Category Archives: Queries & Articles

Disruptive Offline Content

Content on the Internet will continue to be needed.

Could an under-riding current, force, or attitude ever topple the rigorous success of today’s Internet giants? As spring conference goers chatter about high-tech wearables and ranking methodologies, business appears to march forward- as usual.  According to the US Census Bureau, in 2005 about $5,498 million was earned in publishing and broadcasting content on the Internet.  Plunkett Research expects that number to grow to $61.4 billion in 2017.

Google’s Hummingbird update paved way for deeper, more semantically relevant and meaningful content to exist for a very long time.  Consumers want to interact, understand concepts, and contextualize ideas. Hummingbird makes it faster for consumers to find those answers and it depends heavily on the planet’s best writers and producers to deliver the words, pictures, and videos needed for consumption.

It seems like Google is poised to stay at the top of its game for years to come.

Many remain skeptical of the Internet.

But, according to the NY Times in May 2013, about 15% of US adults still don’t use the Internet.  Tens of millions of people in the US are not plugged into computers for a variety of reasons including “lack of interest, lack of skills, or computer illiteracy.”  Given the recent €150,000 fine for privacy violations in France, there are large populations- even governments that remain pensive about spying, data collection, and bitcoins being exchanged on the Internet.

While there is often a knowledge discrepancy between those who manipulate the mechanics of the Internet and those who consume its content, consumers aren’t ignorant of what makes them uncomfortable.

Business is more competitive online today.

Even those who work within the search industry freely admit that staying abreast and ahead of the rapid changes is crucial to survival in the space. Some have replaced their SEO services with a hip suite of content marketing services, inbound services, publishing services or link removal services to stay current, but the costs of the industry’s leading software and manpower to deliver those services aren’t cheap. Each year the space becomes more and more competitive because online advertising dollars spent are increasing.

The Theory of Disruptive Innovation

According to Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor, disruptive innovation “describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”

It is conceivable that the innovator who embraces the concerns of the fifteen percent of the population still holding out against technology, could force the Goliaths in the Internet industry to stumble or to fall- even though that appears improbable from today’s vantage point. After all, anyone reading this post is probably not in the fifteen percent.

Revamping offline

April_Cover-229x300

I recently met a gentleman who sells high-quality, community magazines, which include articles and pictures of new residents, community happenings, meet-ups, and local features. The writers live within the communities and often include resident teenagers, who are required to perform community service for their schools.

The company sells local and national advertising in these magazines and delivers the magazines for free to residents. When I asked how it was that people were willing to share such intimate descriptions and pictures of their children’s activities, schools, interests, favorite vacations, and other details with the friends and strangers in their neighborhoods, the gentleman said, “Well, it’s a closed community. We let people know that nothing goes online. Each community is affluent. Advertisers want to reach these decision-makers in their homes- away from the office.” The equation works even though many online versions of magazines exist today.

This offline, mini-version of Facebook generates millions of dollars a week. While the model might be a throw-back to an era gone-by and it’s naïve to think that content wouldn’t end up online, the magazine’s laser-like focus on local, micro-communities is nonetheless finding avenues to reach the elusive 15%.

What are the attitudes consumers harbor, but don’t necessarily express and do any of those silently resonate with the majority who do work online, but are frustrated by credit card security lapses and account hacks?

Think of the seventies clothing some wore as kids, laughed at as teens, and then revamped and wore again as adults.

Could social media, search, content creation, and advertising be disrupted by retro-like, offline versions in the future?

Anything is possible.

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Filed under Business Strategy, Content, Education Strategy, Marketing, Queries & Articles

Content for Less- Fat Brain Toys Involves Customers in Content Creation

By My Web Writers

Toys that Use Words

Fat Brain Toys doesn’t play around when it comes to website content.  Owner, Mark Carson, has always supported written content on the site’s category and product pages; but, Matt Hansen, Director of Marketing, says that it was only about three months ago that the educational toy retailer really started developing blog content.

It seems like many marketers attend webinars and read articles that explain the importance of content to conversions and search engine rankings, but then they return to work and leave out the paragraphs.  Why?

Content creation is expensive.

Blog Sales Powered by Writers

Hansen says that Fat Brain Toys “employs three in-house writers with a variety of skill levels, but listens to feedback from many internal and external stakeholders.”  You can sense the community when you visit the site.

Play is Fat Brain Toys’ blog.  Each week, the writers add videos, newsy snippets, and creative articles around a theme.  But, how does the company curate so much content without straining their budget?

play

In a green box at the top of the Play blog, writers click and find a call for

 “content from leaders in the toy industry, leaders in the world of raising children, and great thinkers who believe in pure play. Each piece of content will be shared with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of visitors. As a contributor to PLAY, you’ll be given full contributor/byline credit with a short bio listing. We will also actively encourage link sharing. Fat Brain Toys will share a link to your site, and we hope you’ll share a link to your published PLAY content on your site as well.”

