Everything You Need to Know about Creating Calls to Action that Work

Are you letting your visitors wander around your website without any guidance? Do they have to decide for themselves what page to click on next? Do you have “dead-ends” that are sending valuable visitors away?

If you’re not using calls to action effectively, the answer is probably yes.

“Call to Action” (also referred to as CTA) is the marketing term for something so incredibly simple and equally effective: just asking someone to do something.

In fact, it seems so simple that a lot of people skip it altogether. But the next logical step to take while browsing through your website is not nearly as obvious to your visitors as it is to you.

If you skip out on calls to action, the majority of your website visitors may never take the steps you most want them to (like subscribing to your email list or sharing your content with friends).

So calls to action are incredibly useful and can up the effectiveness of your website right away. But it gets even better. Putting calls to action in place on your website is easy. That’s right: nothing techy or complicated or expensive. All you need is a few basic principles to guide your efforts and, viola, you’re ready to go.

Call to Action Rule #1: Value

The very first rule of effective calls to action happens to be the very first rule of getting anyone to do anything online: show the value in doing it.the very first rule of getting anyone to do anything online: show the value in doing it.CLICK TO TWEETPowered By CoSchedule

What will your visitor get out of following your call to action? On Copyblogger’s homepage, they tell people exactly what sort of value they’ll get from registering for their content library with three compelling bullet points. Then they make it really clear that people can get all that value for free.

Don’t just ask your visitors to do something – tell them why they should do it. What’s in it for them?

Call to Action Rule #2: Urgency

Procrastination, in my unverified opinion, effects roughly 99.8% of people. It’s in our nature. It’s in your prospect’s nature. We put things off, we go back and forth, we delay action taking.

This is a big problem for you (and me), because most visitors to your website won’t hang out for very long, so you need people to take action on your requests right away.

Urgency can give people the nudge they need to stop procrastinating and take immediate action. One great way to add urgency to a CTA is with a deadline.

For example, calls to action to sign up for a webinar or a live event, or to register for a limited time offer are great opportunities to cash in on the benefits of a deadline.

But not all calls to action have a deadline. You can still imply urgency for evergreen actions with the right language. In this example, the word “now” adds immediacy:

And here, the phrase “reserve my spot” encourages visitors to RSVP pronto:

Call to Action Rule #3: Action

Calls to action are obviously there to prompt action (the name totally gives it away, right?). But that isn’t always obvious to our visitors unless we use actionable language in our copy.

Get people moving by using enticing action verbs or specific task-related prompts. For example, you could replace the over-used and totally boring ‘click here’ call to action with something more specific or enticing like ‘download your free guide’ or ‘give me my eBook’.

Check out QuickSprout’s ultra-specific call to action in this sidebar opt-in:

Call to Action Rule #4: Simplicity

Loading your calls to action down with all sorts of value and actionability and urgency is important – but it won’t do you a lot of good if your visitors can’t spot it, process it, and make a decision on it within a few seconds.

Everyone’s in a hurry – so complicated websites and, naturally, complicated calls to action tend to get ignored. Your CTA absolutely must be simple to understand and act on.

Boil your copy down to the essential parts – how can you convey your message in fewer words? Simpler words? This isn’t about being poetic, it’s about getting your point across as quickly and painlessly as possible.

On ClearSimpleMarketing.com, they use a check list and some snappy copy to convey their message quickly and easily:

Call to Action Rule #5: Attention

Your call to action is probably the most important element on your page. It’s the end game – the thing you most want someone to do after viewing the particular content on that page.

So that importance should be obvious in a visual way to your visitors. You can make your call to action stand out by using attention-grabbing design elements: a bright button, a box, an arrow or other image.

At the end of blog posts, we use this colorful box to pull reader’s attention to our opt-in call to action:

Call to Action Rule #6: Consistency

Consistency helps create a seamless experience for your visitors. People (including, I’m sure, you and me) are weary of getting duped online – of some slick marketing trick getting them to sign up for something they don’t really want.

Little things can trigger our suspicion or confusion. For example, if a call to action looks a certain way and talks about certain things and then leads me to a page that looks totally different and uses completely different copy, I’m going to feel like I ended up in the wrong place or that something fishy is going on.

To make sure your visitors don’t experience this, consistency is vital. This has a lot to do with design: colors, fonts, and the general look and feel of your CTA elements should line up with the elements on the page your visitors end up on. It also has to do with the words you use. Headlines, bullet points, and body copy should sound familiar to what they read in your call to action. Take a look at this example from HubSpot. The call to action in the side bar of the blog looks like this:

When you click on the “Yes I am!” button, it takes you to this page:

Notice how the colors and fonts are the same? The call to action in the side bar asked about ‘marketing software’ and the very first thing you see on the landing page is a headline that also mentions ‘marketing software’. These consistencies help people immediately recognize that they are in the right place.

Now take action!

Use the guidelines above to create brilliant CTAs on your own website. There’s no excuse for letting visitors wander around aimlessly or drop off your website without a so much as a clear offer on what they could do instead. If you have any hot tips on creating calls to action that drive results, share them with us in the comments below!

6 Subject Line Hacks to Skyrocket Your Open Rates

Email marketing is a game of survival. It’s competitive, fast-paced, and unforgiving.

When your email lands in a subscriber’s inbox, it’s competing with dozens, hundreds, of other messages clamoring to be in the limited group of emails that get opened.

