What if they don’t want a teacher to tell them what to do?

What if all they’re looking for is a warm and understanding person who understands what they’re going through and is willing to love them, no matter what?

Someone like (you guessed it) Mr. Rogers.

Do you care how they feel?

Being a kid can be tough.

Everyone is always telling you to be quiet. No one wants to listen to what you think. Your parents make you go to bed, just when all of the fun is starting.

But not Mr. Rogers.

Fred Rogers made you feel like it was just you and him hanging out. He respected what you thought. He loved you, not because he had to (like your parents), but because he genuinely believed you were special.

After a while, you believed him. You felt special. You came back to the TV, day after day, just so you could feel that way again.

The best bloggers do that too. I read Copyblogger everyday for years before submitting this guest post, and it wasn’t just the information that kept me coming back. It was because, when I was done reading, it made me feel smarter, like I was one of the few people on the web who was truly in the know.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that’s a part of our job. Our job is bloggers isn’t just to inform our readers, but to make them feel special.

And yes, I realize it’s a little hokey, but I think Mr. Rogers can show us how. Listen to some of these quotes:

Lesson: For your audience to love you, first you have to love them. And they have to know it.

You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And, consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.

How much do you care about your readers? I mean, really care?

Mr. Rogers didn’t just talk to children on television. He also visited them in person. On a regular basis, he would go out into public and ask kids about themselves. He would bend down and look little boys and girls straight in the eyes, so they knew he was fully focused on them. Then they poured their hearts out to him right on the spot.

No, he wasn’t compensated for that time, and neither are we. Most popular bloggers spend inordinate amounts of time reading every comment, responding to every email, and watching what people say on Twitter. None of this has any direct effect on traffic, but what it does is build goodwill. One at a time, your subscribers find out that you really care, and it transforms them from readers into raving fans.

Lesson: Before you can be a leader, first you have to be a neighbor.

Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space. Every one of us is a part of that jewel. A facet of that jewel. And in the perspective of infinity, our differences are infinitesimal.

Mr. Rogers didn’t pretend to be better than the children who watched his show. He didn’t point out how young and ignorant they were. He didn’t appoint himself as an expert and command them to listen.

Instead, he decided to be their neighbor: someone just like them, who knew what they were going through, and was ready to help in any way he could, not because they were defenseless children, but because that’s what good neighbors do.

The same is true for bloggers. If you really want your audience to listen to you, you need to take the time to tell them your story, pointing out the ways you’re similar to them and inspiring them through your example.

Lesson: Create an environment where it’s okay to be imperfect.

I like you just the way you are.

Most kids are terrified, not just of getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar or their parents finding a bad grade on their report card, but of the possibility that they’ll do something so bad that their family will stop loving them. They believe that love is only for “good” children, and they worry that they don’t deserve it.

This quote was Mr. Rogers’ gentle way of correcting (and comforting) them. Over and over again, he would tell them that, “I like you just the way you are,” not just because it sounded good, but because it was what they needed to hear. They needed to know that love wasn’t conditional, and that they were safe enough around him to make mistakes and learn how to improve.

I believe it’s important for us to create the same environment for our readers. You may not realize it, but lots of your readers are probably intimidated by you, believing that they can never be as good as you are, and they’re afraid to reach out to you for help.

It’s important to remind them that you like them just the way they are. Maybe you don’t have to tell them as often as Mr. Rogers, but take a moment every few weeks to mention how impressed you are with the creative ways they’ve implemented your suggestions and how are honored you are to have them as readers.

It’s a small thing, but it matters.

Lesson: Keep what works, throw out what doesn’t, but always know what and why.

Propel, propel, propel your craft softly down liquid solution. Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, existence is simply illusion.

Every day, Mr. Rogers honed his craft, paying attention to even the smallest of details.

One time, he asked a fellow actor to say “the dog is going back home” instead of “the dog is going back to his owner.” He didn’t like the word owner because it was too possessive for the children viewers.

He also stuck with what worked. “Won’t you be my neighbor?” wasn’t just the theme song for the show; it was a way to set the tone at the beginning of every episode, getting children ready to listen. And so he repeated it, show after show for years.

It’s our responsibility as bloggers to hone our craft in the same way. You should experiment, not just with headlines or post ideas, but with new openings, new closes, new pictures, and even new words. It’s how you improve.

And at the same time, take a lesson from Fred Rogers and don’t be afraid to repeat what works.

Lesson: Seize your opportunity

When will your opportunity be?

Every day that communicate from the heart, you have a chance to change the world.

Back in 1969, Nixon proposed cuts to PBS, leading the Senate to hold a hearing that would decide the future of the station. And who do you think appeared before them and melted their hearts with words?

Mr. Rogers.

He wasn’t the CEO. He wasn’t a Washington insider. He wasn’t even well-known to the committee. Yet he showed up, spoke from the heart, and transformed some of the toughest, most hardened politicians in the country into raving fans.

It was the opportunity to create change that many of us dream of, and he seized it. But here’s the real question:

When will your opportunity be?

Watch this video, and think about it. Because when it comes, we’ll be counting on you.

