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Why It’s Not About You (Except When It Is)

by Pace Smith on September 19, 2013

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When new entrepreneurs learn about copywriting that works, many think, “Great! Now I can talk about myself in a more compelling way!”

No. Never talk about yourself.

Once you learn this rule, your audience may start paying attention — but if you follow it blindly, your copywriting will lack punch … and it’ll lack a high conversion rate, too.

That’s why you need to learn the following three exceptions to the “Never Talk About Yourself” rule …

Whenever you’re creating content, ask yourself, “How does this help my reader solve a particular problem?” If it doesn’t help (or inform, or entertain), it’s not of service to them. Delete it.

This can take some getting used to. You’re changing the way you interact with the world through content. These growing pains are natural; it means you’re shifting into an entrepreneur’s mindset.

If you find yourself feeling creatively stifled, write morning pages or write in a journal, but you don’t need to share that with your readers.

If you find yourself feeling socially stifled, email your friends or peers. Don’t rely on your audience to meet your social needs — that can get awkward and ugly real fast.

If you’re not sure what to write about, ask your readers what they’re struggling with. Find one small piece of that struggle that you can help with. And remember, providing empathy and helping someone feel seen totally counts as helping.

Exception #1: Connection

It’s okay to talk about yourself if you’re building rapport with your readers.

For example, I occasionally talk about playing Dance Dance Revolution so that you get a sense of who I am as a whole person, not just as an entrepreneur, not just as a floating, purple-haired head.

But I don’t (usually) write blog posts about Dance Dance Revolution because that wouldn’t solve a problem my readers care about.

The exception to the exception: Be sure that your connection doesn’t drown out your helpfulness. Mix in moderation.

Exception #2: Authority

It’s okay to talk about yourself if you’re helping your readers feel safe enough to lean into you.

For example, if you share, “I helped a client fix her hacked website today! Now everything is safe and back to normal,” that can help future clients feel safe enough to ask you for help with their websites, as long as it comes from your heart.

The exception to the exception: Share your expertise if it actually builds trust with your audience, but check yourself and make sure it’s not out of a desire to merely bolster your ego.

Exception #3: Personal stories

It’s okay to talk about yourself if you’re sharing a personal story. Here’s an example:

When I first started blogging, I was on LiveJournal. I talked about myself. “Journal” was in the name of the website, so of course I talked about myself! It was a great way to scrapbook my memories, process my emotions, and keep in touch with friends.

But I learned one horrible, horrible habit that took a lot of effort to unlearn when I started blogging as an entrepreneur: I learned to write about myself.

When I started writing on my first WordPress blog, I wrote about myself. I assumed everyone would be interested in me, in my thoughts, in my opinions.

If tumbleweeds could blow across the internet, you would have seen them blow across that blog in the early days.

It was only after I started writing to solve the problems that my readers actually cared about that I became a successful blogger — and a successful entrepreneur.

The exception to the exception: The above example is relevant to the problem I’m trying to help you solve: to become a more effective copywriter. If I had told a personal story of that one time the awning of our RV came loose on the interstate, it wouldn’t be relevant and it wouldn’t be helpful.

Let’s recap …

Never talk about yourself. Instead, focus on helping your reader solve a particular problem.

Here are the three exceptions to this rule:

  1. Connection
  2. Authority
  3. Personal stories

Do you have an “Exception #4″ to add to this list? Share it in the comments!

About the Author: Pace Smith helps spiritual entrepreneurs bridge the practical and the profound. Click here to get her free eBook 5 Things All Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Writing (And The 1 Thing All Writers Need to Know About Entrepreneurship), including writing advice from Neil Gaiman, SARK, and many others.

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The Art of Writing Great Google+ Posts

by Demian Farnworth on August 26, 2013

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There’s no denying it: we love Google+.

Sure, we’ve made hay over other social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. That’s because it’s smart to be where your audience is … to engage them there, and then direct them back to your own digital property.

But Google+ is something different.

It’s why we’ve gone out of our way to teach you how content creators can build authority and an audience on Google+ … the critical role Google+ plays in authorship and online visibility … and why it’s the best social site for content marketers.

High-level stuff.

Now let’s get down to the quick and dirty and teach you how to create Google+ posts that get attention, shared, and comments.

Lots of attention, shares, and comments. But first … 

My Google+ hall of fame posts

Since November 2012 I’ve put in a strong effort to get my personal Google+ account off the ground. And in that time I’ve put a few notches in my belt.