And make no mistake. Those other emails are there to win the game. And the smartest of the smart have developed a secret weapon that almost guarantees their spot at the top of the food chain: an irresistible subject line.

Alright, so maybe email marketing isn’t quite that dramatic, but let’s face it – none of the magical business growth or money-making can come from your email marketing unless your emails get opened. So let’s get to work learning the art of crafting email subjects lines that stand out.

#1 – Keep it short

Just like every other piece of content on the web, your email subject line is exposed to a severe amount of impatience. Your email subject line needs to get to the point, and it needs to do it right away. Keep it short and choose your words carefully. If a word of phrase isn’t a strong participant, throw it out. Only keep the most important words – the words that clearly define why your reader should open your message.

And, as if a short attention span wasn’t enough of a challenge, you also need to factor in the reality that almost half of your potential subscribers will be reading your email on a mobile device. Most mobile devices cut a subject line off at a set number of characters – generally, fewer characters than you will use. So, the shorter you can keep your subject line, the better chance it has of showing up in it’s entirety (or at least close to it) when viewed by the nearly 50% of your on-the-go email subscribers.

#2 – Use curiosity to draw readers in

Curiosity is a powerful tool for getting reluctant or busy people to click on and read your content. It’s true for things like blog posts and social media updates, and it’s true for email marketing.

Create a curiosity-dense subject line on something your readers care about, and you’ll make it nearly impossible for them to hit ‘delete’ before checking it out.

How do you write these irresistibly clickable subject lines? Simply make a statement or ask a question that leaves people dying to know the answer.

Examples:

Do you make this career-killing mistake during interviews?(I don’t know…do I? Maybe that’s why I didn’t ace that last interview…I better check this out).

Why I’m never going on vacation again (Huh? Everyone goes on vacation. What reason could this person have for stopping permanently?)

#3 – Be controversial

In this era of constant information consumption, we tend to  see the same things over and over and over again. When something new – something that goes against the grain or completely contradicts the theme we’ve grown accustomed to – it catches our attention.

How does your message stand out from the rest? Do you have a new piece of information? Are you doing things differently? Do you have a high-contrast opinion?

Featuring something controversial in your subject line is a great way to grab attention and up your email’s odds of getting opened.

#4 – Be vulnerable

If you’re aiming to build a long-term relationship with your email subscriber, sometimes it pays off to get a little personal. People LOVE getting the behind-the-curtain experience when it comes to people they admire or respect. And if they have subscribed to your email list, chances are they respect the knowledge or position you hold, or admire what you’ve accomplished and what you have to share.

But hold on. This one can get tricky. If you do it in the wrong way, you can totally turn your readers off. It’s important to remember that, even when you’re sharing something personal (as in, something that is innately about you), you still have to make it all about them.

A quick example. Let’s say you’re health coach. People come to you because they want to get healthy, loose weight, and live a better, happier, more active life. One day, you send out an email with the subject line “When I used to be addicted to junk food”. This email tells your story about how, years ago, you resisted the challenge to get healthy and loose weight because it was so hard to give up the junk food you turned to when tired, depressed, or bored. It was such a struggle.

This story is about you (well, not really, but go with it), but it is also ALL about your readers, because you know they are on your list to learn how to bust their own bad eating habits. Most of them can relate deeply to what you went through.

Personal stories work powerfully when they are deeply connect to something your readers care about and/or have experienced.

#5 – Create urgency

I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t fall into the procrastination trap at least once in a while (if you never procrastinate, please email me. I want to know your secret). Most people procrastinate regularly. This includes your email subscribers.

Creating urgency with your subject line gives people a good reason to open your email right away.

Is you message time-sensitive? Are you promoting something that will only be available for a limited time? Will the contents of the email simply be irrelevant after a short period? Use words that express time restrictions or urgency in your subject line.

Examples:

Today only…

For the next 24 hours…

Limited space available…

Last chance to…

#6 – Avoid (at all costs) the Bait & Switch

We’ve gone over several high-impact ways to get your subscriber’s attention and compel them to open your email. But there is one important caveat that applies to them all: never use a subject line tactic unless you can fully follow through on it in your email.

So if you are saying something controversial to get people to open your email, you better have something controversial to say in your email.

If you’re trying to peak curiosity by claiming that you’re never going on vacation ever again, you better actually have a reason for never going on vacation again. Simple, right?

If you use gimmicks to increase your open rates, you’ll lose the trust of your subscribers. If you can’t follow through on the promise you make in your subject line, then throw it out and come up with something new.

BONUS: You’re more than your subject line.

Your subject line is super important. It’s the first-impression maker. But it’s not the only factor.

The fact that your email is coming from you is important, also. Over time, as people are exposed to your content, they will form an opinion of you and your stuff. If you send really great emails consistently, people will associate worthwhile content with your name, and might open your emails based on that alone (even if your subject line was rather boring that day).

What is your favorite email subject line hack? Have you ever received a crazy good (or bad) email subject line that you still remember? Share it with us in the comments. And, as always, if you enjoyed this post remember to use the buttons below to share it with your friends.

3 New Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Blog Posts

More blog traffic

This is the part of the post where I’m supposed to reassure you’re that you’re not alone when it comes to desperately wishing more people would read and appreciate your fabulous blog posts.

A while it is true that you are in good company as a blog-traffic-crazed business owner, I’m going to skip over the commiserating portion of this post and get right to the good stuff.

Because that’s what you came for, right?