About the Author: Karl Staib writes about building stronger relationships and being happy at work: Work Happy Now! If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his feed, follow him on Twitter, or read one of his most popular articles: How to Write a Career List.

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Check out this preview of the Scribe SEO web-based application

February 25, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

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This is a quick reminder that the Scribe introductory offer, where you get our most advanced plan for the Starter price, ends tomorrow, Friday, February 26, 2010, at 6:00 pm Central.

But I also wanted to share a video with you. It was created for current Scribe customers to let them know what’s coming next month, but I’m going to hook you up too.

It’s a preview of the Scribe web-based application. So while you can use Scribe right in your WordPress interface, you will also be able to use this web-based version to analyze any content before posting it online on any platform. Or analyze and optimize older content for any platform. Total freedom.

This is especially useful for professional web writers who create content for clients. The Scribe web version even generates an SEO analysis report that you can deliver to your clients along with the content.

This video preview was made by Sean Jackson (one of the technology ninjas behind Scribe) for our current customers. So trust me, it’s not a sales pitch. But it’s very useful for getting an idea how the Scribe web-based application works.

And if you decide to hop on board tomorrow with our great introductory offer, you’ll get Scribe Web during your very first month as a customer at no extra charge. You’ll also get every other version of Scribe we develop, all inclusive.

Check out the video preview of the Scribe web-based version here.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and wants you to know that Thesis + Scribe = SEO Made Simple. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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What Belly Dancing Taught Me about Personal Branding

February 25, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of belly dancer

I’m learning to belly dance.

Okay, that’s totally overstating it. I’m wiggling to music in what is labeled a belly dancing class.

I’ve found that I enjoy the constant movement, manipulating my limbs and taking any excuse I can to be silly. But more fun than the belly dancing is the instructor.

She loves this stuff. Her eyes light up when she enters the room, her voice changes pitch, and she hops around throwing out euphemisms that make even the bravest people blush. She’s a complete fruit loop. And she’s loved for it. It’s her schtick.

Or, in marketing terms, it’s her personal brand.

Oh no, not another post about personal branding

We’ve been hearing about personal brands ad nauseum for the past year. Even if you’re not sure why you need one, you’re certain that you do. It’s like a 401k. Or a spouse.

The trouble is, most personal brands make everybody else want to jab forks straight into their eyes. They’re based on egos, false promises, and personalities so obnoxious that you’d never be friends with this person in real life.

But as my belly dancing instructor has taught me, you don’t have to build a personal brand on being an egomaniac. You can build your brand on simply being human. Or better yet, you can build your brand on being your favorite version of yourself.

How do you create a personal brand that will garner attention instead of hate? Here are some tips I’ve picked up from my experience on the Web.

And belly dancing.

Claim your niche

My belly dancing instructor doesn’t teach the hip hop class that takes place after her session. Nor does she teach the weekend kickboxing class. She’s limited herself to belly dancing because she knows that’s where she can offer the greatest value.

Trying to teach everything would undermine what she’s about and the tribe she’s looking to attract. She sticks to what she does better than anyone else.

Think niche. You can’t be known for everything. Pick what’s most important to what you do, break it down to its simplest core, and be it.

While Copyblogger has established itself as one of the Web’s top resources on content, Brian Clark has branded himself the master of headlines. It’s a tiny microcosm of the whole content creation space that he owns. It’s where he’s untouchable.

Create your character

Like I said, my instructor is a fruit loop. The moment you think you’ve seen everything, she ups the ridiculousness.

She tears her sweats so you can watch her legs curl, and refers to body parts in ways you wish you could erase from your mind. She knows who she needs to be to attract the right audience, and she plays up her quirks to do so. She builds a tribe that falls in love not only with her class, but with her. It becomes so that the class and brand are so intertwined that you can’t tell them apart.

Lots of people will tell you to “be yourself” in social media. I’d advise creating a persona that mixes who you are and who you want to be. This heightened version of yourself allows you to lose the performance anxiety and magnify the personality traits needed to attract the right people.

We fall in love with those who are brave enough to do what we think we can’t. As long as you’re basing your character off who you really are, you’ll be able to keep it authentic and still look great naked.

Treat people like humans

My instructor has been dancing for longer than I’ve been an adult. She’s trained in moves and styles that my stiff body can’t even comprehend.

But you wouldn’t know that by talking to her. She’s unassuming and talks to you like you’re old friends meeting up for coffee. And she keeps that tone even when instruction has begun. There’s no jargon to confuse us, no making things complicated so we feel dumb and she wouldn’t dare call herself an “expert” or a “guru.” She’s just someone who loves belly dancing and is excited about the opportunity to share it with us.

Finding your voice and using it to be relatable is what will make or break your personal brand. It’s what separates the brands we love from the brands we wish would die.

It’s all about your ability to talk to people in a genuine way and show them that you’re one of them. This is where most people get tripped up. We elevate ourselves thinking that it makes us more impressive and authoritative and that our audience will trust us more. Truthfully, all this does is alienate you from the people you’re trying to connect with.

Figure out what the real you sounds like, and then use that voice to be real with others. You can’t fake this.

