Category Archives: Blog Writing Tips

What Have We Learned about Consumers from Parsing Big Data?

If you’ve shopped recently (whether in a store or online), you may have been asked for a phone number or email address, or maybe both. Have you ever wondered why you’re being asked for information more often than previous years? The answer is simple—companies are gathering data and watching buying patterns to learn more about consumers as a whole. Even if your information isn’t collected, your transaction is later analyzed to determine when certain items were bought and what to send to that store’s inventory for the following year, as most companies base their performance against last year’s (LY’s) numbers. This data that is collected is referred to as big data, a term that is essentially used to explain the large growth and quick availability of both structured and unstructured data and information (SAS).

Categories of Data

The SAS Institute explains three categories often looked at when analyzing this data: volume, velocity, and variety. While the volume of data being collected is growing higher all the time, storage of the collected data is not as big a problem as it previously was—data storage costs are decreasing. So, with the volume of data being collected at a fast pace, the question becomes how to determine the relevance of the data collected and how to make the data valuable. Data comes in a wide variety of both structured and unstructured formats—everything from structured numeric data (such as data gathered from transactions) to unstructured text documents such as emails or social media activity.

What Can the Analysis of Big Data Change?

In an article with Forbes, we learn from Kurt Abrahamson (CEO of ShareThis) exactly what can be done with data gathered. Data gathered by companies through social media is as simple as clicking a “like” button on something and then “sharing” it on with your friends and family on a social media network. Whether it’s an article, a blog post, a product, a video, or anything else you can think of, once it’s “liked,” analytics companies create a profile which is then given to advertisers. This is how major companies reach out and find new customers.

Once companies have data on potential customers, they must find a way to appeal to new customers while keeping current customers happy. Thinking about this from a content perspective, we must sell products (in a storefront or online) by making them appealing to customers. In a physical store, the story is told with the products themselves, through the way they are organized. However, as Internet Retailer points out, many more consumers are shopping online. This means that insightful content is going to continue to be valued on company websites.icons

Specific and detailed descriptions of products and services will make a huge difference when it comes to the success or failure of e-stores. Look at some product descriptions on an e-store. Are they clear and concise? Do they give you a reason to want the product? Is there a way for the product to be rated by the consumer? Perhaps they even suggest a use! For example:

  • These jeans are made with a stretch denim and come in a variety of sizes to fit everyone.
  • Our most-loved, boot-cut jeans feature the classic, 5-pocket design and are made with soft, stretch denim. All are available in sizes 0 to 13!

Which would you buy?

What Does Big Data Tell Us About Consumers?

Essentially, by watching and tracking what is bought and read online, we can learn a lot about consumers. There are some things that are bought a certain seasons, such as school supplies. However, when a family that buys the standard yearly school supplies also buys a new laundry hamper, shower caddy, storage totes, cleaning supplies, and a closet organizer, it’s an indication that they are either moving or their child is going away to college—that’s a major life change worth tracking. According to an article in the New York Times, the most common time of life for buying patterns to change is around the time a child is born. Not during the planning stages, but during the last few weeks leading up to the birth and the first few weeks after, when parents are exhausted and begin weighing options of cost, brand, and reviews. After the baby is born, parents are often hit with a massive flow of offers, deals, coupons, and other things pertaining to their new baby—content and reviews may play a part in which product parents will buy.

Analyzing big data can tell us a variety of things about consumers—what’s going on in their lives, what their favorite brands are, during what time of year they purchase certain items, and so on. Companies are also able to make data-driven decisions about what products to bring out at what part of the year, what products are in a higher demand with consumers, and even in what part of the country certain products sell better. By tracking and gathering data, companies will be able to watch where the traffic is going to better concentrate their marketing and content efforts. ~Holly

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Filed under Analytics, Business Strategy, Holiday Blog, Merchandising, Product Descriptions, Sales

How Well is Your Online Store Organized?

Heading into the back-to-school and holiday season, most retail stores and companies are going to be brushing up on their visual marketing skills as well as scrubbing down their stores and inventory to ensure the easiest shopping for customers. A clean, well-organized store will make for happy customers that will be likely to return and shop with you in the not-so-hectic seasons. Those customers will also be more likely to inform their friends about the service and great products they found at your store. All that’s left is making sure your store and ready for the quickly-approaching holiday season!

