A good friend of mine was recently driving around with a real estate agent, looking for a spot to open a new store. The agent kept saying, “Location, location, location.” In real estate, that’s the key, since you want people to see your store and shop there. If we were driving around in cyberspace, I would be saying, “Content, content, content.” Why?
Ann Handley, co-author of Content Rules, writes:
“Today, you have an unprecedented opportunity to create a treasury of free, easy-to-use, almost infinitely customizable content that tells the story of your product and your business, and positions you as an expert people will want to do business with.”
The Web is more or less nothing but content — from websites and blogs to articles and videos and the list goes on. Here are some facts to ponder from Joe DiDonato, Elearning! Media Group Editor-at-Large:
- Technology renews itself every 12-18 months.
- There are 3,000 books published every day.
- The amount of new technical data is doubling every year
The point is, in order to have your content stand out, it needs to immediately grab the reader’s attention and then hold it.
The “grab” part is often easier then the “hold.” What makes content stand out from the endless chatter on the Web? The same reasons that are true for you are also true for your readers.
Here are a few points about what makes content outstanding:
Content must be relevant: Great content needs to speak to you about what’s happening now. If you are looking into how to write better content, for example, then this article is relevant. If you need to know how to make coq au vin, you should go to the Food Network website.
Content must be useful: Too much content on the Web is utterly useless. I’m not just talking about the low-quality stuff that pollutes the Internet. I’m talking about all the content that’s just mediocre or un-enlightening. The stuff that doesn’t tell me anything I can really use in my daily life. There’s lots of content about things, ideas, reactions, and opinions, and none of it is really helpful, except for the people who are telling me how to do something I need to do. Helpful content always finds readers.
Content must be well-written: Outstanding content better be well-written or no one will read it, even if it’s relevant and useful. This is the toughest rule to follow. Really good writing is hard, and that’s why we have professional writers. So be honest with yourself: Either you write well enough to make your content work or you don’t. If you don’t, then hire a good content writer. This is especially true for busy entrepreneurs and business owners. If you can’t devote the necessary time to update your business’ website with useful content for your readers or customers, be honest with yourself and hire a pro.
Find the right topics: Don’t forget that the foundation of outstanding content is a fresh and interesting topic idea. No matter how relevant, useful and well-produced your content is, if a very similar article, blog post or video already exists, its potential is limited right off the bat. Always strive to find new and exciting things to showcase in your content. Here are a few ideas on how to find interesting content ideas from Handley and her co-author, C.C. Chapman, in their book Content Rules:
Chat with customers. Ask customers a single question, such as ‘What’s your biggest marketing challenge?’ or ‘What’s a strategy you used to grow your business this year?’
Interview luminaries. Q & A interviews with thought leaders, strategic partners, or flat-out interesting creative thinkers make for compelling text, audio, or video content. […]
Trawl industry news. Share an opinion about a recent news story that’s affecting your industry or audience. Be timely; you could benefit from the extra boost of being one of the first to comment on the topic.
Go behind the scenes. Show things that your readers or followers don’t usually get to see. Share photos that give an insider’s view of your company, or tease some new, compelling content, product or event that you’ll be launching soon.
Go to an event. Take session notes, conduct interviews, or take photos. Real-time blog or tweet the sessions that offer value to your community, and share with your audience what you learned, enjoyed, or were surprised at.
Share best practices or productivity tips. People are always looking for efficiencies, and this type of content is always highly useful and shareable. […]
What do you think makes content outstanding? How do you find great content ideas? We’d love to hear in the comments!
David Grebow is a freelance small business journalist for Vistaprint, a world leader in custom websites, business cards, and other marketing products for businesses all across the globe. David holds an MBA from Harvard and has been published in Harvard Business Review and The Economist.
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Last week, a colleague, who also is an RSS email subscriber to my site, told me they had copied a recent post and published it on their site. Because I also had helped them set up one of their blogs and coached them a little, I presumed that they meant they had syndicated my content using a WordPress plugin that had been recommended. However,because they said the word “copy”, it seemed like a good idea to ask a clarifying question. The subsequent conversation felt a little awkward and I am still trying to determine if they were simply naive or if it was something else.
What is a Web Copyright?
