Tag Archives: writing

Take The 30 Day Headline Challenge

30 Days To Becoming A Headline Ninja

Who wants to become a Headline Ninja?

If that's you then I'm inviting you to join my 30 Day Headline Ninja Challenge.

Here's the way it works:

Do to this site and download a free PDF called "Headline Hacks – A Cheatsheet For Writing Blog Posts That Go Viral" by Jon Morrow.

If you want to become a better blogger (a specialized type of writing) you really need to know Jon Morrow because he is one of the best bloggers and blog writing trainers on the internet.

Before he started his own site several years ago he was Associate Editor of CopyBlogger.com, one of the top copywriting training blogs on the net, for several years.

What we are going to do (a group of 10 of us) is to 'start at the top' and become Headline Ninjas by using Jon's free PDF guide on writing killer headlines. You know, of course, that the headline is the single most important part of your articles…or even your emails.

Jon's guide has 50 different headline formulas. All with examples and discussions of why they work. We will write an article every day for 30 days (it doesn't have to be too long) and use a different headline formula each day.

Write about anything you want, attach the title to it, and we will meet in my online conference room every day, read our articles with their titles, and get everybody else's response. I'm thinking the whole process shouldn't take more than 30 minutes per meeting.

Again, here is where you can get Jon's free guide. It really is free. You will love it!

I'm not an affiliate of any kind with Jon so don't panic about that. But I have downloaded this guide before at least twice. It's recently been updated (for 2016) and I always get something new every time I go through it.

I promise you'll love it. And if you're in Markethive you know that we've got a powerful blogging system, right?

But that's just the "launcher". We still have to load it up with the right ammunition…starting with a dynamite title.

So, that's it. It'll be sorta like a 'lab' high school or college chemistry (without the bad smells). We'll be getting real experience and feedback in a supportive environment. We might be expressing some opinions but the object will be constructive suggestions or appreciation.

I don't want to have more than 10 people in this group… knowing that some people will bail out or miss a few meetings. But that's OK because it isn't a job. It's an opportunity to get better at something we all know we need to be good at if we want to make money on the internet.

Let me know via email or via Skype ("atwill4") if you want 'in'. Remember. ONLY 10 people. e might even develop some collaborative partnerships too. You never what can happen when great minds meet.

P.S. Probably what I'll do is use the "How To Write" group that I've already set up in Markethive. If you want to join but you're not in that group, I think it would make sense to go ahead and join. I do put soe ideas in there that I do not put outside of it.

If you're not in Markethive but would like to be in this group, go ahead and join Markethive…here. It's free.

"30 Days from now, Rodney…we'll all be Headline Ninjas!"

Write Like A Guru

Write Like A Guru

I will readily listen to advice from somebody who I know practices what they preach. Neil Patel, founder and primary writer of quicksprout.com, one of the leading social media blogs on the internet, recently wrote an article and shared some writing tips. To me some of them were more attention-getting than others and I'd like to share and comment on those particular tips here…. not so much because I or you have never heard them before but moreso because we may have strayed from adhering to them.

1. Use you instead of we or us

Yes, I struggle with this sometimes too. It seems that there are times during the writing of an article or post that the first person voice seems more natural but then there are times when it doesn't make sense and I find myself wondering if I should go back and change a previous "I" to a "we" or "most people" or some other pronoun.

Perhaps chosing the right subject voice gets easier with practice. 

4. Focus on your titles and headings…

I certainly agree. However, I often see content written by people who probably make more money than I do but they use what I consider to be pretty ´´lame titles. I think there eventually comes a point where being contrarian just for the sake of standing out in the crowd does make sense… i.e. veering from the standardize formulas that most article title generators tend to produce. I think it's especially appropriate to have a unique title style if you're trying to name a name for yourself.

Even Neil uses the word, "shit" in one of his ads that I saw. But it hasn't gotten to the point where we hear all of George Carlin's 7 Words You Can't Say on TV.