There are a LOT of of traffic generation hints and tricks out there and we’ve all heard the basics: share your posts on social media, ask your readers to share your posts, on social media, email your blog posts to your list, etc. But today we’re going to talk about a few new strategies that can have a huge impact on your overall blog exposure. These are things I’ve been implementing myself and have seen great results from, so I can personally vouch for their effectiveness. Ready? Let’s get started.

#1 – Use tweetable quotes

Twitter is a powerhouse for content sharing. It’s massively useful for driving traffic to your blog and website – if you can get your content shared on the platform. A Twitter share button accompanying each of your posts is a good start – but here’s something even more effective: embed a tweet-able snippet of your content directly in your post.

Embedding tweet-able snippets into your blog posts is a great way to snag more traffic. (Tweet this now! [go ahead – try it for research’s sake])

This tactic makes it fun and super easy for your readers to share some of the best nuggets of wisdom from your posts with their Twitter audience.

#2 – Mention social influencers

Quoting other people helps you back up your point and make your post more credible, but it can also help you drive a lot of traffic to your blog. Why struggle to get more people to notice your content when people with HUGE audiences are perfectly willing to share it for you?

Brian Dean of @Backlinko put it like this:

“Instead of sharing your content on social media (and hoping an influencer notices it), you put your content directly in front of the movers and shakers in your niche.”

So how do you put this to work for your own blog? First, you’ll need to do a little digging and find blog posts, tweets, or other social updates addressing the same (or similar topic) as your blog post. You’re looking to find stuff written by influencers, or people with large social audiences. Once you find a snippet that is authored by someone influential AND that backs up the point you’re trying to make with your blog post, simply paste it into your content. Of course, make sure to add obvious attribution (including a link to that influencer’s social profile or website).

The final step is letting that person know you loved their ideas so much, you featured them in your blog post. Send them a tweet or an email giving them a heads up, and include a link to your post. If they like what you wrote and think it will benefit their audience, they are likely to share it. Which equals a ton of fresh exposure for you.

#3 – Get on board with Google Authorship

Did you know you can get your Google+ profile linked directly to all the content you publish on the web? If you’ve noticed those little author photos next to some of the search results on Google, then you know what I’m talking about:

2014-04-03_1152

Glen Long from BoostBlogTraffic.com laid out the traffic-boosting benefits of claiming your Google Authorship like this:

1- You get higher click through rates due to the “rich snippets” Google displays next to your search result. Things like your photo, a link to your Google+ profile, and the amount of people in your Google+ circles helps you stand out.

2 – You can get more traffic to your other content because Google displays multiple links to your Google+ profile, and on your Google+ profile they can see your latest updates and links to your other recent blog posts.

3- You’ll have a shot a much better search rankings when, as speculated, Google starts using Authorship to influence search results.

If you want to learn absolutely everything you need to know about Google Authorship, you should check out the rest of Glen’s advice in his Complete Guide to Google Authorship.

Let’s hear your ideas

Do you have an effective and little-used method for getting blog posts circulating around the web and pulling traffic back to your site? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

If you found this post helpful, you should seriously consider grabbing your spot on our Insider Emails list. We share all sorts of helpful marketing advice in weekly, bite-sized nuggets. Plus, it’s free (a free way to improve your business? How can you say no?).

And as always, if you liked this post – be sure to share it on your favorite social network (handy buttons provided on your left).

Now You Can Have a Business-Building Blog Without Over Committing

start a business blog

You’d love to have a blog that pulled in new leads and website traffic everyday, wouldn’t you?

You’d love to have a blog that supercharged your social media presence. A blog that got attention from industry influencers. A blog that showcased your irresistible brand for all the right people to see.

But let’s be realistic, please. You just don’t have the time. You’re running a business. That means you already have a to-do list with items squeezed into the margins because you ran out of room and a schedule that keeps you occupied (read: hair-on-fire busy) from open til’ close.

Blogging just isn’t for you. It can’t be. It’s too big of a commitment.

I hope you picked up on my subtle sarcasm at the end – but there’s really no way to be sure of that over the internet. So let me clarify that if what’s written above sounds a lot like a conversation you’ve had with yourself: you’re wrong.

A business-building, client-snagging blog can be a part of your marketing plan, and it doesn’t have to mean tacking on hours of extra work to your daily schedule.

With the right tools and a savvy plan, you can fit blogging into your schedule without breaking (too much) of a sweat. Plus, with a great blogging plan in place, you could drop some of the less effective marketing activities you’ve already packed into your schedule (like chasing after stale leads or banging your head against the desk trying to figure out where your next client will come from).

Why you don’t need a ton of spare time to blog

It used to be that if you were going to blog, you had to publish fresh stuff every day or at least several times a week.

Some people have toned that down a bit and deemed it acceptable to update things once a week. In fact, the once-a-week model is very popular among business blogs and it’s the schedule I use here on my blog.

But here’s a dirty little secret: you do not have to publish a new post every day or every week to be successful.

To be honest, if you’re just starting out with blogging, you really shouldn’t be publishing content that often.

When you start a blog, you don’t have a lot of traction yet. You might have some friends who will read every post, and you might even have a healthy social media following that will come check things out. But generally speaking, new blogs don’t get much attention. So publishing new content week after week means you’re working your butt off and no one even knows it.

So I’m giving you permission (not that you actually needed it) to slowwww down. If you think you can commit to writing a new blog post twice – or even once – a month, that’s plenty. Take your time writing something really great, and then use the rest of your time to promote it so people actually get the chance to read what you’ve put out there.