Every WordPress Website theme that I have created or customized includes code which places a default copyright in the footer. Summarizing an article on this topic that I read on Smashing Magazine, the same laws that protect printed copy also protect internet content. Since April 1, 1989, all published content is “automatically” copyrighted and it is not available for use in the public domain throughout the lifetime of its creator plus 70 years.
An idea cannot be copyrighted so, if something you’ve come across on the internet spurs a new post for your site, you are not breaching copyright law. You are allowed to cite excerpts from existing web content without crossing the line but you cannot replicate articles in their entirety without specific permission.
You also must have the permission of an author before you translate their content to another language.
The “fair use doctrine” is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work.
Website Owner Responsibilities
As I was researching this topic, I was enlightened on a topic that may be confusing. Web content is OWNED by the person who creates it. In other words, comments are owned by the commenter, not the website owner. Copyright law implies that you cannot alter content that is not owned by you and this may include removal of links, which is something that I have done myself.
This little nit will be covered in a terms and conditions statement on my website so that people who choose to comment about my posts are fully aware of my policies regarding links in comments.
Bottom Line: Blog Posts are not like Daylilies
In the patio garden behind a house where I used to live, I frequently gathered up Daylily volunteers from between the cracks in the retaining wall and replanted them in the garden bed where I actually wanted them to grow. That they were interested enough in survival to cast off volunteer plants any place that roots could take hold impressed me.
Bloggers are no different. We publish our content and send it out on RSS feeds, hoping to acquire new readership and engage our audience in such a way that they will tell their friends on the social network. We’re honored that you want others to know about our work, believe me.
Some of us put real research time into creating what we believe will be valuable and accurate content that we hope will be helpful to our target market. The whole idea of spending time on a blog post is to build authority for the business niche that we are endeavoring to grow. We want to help you but we don’t want to write your blogs for you. I make no apologies for saying that out loud and will happily engage in discussion about it with anyone whose opinion may differ.
Some very helpful people have directed me to authority sites on plagerism and copyright protection for my reference. Here are those links, should you also have an interest:
Most of us don’t think twice about what is involved in maintaining the platforms the Social Networking and Social Bookmarking potpourri of sites that we use each day in our online businesses. These days, the focus is mostly on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Other useful sites are LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Flickr, MySpace, and Last.fm … to name a few. Then there are he multiple free email accounts we have.
When it comes to our home computing environments, we unconsciously manage disk space every day. If we have self-hosted blogs, we look for and choose hosting vendors who permit us to have unlimited storage for our websites. Yet, we take the storage of our Tweets and posts for granted.
Every piece of content must be stored somewhere. In the early days of email, I was part of a group who studied email etiquette with interest. We discussed computing capacity issues, like storage, too. A friend of mine, who worked for EMC, wrote a fascinating white paper about the exponential growth of data storage. Her predictions have been exceeded by mounds and mounds and mounds of data. None of us foresaw the advent of micro-blogging in 1985, let alone text messaging on a cell phone!
Recent research by IDC revealed that our digital universe grew by 62% during the last year alone. The stunning amount of storage online at the time of the study was 800,000 petabytes, a measure better described at this link. In short, it is one million gigabytes. By the end of 2010, it is predicted that there will be 1.2 zettabytes online. A zettabyte, incidentally, is roughly half a million times the entire collections of all the academic libraries in the United States. Whew! And I’m worrying about a few gigabytes around here. 😀
Computers and the internet have made our lives easier, much more public and availed methods to get income online for some of us too. Pages upon pages of material sifted and listed, categorized and presented for our reading pleasure with a few keystrokes and a button click. Since our content is cached and stored online indefinitely, one begins to wonder if our content will outlive our grandchildren. Who can say?
It is too bad that most Internet Marketers don’t understand the mechanics of a human-to-human sales relationship. If they actually had to talk to their prospects and customers, rather than dwelling in a two-dimensional world, would this improve their income potential or diminish it?
Building relationships takes time and attention, no matter which way you spin things. Developing rapport and gaining an understanding of each other ought to be a mutual effort or the equity of the relationship becomes uneven. Just as an expert should not condescend to a customer who doesn’t know all the ins and outs of their area of expertise, a customer should not condescend to the expert and treat them as a servant.