Who Would Write for Free?

The secret to securing inexpensive content is to embrace loyal fans and toy industry leaders, who want to build authorship profiles by using Play as their publisher.

The potential sales win-fall for Fat Brain Toys is notable. Many writers will write for article bylines just to increase exposure of their own personal brands, products, books, and speaking portfolios. Google authorship gives incentive for many writers to secure their personal brands this way. Between the free content and social sharing by writers, Play is revving up a sales engine.

This is the content creation model that many business leaders are thinking about and talking about at conferences and in meetings, but few are making it happen.  Fat Brain Toys is connecting and creating the model.

If You Can’t Buy It, Build It

Mark Carson also created the company’s unique review system.  He and his in-house team built an automated content contributor under each toy’s product description.

FBT Reviews

Consumers find content that details available options and hazards, linked articles from Play, related products and categories, accessory options, and other consumer reviews and rankings of age/gender usage. All of this data aggregates and moves the products up or down in the “new”, “shop by age”, or “shop by gender” sections of the site.

Google wants valuable content and this system offers it to parents.

Parents Help Parents with Special Perspectives

Carson also invented another consumer-generated content resource that is highly-valuable to the special needs and elderly populations.

Special needs

Parents, teachers, and caretakers explain how they use the toys with children and adults with special needs. There is a ranking system for the toy’s value index and the toy’s IQ that helps shoppers evaluate how their child or adult might use the toy.

Toy IQ

Again, the content offers value to shoppers and there’s a community of trust and interaction being built with the brand through the content interaction.

The Future of Content Creation

If you love or believe in a brand, chances are you won’t care about getting paid to promote it. You’ll contribute for intrinsic rewards like attention or the sense of helping others.

Fat Brain Toys knows that its core consumers are passionate about educating children and contributing to a better world through play and it has tapped into these passions.

Does this totally remove the need for in-house or freelance writers and editors? No.  Someone needs to curate and optimize the content.  The in-house team fills in where the consumer leaves off.

Your website still needs writers and editors who are masters of brand positioning, product knowledge, spelling, grammar, sentence structure, usage, and search engine optimization.  Fat Brain Toys hasn’t lost sight of that fact, but it does demonstrate how to involve your audience.

What would inspire your shoppers to interact more with your website’s content?

~Jean


Other Posts:

What is Google Authorship and What Do Writers Need to Know About it?

How do I write content based on buyer personas?

Ten Tips for Starting a Social Media Conversation

Prioritize Your Social Media Channels

Twenty-five Effective, Call-to-Action Phrases for E-commerce Content

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Filed under Audience, Blog Writing Tips, Business Strategy, Capturing Audience, Content, Content Marketing, E-Tail Category Content, Editors, Favorite Websites, Local, Product Descriptions, Project Management, Queries & Articles, Reviews, Social Media, Time Management, Writing Careers

National Brands without Physical Stores Struggle to Rank for Local and other 2013 #SMX West Insights

My Web Writers Attended #SMX 2013

My Web Writers Attended #SMX 2013

By My Web Writers

How can You Rank for Local, if You’re a National Brand without Local Stores?

Good luck.  There are few alternatives to building physical stores.  When a user types in a qualifying term like “pants Toledo”, he or she is probably looking  for a Toledo clothing store that sells pants.  Often the user is located within 1.5 miles of the store at that time.  In many cases, it’s becoming the norm for national chains, that solely sell online, to fall below the local listings of brands with stores.

How do you get around the local problem if you’re a national chain without physical stores?  Some panelists suggested building local pages on your website, while others suggested empowering affiliates to drive traffic for local, long-tailed keywords. Local landing pages are required and must have phone tracking, pricing, transparency, an adoption plan, and ensured alignment with the national PPC campaign.

Balihoo.com, which offers a free download of going local ideas, suggested starting with 4 – 5 affiliates and empowering them with incentives in local markets.  My Web Writers also published a post on going local back in 2012.

For those businesses that do have physical stores, Scott Nickels of Home Depot shared a story of a map pin to a local store that ended up in the wrong place. Traffic kept flowing to a residential home before the resident finally called to complain about the headlights in her back yard. Store managers have to be aware of the postcard process required for validation of the physical addresses and Maps needs to better hone in on the locales.

Home Depot’s word for 2013 is “local.” Nickels suggests creating one page per store and localizing social, too. He somberly shook his head when an attendee asked, “Do you mean if I have 53 stores, I have to optimize 53 Facebook pages?”