You don’t have to stay at this slow pace forever. Two things will likely happen. 1) people will start to discover and share your blog, which means you’ll build an audience which merits more content, if you decide to give it to them and 2) you’ll get the hang of this blogging thing. It won’t feel so overwhelming. You’ll have had time to practice and find your rhythm. You will probably find that it won’t take you nearly as long to write a blog post anymore.

My secret weapon for taking the stress out of blogging

After you’ve relieved yourself of the pressure to publish content to your blog ALL THE TIME, you still need one more trick up your sleeve before you are fully prepared to take on blogging for business.

And that, my friend, is an editorial calendar.

I know, it doesn’t sound very exciting. In my mind, when I dropped the words “editorial calendar” a symphony played and people cheered in the background, because that’s how incredible I think this thing is. But to you…an editorial calendar probably just sounds…well, boring.

But get ready to change your mind. Because if you want to tackle blogging – or any content marketing activity: social media, guest posting, email marketing, etc. – an editorial calendar is going to make your life so much happier and so much simpler.

Your calendar will be your plan. It will take the guess work out of blogging. It will keep you on track so you don’t fall behind. It will remove all stress when you sit down to work one morning and think “crap, I was supposed to publish a blog post today. What in the world do I write about?”

So here’s what you need to do: dedicate a calendar to your blogging (and other content marketing activities, if you have them). You can use a paper calendar or a Google calendar (like me). Sit down and plan out when you are going to write each post for the next 6 months and what you are going to write about (we’ll talk about coming up with ideas in a minute). Write out a title or short description for each post in the date box that corresponds with when you plan to publish it.

If you are on a roll and want to plan past 6 months – go for it. If you’re thinking “yeah right, I’ll never even be able to make it to 6 months worth of post ideas,” calm down. It isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. Now that I’ve been using an editorial calendar for a while, it only takes me 20 minutes to plan out half a year’s worth of content.

How to fill you calendar with ideas – effortlessly

Ideas. There everywhere but somehow manage to elude us when we need them most: when we want to write a blog post.

Idea generation, just like blogging and editorial-calendar-planning, gets a lot easier with practice. To get you started, here’s a list of my favorite (and I like to think fail-proof) ways to come up with great topics to write about.

  • Read other blogs. I get the huge majority of my inspiration from reading other blogs, both within and outside of my topic. What questions did that blog post leave unanswered? What different opinion could you add to the topic? What spin could you put on it?
  • Hang out on Twitter. People are asking questions on Twitter all the time. Could you answer them with a blog post?
  • Cash in a trends. What things, people, or events are popular right now? Could you connect them with your topic and write a blog post about it?
  • FAQ’s. I get the same questions over and over again, and you probably get a lot of common questions to. Turn them into inspiration for blog posts.
  • Read books. This works a lot like tip #1.
  • Ask people. Sometimes, I just go right out and ask people “what would you love to read about on my blog?
  • Interview someone. When I really don’t know what to say, I let someone else say it for me. Plus, interviewing other smart people brings a new angle to your content.

Let’s get this show on the road

I hear the phrase “blogging isn’t for everyone” all the time. I’ve even given out that advice myself many times. But I’m beginning to reform my opinion. While there are some reasons why blogging wouldn’t be the right move for your business – such as not being able to publish quality content or any of the other blunders I outline here – I honestly believe that  every committed business owner can avoid making these mistakes.

Blogging has turned into the central mouthpiece for brands – it’s even important for social networking. It gives you a place to establish your voice, your mission, and your offering. If you’re building a business on the web, you need a place to establish who you are as a brand and a blog (attached to your branded website) is such a natural, effective place to do it.

Convinced? Here are you next action steps to get started with (or reboot) your blogging plan:

  1. If you don’t already have a blogging function on your website, get one set up ASAP. This is super easy if you’re using WordPress. If you’re not, contact your webmaster for details.
  2. Create your editorial calendar and fill it with scheduled posts for the next 3-6 months (remember, you can spread your posts out as much as once a week, twice a month, or even once a month if that is what makes sense for your schedule).
  3. Start writing! Get a jump on your first post – you’ll probably feel more confident if you’re not scrambling to write it at the last minute.

Why No One Pays Attention to Your Website

IMG_8551

Creating a business that stands out — a business that earns attention from your perfect group of prospects — is a big topic around here.

Attention is a non-negotiable necessity. We talked about developing your Big Idea, targeting the right people, using your genuine voice, and using your own personality to create a memorable brand in previous posts (if you missed them, do some catch-up before reading on).

But all of those things combined are worth almost nothing if you don’t communicate them to your audience.

And one of your most powerful tools for communication online is your website.

But the reality is, most business website say the same things:

We have over 15 years experience serving our community. Customer service is our top priority and our top-of-the-line products and cutting edge services…blah…blah…blah“.

When we’re exposed to the same message over and over again, it becomes mute.  We skip over it.  After all, what does “top-of-the-line products” or “cutting edge service” really mean? How does that apply to our life and our situation and our needs?

As consumers, we want to get right to the point.  We want to know how a product or service is going to benefit us.  Most of us probably don’t care about top-of-the-line — we care about results.

So why do websites continue to push these repetitive, empty messages?

Probably because everyone else is doing it.  Maybe because it’s the “standard” in business lingo.

But it’s also the best way to get completely ignored online.