6. Practice writing fewer words

You've seen those one or two sentence paragraphs, right?

I don't know about you but every time I see writing like this it makes be cringe because I think of all those 'carriage returns' … Ka-Ching! (I learned to type on a real typewriter which actually had a 'carriage').

This is one of the rules that not many people talk about but apparently it works well for some types of writing. It's something that I usually try to do but am not always successful at. Neil (Patel) is good at it.

I think it depends on the type of writing you're doing but I can also attest to the fact that almost every time I've written an article and not published it til later I always wind up shortening it a lot when I come back to review it. 

7. Write shorter sentences

This rule is very similar to Rule #6. Both refer to what I consider to be the same challenge of respecting the reader's time. 

8. Harness the power of single sentence paragraphs

Same as Rule 6 and 7. I've have gotten better at keeping my paragraphs shorter. I shoot for 3 or 4 lines maximum.

9. Brainstorm unique CTAs

This is a rule you don't hear much but I have often felt uncomfortable with using the time-worn phrase 'Click Here'… feeling subconsciously that I should come up with something more original.

10. Bold or italicize important statements

I don't do this very often. Probably because I feel it's the kind of thing that can easily get out-of-hand. Of the two (bolding and italicizing) I probably italicize more.

12. Don’t be afraid of the word I

To my mind, the value of this practice is that you should always try to be a real person in the reader's mind. So…tossing in an occasional "I" is OK. I think if people feel like they know you better, it's easier for them to buy from you or believe you. 

13. Use personal stories

In theory I think this is probably a good idea and I've never heard it specifically emphasized as a writing practice. The caution should be to be careful to keep the story as short as possible. Story-telling is an art.

16. Start strong

I agree that in principle this makes sense but I think it's also hard to judge whether you pull it off successfully or not. 

17. Read it aloud

I totally agree with this. I do it often (but not consistently). If you try it, I can guarantee it will improve your writing. I find it amazing how often I write something that initially seems OK but when I read it back to myself I think, "Hey! I don't talk like that nor would I think somebody who talked like that was interesting to listen to."

18. Make friends with a thesaurus

This is a good idea. The only caution I would give is that we need to remember that the average person reads at a 6th grade level. Did you know that Ernest Hemingway wrote at a 4th grade level? Believe it….here.

20. Use subheadings

I've seen this recommended before but I'm still reluctant to do it. To me, it just seems like 'filler' fluff. OK…I'll try again.

21. Stuck? Try combining ideas

"What's the ROI of your mother?" ??!! That's the example given in the article.

I think this might be creative but I don't think I'd call it a 'best-practice'.

22. Stay actionable

I actually like this idea a lot. In fact, I think I wrote something along these lines just recently. It's long been my theory that the internet has given too many people the opportunity to blather on about whatever strikes their fancy-of-the-moment.

23. Make friends with summaries

I like this idea too. In fact I've recently started doing it more. I think it's a good idea to leave the reader with a clear idea of how they benefited from the time they spent reading your article.

25. Bookend important points

This is, to me, similar to Rule #23 because it tends to ensure that your reader leaves with a feeling of benefit or accomplishment from what they just read.

26. Be brutal when editing

I agree with this rule and I think it can't be emphasized enough. Every time I evaluate something I write against this rule, I always find words to cut out.

27. Use transitions

I like Neil's example here and it reminds me how often I read, and cringe, when people use pronouns… on the shaky assumption that I remember who or what "it" or "he" or "they" or "that" refers to.

And here is Neil's article conclusion and close:

Conclusion You don’t need years of study to become a master copywriter. But you do need to practice. And you need to practice a lot. Your writing will only get better if you take the time to refine it. Every day, make it your goal to write something, even if it’s not much. You might be surprised to see how quickly your wordsmithing improves. What’s your biggest writing challenge?

Thanks Neil. Great article!

And thank YOU…..dear Reader for reading this.