“Yes, yes you do,” he replied.

2013 #SMX West Insights

There are already so many, insightful, #SMX West 2013 recaps floating around the web from various attendees, but here are a few more insights as well as a list of the recaps.

Random Notes from Watching Sites Get Critiqued:
  • Put Java Script and CSS in external script.
  • Don’t use disavow if possible. Don’t tell Google you have a problem unless you have a PhD in understanding linking. You don’t want to accidentally remove links that are actually working for you.
  • Submit articles to Reddit.
  • Canonicals- make sure all products are given credit.
  • PR can build legitimate page links.
  • Shopping cart pages should be optimized with what the latest coupon codes are. Remember to 301 redirect expired coupons.
  • Experiment with Google Plus to get juice for search-ability.
  • Don’t blog just to blog. Consider putting monies toward PR opportunities.
  • Schematag.org – a plugin for WordPress
  • Enrich your Google Places ranking.

Take-aways from other SMX West sessions are as follows:

  • Authorship and identity will matter more over time. False identities will be found.  Do authorities and brands have rank? Individuals have their own brands and should use authorship to maintain them.  Big brands are still struggling with this, which makes it a good time for small companies to utilize Authorship.
  • “Links still have many good years ahead of them.” ~Matt Cutts
  • Social interaction helps to determine SERP’s.
  • Mobile is going to surprise a lot of people. It’s a critical factor.  Isolate mobile in Analytics. There’s a web page test tool that @AnneCushing likes to use to watch a video of how long it takes to load a client’s page.  It helps clients to see the importance of improving site speed- http://www.webpagetest.org/.
  • “SEO is no longer about tactics, but more about strategy.”
  • “Keep the company focused on metrics that matter to the company and not ranking reports.”
  • Duane Forrester says the most important SEO factor for next year is “usability.  It’s more important than h-tags.”
  • Ann Cushing said to “focus less on keywords and more on landing pages.”
  • Matt Cutts reiterated that the “global view is the same as in other years. Give the user what they want.” Annotate your web pages with ‘about of’ markup for Chrome users. You can also disavow at a domain level.
  • Rae Hoffman encouraged SEO’s to “Let go of how easy it used to be.”
  • Greg Bowser said, “Embrace the big data.”

Looking for additional #SMX 2013 Recaps and Insights?  Read these excellent posts:

SEO Success in 2013 & beyond: Matt Cutts & others’ insights at #SMX

Matt Cutts, Duane Forrester talk ‘Adventures in SEO’ at SMX West

SMX West 2013: Top Tips, Tools & Takeaways

Insights from a Conversation with Matt Cutts about Google Authorship

Live Blog Recap: SMX West 2013 Day Three

Live Blog Recap: SMX West 2013 Day Two

Live Blog Recap: SMX West 2013 Day One

My SMX West 2013 Takeaways- Sugar Rae’s blog

What ideas do you have for national brands that want to rank for local search terms? Is there a #SMX 2013 blog post that I missed that you like?

~Jean

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Filed under Algorithms, Analytics, Business Strategy, Conferences, Content Marketing, Facebook, Google Plus, Keywords, Marketing, Panda, Penguin, Queries & Articles, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Twitter, Website Linking

The Basics of Writing in MLA Style

by My Web Writers

Image Courtesy of the Modern Language Association- MLA.org

Formatting is an important component of any researched-based writing from high school essays to college term papers to published, academic work. For those who aren’t familiar with them, formatting styles can cause quite a headache, especially when left to the last minute. The best way to avoid the rush is to format before you begin writing and to follow the guidelines as you write.

In the humanities, MLA is the standard writing style for scholarly work. Students and professionals working in literature, cultural studies, media, and many commercial publications will need to understand and apply this style. Check out these tips to help you along the way.

MLA papers should…

–          be typed with 12-point font

–          use 8.5 x 11 inch paper with one-inch margins.

–          be double-spaced, with no spaces between paragraphs.

–          contain paragraphs with the first line indented one-half inch.

–          Page numbers should appear in the upper right hand corner. The author’s last name should appear before the page number.

First Page Formatting

–          List your name, the instructor’s name, the class and the date on separate lines. Like the body of the paper, the heading should be double spaced.

–          Include a centered title.

–          There should be one space between the title and the first line of text.

Betty Sue                                                                                            Sue 1

Mr. Howard

English 101

3 April 2012

Title

The first line of text should appear here. It should be followed by a second line of text. Notice that the first paragraph is indented.