So how do you combat same-old copy syndrome on your own website? Here are 3 reasons why no one pays attention to your website, and how to reverse the damage, pronto.

#1 – It’s full of buzzwords and jargon

You’re very familiar with your business and your industry. So trendy terms and common business jargon probably don’t faze you — after all, you know what it means.  But your website visitors probably don’t.  Most buzzwords don’t pact a meaningful punch.  They just add fluff. And they make your message sound boring and irrelevant.

Solution: replace buzzwords and jargon with common language.  Use words and phrases that get right to the point and are familiar to your visitors. Most of the time, the simplest way to say something is the most effective way to say something.

#2 –  You boast the same qualities as your competitors

Let’s just get this out in the open from the start: great customer service, quality products, and “innovative” services are not points of differentiation.  Every consumer expects these things from businesses as a base line. If you’re trying to convince a prospect to buy something from you based on the fact that they won’t have to waste hours on the line with your customer support representatives or return your product because of its inferior quality, you’re not going to stand out.  These things are not selling points any longer, they’re business requirements.

Solution: tell people what you do differently or better than other businesses in your market. Go beyond quality — tell people how your product or service will improve their lives.

#3 – You want to sound like an impressive corporation

In an attempt to sound ultra-professional or larger than they actually are, some businesses rely on “corporate” sounding copy. They write in the third person, avoid using the words “I” or “you”, and wouldn’t dream of starting a sentence with “and” or ending it with a preposition. But this strategy can backfire big time.

It turns out that most people enjoy doing business with brands that seem…well, human.  Those stiff, buttoned-up companies don’t sound very friendly.  It’s the businesses that break a few traditional rules and show off their personality that grab people’s attention.

Solution: don’t be afraid to represent your true size and personality.  The web is all about having conversations, and your business website is no exception.  Write your copy with your brand in mind: do you want to be perceived as a faceless company, or are you a witty, spunky entrepreneur? An imaginative, energetic team? Does your brand have a sense of humor, a passion for a cause, a casual side?

We’ve all been there. It’s easy to follow the crowd and end up with an unimaginative website. If you’re ready to stop being ignored, these three solutions can turn your website into a true and captivating representation of your brand – one that attracts and keeps the attention of those elusive but oh-so-profitable perfect customers.

10 Rules for Smart Business Blogging

10 Rules For Smar Business Blogging

There are some sets of rules that everyone really should follow. Like turning your cell phone ringer off in a movie theater or bringing a gift to a wedding reception.  This isn’t one of those sets of rules.  In fact, I’m going to give you this bonus rule right out of the gate:

Blogging isn’t a science.  There are plenty of things proven to work and bring blogging success to some, but I find that most successful bloggers have something in common: they try things out, test them for success, and follow what works best for them.

Possibly one of the worst things you can do for your blog is follow every “rule” and “guide” to a T.  You’ll end up with something unoriginal and, because of that, mostly a complete fail.  Don’t be afraid to take your own path and go with your gut every now and then.  The best blogs are usually doing something different.

Then why am I writing a post about 10 rules for smart business blogging? Because, while you need to find what works best for you, it helps to know the rules before you break them.

If you started blogging for your business without doing any research or learning any guidelines, it would be hard to figure out where to start or what to change.

So here is my list of 10 Rules for Smart Business Blogging that can help you figure out what to do, and what to do differently, on your own blog.


Rule #1 – Write for your prospects, not your peers

This can get a little tricky if you’re not looking out for it.  A lot of business owners eagerly start out on their blogging project thinking “I’ll just write what I know about!” This is a good idea, but it can also be totally detrimental to your blog if not used in the right context.

Yes, you should probably be writing about what you know.  But are you positioning it for your prospects, or are you writing for your peers?

Here’s an example to help illustrate what I mean:

Sally is lawyer, and she’s always been known for her strategic and successful argumentative skills in the court room.  She wants to write a blog post about this skill.  She comes up with two ideas:

Post #1: 8 Ways to Use the Technique of Argument to Succeed in the Court Room

Post #2: How to Find & Hire a Lawyer Who Knows How To Win Your Case

Alright, so this is pretty basic (and by the way, I know nothing about lawyering) but can you tell which article would be enjoyed by Sally’s prospects, and which one would only interest other lawyers?

The first one, of course, would interest Sally’s peers.  If you were going to hire a lawyer, would you really care about brushing up on your own lawyering skills? Probably not.

If I was looking for a lawyer, the second article would tell me exactly how to find one with all the skills I need to have a successful case.

So when you’re planning your content, always look at it from the perspective of your readers.  Ask: is this something they really want to learn about?  If your peers are more likely to value it than your prospects, spin the article in a new direction.


Rule #2 – Have a schedule for publishing

Here’s the good news: you don’t need to publish a blog post every hour…every day, or even every week to be successful.

I’m not going to get into the details about how often you need to publish content on your blog (if you want a cool take on blogging frequency, read this article).  Because, honestly, if you are publishing truly knock-out stuff, and being consistent with how often you publish, you’re probably going to do fine.  I wouldn’t recommend only publishing four times a year or anything like that (I think once a week really is the sweet-spot for most people blogging for business purposes), but finding your own groove is totally acceptable.

Consistency, however, in pretty much non-negotiable.

There are a few notable bloggers who pop up on the internet at a completely random pace, and do remarkably well for themselves, but this strategy is a train-wreck for most of us.