 

Art Williams is available to write for your blog, website, or social platform.
713 701 1853
Skype: atwill4

 

 

 

Online Writing Opportunities Abound

Online Writing Opportunities Aboud

They say, "A rising tide lifts all boats" and I think this is one of those 'tides'. According to this article, entitled, "A first: More workers at online sites than newspapers" by Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner, newspapers are being forced to lay off staff because of the growth of online publishing.

Could this be the demise of traditional newspapers? Sure it could.

For a similar example, look at what happened to the railroad industry in America over the last 150 years. After being the only way to travel and move stuff long distances for many decades, the railroad companies became all proud and short-sighted and refused to recognize what the growth of the highway system and the automobile industry in America was going to the freight and passenger transport business.

And then they woke up one morning to realize that their market had moved on to other forms of transportation. Today, the trucking business is huge. Railroads are not. And that's not to mention what containerized, intermodal shipping has done to the traditional railroad model. Or how other countries have built ultra modern railroad systems that make ours look like a state fair ride.

My point is that this headline is a further indication that there is plenty of opportunity for writers. I'm not a recognized pundit or guru but I started writing by simply blogging about my Salsa dancing activities. And today here I am in Barranquilla, Colombia living a fairly unique life…all because of opportunities I found via writing.

Here at Markethive, I think we've all got a great opportunity to develop our writing skills. You've got to start somewhere so you may as well start with a friendly audience. Of course, with our unique blogging system (especially our Blogcasting feature), we've got a great opportunity to expose our talents…. or develop them.

The above-referenced article also implies to me that there's an online opportunity for writing about things other than 'dog training' too (the traditional examples used in online writing classes). People are getting all kinds of news (which traditional news media does not provide) on the internet now, e.g. expat living, backpacking travel, alternative geopolitical news, and many more subjects).

One can write about just about anything nowadays on the internet and find some interested readers. You just need to get started, pick a niche or two (or three) develop a style, and start cranking out content. If it's something you like writing about, it shouldn't make any difference that you probably won't get paid for it initially. You'll get better and you'll eventually get paid.

Online writing. Go for it!

47 Things To Tweet About

47 Things To Tweet About

If you think you should be using Twitter more but don't know what to Tweet, you could always Tweet cat jokes.

If you're too lazy to do that, there are tools that will go even further toward helping you do not only Tweets but Facebook posts too. One is www.postplanner.com and the other is www.tweetjukebox.com, both of which I learned about from the very social media savvy crowd over at www.blab.im.

Meanwhile, here's a list of 47 Things To Tweet About. Now you've got now excuse not to tweet. You can always tweet cat jokes, like 'Rover' here.

 

Awesome customer service and a recommendation

A photo of a funny sign.

Your opinion of a movie you just saw.

An inspiring view from your home or office.

Your response to some else's tweet.

Breaking news…local, regional, or national.

An inspiriting quote and photo combination.

Your weekend plans and an invitation for others to share theirs.

A "can you do that?" question.

A fun photo about your past with a, "Did you ever do that?"

A funny "Just standing in line and wondering if______" thought.

Behind The Scenes photo from your business.

"How many of my follower like _______?"

Ask for feedback about a purchase you're considering.

Ask if anybody needs help with something you do well.

Offer to call the first ________ number of people who respond and tell them, "Hey (name)… you're the greatest!"

Offer free Happy Birthday call to the first person who responds with their name, age, and phone number.

Randomly thank one of your followers with a tweet DM.

Thank someone for a RT.

Thank someone for an article they wrote (be sure you read it).

"A Gypsy just told me that everybody whose name is 'Bob" is going to have a great day today. 

Tweet something interesting about your hometown or region.

Recommend someone interesting to Follow (and make note if they thank you for it).

Ask a stranger if you can tweet your selfie with them with the subtitle, "Perfect stranger with a great smile".

Tweet a funny meme (Philosoraptor and Success Kid are two of my favorites).

Tweet a company milestone.

Tweet a trivial milestone about your company.