It is quite satisfying when there is cooperation and mutual respect in a business relationship. In this scenario, the customer appreciates the expertise that the professional is bringing to the table and respects the fact that such expertise has a value for which they are being paid. The professional appreciates the fact that the customer has chosen to work with them, in spite of the fact that they had other choices, and values their customer through responsiveness and, most importantly, through listening to the customer’s concerns and ideas. To that end, the most important tool that any entrepreneur has at their disposal is their ability to listen.
Listening is an active skill. People who are communicating with you need to know that they have been heard so it is important to acknowledge them, whether or not you agree with what they’ve said. In addition, if you are not clear about what you’ve heard, asking questions that explore the issue in such a way that no conclusions are assumed can lead your customers to telling you much more about their needs. This has potential to grant you further sales, if your products and services are aligned with those needs. If not, you may be able to refer them to a colleague of yours who specializes in that niche.
Today, while conferring with a new client, they were expressing discontent about another person in my same field who came to her expecting a retainer payment to commence work. When the prospect informed this website designer that they had questions, the designer’s response was: “I know all your questions and I have all the answers.” It didn’t surprise me that this prospect has continued to look for a website designer. That sort of reply totally invalidated this nice lady, making her feel as if her feelings and questions were completely irrelevant.
Communication is an art, and the most important aspect of communicating with anyone is listening to what they are saying. While a college degree isn’t required to enter any entrepreneurial arena, effective business people will educate themselves in the things that will further their business and increase their referrals.
Have you ever been repelled by communication with people or stopped reading content due to the overuse of acronyms which mean nothing to you? In a former life, when I took a position in a Honeywell division that had a lot of specialized language, I was impressed, and will never forget, the pamphlet that they gave me at employee orientation to help me expand their frequently used acronyms. It wasn’t like I was going on vacation in a foreign country or anything!
It is true that instant messaging and technology have introduced a lot of new words and acronyms into our vocabularies over the course of the last few decades. When email was new, I recall how spell checkers challenged my usage of the word messaging. (Their suggested revision was massaging, which always caused me to chuckle and think of a Pink Panther movie skit with Peter Sellers.) Being at the forefront of early email adoption, I was involved with think-tank groups who explored the casual nature of email communications in business. People like me, who are moderately obsessed with proper language, railed at the prevelence of shorthand that seemed to be “dumbing down” written communications but, in a recent National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast, a panelist remarked that language shorthand used in written communication was centuries old and provided several examples.
In this instance, the business person and prospective client are communicating well but the point is that your written and spoken communications should not leave your audience struggling to understand. I’ve learned that NOT understanding something can cause people to stop listening or reading because their minds wander off as they try to imagine what what they don’t know. That isn’t the effect you want to create, is it?
I’d like to provide an example for you. If you are writing an atricle about online marketing and use the abbreviation CPA, you should immediately expand the acronym by either putting the phrase Cost Per Action in parentheses or vice-versa. This will keep their attention from getting stuck on what they may not know.
During these days of short-attention span, information overload, and constrained time, isn’t it important that you make things easier for your followers to understand? Statistically, you have less than 30 seconds for them to make up their mind whether or not they are interested enough to stay on your website. Thus, there is no sense in communicating in a way that might be frustrating for them because you are speaking in a foreign language. As the communicator, you know what the acronym means. If you don’t, you really ought to.
And while I’m pondering one of my favorite subjects, launguage and words, I have another question. Why in the world would anyone feel compelled to abbreviate the word June to Jun? Sheesh!
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It’s true; I came of age during the 60s. While this places me in some people’s stratospheric age groups, my age is merely a number to me and I’m thrilled to have grown up in such interesting times. Being a Baby Boomer surrounded by Hippies and other sorts of rebels brought many ideals to my purview … some more palatable than others but each of them born from a cry for freedom by my generation.
After recently re-theming my GetIncomeBlog.com, my interest in writing to it has been renewed, along with the traffic that comes to my site. I use several tools to determine how you all get here and, during the past month, the viewership statistics that I’ve been monitoring inform me that there are folks out there who appreciate my articles. Seeing what keywords you’re using is also fascinating.