Here’s why consistency is important:

  • Your readers will be able to anticipate your next great work of literature
  • If there are inconsistent gaps in your blog posts, people may assume you’ve stopped blogging and leave
  • Returning to a blog expecting to find something new and exciting, and instead being greeted by the same post you read last time is a major disappointment

And, most importantly (in my opinion):

  • If you don’t commit to a blogging schedule, you’re much more likely to not publish anything at all.

Here’s some advice on how to stay consistent with your blogging efforts.

Rule #3 – Frequent other blogs

Here’s my number one strategy for becoming a great blogger: learn by example (or, read great blogs).

Taking in great content can help you produce great content.  Examining blogs that are really popular can show you what goes over well with people. Learning from the success of others can boost your own success.

There’s is just no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to blogging (or…most things for that matter). One of the best exercises for new bloggers is hanging out at the blogs that are doing well. Take note of things like:

  • The type of content they are publishing
  • The way they write headlines
  • The topics that get the most attention
  • The design elements they use
  • How they encourage interaction
  • How they use the blog to build their business (whatever it may be)
  • The questions their readers are asking, and the praise they are awarding
  • Anything that you notice isn’t working well, and how you might do it better

Warning: this can backfire.  I think learning from other bloggers is a great idea, but some people take it too far.  No one likes a copy cat, and if your blog turns out like a awkward teenager trying to look cool by imitating her favorite movie star, you’re going to lose out.  Be careful to learn things from others, but always implement them with your own style.


Rule #4 – Be a Guest on Other Blogs

Guest blogging has been one the most powerful ways I’ve found for reaching new audiences and gaining attention for my blog and business.  It’s one the best ways to give your business blog the foundation it needs to grow.

Here are some benefits you can get from guest blogging:

  • Exposure to entirely new & bigger audiences
  • Build relationships with other bloggers
  • Gain traffic
  • Grow your reputation as an authority in your topic
  • SEO power (from the quality, inbound links)

Read this great article for more tips on guest blogging.


Rule #5 – Learn (at least) the basics of copywriting

In my opinion, how you write is right up there in importance to what you write. Here’s why: if you write a blog post with a dozen absolutely amazing tips, but I need a double shot of espresso to stay awake just to read about them, then your blog isn’t going to do well.  There are tons of people writing great content.  If you can’t keep your readers attention they will go somewhere less boring to get their information.

It might be harsh, but it’s very true.

You need to get a handle on the basics of copywriting.  Learn how to write great headlines that people want to click.  Figure out how to craft sentences and paragraphs in a conversational, easy-to-read way.  Get to know the rules for writing compelling calls-to-action.  It will pay off, I promise.


Rule #6 – Always interact with your readers

Don’t ignore your readers. Ever.

I’ve been there, and I know that it’s easy to get caught up in writing posts and scheduling the editorial calendar and brainstorming ideas.  You can get so caught up in the details that you forget why you’re even blogging in the first place: for your readers.

There are several elements to a successful blog, and interacting with your audience is one of them.

Ask your readers questions.  Solicit their opinions.  Ask for feedback. And always, always reply to comments, questions, and complaints.


Rule #7 – Your blog is not an advertisement

Don’t think of your blog as a direct sales tool.  Blogs are a great way to increase business, but in a more long-term way.  How? By providing value and building trust with your prospects.  Content that provides useful stuff is going to accomplish that.  Not advertisements and pushy sales messages.

Some bloggers will promote a product or service on their blog from time to time.  Other bloggers never give a sales pitch via their blog.  That’s a personal choice — but regardless, useful content should far outweigh any sales content (by at least 90%, if you were to ask me).


Rule #8 – Use SEO carefully

Some search engine optimization is really useful, like researching keywords that your audience is actually using to search for information, or writing descriptive headlines.

But then there’s shady stuff, like keyword stuffing, duplicate content, and invisible text.

Check out this article on SEO worst practices to see what you should avoid, and then read this article on some of the more useful (and totally ethical) techniques.

Rule #9 – Design matters (a lot)

Great content is crucial, and I think the quality of what you publish is the most important thing to your blogging success.  But the truth is, design matters a lot, too.  Visitors will judge your blog based on how it looks.

You want to present a clean, professional design that matches your online branding.  Make sure your blog is free of clutter and distracting elements that don’t reinforce your primary goals.  Use quality images, easy-to-read fonts, and reader-friendly formatting.

If you’re using WordPress, you can achieve a great blog design by purchasing a premium theme.  Or, you could hire a designer to create your blog design for you.  A third option, if you’re up for the challenge, is handling everything yourself.  Here’s a great article on ThinkTraffic.com with tons of great tips for non-designers who want to create a great looking WordPress blog & website.


Rule #10 – Use your blog to build your list

It’s surprising how many bloggers work extremely hard to publish remarkable content and interact with their readers, but never encourage fans to get on their mailing list.

Email marketing is an indispensable online business tool, so I’m assuming you’ve already got the basics of list building in place.  Now’s the time to use your blog strategically to grow that list.

Some of my favorite ways to turn blog readers into email subscribers are:

  • Placing an opt-in box at the bottom of every blog post with a compelling reason to sign up
  • Placing an opt-in call to action right in my blog content.  If it relates to what I’m talking about, I’ll throw in a link to my email opt-in and tell readers what they’ll get out of it
  • Placing an opt-in box in the blog side bar
  • Using a great plugin called HelloBar to direct visitors to my email opt-in page

Share your experience: use the comments below to let us in on your rules for smart business blogging!