Now, there are some people on Google+ who have way more followers and get way more shares … but after months of toying with G+ posts (including on our Copyblogger Google+ page), I’ve reached a level of success relative to the 3,000 plus followers I have.

For example:

Not bad for a white, skinny kid from Illinois. So, please trust me when I say I know what I’m doing.

All right, on with four bits advice for writing Google+ posts that get shared …

1. The image

You might wonder why I started with the image and not the headline. Here’s the deal: Google+ is a lot like a blog, but it’s also a lot like Pinterest where the image rules.

In fact during the last major update with Google+ Google made changes that support large, gorgeous images … going as far as allowing some images to stretch across the entire screen.

Here’s a photo that’s almost as wide as the three columns:

And here’s an image (screen grab … you can use a tool like Jing to capture images online) that’s just as wide:

Talk about getting attention.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to find the image first. You just have to realize how important it is. I’ve done enough informal, personal tests to conclude that an image can make or break your post.

Fortunately, choosing a good image for non-designers boils down to this: know where to look. Here are some of my favorite places to find interesting images:

Of course you can follow some popular photographers on Google+ like Beau KahlerThomas Hawk, or Micaël Reynaud. You can also check out a list of suggested photographers or suggested graphic designers to follow.

Keep in mind when using photographs or images: always ask permission and give credit. In some cases, like on Flickr, you can find images by artists who’ve chosen to share by Creative Commons rather than a conventional copyright.

2. Headline

After the image your next task is to write an attention getting headline. Follow all the headline writing rules we’ve taught you … like the four Us:

  • Unique
  • Useful
  • Ultra-specific
  • Urgent

Note: keep your headline under 60 characters, otherwise it bumps into the second line like these two examples (I’ll explain why this is important in the next section):

However, let’s say you simply have to write a two-line headline. If that’s the case, then your first sentence must be killer.

Exhibit A:

See how that works?

3. First sentence (pay attention … this is crucial)

In the last update, Google changed the layout of posts so that you only see three lines of the original post before you see “Read more” link. In other words, your first sentence has to be a gripping teaser to get people to click “Read More.”

Stephen King is said to agonize weeks, sometimes months over the opening. You don’t have to do that, but it demonstrates the importance of the opening.

A good opening will get your post read. A bad opening will get your post ignored.

And it helps to get straight to the point:

David Sedaris is one of my favorite writers of first sentences. Read any anthology of his essays and you can’t ignore his first sentences. His approach boils down to this:

Just like in copywriting, your first sentence is one of the most important elements of your Google+ post.

Get it right.

4. Body copy

Buckle down and write.

And the guidelines that apply to writing blog posts that Google loves applies to how you write your Google+ posts.

Those guidelines are as follow:

Google+ doesn’t give you much in the way of formatting, but you can format your posts with these four tips:

  • Bold: Use asterisks around a word to bold it. Or around your headline — which amounts to the first sentence of your post.
  • Italics: Use underscores around the word/s you want to italicize.
  • Strikeout: Run a line through a word or sentence (strikethrough) by putting hypens around that word or sentence.
  • Bullets: If you want a list to stand out in a Google+ post, hit your space bar, enter a hypen, and then hit your space bar again. This is primitive, but it works.

And keep in mind: you can always edit your posts once you publish.

Furthermore, this isn’t Twitter. Slow down on the hashtags. Besides, Google can actually predict hashtags for your Google+ posts based upon the content.

5. Choose and share with your audience

Knowing your audience is critical to high interaction and conversion. One of the beauties and distinct differences from other social networks are Google+ Circles. By default most people simply share their posts to “Your Circles” and “Public.”

However, Google allows you to segment your audience with specific Circles.
For instance, I have Circles for Copyblogger, AgentPress, and Clevers. The subjects I share with each Circle is specific to that audience.

Circles allow you to build audiences around a common interest instead of blasting your entire stream with your passive-aggressive religious, sports, or political rants. Instead, segment your all-together-very-righteous rants for Circles dedicated to religion, sports, or politics.

Your followers will love you. Maybe.

Your turn

So that’s the nuts and bolts of publishing great content on Google+. But you are probably wondering what kind of content you should share … so let me conclude with some thoughts:

  • Share niche ideas that might not float on your blog. 
  • Write responses to other people’s Google+ posts or online articles (don’t just share a link … write a commentary).
  • Test new ideas on Google+ — then re-create on your own blog.
  • Treat it like a travel journal.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is treat your Google+ account like a stand-alone blog where you bail on your personal domain. That’s a huge no-no, for reasons I talked about in this post.