Tweet about an event you'll be attending and ask, "Anybody else going?"

Tweet an interesting statistic about your industry (I'll you can find some on Google)

Google "interesting trivia about ____________" and then Tweet on of the items you find. Note: the 'trivia' angle can really be carried to extremes and get funny. Start a RT tsunami.

Tweet about a book you just read.

Tweet about an impactful video you just saw.

Tweet an interesting fact about one of your products.

Tweet a captionless photo you like but ask others to provide the caption…#CaptionNeeded

RT other people's content.

Short jokes… with hashtag ratings G, PG, R, X, etc.

Thank someone for following you on Twitter.

Join a Twitter chat. Check #ViralChat.

Tweet 'Fill-in-the-blank' questions. Make it a hard question and respond to the winner if you have time.

Want to attract followers in a particular subject market? Start a trivia tweet club in that market.

Tweet a review of a product you use.

Tweet an opinion about current events.

Tweet or RT about a fan you want to honor.

Tweet an amazing discovery you just make (be prepared for someone else to say, "I knew that!"

Tweet a song you can't get out of your head.

Tweet about this list 🙂

Take short headline from today's news, make it an anacronym, and ask who knows what it is.

P.S. Are you clear on the best-practices for when and what to capitalize (or not) regarding derivations of the Twitter brand name? I wasn't clear on it…but I found some guidelines here.

P.S.P.S. In the interest of full transparency, this list started out as a list of 42 Tweet ideas that I received from PostPlanner in my email. Thanks for the creative prodding, PostPlanner! The up-sizing and bolding of the first letter of each idea was my idea for making an otherwise somewhat bland topic slightly more enticing (sorta like adding Tabasco Sauce and pepper to Mac n' Tuna.

 

Art Williams
Case Study Writer and
Markethive Developer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make Your Blog Posts Look Irresistable

How To Make Your Blog Posts Look Irresistible

It’s been scientifically proven that the average reader has a shorter attention span than the average goldfish (if there is such a thing). The goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds.

The importance of this fact is that it proves how little time you’ve got to get a reader’s attention when they encounter something you’ve written. Basically, if you don't build your article cleverly, you run the risk of spending countless hours researching and writing this epic content just to realize nobody actually reads it.

The reality of reader behavior is that they almost always scan it first. If they don’t see something that catches their attention….it’s off to another page and you’ve got nothing to show for all your effort.

There are certain things you can do that make it very hard for your reader to resist reading your article. Put another way, you can take advantage of what their mind almost naturally looks for and you can do so in such a way that they almost literally ‘fall into’ reading your article like an animal in the jungle falls into a hunter’s trap.

That’s your responsibility, as a content creator…at least if you want to eat that month.

Readers Scan Articles First

The first reader behavior you should be cognizant of and use to your advantage is that the vast majority of readers will scan an article first…. Before deciding whether or not to read it.

You should anticipate that and structure your article with these critical characteristics:

After that quick, initial scan, they should immediately know:

  • What is the article is about?

  • What’s the dominant message of the article?

  • And…know they want to get more into the article in detail.

  • And…. be excited about sharing the content on social media.

To do this, the trick isn’t about making your content look ‘pretty’, i.e. in terms of colors or fonts, etc. Rather, it’s about making the article silently and smoothly grab their brain. It should reach out and ‘hook’ attention (intellectually and/or emotionally) and makes them hungry to dig more deeply into its details.

How do you do that?

Readers Won’t Read Stuff That’s Visually Difficult To Read

You’ve probably seen blog posts that had one or more of these characteristics:

  1. Very small type fonts.

  2. Long sentences that were sometimes hard to mentally follow.

  3. Lines that were vertically very tight and thus also hard to read.

  4. Type fonts that were almost gray rather than black.

  5. Paragraphs that were very long (i.e. 5+ sentences).

To prevent these factors from being automatic strikes against you, you should:

  1. Use at least 12 point fonts

  2. Try to keep your sentences as short as possible (just count the words in some material that you find easy to read…and use it as a guideline.