How to Take Your Website Copy from Dull to Delightful

Website Copy

Successful websites have something in common: they all put remarkable copy to work.

Your website is really only as good as it’s copy.  Things like design and functionality usually take the spotlight in website creation.  It kind of makes sense: the design is what your visitor will notice right away.  It will make the first impression.  But if you don’t have solid website content to back up a good design, you’re going to lose out.

Design might pull a visitor in, but the copy is what convinces them to stay.

Check out this website. And this one. Both have classy designs, but they both also feature compelling copy.

If your website is a little neglected in the copy area, don’t despair.  With a little tweaking, you can begin to shape up your content and impress your visitors.

Write good headlines

When most people think of headlines, they think of articles and blog posts.  But headlines are very important on your website, too.  A powerful headline will tell a visitor if they are in the right place and if it’s worth their time to stick around.

If you’re not using any headlines on your website, you might be sending visitors away without even realizing it.

Why? Because we are an impatient bunch.  When we land on a website, we want to know within a moment if that site has what we’re looking for. We want something to tell us “it’s a good thing you’re here, we have just what you need”.

If we have to wade through paragraphs of text just to find out if we’re in the right spot, we usually get discouraged — or worse — completely annoyed.

Headlines solve all of this by taking center stage, grabbing attention, and communicating the important information in quick, compelling fashion.

Check out this article for some great tips on writing headlines that work.

Use reader-friendly formatting

Great websites are easy to get through.  It shouldn’t be time consuming to find the information we need on a page, and if it is, that website loses major points.

How can you make your website copy reader-friendly?  It isn’t hard at all.  Simply write your copy so people can scan it instead of read it.

Don’t get me wrong: people will still read your website copy.  But they are only going to read the parts that interest them or are relevant to what they need at that moment.  There are parts of your website copy that some visitors don’t need or care to read.  Make it easy for them to skip over these parts and it’s much more likely that they will make it to the information they do want.  Score for you.

Here are popular & effective ways to create “scanable” copy:

  • White space: don’t clog up your pages with huge chunks of text.  That say to a visitor “There’s a lot to read here.  It’s going to take forever.  Maybe you should come back when you have at least an hour to spare”. Break your copy up into short pieces with lots of pretty white space in between.
  • Bold text: make the important points stand out by using bold text.  This way, if someone quickly scans your copy, they’ll still get the jest of it.
  • Bullet & number lists: people love lists.  Lists are the super-easy, organized way to sum up main points. They are easy to read and stand out from the rest of your copy, making them more likely to get read.

Create the right tone

Have you put much thought into how you sound online? Think about how you talk in real life: are you a fast-chatter, or slow and contemplative? Do you talk with lots of excitement (think: plenty of exclamation marks), or are you more the few-but-powerful-words type? Now, think of your communication style in terms of your website content: this is the tone of your copy.  Of course, the tone of your website copy doesn’t have to be the same as your in-person tone, but it helps to think of your copy in terms of talking.

You want to avoid, at all costs, the boring, completely personality-void tone.  The kind that sounds “corporate” or “neutral”.

People aren’t going to connect with a corporation, they are going to connect with a person.  So put some personality into your copy.

After you’ve pinned down the right tone, you’ll want to keep things consistent. Make sure that your tone carries through your entire website — and all your other online marketing outposts for that matter (like social media and email marketing).

What’s in it for them?

This is a biggy. A lot of websites miss the mark and incorrectly assume that when people come to their website, they want to read all about their business. Wrong.  People actually want to hear all about themselves.

Your visitor wants to read about how well you understand them, that you know where they’re at and what they need.  They want to know that you have their solution.

Your website copy has to be customer-focused, not you-focused.  Present your information in a way that conveys benefits and value for your visitor. Above all else, always tell your visitor exactly what’s in it for them.


Lay out the next step

After you’ve worked really hard to spruce up your website copy, made sure your visitor felt loved, and convinced everyone that you sell the best produce/service in this (and possibly every other) time zone, you definitely don’t want lose that momentum.

You need to give your visitors a call to action. That’s just a buzz word for “tell them what you want them to do next”. A lot of people leave this out because they don’t understand that they actually need to ask visitors to take the next step.  The next step is obvious, isn’t it? Not necessarily. And like we talked about earlier, your visitors are impatient and they might not have the time to figure out how to take the best advantage of what you offer.

So, you need to tell them.

It’s usually just a simple button, link, or sentence.  “Click here to request more info.” “Call 1-800-awesome for a free sample” “fill out this form for a quote” “sign up for our newsletter to get more great advice”.


Don’t waste valuable opportunities by leaving undesirable copy laying around on your website.  Use these tips to give your content an instant make-over.  If you implement any of the advice above to improve your copy, feel free to send me a link to your new-and-improved website.  I’d love to take a look.

photo credit: siraphat

6 Rules for Writing a Twitter Bio that Gets Followers

Twitter profile that gets followers

Did you put much thought into that little 160 character bio on your Twitter profile?

If you threw up a form response to the “what do you do?” question and called it good, don’t worry — we won’t hold it against you.  But it might be holding you back on Twitter.

If you’re looking for quality twitter followers, then you’re looking to connect with people that are genuinely interested in what you have to say and offer.  This type of person will read your Twitter bio when deciding whether or not to follow you. 

So don’t waste this prime opportunity to make great first impression!  Here are 6 simple-to-follow rules that will help you craft a winning twitter bio that attracts followers.

