Appointments with Heaven – a Worthwhile Read

Choosy Writers Choose Good Books

Are you choosy about the books you read?  I am.

My high school English teacher used to scold me when I found excuses not to read. She’d blink her eyes, sigh, and pinch her nose, “Good writers make time to read.”

Well, she’d be proud.

I read a book over spring break that was worth my time and attention. It was edifying, truthful, and inspiring and there’s a back story on how I received the book, which I’ll share in a moment.

Appointments with Heaven bills itself as “the true story of a country doctor’s healing encounters with the hereafter.” At first, I thought.  Boy. Do I really want to read a bunch of creepy stories about people dying?  (The book was given to me shortly after my mother’s death in 2013.)

I’d seen a lot of death and well, eh.

But, my sister-in-law raved about the book and she’d experienced loss, too, so I figured it had potential.

Heaven’s Southern Setting & Faith Theme

heaven coverMy family packed up our van and headed south to Florida. Dr. Reggie Anderson’s story is set in the rural South.  So literally, my journey included representations out the window of the places described in the story – Alabama on the way down and Tennessee on the route back up. What I discovered is that the story isn’t really a book about death — it is about finding faith in life.

Soak in that statement for a moment.

It’s a book about faith. Your life has purpose and it affects eternity.

Do you believe that? Like I said.  It’s a book about faith.

There are times, even if you believe there’s a higher purpose, when truthfully, you’re just not seeing how the dots connect. You lost a friend, a job, or an opportunity.  You’re stuck in what seems to be a mindless and pointless routine.  You’re disillusioned because of awful events or situations. This book addresses whys.  Does anyone even know we’re here?  Is God real?  Why do bad things happen?

Even if you have answers worked out for yourself, Dr. Reggie Anderson’s perspective, because of his scientific expertise in medicine and his own early disillusionment, is unique. This book find has the potential to be a future workbook and video series for small groups.  The Kendrick Brothers or some other producer ought to take a good look at it.

About Heaven’s Ghost Writer

If you’re a writer, it’s a study on the art of ghost writing.  Truly, the story’s organization, running motifs, theme, voice, and flow were so well constructed that I beamed for Jennifer Schuchmann, the book’s ghost writer. And herein is how I received the book.

Jennifer and I met at a conference in 2010.  She was already a published writer, managing a young family, and at the start of a promising career.  We became Linkedin and Twitter contacts. In September 2013, I was in the midst of managing a big work project, while organizing household moving details for my family, when my mother passed away. With those plates spinning, I accidentally sent an email to Jennifer that was intended for someone else. When I realized my mistake, I sent Jennifer a note asking her to disregard and delete the email.  She did, and then we quickly caught up. I asked her about her current projects and she shared.

“I’m primarily doing collaborative books with people who have stories to tell but don’t have the time or ability to tell them. I’m either hired by them or by their publishers. I’ve released two new books this year.

“Taylor’s Gift” is the story of parents who lost their 14 year old daughter in a skiing accident, donated her organs, and then met the organ recipients.

“Appointments with Heaven” is the story of a country doctor who lost his faith, found it in a dream of heaven and now catches glimpses of heaven when his patients die (he can feel their soul leave their body, smell the scents of heaven, and feel a warmth in the room). Both are good books.

Good to hear from you even if it was a mistake!”

I then confided that my mother had passed away two weeks earlier and that her Heaven book sounded relevant.  She wrote,

  Oh, I’m so sorry!  Send me your address and I’ll send you a copy of “Appointments with Heaven.” Writing that book changed the way I view death. Maybe that’s the whole reason we reconnected was so I could give you a copy of this book.

When my copy arrived, she’d personalized it with a note, “I hope this brings comfort in your loss.”

If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that the cards you receive in the following weeks are thoroughly appreciated.  This was the first time anyone had sent a book.

I read a few pages and stopped. I felt called to send a copy to each of my siblings, but I personally wasn’t ready to digest the book.

By spring 2014, I was ready.

Let’s be clear, I’m not getting paid to write this post for Appointments with Heaven nor am I doing it because I know Jennifer.  I know plenty of authors.  I just like the book and feel it’s worth my time.

I hope it’s worth yours, too.

Yesterday, I interviewed Jennifer about her ghost writing techniques.  Stay tuned. In an upcoming post, I’ll download the back story on how Dr. Anderson’s Appointments with Heaven was written.

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Filed under Authoring Books, Conferences, Favorite Websites, Reviews, Women Writers

How Much Time Does It Take to Write Website Content?