Make your brand accessible

My instructor shows up to class early. She stays late. She takes questions in the middle of instruction and will show and re-show certain movements until you’ve nailed them. Her email address is publicly available so that students can email her with questions. She has an email newsletter to help us stay in contact with not only her, but one another.

She’s not teaching a class, she’s creating a community.

When you make your brand accessible, you help it grow beyond your niche. Become part of your community. Answer questions. Lift up those who are doing well. Share trusted information. Look for ways to extend your brand through blogging, guest postings [cough], email newsletters, and direct mail.

Everything that you put out should incorporate and promote your personal brand. The more people see you and your tribe, the more they’ll gravitate toward it. It’s social proof.

Your personal brand is you. It’s who you are, what you believe, and what you want to put out there to others.

Use the social tools available to be you as loudly as you can, while always offering a benefit to those around you. Your personal brand may be all about you, but it’s also about how you make other feel.

It’s emotional DNA, and what separates the personal brands we love from those we love to tear apart.

About the Author: Lisa Barone has the totally pompous title of Chief Branding Officer at SEO consulting firm Outspoken Media. She tries to make up for the title by blogging Important Stuff on the Outspoken Media blog and being amusing on Twitter at @lisabarone.

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The Ultimate Formula for Success

February 24, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of French castle

My last post here, How to do 500 Times Better than AdSense, got a lot of buzz and a lot of Tweets and generated my first real dose of reader hate.

That’s cool; if you’re not stirring the pot a little bit, chances are you’re not making an impact.

Despite some blowback, I enjoyed reading all of the ensuing discussion in the comments. Good pros and cons were made, several exceptions and clarifications and caveats were given. But what fascinated me in particular — and what inspired this post — was that the responses all fell neatly into three basic categories:

  1. A lot of respondents said essentially, “Right on, Johnny! AdSense makes me mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
  2. A smaller but notable number of readers had built profitable businesses using AdSense (or else were romantically involved with Google’s Sergey Brin) and responded angrily that I was not being fair, or that I was an idiot, or both.
  3. A few people responded in one of the two ways above, but then also chided me for not supplying the formula I had promised — namely, how to do 500 times better than AdSense.

And that’s when it hit me.

I had never intended to spell out a literal step-by-step formula to take your AdSense earnings and multiply them by 500. I had thought that fact would be obvious, that everyone would get that the title reflected my results, and that they would all understand the basic premise of my post: For many (maybe most) beginners, the surest way to begin building a good income online is to focus on networking and business principles, not push-button systems and arbitrage.

I didn’t think anyone would take me literally, but some did. And they did because they were looking for a formula.

I don’t have a formula

My advice boils down to “stop looking for schemes and build a business,” but I can’t encapsulate what it takes to build a guaranteed-successful online business in one post. If I could do that, I’d be driving a solid gold rocket car to my diamond-studded mansion, where supermodels would line the halls like a hairspray-and-silicone gauntlet.

Folks, there is no magic formula that will work every time. And unless this line gets edited out, the folks that run Copyblogger agree with me.

I’ll be blunt: If you believe you can buy some “guru’s” product — or a Copyblogger product, or my consulting, or any one thing — and be assured of success, you’re in for a rude awakening. The internet is filled with promises of, “Do what I do and say (and pay my price) and you’re guaranteed riches.”

But it’s a lie. It’s all a big lie.

There is one — and only one — true formula for success that actually works. Get your pen ready, because here it comes:

The one and only one true formula for success

  1. Try.
  2. Repeat step 1 until the desired result is achieved.

I’ve said here and elsewhere that within nine months of starting this business, I was racking up five-figure months. So when clients come to me, they want to know how to do the same.

They see “nine months to five figures monthly” and stop analyzing there. But the truth is, there’s plenty more to the equation.

What may not be obvious is that I stayed on step one above for a long time. True, this business only took a few months to build up steam, but what you didn’t see was the traditional HTML website development company that preceded it, and then died when my two big clients went out of business.

You didn’t see my years writing magazine articles about human resources, which was soul-draining and which fizzled when the magazine’s advertising revenue dried up.

You didn’t see my year in a genetics lab, working toward a PhD, which I gave up when the work started giving me panic attacks.

You didn’t see my abysmal attempt to build wealth through real estate, which is the reason that although I am making a good income now, I didn’t get to keep any of it until very recently.

And if the Johnny B. Truant online business hadn’t taken off, it would be one more “You didn’t see this” item in the list I’d be reading to the audience of whatever business did succeed down the road.

Look: I can’t tell you, literally and without fail, as a series of numbered steps, how exactly to do 500 times better than AdSense. I can’t tell you how to do anything in a way that guarantees your success.

I make one thing clear to everyone who hires me: My job is to help you optimize the hell out of your current “try.”

The thing you’re currently trying may fail. And if it does, I will help you to get back up, dust yourself off, and try again.

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant drives a golden rocket car and sleeps on a fluffy pile of supermodels in his diamond mansion, which is located within a supervillain lair in the crater of a Pacific island volcano. He’s a specialist in Third Tribe personality branding who can help you optimize the hell out of your current “try” at making your own millions. You can also follow him on Twitter to watch him tweet about zombies.