Update Pages

Image courtesy of Annie's

Image courtesy of Annies

The first (and easiest) step is to go through the inventory and update pages. Make sure pictures, prices, titles, and descriptions are all up-to-date—this is a great chance for you to refresh some older titles and descriptions. Update the language to be more descriptive and catchy so you’re sure to catch the attention of your customers. For example, instead of writing “This product will be of good use in the kitchen,” try something more vibrant and informative: “This handmade dishcloth set is the perfect gift for new homeowners celebrating their first Christmas in the house!” You can subtly suggest a use for the product while gently reminding customers of the upcoming holiday. It’s an easy way of helping your customer make sure they check everyone off their list. You’re also telling them what the product is and how unique it may be. Clear, concise, and upbeat descriptions are what will catch the attention of customers.

Rethink Category Pages

Cleaning up your pages also presents a chance to create product categories to better organize items. Break the products down into categories: Kitchen Wares, Bathroom Essentials, Holiday, and Welcome Baby are a few good ideas—these are types of gifts that cover a multitude of events. A clean, organized store (even if it’s an online store) will entice more people to shop, so always make sure that the best-selling and most popular products are at the top of the page—your customers may enjoy browsing through the products in your online store, but sometimes they’re looking for that one specific thing that they saw had multiple great reviews. If it’s an item that is selling regularly, even if it may not entirely apply to the holiday season, keep it in a prominent place on your page. Everything you do to prepare for the holiday seasons is simply going to result in making your online store much more consumer-friendly.

Talk About Your Store via Networking

This is also a great time to brush up on your networking skills. Whether it’s through a social media channel or by way of a blog, get in contact with other online shop owners! Communicate with them to get new ideas on selling products or visual marketing. Whether the stores are similar or completely different, building a network is a great asset as the stores grow. Social media activity will bring in new customers, too. If your store isn’t involved in social media or blogging, start today! Friends of friends of customers can like, read, or buy just by way of Facebook. Create a Facebook or an Instagram page or a Twitter account for your store and start showing off your products! Use hashtags, post pictures, follow stores and people (try to follow the people who follow you as a way of thanking them) and communicate. Create a blog to write about your products, what consumers could use the products for, and (if they’re handmade) write about the creation of the products. Have a few key words that are used multiple times in each blog entry to pull people in. Add pictures and links to individual products as well as the main page of the store.

Prepare for Holiday Traffic

Prepare for the upcoming holiday season by preparing your online store—give products and product descriptions a quick refresh, organize products into categories, and start using social media to promote products. Get in contact with other online store owners and start getting feedback, learn some new ideas, and apply those ideas to your store. With attention to details, your store will be better organized to finish the year strong!

~Holly

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Filed under E-Tail Category Content, Holiday Blog, Product Descriptions, Time Management

One Cannot Not Communicate- Is Silence Golden?

Maybe Mom Wasn’t Always Right

The first of Paul Watzlawick’s five axioms is simple- “One Cannot Not Communicate.” Wanterfall says,

Even when you think you are not sending any messages, that absence of messages is quite evident to any observer, and can itself constitute quite a significant message. Not only that, but we usually transmit quite a few non-verbal messages unconsciously, even when we think we are not sending any messages at all.

What do you, as a professional, communicate when you choose not to communicate?

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Perhaps your mother used to say, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” When your new friend with long, braided hair entered your home, she bit her tongue.

Did her silence mean, “I wouldn’t let my son wear his hair that long, but since I have no association beyond his association with you, I’ll make you feel comfortable enough without offering approval?” Her tongue biting left wiggle room- both for your friend’s eventual haircut and her possible opinion change.

While the intent behind silence might be noble, its very form is deceiving – a mask for a mix of thoughts and emotions forming in the sender or else a sign of ignorance. Silence is golden because it buys the sender time and it offers the receiver little information- or so is the hope.

What are the Effects of Non-Responses in Digital Communications? 