  3. Find a comfortable spacing between your lines. Here, the issue isn’t a specific specification but just look at other copy that you like and try to do the same thing… keeping readability in mind.

  4. Be sure the actual color of your type/fonts is dark enough to be easily read.

  5. Last but perhaps most importantly, keep your paragraphs short. Web-writing is different than magazines or your school text books. 3 to 4 sentences is generally considered optimal length nowadays on the web.

Use Subheadings To Your Advantage

Next, work on learning to use sub-headings. Sub-headings is probably one of the most effective things that beginning writers do NOT do but they are a tool that can be learned with just a little practice.

Size Does Matter  

Your article titles should almost always be H1 (that’s a term/specification you’ll find on online composers. H1 is the largest size and then it goes down, in size, from there…i.e. H2 (of lesser size and used for sub-headings, H3 for lesser importance, etc.

The reason subheadings are so effective (for the purpose we’re discussing here) is because they help your readers scan through the content and get an idea how it flows. Subheading clearly show the ready the structure of the information within your article. Subheadings help the reader to decide what paragraphs they want to read and and they are also useful for SEO purposes.

Google detects H1, H2 ‘tags’ (that’s another term for them) all the way down to H6 and makes certain assumptions about the importance of where they’re used.

Use Bulleted or Numbered Lists When You Can or Should.

There are some guidelines regarding whether numbered or ‘bulleted’ (those little round dots/spots) are better but the main idea here is that these kinds of lists attract the brain’s attention.

Generally, use numbered lists when you're explaining instructions that need to be performed in sequence. If numbers aren't essential, use bullets, especially in business-related documents.

In general, lists make your content (here’s a ‘bulleted list)’:

  • Scannable
  • Shorter
  • Comprehensive

Another good point about ‘lists’ is that they momentarily relieve you of the burden of being a ‘good writer’. Lists let you relax and just list information…but you should set them up in the mind of the reader first.

You should not use bullet points when:

  1. You need several phrases to explain a point.

  2. When you cannot start every bullet the same way grammatically.

  3. If you’ve already used lists several times in the text before (too many lists kill the purpose of using a list to stand out) or…

  4. If you need semicolons to make sense of your bullet points.

Use Bolding… (but sparingly)

The power of bolding is that you can direct the reader's attention.

Use Quotes When Possible… (but sparingly)

Another nice trick to use to get attention is to use quotes…usually put these quotes into italics and indented them somewhat.

Use Numbers… (but sparingly)

It’s OK to use numbers but be aware that somebody else usually has different numbers. So don’t use numbers unless you’re really sure those numbers are unassailable. And if  you don’t really need the numbers to make a point, don’t take the risk. Or just use them minimally.

Use Images

Use images when you can and if you have good ones. Images are enticing to scanners too. Why? Because ‘an image is worth a thousand words’.

Somewhat related to images is the technique of screenshots. There are plenty of good, and free, screenshot tools. Screenshots add a lot to an article…even when it’s being scanned.

Bonus Point: Don’t forget to include a specific CTA (Call To Action). CTA’s are not always required, or appropriate, but you might be missing an opportunity to take your relationship to a higher level, with the reader, if he/she liked what they read.

A CTA could be something like asking them to:

  • Share your article on social media

  • Subscribe to your newsletter

  • Become a fan on Facebook

  • Follow you on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, …

  • Leave a comment

  • Sign up for a free trial

  • Download an ebook

  • Read another article

  • Sign up for a webinar

Just don’t ask them to do all these things. That’ll get you nowhere.

After you’ve used some of the aforementioned techniques, it’s always useful to read through it again — looking only at the text you’ve called special attention to.

When looked at in their aggregate, does what you just read make sense? Does it give you an idea what the article is about? Does it pull you into reading the rest of the article?