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5 Guaranteed Ways to Hate Your Own Writing

February 23, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of shoe about to step on a banana peel

If you’re like the majority of writers out there, you’re a self-doubting bundle of neuroses, determined to believe that your writing will never be good enough.

That’s the life of the tortured, misunderstood writer, right?

What’s that? You think you’re pretty good at writing and actually like some of your own work?

Don’t worry, it’s just a blip. With these 5 tips you’ll soon be joining the rest of the writing community in feeling crappy about your ability and so-called “talent.”

1. Make sure that it’s never finished

You don’t really think that piece of writing is done, do you? Come on, there’s always room to finesse something and you know full well that in a couple of days you’ll think of something new to add.

It might take a year to get it finished, but hey, it’s always good to get it absolutely perfect before showing it to the world. Best to keep it on the “unfinished” pile for now.

2. Ignore any past success

If you’ve been lucky enough to get something published, online or offline, it’s probably just a case of being in the right place at the right time. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you wrote something good, that you tapped into a rich, provocative subject, or that your words struck a chord.

Sometimes writers get lucky. The chance of it happening again is about the same as seeing Ernest Borgnine win “So You Think You Can Dance.” Nope, it’s back to square one for you.

3. Recognize that the idea you had isn’t good enough

You know that idea that came to you, the one you’re pretty excited about? You might have already started writing, fuelled by a burst of enthusiasm and a spurt of passion for what you’re saying.

Hang on though — just because you think it’s a good idea doesn’t make it a good idea. Who are you to say what other people will be interested in or what’s relevant to them?

One way to improve your “great” idea is to make sure you have every angle covered and to apply a generous wash of generalism over it to make sure it has as wide an appeal as possible.

Even better, just leave it on your “Possible Ideas” list.

4. Never trust your own voice

All of your writing comes from your own head and your own experience.

And let’s face facts, that means that anything you write is probably as far off-target as penguin pie at a Greenpeace picnic.

It’s good practice to doubt what you say and how you say it. That’s what all the really good writers do.

Constant self-doubt makes sure that you’re always on edge and, most important, that you never make any mistakes or write something strange or different.

5. Give up when you feel like it

Writing’s hard. You probably already knew that. Sometimes it’s incredibly frustrating, painful and awkward to get those darn words out onto the page, and while some people say that’s part of the process and it passes, feel free to take it as a sign to give up.

Not everything you write will work and you can’t be expected to keep sweating when it gets tough.

Always remember that you started writing for the joy of it, not because it’s hard. You’re a writer, not a wrestler, so the sooner you stop grappling with that sweaty, slippery and stubborn piece of writing the sooner you can go and write something easier.

What’s that you say?

Of course, I suppose it’s possible that you don’t want to feel crappy about your writing. If that’s the case, I guess you could try doing the reverse of these five pieces of advice.

Then again, that would probably never work. Forget I mentioned it.

About the Author: As a leading confidence coach with clients right around the world, Steve Errey has a reputation for talking sense and getting results. Get more from him at The Confidence Guy.

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Leaving the iPhone

February 22, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

I’m three weeks into a new 30 day challenge: no iPhone. When I got a Nexus One in December, I spent a few weeks carrying both phones around in the pockets of my jeans. It took a little while to adapt to Android, but I’m very happy with my Nexus One and I don’t plan to go back to the iPhone. Both the iPhone and Android are great operating systems, but it’s important to me that I can write or run the applications I choose on my phone.

The best way I can describe the transition is to read this article by Jason Kincaid and this article by Danny Sullivan. Danny contends that the iPhone is better, mentioning that after “literally an hour or less of playing with my wife’s iPhone” he was an iPhone convert.

I think both Danny and Jason are right in some ways. Like Danny, it only took me a couple hours of playing with my wife’s iPhone before I knew that I had to have one. In a post that I wrote in 2007 but never published, I said “I think the iPhone is going to be a monster hit.” And it was. But here’s the thing: I was comparing the iPhone to my previous phone, which was an LG enV. That was like comparing a Ferrari to a old station wagon.

If you’re coming from a feature phone (or almost any type of phone other than an iPhone 3GS), you’ll probably love Android right away. But if you’re already an iPhone power user? Well, you’ve learned how things work on an iPhone. Maybe you have your music in iTunes, and you’ve already built up a list of favorite apps. That makes switching to a different make of phone much harder. Jason Kincaid describes it well: “Imagine if you took a longtime Windows user and sat them in front of a Mac for a couple days.” Things seem weird and different in arbitrary ways, like the power button is on the other side of the phone. But those things fade away after a few days of using Android, and you’re left with a powerful platform that feels like it’s under your control.

Do I still miss a few things on the iPhone? Absolutely. For example, the iPhone makes it easy to take a snapshot of the screen — just press the power and home button at the same time. The iPhone fits 20 apps on the home screen instead of 16 on the Nexus One. I use a password for my phone, and the iPhone has a setting that says “If you’ve used the phone in the last N hours, don’t lock the phone,” while the Nexus One needs me to unlock it each time I wake it up. I prefer the default ringtones on the iPhone. I preferred the iPhone’s finance app for the news sources it showed.