I hope you’ll follow us on our Copyblogger Google+ page, and have fun posting!

About the Author: Demian Farnworth is Chief Copywriter for Copyblogger Media. Follow him on Twitter or Google+. Then visit his blog to read his Education of a Writer series.

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Why You Should Write Short Articles, Too

by Beth Hayden on August 15, 2013

Image of Vintage Measuring Tape

After writing the first draft of a new Copyblogger post last week, I noticed something interesting.

I wrote the conclusion, then looked at the word count (which was just slightly under 700 words) and thought, “What can I do to make this longer?”

My articles for Copyblogger typically run between 1500 and 2000 words. After drafting this shorter piece, I wondered if something was wrong. I thought perhaps I needed to come up with another piece of evidence for my idea, or an additional example to illustrate my point.

Then I stopped myself.

Online content does not need to be lengthy in order to be substantial. Stop writing once you’ve fully communicated your point — don’t keep writing for the sake of getting to some prescribed word count.

Yes, many long posts do very well online. Some of Copyblogger’s epic posts have been shared thousands of times across social media, and they often attract a lot of comments, too.

But remember that Brian Clark built this very site on a foundation of incisive posts on blogging and copywriting, and most of his early posts weren’t epic length essays. Many of them were well under a thousand words.

Some of the articles from his now legendary Copywriting 101 series were under 500 words.

So please, don’t use more words when fewer words will do just fine. If you’re stuffing your articles with fluff, you might make your precious word count, but you’ll lose your audience.

Thomas Jefferson once said:

Never use two words when one will do.

And, let’s not forget that one of the most widely-read bloggers in the world is famous, in large part, for his brevity.

There’s certainly a time and a place for writing in-depth content, lengthy sales letters, and thoughtful essays. But no matter what you’re writing, you need to write as little — or as much — as it takes to fully explain your position and persuade your reader.

There’s room in your content strategy for short, concise articles. Good writers know how to craft long and short content, and they’ve mastered the art of knowing which one to use in every writing circumstance.

So, consider this a reminder to keep short posts handy in your writing toolbox. Many in your audience will thank you for it.

And that’s ultimately who you’re writing for … right?

About the Author: Beth Hayden is a Senior Staff Writer for Copyblogger Media. Get more from Beth on Twitter and Pinterest.

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Image of Genesis 2.0 in All Devices

The web is a constantly evolving organism that can seem complicated and difficult to keep up with … if you’re not a hard-core programmer.

So what’s a content producer — someone who’s building an audience to build their business — to do?

Should you become a coder? Should you spend days, months, even years learning the ins and outs of PHP, Ruby, javascript and HTML5? I don’t think so …

There are really only five essential components of websites that work in 2013 (and beyond):

  • Rock-solid security
  • Blazing fast performance
  • Out-of-the-box SEO
  • Beautiful, turn-key design
  • Ultra-flexible foundational code

In short, you’ve got to build and maintain a safe, fast, flexible, and beautiful website, while creating content that builds your business.

How do you do it? Allow me to introduce you to Genesis 2.0.

Our StudioPress division has been building quality WordPress themes for nearly a decade.

And now, fresh on the heels of the latest WordPress release, we’re officially unleashing the latest incarnation of Genesis.

Genesis 2.0 is here, and with it, a simple way to get everything you need out of your website, without becoming a professional programmer.

Here are five ways the Genesis Framework for WordPress has you covered …

1. Rock-solid security

Security isn’t sexy or fun.

But the ugly truth is this: Sites around the web are constantly under attack. And hackers love to exploit vulnerabilities in themes, plugins, and sloppy code.

That’s why I’m listing security as the number one reason you need to upgrade to Genesis 2.0 today … or install the Genesis Framework on your site for the first time.

All the speed, style, and conversion power of your website does not mean a thing if your site isn’t secure, and one of the best ways to keep a WordPress website secure is to run it on a proven, supported theme Framework.

I know this from experience, being part of a team that regularly keeps thousands of WordPress websites safe on days when so many others in the WordPress world scramble with fear.

Understand this: WordPress 3.6 included great security improvements. So will WordPress 3.7. As will every WP incarnation after that.

Some of these security fixes necessitate theme tweaks to ensure safety. Do you want to be on the hook for incorporating these into your theme every time WordPress is updated?