This is a question that is near and dear to my heart.  Besides writing client content, I’m rewriting My Web Writers’ website content these days.  I’m finding that as the afternoons drag into the evenings and people circle into my office only to find my hands waving them away with, “Shhh, I’ll be out in a few minutes,” that clearly writing thirty-five pages of my own site’s content is taking more time than I bargained for.  That’s because, while I planned just to copy and paste the old stuff and make a few tweeks, that’s not what’s happening.  I’m rewriting and adding new thought into old verbiage.

I should have hired My Web Writers.

To my defense, I did ask my husband to write a few pages…

Copyright My Web Writers 2014

What a trooper!

Bless him.

So, I guess I can’t really blame you, Ms. Do-It-Yourself for wanting to take on the task of writing your website or blog content all by yourself.  We’re great writers (and so are our spouses), so why do we need help?

Here’s why.

It is taking me (yeah, and him, too) about 1 -2 hours per page each with content that’s close to our hearts.  With those 35 – 70 hours back in our lives, we could be getting our laundry done and getting your laundry done.  I could be working on losing the gazillion pounds I gained eating granola bars while sitting in a computer chair.

Outsourcing projects to writers is efficient.

We have to scale.

You can’t get around to managing a company if you’re grasping to details that others are perfectly capable of delivering.

True.  No one knows the subject matter like you do, but then consider being your project’s editor.  With a good writer, you’ll cut your time in half- at least.

How much do you get paid at work per hour?  How much will it cost to pull three people off your boss’ pet project to get your company’s website content updated?

We have three people waiting for the opportunity to work, so that your team can stay on task.

How long does it take to write website content?

Plan on one to four hours per page if you do it yourself, but it’s a lot less time if you outsource it.

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Filed under Business Strategy, Leadership, Project Management, Time Management

Wince and then, Extend a Little Grammar Grace

Who would have thought that scanning the #grammar hashtag on Twitter could be entertaining?  Today, I ease-dropped and whoa, the honesty.  It must be one of those days.

 

From grammar heckling…Grammar bullying

 

to grammar bullying,grammar police

 

Thank you, people, for making grammar a little more interesting on a dreary, Monday afternoon- the day after spring break. I ate popcorn, pet the dog, and kicked back to read your stuff instead of focusing on my own.  For a moment, I forgot that I’m ridiculed at home for hanging on to my Blackberry because I fear giving up buttons and typing accuracy. Just reading Will’s post below reminds me why grammar and spelling seem so important.

 

Why grammar is important.

 

Are you judged when you write social media content?

Yup.  Er, I mean, “Yes, you are judged.”

Is that so bad?

Well, that depends on who you are.  If you’re the president, it’s a plus if your people are nearly perfect communicators.

If you’re a vampire looking to impress a date, you need to be on your best grammar behavior.

 

Grammar to get a date

 

If you’re a celebrity, the beating for a writing faux pas could be so bad that you might find yourself in a post entitled, The Thirteen Celebrities with the Worst Grammar on Twitter.  Grammar gaffs are almost as embarrassing as tripping on your dress at awards shows. But then, if you’re a celeb, you know that any PR is good PR.

 

What if you’re a writer and you- gasp- spell something wrong or miss a punctuation mark?  Your brilliant mind might never be discovered.  You, my friend, might even end up on the Famous Thinkers Who Couldn’t Spell list with Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Yeats. Oh, the ridicule.  Take time to look at your spelling and grammar checker before hitting send.  Inevitably, most of us judge and are judged by how we write.

delete for grammar police

 

Thankfully, almost everyone is compassionate to youngsters, wounded warriors, and the elderly who struggle to communicate.  We cheer them on- ignoring conventions.

That’s the best in us.

Why don’t we extend this grace to others?

I don’t know.

I do know that we give magnanimous gifts when we encourage rather than discourage.

And, we could all use a little grammar grace now and then.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Editors, Grammar, Revising & Proofreading

How Much Does Grammar Matter to Google and Bing?

Copyright 2014 My Web Writers

Copyright 2014 My Web Writers

We’re often ask us how much punctuation and grammar matter to search engine results. The short answer is, “Yes, grammar, spelling, and usage do matter.”  It’s like asking a business professional if he or she will be judged on his or her clothing at work.  While some offices are more casual than others, you’ll be judged. Google’s grammar dress code might be slightly less formal than Bing’s, but both search companies value articles that users can read without hindrances.

Google’s Content Quality Guidelines

We wrote a whole content quality series based on Google’s content guidelines after Panda came out in 2011.  Check out the four parts to learn more about Google’s quality content checklist. You’ll want to make sure that you double check spelling and grammar, as well as provide authoritative support and elaboration.