But the Nexus One outshines the iPhone in other ways. Voice recognition built into every text box. Google Voice. And judging from the jitter in Google Sky Map vs. the iPhone Yelp Monacle, I think the sensors in the Nexus One are a little more robust. Once you use the high-resolution screen on the Nexus One, it’s hard to go back to the iPhone (and the screen on the Droid is very nice too). And I love kicking off a podcast in Listen and then multitasking in a web browser.

The iPhone is praised (rightly so) for its fit-and-finish. But glitches happen on the iPhone too. I went back to check on something a few weeks ago and the iPhone browser kept dying and kicking me back out to the home screen. Overall, I would still rate the iPhone higher on fit and finish, and the iPhone is simpler for a non-tech-savvy person to understand. But polish and simplicity aren’t the most important things to me as a phone user. I want maximum functionality, and the velocity of Android in that area has been staggering. Going from the G1 to the Nexus One in about a year is amazing. I can’t wait to see what new things show up in Android.

Ultimately though, what matters the most to me is control. I have a simple rule of thumb, which is that I don’t put data somewhere that I can’t get it back. That’s the reason that I didn’t buy songs in iTunes, purchase ebooks for the Amazon Kindle, or really log into Facebook at all. It’s also the reason that I recently switched my computer from Microsoft Windows to Ubuntu Linux. With Android, I feel like I have more control. It’s pretty easy to write your own programs for free. My contacts and calendar and email are sync’ed with Google, which lets me easily export that data. I can put widgets or folders or whatever I want on my phone’s home screen. And yes, I could install an app to wobble pictures if I wanted to. Why? Because phones are increasingly mini-computers with a phone attached, and I should be allowed to run the programs I want on my own computer.

I could ramble on about the iPhone compared the Nexus One (both really are great phones in different ways), but I’ll wrap up this post. But my 30 days with no iPhone is going so well that last week I started a new 30 day challenge. My new 30 day challenge is reducing my sugar consumption. I won’t be able to get to 0% sugar (even A1 steak sauce has sugar as an ingredient?!?), but I’m trying to stop eating sugar, candy, Splenda, and anything with sugar as a primary ingredient, even (sob) yogurt. You have to understand, I love yogurt. Wish me luck: only 27 more days to go. Sigh.

Scribe SEO Introductory Offer Extended

February 22, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

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Just a quick note to let you know we’ve extended the Scribe introductory offer – where you get the Advanced Plan for the Starter price – until this coming Friday, February 26. So you still have time to take Scribe on a free test drive and take advantage of a great deal.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out Introducing Scribe: SEO Copywriting Made Simple.

If you’d like to know why we’re extending the offer, keep reading.

So, we had an unexpected hiccup last week. While we did extensive beta testing, a problem with a third-party data provider led to end-of-day outages after we added in a whole bunch of enthusiastic Scribers to the mix.

The good news is that we corrected that issue last week, and we’re actually happier with the revised solution than we were with the original (even if the original had worked like it was supposed to).

Still, people who were test driving Scribe had a bit of a bumpy ride. So, in addition to fixing the issue and offering our sincere apologies, we decided to extend the introductory offer an extra week to February 26, so people didn’t feel pressured into making a decision simply to avoid missing a great deal.

That also means others still have time to take advantage of that great deal. Check out Scribe for yourself.

That’s it for now. Remember, if you have any issue whether with a free account or a paid subscription, make sure to login to your myScribe account and submit a support ticket.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and wants you to know that Thesis + Scribe = SEO Made Simple. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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How Smart Freelance Writers Handle Their #1 Hassle

February 22, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of thumb pointing down

The life of a freelance writer is pretty sweet.

It’s interesting, challenging work. You meet great people. You have a lot of freedom to organize your work life the way you want it. The pay can be excellent, and you get to make a living doing something you love.

But there are aspects of the profession that aren’t much fun.

As a freelance copywriter, you need to get professional about how you deal with the parts of freelancing that aren’t unicorns and rainbows. Today, I’m going to talk about how to handle one of the more irritating hassles in the life of a writer: Requests for rewrites.

Rewrites are inevitable in any writer’s life. No matter how brilliant you are, no matter how strongly you wield your pen, eventually someone somewhere is going to absolutely hate that first draft you sent in.

And they’re going to ask that you rewrite it.

Rewrites are not revisions

First, let me clarify one distinction.

A rewrite is not the same thing as revising what you wrote or tweaking the copy to be just right. Most freelance writers offer a certain number of revisions per project for free — usually one or two at most. And those rounds are based on an assumption: the client likes the first draft, but wants to tweak a few things.

Even if your client loves that first draft sideways, they’ll wind up asking for a few minor changes:

I actually prefer to be called a coach, not a consultant. Could you fix that?

I’m not sure I like the way you describe me in the About page. Could you take out these adjectives and put in other ones?

I love what you’re saying, but I think this technical point needs to be clearer. Here’s how it really works — could you change that paragraph?