Of course you don’t. So let the experts do it. The Genesis Framework responds and adapts to these constant advancements, and it does it without going near the design of your site, and without you needing to touch a line of code.

All you need to do is click a button to update your theme Framework and keep your site (and your readers) safe.

2. Blazing fast performance

Nothing slows down a website like bloated code. And we now know that slow load times can have a devastating effect on your search rankings.

Our StudioPress team obsesses about this, constantly working to make Genesis even cleaner and more lightweight.

If you’ve got a “geek streak” running through you, here’s a quick sampling of a few new elements of Genesis 2.0 that make it faster than it’s ever been:

  • Widget classes are now coded in PHP5 format
  • Admin CSS and Javascript are now minified
  • Inline HTML comments have been removed to reduce page size
  • Displayed entry IDs are now tracked (so they can be excluded from showing twice on a page)

For those of you who don’t have the time (or interest) to learn code, here’s the short version of what all that means …

Web page load times are usually discussed in seconds. Page load times for sites built on Genesis can often be measured and discussed in milliseconds.

In 2013, that’s an absolutely essential difference.

Genesis 2.0 is incredibly fast, don’t miss it.

3. Out-of-the-box SEO

If you know anything about how SEO works (don’t worry if you don’t, Genesis will take care of a lot of it for you), you know that Google hands out brownie points for clean code.

As amazing as search engines are, they’re not as smart or grown-up as you might think.

Present them with an orderly, squeaky clean page of code, and you’re well on your way to a solid ranking for your chosen words (kind of like spoon feeding a child).

The Genesis Framework does the bulk of this SEO work for you, so you can get back to work creating the content that will build your business.

However, our StudioPress division has taken its already state-of-the-art SEO controls, and made them even more powerful.

Genesis 2.0 now supports code, which builds on the Genesis Framework’s “built-in SEO options that make 95% of the SEO plugins out there look bad.”

What Schema support means is that Genesis 2.0 allows you to output microdata in your site’s code. This enhances your site’s search engine optimization even further, and ultimately its conversion optimization, in numerous ways.

As explained on

Let me start with explaining why you should be bothered with if you weren’t convinced yet. Not just Google uses, all 4 major search engines, Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex use it for several different purposes … but it’s not just them. Recently, Pinterest joined the party by announcing support for Product, Recipe and Movie schemas through their Rich Pins effort. So, in my opinion, markup is a must for everyone serious about their website’s optimization.

If you’re reading this article, you’ve already qualified yourself as someone who is serious about your website’s search optimization.

The Genesis Framework has always handled the basics of good SEO for you, and now it’s even better.

4. Beautiful, turn-key designs

If all of this has you a little confused, it might help to think of the Genesis Framework as your car, including the engine, the transmission and the thousands of parts that make it run.

The available 43 turn-key child theme designs from StudioPress are the paint job that make your car really look good.

The really cool thing about using child themes for your design is the ability to change the “paint job” of your site in minutes, without trashing the underlying engine that powers your site.

Whether you’re building a new site, or revamping a classic, child themes allow you the freedom to re-invent yourself without ever touching the critical code underneath.

Oh, and did I mention that Genesis 2.0 comes out-of-the-box with a breathtaking new design? Take a look …

Image of Genesis 2.0 in All Devices

5. Ultra-flexible foundational code

The basics of security and performance must be present before a website can power the lifeblood of any modern business — compelling content.

But after that, the web publisher needs to know that her site can adapt to constant change, be ready for exciting breakthroughs in technology, and be generally future-proof in terms of code and structure.

In 2013, this means one thing: HTML5.

Of all the new features in Genesis 2.0 that have folks excited, HTML5 compatibility is at the top of the list.

Why? What does HTML5 actually do for your site? Here are just six of the most important benefits to you, the online publisher …

  1. HTML5 makes your website future compatible … you don’t know what’s next for the web, but HTML5 has it covered.
  2. HTML5 will automatically increase your site’s cross-browser compatibility … which means fewer instances of people seeing your site differently in different web browsers.
  3. HTML5 will make your website truly mobile-friendly … and you already know the importance of responsive design.
  4. HTML5 allows for truly extensible web design. Want your site to behave like an app? Hire a developer and go for it, if that’s your thing ;-)
  5. HTML5 supports video and audio like no other markup language.
  6. HTML5 is cleaner and even “smarter” — in terms of storage, API interaction, and other important behind-the-scene ways — which radically enhances user experience.