Bing’s Position on Common Errors

Duane Forrester of Bing, wrote a post February 20, 2014 that establishes Bing’s position on content quality.  If you haven’t read it, yet, take a moment to do so.  In a nutshell, Mr. Forrester suggests that if your content is littered with common errors, the reader will be frustrated and the poor quality will affect your search results.  Web pages with grammar or spelling mistakes won’t float to the top of Bing.

My Web Writers is available with several editors if you need help proofreading your copy.

Article Evaluation Template

If you’re just looking for a little guidance, download this article evaluation worksheet and ask someone else in your office to score your articles with it. Use the rubric to solicit general feedback from others or just use it as a general checklist to review before publishing. I used this template for student peer review when I was teaching English 101 years ago.  The template was originally published by D.C. Heath Grammar and Composition, which was sold to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Originally published by DC Heath and Company

Originally published by DC Heath and Company

Remember, even the best writers borrow a second set of eyes before publishing! Revising and proofreading are just standard actions steps.

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Filed under Grammar, Panda, Revising & Proofreading, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

What can we learn about marketing from CNBC’s marketing of The Profit?

Donald Trump. Mark Cuban.

Mr. Wonderful. 

Kevin oleary make up

In the last eight months, a new business teacher has emerged to entertain weary and wanna-be entrepreneurs.

Who is this new profit?

Marcus Lemonis- and his show, The Profit.  (Do you think the show’s name was purposeful?)

Lean in. We can certainly learn a lot about marketing from a network marketing machine trying to launch a new television show.

To start, watch CNBC’s The Profit.  It’s a newer show trying to build an audience in its second season.  At its start in August 2013, the show weighed in between 248,000 viewers and 254,000 viewers, but as of March 18, 2014, the audience grew to 415,000 in the 10 pm time slot thanks to the Worldwide Trailer Sales episode .

What has the series been doing to build its brand?

 

Airing Interesting Content

Piggy-backing off of the success of Shark Tank, the premise of The Profit is that accomplished businessman, Marcus Lemonis, can save failing businesses and ultimately generate profit, if current owners are willing to sell their majority shares for Lemonis’ infusions of cash, instruction, and hard work.  The Profit’s Worldwide Trailer Sales episode, for example, while controversial, ranked well with general audiences because it was a lesson in what not to do in business– don’t air dirty laundry in front of co-workers and employees.

The Profit team also delivers related business insights and advice via video and articles through the show’s CNBC web site.

Knowing your niche and casting stories that are interesting and insightful are integral components to success.  If you sell a service or a product, focus on delivering the best possible quality product.  Hire a team that understands how to deliver the type of content that’s needed for each channel. You can drive segmented audience traffic to your website or store, if you deliver a story that’s relevant, engaging, and right-sized for your customers.

I once had a college professor spilt our class into thirds.  Some of us were producers and had to conjure up show names and premises.  Some of us were advertisers trying to decide where we wanted to place our advertising, and the rest were sales people.  All of us voted on what shows we would want to watch.

The lesson?  In a public university college class, the most outrageous titles always won the popular vote and usually those had to do with sex, models, and alcohol.  Nice, straight-forward, and generally wholesome programming usually bombed.  Advertisers soon learned that they had to weigh exposure to more viewers against their brand’s image and associations.  Sales people didn’t want to get stuck selling low-rated shows to advertisers, so they pitched work more often with those producers who had a string of titles that resonated with audiences.  I learned that what I thought would go over big (nice, educational shows) didn’t and, in looking back, some of the voting was probably influenced by certain frats hosting the party that night.  The content has to fit the audience and be justified with numbers.

When I saw the Worldwide Trailer Sales Inc episode of The Profit, I had déjà vu.  That crazy episode- with the foul language and bad behavior, had all the makings of a winner in the ratings.

 

Real-Time Engagement on Social Media

So, after the show, @marcuslemonis stayed an hour longer to tweet with fans.  Without ruining the show for you (because it ends rather abruptly), this technique helped viewers to sort through reactions. What a great idea!  Use social media to start, clarify, or end conversations.  How?  Create a video or blog post about your service or product.  Then, expand upon the conversation in another channel.  Ask viewers to migrate there with you.  You’ll influence search, loyalty, and engagement with this technique.

Producers of the Profit received some decent feedback about the March 18, 2014 show and I suspect a sequel to the Worldwide Trailers episode was even discussed.  If not, the feedback was valuable for fine-tuning Season 3 criteria and upcoming episodes.  Test the market place for your product or service with feedback obtained from social media.

If anything, Twitter gave Lemonis the opportunity to share feelings and thoughts about the show.  He worked on developing relationships with his emerging fan base.The profit tweets

Lemonis uses his Twitter account to promote upcoming shows and to build his personal brand.  He asks for entries for The Profit’s next casting season and promotes contests that give fans chances to ask him questions and to meet him for lunch.