One cannot not communicate with social media. Not following a customer or fan on Twitter or G+, for example, could be construed as a slight. You’re too busy, too important, to ignorant to use the tools to follow and interact. Not having your social media in order says a lot about the organization behind your organization. Your brand communicates that it does’t embrace or understand the mediums or struggles to find funds. The receiver never really knows why you’re silent- just that you are and the resulting message is up for interpretation.

Internet marketer, Jay Baer, suggests:

Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour? A few are. Most are not, in my experience, which potentially creates a disillusionment gap between customers’ anticipated response time, and your actual ability to provide a response.

Having a workforce to handle your social media interactions could be just what you need to reduce the stress in your customer service department.

One cannot not communicate with blogs. You haven’t written a blog post in weeks. Maybe there isn’t a lot happening in your company or industry – yeah right. You’re too busy, too underfunded, too unorganized. You were in the hospital. Whatever the reason, a lack of action or words communicates a message. Is it the message you want your fans to receive?

Darren Rouse looks at blogging this way:

The more posts you publish over time, the more doorways you present readers with to enter your blog.

1 post a week means you’ve got 52 doorways at the end of the year – daily posts means 365 doorways at the end of the year. This means people are more likely to see your content in RSS readers, in search engines, on social media etc. Over time this adds up.

Contracting out some of your brand’s writing work to writers can keep opening doors verses closing them in silence.

One cannot not communicate with correspondences. Two candidates fly out to your company for second interviews. You extend an offer to one. The chosen candidate receives your full attention. The other doesn’t. The one who didn’t get the job sends an email to you. No reply. This happens once. Twice. Three times. Surely, not communicating is a soft let down, right?  According to Career Builder,

56 percent of employers admitted that they don’t respond to all candidates or acknowledge receipt of their applications; 33 percent said they don’t follow up with candidates they interviewed with to let them know they didn’t get the job.

What does a lack of response communicate? That from the top down, your company’s communication process isn’t clear or even rude when not in need of a person, service, or product. It communicates disorganization and incompetency in the HR department. Don’t think for a moment that the candidate won’t remember the lack of communication when they’re in a better position.  According to the HT Group:

If you’re guilty of this and other bad hiring habits, beware your actions could complicate your recruiting efforts and even damage your company’s overall reputation. Here’s how (according to the same study):

  • Job seekers who don’t hear back after applying for a job are less likely to continue buying products or services from that company.
  • Did a job seeker have a bad experience with you? Half will tell their friends about it.
  • An overwhelming 75 percent of job seekers use traditional networking such as word-of-mouth to gather more information about a company.
  • More than 60 percent will check out your company on social media to find out if what you’re telling them about your culture is true.
  • More than two-thirds of job seekers would accept a lower salary if the company had exceptionally positive reviews online.

One cannot not communicate. What are the unintended messages you send just by choosing inaction or silence with your digital marketing strategies or relationships? From creating blog posts and social media posts to staying up with emails and correspondences silence is not usually golden.  Rethink if you’re clearly, consistently, and honestly, as well as tactfully communicating.

 

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Filed under Audience, Blog Writing Tips, Capturing Audience, Content Job Boards, Customer Profile, Leadership, Marketing, Project Management, Reputation Management, Resumes, Social Media

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

Six Mistakes Writers Make with Your Website’s Content

MistakesWhen you hire a professional writer to create the content for your website, it can be a frustrating and disappointing experience when something doesn’t go as planned. You know your business and brand better than anyone else so it can be challenging to find someone who fully grasps what it is you’re trying to say.

It’s critical that your website’s content accurately reflects who you are and connects with your target audience. Writers, just like anyone else, are capable of making mistakes. Unfortunately when these mistakes are made with your web content, it can negatively impact your business and your bottom line. The best defense is to be on the lookout! Here are six of the most common mistakes writers make with your website’s content.

1. They lose your voice

Your brand and business should have a distinct voice. For example, maybe you prefer a causal and humorous tone. Or maybe your business is more formal and professional. One of the biggest mistakes writers make is forgetting to incorporate this tone consistently into your website’s content. Often this tone gets overpowered by the writer’s voice, leaving you with content that reflects him or her more than it does your business.