Genesis 2.0′s compatibility with this advance in code structure is an interesting feature, in that it’s a little difficult to point to and expect to hear the roar of the crowd.

It’s technical, but powerful.

It’s geeky, but practical.

It’s abstract, but it’s the future of the web.

The thing you should really know is that we’re constantly working to push the Genesis Framework to the edge of state-of-the-art, and always in a way that makes practical business sense for our customers.

The marriage of Genesis 2.0 and HTML5 is simply the next crucial step on the road to helping you easily build beautiful websites that work.

96,000+ people take WordPress further with StudioPress

Image of Genesis 2.0 Logo

Our Genesis Framework for WordPress empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress.

With search-optimized code and functions, 43 turn-key designs, state-of-the-art security, and unlimited support, updates, and websites you can build, Mashable calls Genesis the “best of the best” among premium WordPress themes.

Serious online publishers trust Genesis to provide a solid foundation for their sites. By serious, I mean people planning to get somewhere with this Internet thing.

Whether you’re a novice, or an advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the rock-solid infrastructure to take WordPress places you never thought it could go.

Pick up Genesis 2.0 today!

Need a little help?

If you have questions about Genesis that you’d like to get answered before purchasing, please contact our Support Division directly.

If you are an existing StudioPress customer, please log in to MyStudioPress for all support questions.

For non-support related discussions about WordPress, CSS, design, and site feedback, please jump into the StudioPress Community Forums anytime.


About the Author: Jerod Morris is Director of Marketing for Copyblogger Media's StudioPress Division, and founding member of the Synthesis Managed WordPress Hosting team. Get more from Jerod on Twitter and .

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Image of MyCopyblogger Internet Marketing Icon

When I meet new folks, whether online or face-to-face, I often get a variation on the same question.

What will it take to make my business really successful?

What needs to go into it? What sacrifices do we need to make? What’s the magical secret ingredient?

I know you think I’m going to say, “There is no magical secret ingredient.”

But there is.

If you want to have a fantastic business — the kind that makes plenty of money, has really cool customers, and makes your life better instead of worse — you need my special secret.

You need to give it some G.A.S.

What’s G.A.S.?

It stands for (I hope you will forgive the plain language) Give A Shit.

To have a great business, you have to care. A whole lot.

You have to care about quality. You have to care about your audience. You have to care about what you do and how you do it. You have to care about your employees and vendors.

If you have a little G.A.S., you’ll have an okay business.

If you have a lot of G.A.S., you’ll have an awesome business. Because you’ll be able to take everything you learn about marketing, business operations, efficiency, productivity — and turbocharge it all with G.A.S.

G.A.S.-enhanced marketing education

When I sit down to teach people (like you) how they can find more customers online, I make sure I have plenty of G.A.S. in the tank.

Because the part that’s fun for me is when you knock it out of the park.

I know that marketing isn’t some kind of special talent you’re born with. It’s a collection of principles you can learn. I learned them, and you can, too.

I’m putting some of my favorite G.A.S.-friendly observations into a completely revised 20-part course we call Internet Marketing for Smart People.

(We call it that because Internet Marketing for Smart, Ethical, Cool, Passionate People We Love to Hang Out With gets a little unwieldy.)

You can get the course for free by dropping your name and email address here: Get started with Internet Marketing for Smart People.

So what’s in the course?

Well, I’m glad you asked. :) The course is about the most important things we need to know in order to find customers on the web.

  • The #1 simple headline “trick” that will get you more traffic
  • What we mean, exactly, by “high quality content” — and how to make some
  • How to make sure your site delivers a fantastic first impression
  • How to use a “content net” to boost your conversions and make more money
  • How to master SEO without turning into a creep

And 15 more lessons. These are the essentials that every online business needs to start working better — lessons you can implement right now, not months or years from now.

But wait, there’s more …

Yep, this sucker is better than a Sham-Wow super pack.

Internet Marketing for Smart People is delivered over time, to let you absorb the material and incorporate it consistently.

But we also know that you have pressing business and marketing issues you want to resolve now. So you get instant access to 14 meaty content marketing ebooks, on virtually any mission-critical topic you can think of, from landing pages to email marketing to SEO copywriting.

We’ve pulled the course and the library into something we call MyCopyblogger. It’s very cool (if I do say so myself), it’s very focused, and it’s totally free.

So go get it. Drop your email address here and you can get started right away.

You got this. We can help. And don’t forget to give it some G.A.S.

Free Registration

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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