You’ll notice something about most of those tweaks. They’re things you couldn’t possibly have known. No matter how thorough your initial information-gathering phase might have been, some little details slip through the cracks.

Often they’re details that the client never realized were important — until he saw them in his copy.

Revisions are easy fixes. You can usually knock them out and send back a perfect final version before you finish your first cup of coffee.

Rewrites are a whole ‘nother animal

A major rewrite can really mess with your confidence. They can be terrifying, because you have absolutely nothing to go on. When the client asks for a rewrite, it’s usually because he wants you to scrap everything you’ve written and start over.

The problem with that is that you can’t actually scrap everything. For one thing, he’s still presumably in the same line of work. If he was a corporate lawyer before, he’s still a corporate lawyer. If she was a large-business marketing consultant, she’s still a marketing consultant.

The way they wanted to be presented probably hasn’t really changed either. They still want their customers to think of them as a professional with years of experience who knows the ins and outs of the trade. Or they still want to be presented as a caring, nurturing type who can make all the woes of life go away.

The facts have not altered.

It’s the way you present those facts that needs to go.

You’re going to need to start from scratch. And that’s hard for a few reasons:

One: You already thought you had a good grasp of what the client wanted, or you wouldn’t have written the copy that way. Clearing your mind and starting over with a whole new perception is going to be tough.

Two: You’re probably feeling hurt or stung. Rejection sucks, and being told your writing wasn’t even close to right is painful. You’re not exactly in the mood to try to please this client again.

So how do you deal with someone who wants a complete rewrite?

I usually send a hit man. Solves the problem and it’s no work for me.

Oh, no, wait, that’s in my dreams.

Actually, usually the best thing to do is take a break. Take deep breaths. Try to remember that the client is just as disappointed as you are and that they deserve the copy they were hoping for.

Try to remember it isn’t personal. It’s useful to look at it as a misunderstanding. The client thought they communicated what they wanted. You thought you understood it.

You were both wrong.

So, go back to the computer and write a nice, calm, apologetic email. Ask them to clarify a couple of points for you so you can write a draft that is more to their liking. Use the feedback they gave you — even if it’s couched in angry terms — to get the questions.

You said this copy ‘doesn’t sound like a lawyer.’ Could you explain what gave you that impression so I can avoid that mistake in your next draft?

Be calm. Be apologetic. After all, you’re half to blame for the miscommunication. If you’re understanding and sympathetic, that client isn’t going to be upset at you for long. In fact, he’ll get over it as soon as you give him the rewrite.

The rewrite that’s so kick-ass the client can’t believe it, because you made doubly sure this time that you understood just what he was going for.

What if you can’t please him no matter what you do?

Politely refer him to another writer that you think might suit him better.

At a certain point, this person isn’t going to be happy even if you hand him the Gettysburg Address of website copy. He might have better luck elsewhere, and sending him to a good alternative may be the best thing you can do for him.

And for you.

About the Author: For more freelance writing advice that helps you succeed, check out James Chartrand’s blog at Men with Pens. It’s chock full of advice to help you be one of those no-rewrite-required writers.

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Lessons 6-10 from One of the World?s Highest-Paid Copywriters

February 19, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of U.S. cash

This is part two of a three-part series on how to profitably translate advice from old-school marketing guru Dan Kennedy to a new online environment.

Last week we looked at the first 5 steps in Dan Kennedy’s Ultimate Marketing Plan, and how you can translate those old-school ideas into an online marketing strategy.

This week we’ve got five more for you.

6. Get Free Advertising

In the book, Kennedy focuses on methods for getting free advertising through traditional media. However, times have changed. These days, it’s social media that can best butter your bread.

If you’re comfortable navigating online, you have a clear advantage here. Other than the expense of time, the majority of social media tools are entirely free. There have never been more easy to implement and widely available instruments to help you smartly promote your business.

If you’re a regular reader of Copyblogger, you already know this goes hand-in-hand with the content marketing gospel flowing from the pulpit, day in and day out.

If you deliver value on a consistent basis, eventually others will help you with the hard work of promotion. They’ll spread your influence and draw prospects to your business like metal to a magnet.

Whether you do this by being flamboyant, an expert, an observer, or otherwise, it’s never been simpler to reach a worldwide audience without having to have a war chest budget.

7. Become Hot!

Trends are great; fads are not.

The last thing you want is to be here today and gone tomorrow. Getting people engaged so they are not only talking about whom you are but also what you’re doing is a tremendous way to increase business.

Once in your sphere, you can groom your one-time prospects into evergreen customers.