2. They leave out key pieces of information

You hold the key to the most important information that should be included within your website’s content. It’s important that you communicate all of this with your writer so that he or she is knows what to incorporate. However, even with this key information at hand, writers will still forget to include it in the content. This might be a part of the history of your business, a particular service you offer or contact information. Check and double check your content to be sure what should be included is included.

3. They make it time sensitive

Fresh website content not only looks professional, but it helps with SEO as well. However, there is a fine balance between creating fresh content and burdening yourself with content that always has to be updated. Writers often make the mistake of not making content “evergreen” – in other words, not writing the content in such a way that it always stays fresh. Mentioning specific dates, numbers and upcoming events will commit you to having to update this content on the regular, – and many business owners simply don’t have the time.

4. They lack a call to action

Your website should drive customers to take some sort of action. The most obvious and desirable action for many businesses is to buy something! Writers make fatal errors for your business when they forget to include clear and convincing calls-to-action within the website’s content. Make sure they know exactly what your call to action is and stress the areas in which you’d like it emphasized on your website.

5. They write too much

It’s true – you can have too much of a good thing. Too much content will overcrowd your website and overwhelm your customers. When presented with long paragraphs and multiple pages of content, many people will tune out completely. You should want to keep visitors on your website as long as possible and encourage them to visit multiple pages. Short and concise content will help lead users through your website and keep them interested.

6. They disregard your direction

Finally and most importantly, writers need to follow your direction. Sure, they may have valuable input and strategy for your content, but at the end of the day it’s your business and your website should read the way you want. A common error that writers make is making the content entirely different than what you described. If you envisioned a fun and conversational tone, but were given content that is stuffy and disengaging, this will completely change the feel of your website – and the feel of your business as a result. ~Stephanie

What do you think? What mistakes have writers made with your content? Share your thoughts!

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Our List of the Best SEO Companies in the Midwest

Stay Positive. How to Manage Writers with No Respect for the Deadlines

Hold Your Writers Accountable to These Five Resolutions

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Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Content, Editors, Web Writers

Twenty Ideas for Finding Better Blog Topics

By My Web WritersHawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Berne 032

Another day, another blog post. Any blogger can tell you that it’s difficult to keep up a steady stream of blog posts that readers will find worthy of their time to read and to keep coming back for more.  How do you discover unique angles? Bookmark these ideas to find better blog topics.

1.      Check your best-performing posts. Your blog’s dashboard can become your best friend. Use it to pinpoint your most-read posts. Brainstorm more blog topics related to those posts.

2.      Re-blog your best posts in other formats. Did readers love your take on Christmas cookies? Plan another post featuring a slideshow of your favorite cookies, or post a how-to tutorial on one recipe. You might even branch out and try a video posting showing you making some cookies.

3.      Google ideas. Brainstorm a list of terms you enjoy blogging about (recipes, craft projects, technology, etc.) and type each into Google. What comes up? Browse the results and you’re sure to think of a blog topic or two.

4.      Carry a notebook. Bloggers are observant people. Carry a small notebook, because you never know when a great blog topic will occur to you: while watching a theater production, while noticing unusual packaging at the grocery store – but hopefully not while driving!

5.      Read other blogs. Type some favorite topics and “blog” into a search engine, and see what comes up. You don’t want to copy other bloggers, but you can often glean ideas from them for topics.

6.      Join a Facebook group. There are thousands of Facebook groups. Take advantage by joining one; either a group for bloggers or a group based on the specific interests of your blog. You’ll find plenty of inspiration for blog topics here.

7.      Leave the computer. In order to write interesting blog posts, you need to step away from the computer now and then to actually live. You can find intriguing blog post ideas outside, in nature and in your community.

8.      Read books. It doesn’t matter if they’re fiction or non-fiction, reading widens your world and is bound to give you food for thought (and for writing!).

9.       Ask questions. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account for your blog, ask your readers directly: what are some topics you’d like to read a post about?

10.  Search for memes. A quick search of “blog memes” will reveal a wealth of question-type blog posts that can serve as a template for an easy and interesting post.

11.  Read comments. Pay attention to what readers have commented on for your previous posts. This can give you ideas for future posts.

12.  Guest post. Write to a few bloggers who you’ve befriended – or would like to. They may be interested in exchanging guest posts. This makes your blog more interesting to readers, and can also grow your audience.