Rule #1 for a Better Twitter Bio

Don’t simply answer the question “what do you do?” with your bio.

For example, don’t say “I’m the Vice President at ABC Works, and facilitate employee management and sales.”

Yawn.  What does that mean to me, one of your potential twitter followers? Not much.

Instead of thinking about the question “what do I do?” when writing your twitter bio, think about the question “what can I offer the twitter community?” or “what am I passionate about learning and sharing with others?” or eve “How can I help?”

Rule #2 for a Better Twitter Bio

Use keywords.  Twitter is not just a social meeting place; it’s also a search tool.  People use twitter to search for all sorts of information, conversations, and characters. 

If you show up in someone’s search because of a relevant keyword in your bio, you’ll stand out.

Rule #3 for a Better Twitter Bio

Keep it brief.  Sure, you only get 160 characters, so your twitter bio isn’t going to run on for too long, but the power of being concise should never be overlooked.  Get to the point as quickly as possible.  Use strong, interesting words that can stand on their own without clutter.

Rule #4 for a Better Twitter Bio

Show your personality.  Your twitter bio isn’t a place for that stale, corporate tone.  Show some color – show your real personality.  Don’t be afraid to come off as fun, quirky, energetic, nerdy, outgoing, or whatever trait makes you, you. People want to connect with real people, not boring business personas.

Rule #5 for a Better Twitter Bio

Use proper grammar and spelling.  You want to come off as a unique personality, but in any case, a literate, well-spoken one.

Rule #6 for a Better Twitter Bio

Don’t use industry jargon and buzzwords.  They tend to sounds spammy, salesy, and inauthentic.

Now that you’ve read my rules for a great Twitter bio, I want fill you in one last secret: don’t be afraid to break the rules.  There are plenty of good tips and best practices to follow, and the ones outlined here are some I genuinely believe will help you craft a better presence on Twitter.

But you have to find what works for you.  Be genuine and don’t be afraid to try something new.

5 Ways Web Content can Help Build Your Business

Content is used everywhere on the web.  There’s no way around it – words are essential on websites, blogs, social media, web articles, and all other corners of the internet.  So it’s probably no surprise that web content is important if you’re going to put your business on the ‘net (which, of course, is a requirement).  But do you really know all the incredible ways great web content can help promote, build, and expand your business?  No worries, here are 5 outstanding ways web content will help you grow your business.

Good Web Content Builds Credibility

Having solid, professional, helpful web content – whether on your website, blog, social media profiles, or anywhere else – helps you build credibility in your market.  People respect a business that can continually produce content that is useful, well-written, and communicates effectively.  Let’s look at web articles as an example.  When you write and publish a well-researched, informative article on some facet of your industry, people begin to recognize you as an expert with valuable things to share.  You’re not just spewing promotions and advertisements – you’re contributing the web and providing value to your prospects. This makes your business credible, which is something you certainly want to be.

Good Web Content Creates Buzz

You want people to talk about your company, right? Having an outstanding product or service is a great way to get people talking, but web content can actually help create an even more effective buzz for your business.  People have to buy your product or service before they become obsessed with it and begin telling all their friends.  But giving away awesome content on the web can create buzz among your prospects – people who haven’t even entered your sales process yet.  Let’s say you create a free special report that talks about 5 insider secrets to your industry.  You publish it on your website, promote it on social media, and begin distributing it to your target market.  If you’ve delivered on your promise and written a great special report, people are going to be excited about it.  They’ll want to send a link to all their friends, tweet about it, and post it on Facebook.  You’ve just created buzz for your business that has the potential to reach hundreds, thousands, or even more of your penitential customers.  All with one piece of content!

Good Web Content Builds Traffic

We aren’t going to get into search engine optimization and the fine art of getting a great page rank on Google.  But I do want to point out that fresh web content does help bring more people to your website.  Fresh content gives visitors a good reason to come back.  It also gives them a good reason to tell their friends to log on.  Creating fresh web content for your website on a regular basis also gives you a continual excuse to share a link to your website on all your social media profiles, helping to increase traffic.  Search engines also like websites with updated, fresh content (for example, websites that have a built-in blog).  Creating and publishing content off your website (for example, guest blogging or e-newsletters) is another great way to increase traffic, because it gives you the opportunity to promote your website all over the internet and create inbound links.

Good Web Content Reaches New People

When you’re putting yourself (and your business) out there on the web via content (whether it’s a blog, web article, e-newsletter, or your website) you have the opportunity to reach people you wouldn’t have normally thought to connect with. A client might like a blog post you published, and share it with a friend who works in a different industry (or region, or whatever) then you normally work with.  You’ve just expanded your reach. Anyone could stumble upon the web content you plant on the web.  You’re putting yourself in front of a limitless audience.  (Side note: super popular content doesn’t just happen.  There are tons of strategies out there for promoting your content and getting the most out of it.  If you’re interested, check out this article.)

Good Web Content Establishes Loyalty

Your prospects and customers will grow to appreciate the content you produce.  By putting out great web content on a regular basis, you will begin to grow a following of loyal readers (who will hopefully turn into loyal customers).  You get the chance to build relationships.  People will count on your helpful advice, informative posts, and engaging website.  When you’ve built a loyal fan base, you’ve built a great business opportunity.  Who doesn’t want that?

Web content provides your business with so many great opportunities. Producing, publishing, and distributing web content is an easy, effective way to give our business a boost.

How have you used web content to build your business? Share your stories and questions below!