Kennedy cites seven ways to get people talking:

  • Gain prestigious recognition. Get name checked by someone in the know. Perhaps Chris Brogan or Darren Rowse mentions you, thus instantly putting you on the radar of a wider audience. Guest posting is a great shortcut to accomplish the same thing.
  • Offer new products. Offer something new or put a unique spin on something old. Offer something decidedly different or measurably better than your competitors, and people will be talking.
  • Offer new services. Find a unique way to service your clientele, or create an unbeatable guarantee and people will naturally want to share it with their friends.
  • Tie into trends and news events. Always have an open ear for what people are discussing these days. This doesn’t mean you need to jump on a Tiger Woods Infidelity Special!, but you can find ways to make the headlines relevant to your business.
  • Tie your business to seasons and holidays. From Groundhog Day to Christmas, there’s always a jubilee to jump on. Be creative. Why wait for a “Harvest Sale,” when you could promote your business during “Talk Like a Pirate Day?” The possibilities here are endless.
  • Tie your business to movies and entertainment events. We love to talk about the latest movies we’ve seen or television we’ve watched. Even if we pretend not to, most of us glance at the tabloids while paying for our groceries. Make your business a part of the water cooler conversation.
  • Piggyback off the fads of others. Fads are here today and gone tomorrow. Though you wouldn’t want to build your business on a passing whim, it can be great to ride the waves while they’re good.

8. Poor Boy Marketing

It’s easy to fritter mountains of money on poorly placed advertising, but moving your enterprise online has made it far easier to avoid this tragic mistake.

See #6 – Get Free Advertising. Get online and get going. Don’t spend tons of money on Adwords or banner ads when you’re getting started. Instead, spend tons of time making connections and getting your message heard.

9. Maximizing total customer value

The life of a customer over time is, by far, one of the biggest assets your business can have. The cost to gain a new customer is substantially higher than that to keep an old one happy. Yet a common mistake many business owners make is giving too much attention to getting new clients, rather than focusing on their existing loyal customers.

Losing some customers is unavoidable, but there are many things you can do to avoid the fallout.

According to Kennedy, businesses lose customers because:

  • 1% die. Until we figure out how to cyborg ourselves, there’s not much we can do about this one.
  • 3% move. Offline, this is due to geography; online, it’s due to shifting interests. You must do all you can to hold the attention of your audience. Some loss is acceptable over time, but stay remarkable and you will minimize the losses.
  • 5% switch to something else due to a friend’s recommendation. There is no more valuable referral than that from a friend. Yet, if your customer is truly happy with your product or services, the odds of them leaving are slim.
  • 9% switch to a better product or service. The best way to fight this is to make sure your products, services, and offers are simply the best around.
  • 14% leave for general dissatisfaction. Again, it’s a good idea to trim the tribe, as you’re never going to please everyone. However, if a customer leaves, make sure you did everything within reason to keep them.

All together, those five reasons only add up to 32%. A staggering 68% of customer loss is due to indifference.

Appreciate your customers, give them value at every opportunity, and allow the relationship to grow over time.

10. Fueling Word-of-Mouth

Online, we call this going viral. The best referrals come from other happy customers. Your job as a business owner is to fuel that praise.

Kennedy suggests using the “EAR” formula:

  • E- Earn your referrals. Do what you do so well that others can’t resist talking about you. Publish content that makes others eager to share.
  • A- Ask. It might make you uncomfortable, but you shouldn’t be shy about asking for referrals if you are doing a job that warrants praise. Give your customers the tools they need, clearly communicate your desires, and watch your business grow.
  • R- Recognize and Reward. Acknowledge your customers when they give you the gift of a referral and never fail to reward them for their efforts. Reciprocity goes a long way, both online and off.

That’s it for this week. The final four elements of Kennedy’s Ultimate Marketing Plan applied online will be in next week’s final installment of the series.

About the Author: Sean Platt writes direct response copy, as well as helping authors write, publish and promote their book. Follow him on Twitter.

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The Sex and the City Guide to Blogging

February 18, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

Sex and the City

I’ve always been of the opinion that if Carrie Bradshaw had popped onto our television screens in 2010 instead of 1998, she would have been a blogger. But alas, she didn’t, so she wrote a (gasp!) print column for the fictional New York Star newspaper.

Yes, before there were blogs, there were newspaper columns – where readers couldn’t talk back or share good content. ‘Carrie the blogger’ would have been huge.

Though the words of Carrie and her cohorts have not been etched in permalink stone, their messages linger on. And despite the fact that Carrie was allergic to the internet and only used her Apple Powerbook for word processing her articles, the lessons, ideas and, more pointedly, the actual quotes that came barreling out of Sex and the City still speak directly to us Copybloggers.

“You sleep with someone, all of a sudden you start rationalizing all of the red flags away.”

Now, hopefully, you aren’t sleeping with your clients, readers or other bloggers (on a regular basis). Typically, the copybloggers’ dangling carrot (no pun intended, I swear) isn’t sex, it’s money. The woo of money or product can, sometimes, have a debilitating affect on a blogger and their writing. Recently, an intern at TechCrunch got into heaps of trouble for exchanging a blog post for a laptop – for example.

But what about these red flags? For Carrie and the girls, the sex pulled the proverbial wool over their eyes, for bloggers, it’s the cash. These red flags could be anything from illicit blogging behavior, a client that is extremely difficult, a blog that practices black hat SEO, selling a product that might do harm or agreeing to write really bad copy. Will we rationalize these red flags away for income? Heck, will we even rationalize the rationalizing for income?

“The only thing you need to get a date…is another date.”