13.  Eavesdrop. Next time you’re out in public, listen in on a few conversations. What are people talking about? Could you turn anything you heard into a blog post?

14.  Check news sites. Often, current news events make great blog post fodder. Often, the best post ideas come from “soft” news: has a controversial study come out lately? Blog about your opinion!

15.  Create a schedule. Blog post planning can be easier with some “regular” features. Perhaps you could blog about cooking for each “Menu Plan Monday,” or participate in “Wordless Wednesday” with a photo each week.

16.  Review a book. Write about your thoughts on a book you just read. Ask your readers for their thoughts, or for further reading recommendations.

17.  Review a product. Is there a product you’re hating? Loving? Tell your readers about it! You might even send your post to the company. Who knows? If they like your posting, they may send you products for future reviews.

18.  Social Media. What are your friends/followers talking about on Facebook and Twitter? Social media is a great place to find popular topics.

19.  Talk to a friend. Chances are, the topics that you talk about with friends are ones that online readers will enjoy reading about, too.

20.  Check your referrals. Look in your blog dashboard to see search terms that bring readers to your site. Blog about topics that come up frequently in the results.

Do you have a few to add?  Share them with us!

~Susan

You might like reading our blog writing tips or posts about writing careers, too!

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Six Business Valentines You Can Copy and Paste into Emails

by My Web Rhymers

Go ahead and start the day with a little fun.  It is Valentine’s Day, after all. Did you get a card for your spouse and candies for the kids? Let clients, vendors, bosses, and coworkers know that you’re thinking of them, too.

We created six, light-hearted, Valentine’s Day email ideas. We’ll post some on Facebook and G+, too.  Borrow our little ditties or use them to kick-start your own. We give you permission to modify and to send the following poor puns, jilted rhymes, and pup pictures in your emails or add them to your blog posts, but do kindly link back to My Web Writers’ blog with attribution when you do.  You can grab the images by right clicking and saving them and then uploading to email or blog content.  Spread some joy.

 

6. Sending Love

You're best in show.

You’re simply the best!

We’re sending this little e-card

to catch you off your guard.

With enthusiasm we say,

“Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Through all the emails, meetings, and reports; we’re proud to call you our cohorts.

<Your Name and Business>

~My Web Writers 2014.

 

5. Happy Valentine’s Day from the Other Side of the World

To our Tired Valentines

To our Tired Valentines

It’s morning here

and evening there.

Still we all work together without a care.

Sometimes the time zones get confusing,

but today we start with a little musing.

“Happy Valentine’s Day” to our overseas crew,

Your perspective is valued the whole year through!

<Your Name and Business>

~My Web Writers 2014.

 

4. Be Our Valentine, Boss

Take us to lunch?

Take us to lunch?

Sometimes your pace is crazy,

But your enthusiasm is so amazing.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to say,

Let’s take one day to play.

You’re the best boss for the job.

Will you please take us to lunch in your Saab?

<Your Name and Business>

~Content courtesy of My Web Writers 2014.

 

3. To My Coolest Client on Valentine’s Day

You're the top dog!

You’re the top dog!

You answer my emails and calls,

while juggling so many balls.

Thanks for being my coolest client

and making me feel like a giant.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

Here’s to increased profits in Q1 & Q2!

<Your Name and Business>

~Content courtesy of My Web Writers 2014.

 

2. To the Nicest Vendor

It's a treat to work with you!

It’s a treat to work with you!

All week long I’m barraged by calls

by prospects and vendors who drive my team up walls.

You rarely miss a meeting, report, or find

and your demeanor is very kind.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

You’re the nicest vendor through and through!

<Your Name and Business>

~Content courtesy of My Web Writers 2014.

 

1. Breaking Up is Hard to Do

We can still be friends.

We can still be friends.

Even though our business relationship ended,

we hope that you’re still not offended.

Your company is outstanding,

We just had a misunderstanding.

Happy Valentines to you and your crew

and all the best the whole year through.

<Your Name and Business>

~Content courtesy of My Web Writers 2014.

 

Crazy, we know.  Share one of your own creations with all of us!

Happy Valentines Day from My Web Writers!


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Filed under Content, Email Campaigns, Holiday Blog