Is your CEO using Twitter to rally the troops and to promote your brand?

 

Create Memes

The Profit Facebook page employs another search marketing tactic.  It features memes.The profit meme

Take professional pictures of scenes from your story and add wording to those pictures to create memes or info-graphics that link to your website. People are more likely to share pictures and those shares- especially on G+ and Facebook can influence search engine results.  Pinners are even creating boards with sayings from the show!

What are your company’s sayings?  Take snippets of the CEO’s best speeches, add them to pictures, and ask the team to pin ‘em.

Lemonis and The Profit are also on Zeebox.  What’s Zeebox? It’s a place where TV fans go to hang-out with cast members and fans of their favorite shows.  The conversations in these micro-communities give producers feedback and insights, while feeding additional information to fans.

 

Create Videos

The Profit shares about ten full-length episodes on its website. It then breaks those videos into smaller tidbits with inserts of business advice from Lemonis.  You can do this, too.  What is your company’s story?  Its mission?  What does it do well?  Educate your customers, your employees, or your partners with a YouTube channel filled with useful videos.

 

Cross Promote other Channels

If you own other properties or are in relationships with partners, promote each other.

Lemonis tweets to Shark Tank investors, interviews with CNBC, and appears on CNBC’s Power Lunch.  The Profit even sponsored a Nascar raceLemonis is also visible promoting the show with interviews like this one with the HuffPost. Stories and interviews are cropping up on blogs like Inc., My Web Writers, and Ken McCarthy.

The result?  More exposure.

Growing ratings.

Increased profits for the companies vested in the show.

 

Marketing Take-Aways

What can you learn from the marketing of CNBC’s new show, The Profit?

  1. Know who you are and what you want to say to customers.
  2. Promote your mission in sound bites and actions through tweets, posts, memes, and videos.
  3. Be available. Stay engaged with customers.
  4. Cross promote. Find like-minded partners and help each other by interviewing and promoting each other.
  5. Provide relevant content that your niche will actually want to digest and share.

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Filed under Business Strategy, Content Marketing, Facebook, Google Plus, Infographics & Memes, Marketing, Pinterest, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Social Media contests, Twitter

Nothing Fits “All of Your Needs”

The phrase appears everywhere.  Our service or products will fit “all of your needs.”  Wow!  This is it.  I’ve hit the Holy Grail.  ALL of my needs.  Where do I sign up??  I need a new wardrobe.  I need someone to wash my dog.  I need more time to watch Shark Tank Tuesdays.  I need a vacation.  And on and on…

The reality is, nothing fits “all of your needs.”  Not any one person, company, or product.  A search of Google yields about 121,000,000 results for “all of your needs.”  That large a number says that there are a lot of people and businesses that believe they can do it all.  (Humorous sidetrack:  the number one search result on Google for “all of your needs” returns a link to a Bible passage from Philippians 4:19 that says, “And my God will meet all your needs.” Score one for the big guy.)

Delete trite phrases

Delete trite phrases

One of the lessons that should be taught to content writers during their Marketing 101 course is to avoid using the phrase “all of your needs” in copy.  Forever.  In fact, there should be a law against using such a trite phrase that’s guaranteed to underdeliver.  Besides “all of your needs,” the Harvard Business Review released their own Bizspeak Blacklist of overused word phrases that display an absence of actual thought.  Some offenders:

  • Think outside the box

  • Mission-critical

  • Hit the ground running

  • Push the envelope

  • Value-added

  • Level the playing field

SHIFT Communications took overuse of a trite phrase one step further and sampled 62,768 press releases from 2013.  Their goal was to find the top 50 most overused words marketers penned in press releases.  Do you use (or overuse) any of these:  new, first, most, leading, best, great, largest, better, special, or better?  If so, you are not alone.  They made the 50 most overused words in press releases list for 2013 along with mobile, professional, current, real, and top.

4 Steps To Avoid Trite Marketing Phrases

  1. Describe what makes your item or service unique from others like it.  This is your chance to take a 30-second elevator pitch and translate into a few short sentences.  Some items to cover in your written description may include a guarantee, something that will be fixed, benefits when used, and specialties that will stand out from the crowd.

  1. Wrap your product around words that trip the senses.  Effective copy crafts words that make the reader believe they cannot possibly live without the product or service.  Paint a word picture that appeals to one or more of the five senses.  Create a sensory experience with words that let’s the reader see a vision, remember a smell, or desire to touch.  For inspiration, click on a few of the products from one of the best eCommerce brands today that knows how to appeal to the senses.  The Duluth Trading Company uses humor through the words on their t-shirt product descriptions.  One solves the problem of confronting the unsightly shock of happening upon someone with a much-feared “Plumbers Butt.”