I don’t write any of my articles to obtain your admiration, however. I write them because of a conversation I’ve had with newer online marketers or offline business owners has reminded me of something that will help them and want to pass along this information to you too. Whether or not you are a grizzled veteran, reminders about how things work in business and the entrepreneurial world is helpful.
I read such an article myself today at Yaro Starak’s blog. This young man is brilliant in his writing and has really done well for himself by blogging. I was unaware of this site until today when I was evaluating a competitor’s backlinks. Even though the article I read at Yaro’s blog wasn’t brand new, it spoke to many things that I’ve been writing about lately.
A colleague recently opined that a blog was nothing more than an online diary. Network marketers, BizOp chasers, and another group of business people whom I will lovingly refer to as “Elitists” tend to say that blogging is not important. But people like Yaro convince me and others who are determined to establish an Online Brand image that having a blog with high-quality content is essential. I can’t think of one reputable top gun marketer who isn’t using a blog as a component of their branding strategy.
But let’s get back to the statistics on my blog. On a “bad day” here at GetIncomeBlog.com, I am getting about 5 – 10 times more traffic that I used to get on a “good” day and I’m just beginning to ramp up. On a “bad” day, I spend very little time thinking about the “low” traffic volume. I merely smile and tell myself that everything is relative … a canon of my youth.
Leadership is a topic of interest when one is working for a wage. In that context, a leader is defined by rank, company holdings or some other arbitrary definition of success. When the transition from wage-earner to entrepreneur occurs, leadership takes on a little different connotation.
The life of an internet entrepreneur varies by their interests, passions and motivations. It is entirely possible to build a lucrative business that requires no more than you, an internet connection and time. If the product is not digital, you certainly will become embroiled with inventory management, packing and shipping. Maintaining a high level of customer service is critical to your success. Digital products or services are a less labor intensive way to be an internet entrepreneur but your responsibility to support questions or concerns from customers is still a factor.
If you are a wise entrepreneur, you are building a solid relationship with those on your list. Because you have gained their trust, people will begin to follow your advice and forward your recommendations to their friends. This brings more conversions and income your way. Your reputation will be enhanced by consistently introducing high-quality products and services that you know your followers will appreciate. Congratulations, you’re a leader!
As your visibility and reputation gain momentum, new opportunities will present themselves that can be fun and lucrative. If an entrepreneur has an established list or has grown a support team, veering off to a new interest before laying appropriate groundwork with your group can cause confusion and discontent … and affect your reputation in a not-so-good way. This is not the sort of visibility that you want as an business person.
Leadership involves communicating clearly with all the stakeholders affected by the decisions that you make. If you behave rationally and responsibly, your fans will always sing your praise.
There is little doubt that times are tough. Personally, I know many people who have been out of work for extended time periods, have been forced into bankruptcy, or have lost their homes through foreclosure. All their stories are all very different but, in every instance, the root cause was attributable to the fact that they held onto some belief that doing things the way they’d always done them would continue to work … a definition for insanity, in some circles.
Personal belief systems can keep us stuck so why not turn that to an advantage? Believe that change is critical in order to thrive in the face of adversity. Granted, basking in the things that we are familiar with makes us feel more comfortable but isn’t it time to confront the awkwardness of change and try something new?
Orchestrating a significant change in your life takes some amount of confidence along with a dash of creativity and perseverance on the side. But there may be more important ingredients that you must NOT include in your career shift recipe, which would be to subtract your mental image of what you do along with the ideas that your family and friends have about what will work for you.
Recently a friend of mine, who has been a nurse for over 40 years, offered this bit of profundity while ruminating about a career change in her 50s.
“The more that I let go of, the closer to no thing I will be”
Why not try an experiment at your next social outing? When someone asks you what you “do”, answer their question by listing the things that you are passionate about doing, rather than providing the rote answer that they are expecting. It might give them pause but it also might expose you to a like-minded person who is interested in one of your passions that they have considered turning it into a source of sustainable income.
As for the people that say “Uh huh…” and walk away, let them rotate in circles of small talk with less passionate people. This experiment is not about making anyone feel comfortable that you are a “normal” person. It is about shifting your own mindset and visualizing the possibilities of your passions as a possible source of future income.