No truer words have been spoken. How do you get traffic to your blog? With traffic. How do you get guest posting opportunities? By guest posting. How do you get more followers on Twitter? By having a lot of followers on Twitter. How do you get a lot of inbound links to your blog? By having quality inbound links that tell more and more people about your blog.

The concept is based on two facts. One: people are followers – not everyone – but the majority of folks. They hear that is a great blog so they stop by and see that there are 100K+ subscribers and so they subscribe, because if everyone else thinks this blog is great, well then, it must be.

And two: success makes us pretty. When you feel good, when things are going well, it shows. Think about being in love – you look handsome, you feel thin, good hair days abound, you have that ‘glow’. When things are going well at the old blog, it’s contagious. Your writing flows, the comments are long and thoughtful, your sidebar fills up with stylish ads, quality inbound links stream in. And all of this makes people step up their level of engagement with you. They want to be around your success, they’re attracted to it and hoping your hotness will rub right off onto them. Like a moth to a flame, and your flame is on fire.

“Coulda, woulda, shoulda…”

Have you noticed that the blogosphere moves fast? Someone recently remarked to me that, ‘Yes, everything has already been created – but not by us.” It is the plight and rabid complaint of the blogger to say that everything has already been written about. To me, that’s the equivalent of saying that all of the letters in the alphabet have already been used, so there is nothing left to write. Are you kidding me?

You are unique. Sure, a zillion people are writing about SEO or hats or astrology. But there is only one you – with your experiences and thoughts and context – writing about it. So don’t live to see your ideas under someone else’s byline. Don’t say, coulda, woulda, shoulda. Seize the moment of inspiration. Write it down. Publish it. Share it with your community. Blogging affords us each ‘our moment’ of opportnity 24/7/365. Take it.

“Everyone thought Batman could beat the Green Hornet, but the Green Hornet won because he had Kato, the wonder dog.”

Blogs are the ultimate platform for the underdog, the every person, the ‘nobody’. You don’t have to be batman to win – even the Green Hornet has a fighting chance. Yes, we do have our blogebrities, but new ones are ‘making it’ everyday. Remember two years ago hardly anyone had heard of Twitter. Blogs have made it possible for a broke, depressed woman to cook and share a la Julie Child and get a book deal and a movie option. And a couple of dudes made an online college yearbook that, within a few years, has grown to hold the pictures and information for a gazillion users. While we all can’t reach superstardom, many of us leverage our blogs for decent product sales, service business platforms and advertising traffic.

And don’t forget the Green Hornet’s secret weapon. Yep, Kato – the sidekick, the friend…ah, maybe even the JVP? Blogging is simply not a solo pursuit. We need readers, we need community, we need mentors. If we’re really lucky, we have a partner or a small crew of people that support us, send readers to us, have our backs and generally serves as our ambassadors in the world. We do the same for them. I don’t know about you, but if I was going up against Batman, I’d want Kato (or the whole dang pound) on my side.

“The flowers were supposed to say ‘I’m sorry, I love you’ not ‘You’re dead, let’s disco!’”

When Miranda’s mom dies, Charlotte arranges to have flowers sent for the casket. Obviously, it didn’t go well. There are two issues at play here. The first is about being appropriate. Know your audience and community, know the blog that you’re writing for, know the product or service or person that you’re selling. If you don’t take the time to listen and get your context, you’re liable to send a wildly ill-suited message – the equivalent of showing up at the school dance in a tux when everyone else is wearing jeans.

The second issue is that Charlotte gave specific directions to the florist on what sort of flower arrangement she was looking for, she trusted they would listen and get it right…and they failed. As bloggers, we have to trust writers that we hire to create copy for us, guest bloggers whose content we rely on to feed our pipeline and other bloggers who promote us. These people bring their own personalities and agendas. Sometimes their arrangement is a match, sometimes it’s a disaster. When you depend on others, calculate the risk.

“Monogamy is fabulous. It gives you a deep and profound connection with another human being, and you don’t have to shave your legs as much.”

Monogamy is like the ultimate in stickiness. It happens when you find someone who is so irresistible that you want to be with them and only them all the time. We all want a blog that sticks. One that people read religiously every day, one that they love so much they tell all of their friends on Twitter and Facebook and Stumble and Digg about us. And when our content and design and value is as sticky as can be, what we really have is a deep and profound connection with our readers. We have trust, we have two-way communication – and hopefully resulting sales.

The end of this quote deserves a closer look. If you stop shaving your blog’s legs – if you let the content get stale, get lazy with your tags or compromise the UI, you’ll likely weaken these relationship bonds. Your value will go down in your readers’ eyes. Sure, no one will bat an eye if you forget to shave a few times, or even if you grow a little stubble…but, if I were you, I wouldn’t let the hair get so long you can braid it.

And those, are words to live and blog by…

Want more Sex and the City? Me too, always. Check out Jeff Sexton’s Copyblogger take on the four temperaments, the SATC ladies and what they tell us about headlines and titles. Good stuff!

About the Author: Lover of butter, wordplayer, marketing writer, ghostwriter, Julie Roads is the owner/founder of Writing Roads. Follow her on Twitter @writingroads.

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