  1. Share a true story or testimonial.  For marketers, nothing is better than word-of-mouth referrals where one customer sells another on a product or service.  BazaarVoice, a leader in gathering product or service reviews, reports that items with positive feedback convert 12.5% better than those without.  Let the praises of your customers sing for others and add their words in a quote format to your marketing copy.

  1. Appeal to the imagination.  The art of poetry is lost.  Bring wordsmithing back with words that evoke images for your products or services.  Words to Use is a website that can help remove writer’s block and find the right words about anything.  Can you describe a rose?

While you won’t be able to entirely eliminate trite phrases from your writing, editing with a mind toward using words with sizzle will bring your marketing prose to the next level.

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Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Content, Descriptive Writing, Narrative Writing, Revising & Proofreading, The Writing Process, Words Which Sell, Writer's Block

Use a Mutual Fund Strategy to Counter Google

Diversify your search portfolio

Diversify your search portfolio

Investors learned the trick long ago. Place your hard-earned money in just one stock and it is win big or go home. Diversify your monies and invest in multiple stocks through mutual funds and minimize your risks. It’s a winning strategy eCommerce marketers should look to as well.

Why Build a One-Legged Stool? 

When it comes to search engine marketing, conversations drift towards how tactical efforts will affect the search engine result page ranking on Google. Of course, there are Bing, Ask, Dogpile, Duck Duck Go and a bunch of other search engine “also-rans,” but with two-thirds of all searches being conducted on Google according to comScore, they are the tail that wags the dog in search.

The attention given solely to and dominance of Google is not a good thing. Having all your marketing eggs in one large search basket places too much pass-fail risk in one channel. And, it’s one channel you can’t control. (Think of the next Google Panda or Penguin update.) This is similar to what investors learned to circumvent 80 years ago. Marketing diversification is the key to long-term growth and success.

Broaden Your Definition of Search 

Sure. Google is the #1 most visited web site according to Alexa rankings with its primary purpose being search. Facebook is #2 and is primarily a social network. But, at the very top of the Facebook site, there’s a search box! How does your product, brand, or service rank when searched on Facebook?

There’s a search box at or near the top of #6 Wikipedia, too. And #8 LinkedIn, #11 Twitter, and #12 Amazon. Of course, there’s Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, SlideShare, and dozens of other heavily visited web sites that all have search engines. Does a click on their search engine result pages lead to your site?

Internet Shoppers Leverage Amazon Reviews 

Why Amazon Matters Now More Than Ever

Why Amazon Matters Now More Than Ever

Forrester Research recently published a report called, Why Amazon Matters Now More than Ever. The study surfaced that, in 2012, 30% of online consumers were already using other approaches to search for and research products, like reading Amazon customer reviews, before making a purchase decision.  These shoppers were not necessarily making their purchase on Amazon. This behavior is on the increase. According to the study, only 13% of online users are researching a potential product purchase solely online through search engines like Google. Chalk one up for including Amazon in your search strategy. Be sure to add other review sites like Epinions.com, Buzzillions.com, ConsumerReports.org, ConsumerSearch.com, and CNET.com to your search marketing strategy list.

Smile for the Camera 

With more people than ever carrying smart phones with mega-pixel cameras embedded within them, consumers are being trained to digest image content quickly and easily. Three of the four top social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) have the same common characteristic – they place an emphasis on sharing images. The recent rapid rise to success of Pinterest and Buzzfeed only adds testaments to the viral power and search potential of image-based content.

Mean Stinks Photo Sharing

Mean Stinks Photo Sharing

Proctor & Gamble leveraged this trend recently with their “Mean Stinks” Secret deodorant campaign by creating a photo searching and sharing application to spread an anti-bullying message.  According to P&G, over 1.5 million girls spread awareness about girl-to-girl bullying through the generation of these images.

Successful brands that receive the most social image shares also have another common characteristic. They know how to pepper in some well-placed, creative images into their written content that drive consumers to search for them to share.

Spread the Wealth 

A solid search engine marketing strategy creates content that aims to improve the search engine results page rank for as many visit driving sites as possible, not just Google. Both what you do with content on your own web site, as well as these other web sites, can have a positive impact on many ways people can find your business or service when they search. Having a diversified content strategy in place also insures your site against being at the mercy of the next Google Dance, when your rankings on just that search engine slip a bit.

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Filed under Business Strategy, Content, Content Marketing, Marketing, Search Engine Marketing