It should. But remember that your writing technique and style is always evolving That's because people are always evolving. The important thing is to keep ahead of your competition without getting so far ahead that everybody thinks you live in a jungle.

The Case For Canva.com

 

The Case For Canva.com
by Art Williams

One of your goals as a content creator is to turn out the best product in the shortest period of time and at the lowest cost. One of the easiest strategies of doing that is by either adding a ‘value added’ service or doing something more efficiently.

Chefs know that ‘presentation’ is very important and the same comparative applies when comparing an article without a good graphic to that same article with a good graphic. Offering custom images is one way very practical way to do that..either starting to do it or doing it better. Not only is a picture worth a thousand words but it’s also worth some respectable extra bucks too.

In this situation, the right tools can more than pay for themselves. So….have you heard about Canva.com?

Canva starts at ‘free’ and then goes up from there. But even when you chose to pay for extras on Canva, it’s very reasonably priced (Note: the image on this article was priced at ‘FREE’… I did it myself in about 2 minutes). It also might make a lot more sense than paying for fancy software you never or rarely use (you've done that too, right?)

Canva has been around only about two or three years now. It’s loosely comparable to such other graphics products as Stencil.com (formerly shareasimage.com) and Youzign.com. Youzign is somewhat pricier but Stencil is about the same price as Canva. But there is a free account on Canva too. The difference between free and paid-for, on Canva, is in the amount of resources and elements you get.

Using Canva is very easy. You can make high-quality images blog posts, social media graphics of many types, blog headers, banners, and even custom sized items. And….if you do see an element on Canva that you like but it’s not free, the extra element is only $1.00….and then the finished product is yours forever.

One of the advantages of Canva is that its individual elements are all very high quality. This includes everththing from the fonts, to the images, the backgrounds, and the graphic elements. This means that all you need to do is put them together the way you want. If you’re just looking for an article header, that’s seldom very hard at all.

Here's the basic steps to use Canva. Even I can do it and I don’t consider myself a ‘techie’.

  1. Choose your graphic type ( you can start creating before you sign up)

  2. Choose the size.

  3. Choose a template (or specify a custom size).

  4. Change the elements such as type fonts and images (if you wish).

All the elements are customizable in both size, position, and color and I can’t imagine anybody not being able to find and/or customize something they like. 

You can make your images customizations by drag n’ drop from the elements inventory over on the left of the screen onto the work area. Everything is pretty handy and, for images, there is a search feature.

If you want to try out a custom image first, before you decide you like your finished, creations, that’s cool with Canva too as they won’t let you download it anyway until you pay for it. (Premium images have a watermark too).

If you’re gigging as an article writer, it’s hard to imagine not being to charge at least $30 for putting a nice image in an article. Matter of fact, I’ve seen articles indicating that some writers get as much as $50 for adding a nice graphic. And this is a task which rarely will take you longer than 5 minutes.

By adding the option of a custom image to your writing services you’re actually doing your client a favor too. After all, they know you already and they like dealing with you and they probably don’t want to have to ‘vet’ another service provider.

Indeed, while simply being able ‘to write’ is ‘Freshman’ level for writers… being able to provide stunning custom images and graphics for you customers definitely puts you a level about most of your competition. And this is not to mention what it does for the ‘stickiness’ of your article if you’re writing for your own projects.

Personally I use images from Unsplash and Stencil (both of which I pay a little bit for but it’s reasonable). Having said that, the one big difference I see in Canva is that (for most cases) it’ll be an ‘all-in-one’ solution.

You can pay monthly but you get a significant discount if you pay for a year. Incremental monthly is only $13@ month. So, you can try it for a month and, if you like it, the yearly price comes out to only $10 @ month. I think that’s fair.

Note: I mentioned Youzign.com. I have it,  but frankly I haven’t gotten into it. For basic needs, it might be a bit more than I’ll ever use unless I actually pick up a more pricy ‘gig’ from somebody.

 

Art Williams
Case Study Writer and Markethive Developer