In-text Citations

Generally, MLA uses author-page in-text citations. Citations allow the writer to give credit for ideas, paraphrases, and direct quotes that are not his or her own. Citations also allow readers to identify the sources for specific information in the paper and to correlate to the works cited page. In-text citations occur either directly after the quote or paraphrase or at the end of the sentence in which the quote or paraphrase is contained.  Notice that the end punctuation always appears after the last parenthesis. See the examples below.

“I sure hate flying airplanes” (Rider 16).

The girl says, “I sure hate flying airplanes,” even though she doesn’t mean it (Rider 16).

According to Rider, the girl “sure hates[s] flying airplanes” (16).

Works Cited Page

–           The works cited page appears on a separate sheet at the end of the paper.

–          The title should be centered and plain text.

–          Citations should be double-spaced with no extra spaces between citations.

–          All entries should identify the medium of publication (i.e. Print, CD, and Web).

–          EasyBib is a free site that generates reference pages in a variety of writing styles. Using this resource may save time when compiling a work cited page.

Basic book and web citations are shown below.

The format for citing a book is:

Author Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Year Published. Publication type.

The format for citing a web resource is:

Name of Author or Editor. Website Name. Version Number. Publisher or sponsor of site, date resource was created. Medium. Date material accessed. <URL> (If providing the URL is required.)

Additional Information

Most colleges and universities now have online writing labs with style guides that explain formatting in-depth. A few useful sites are listed below. MLA also prints style guides. Be sure to check out their website for any annual updates.

Modern Languages Association 

Purdue University Online Writing Lab 

Texas A&M University Writing Lab 

Utah Valley University Online Writing Lab 

~Lindsey

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Filed under Citing Sources, Queries & Articles, Research Tips, Revising & Proofreading, Technical Writing, The Writing Process

Write a Better Query Letter and Sell Your Work

by My Web Writers

Even with an increase in possible venues and publications in the digital age, getting your writing published is a tricky business. The bottom line is that to get that by-line you have to have more than talent. You also have to convince someone your writing is worth even considering. The first stop before an editor reads your manuscript is the query letter. Think of the query letter as your sales pitch. You have one short document to wow the editor enough that he or she will keep reading. It’s a tough business, yes, but knowing how to craft a good query letter can give you a leg-up.

Be Specific—Know Your Writing. Know Your Audience.

The first step to writing a strong query is being specific about your manuscript. Know what you’re writing and know who you’re writing to. Read back issues of the publication and demonstrate that you know the publication by offering specific reasons why your piece is a good fit for their style and target audience. Find the specific name and title of the editor you should submit to and address your letter to this person.

In your letter provide specifics about your article. How long is it, what genre does it fit, when can you finish it by, or when would it fit into the publication cycle best? Provide an outline of who the target audience for your piece is. Sell your writing from the business end.

Close your letter with an outline of your credentials. What is your experience and/or training? Have you been published before? Why should the publication trust you to produce quality work?

Cut the Fluff.

The basic elements of a query letter include a hook, a pitch, the body, and your credentials. There’s not much room for fluff. In  your hook avoid introducing yourself or getting bogged down in small talk. Dive in and write a hook just like you would in your story. Grab the editor’s attention off the bat and set yourself up for the pitch. In the pitch, get down to those specifics outlined above. Set down the nuts and bolts of the article before explaining the topic or story in more detail in the body. The body should give the editor more of an idea of what the story is about and what the point of the article is. Finally, close with your credentials. Give the editor concrete reasons why you’re a trustworthy and talented writer, rather than leaning on buttering up the publication or laying out your hopes and dreams. Keep the tone concise and confident.

Have a Voice.

The letter itself is a sample of your writing. It’s easy to get really stuffy and anxious in a query letter, but take a deep breath and let the editor hear the kind of voice that comes through in your articles. Be you, but in your best business suit, so to speak. Your letter should also demonstrate that you can provide a unique voice in multiple settings. Suggest a couple of different slants your article could take depending on the editors’ preference. Demonstrate that not only do you have a great article, you can be flexible in your writing.

 Be Professional.

A professional journalist once told me, “Think like a pro. Act like a pro. And you will be a pro.” Those words stuck with me and they are fully applicable to selling your writing. Even if you haven’t been published yet, or if you’re lacking confidence, present yourself like a professional. You might have to fake it til you make it. Remember, no editor will believe in your abilities if you don’t.

 Though query letters may feel like a pain or a hoop to jump through, keep a good attitude. A query letter is a powerful tool for both you and the editor. If you’re pitching an article you haven’t finished yet, queries save you time and effort. You can get confirmation or rejection on the idea before you put the labor into finishing it. Better yet, you also have the chance to get feedback on the idea that you can factor into your project. Perhaps you’ll get rejected, but the editor will be generous enough to give you some tips. Or, if your piece gets accepted, the editor can tell you how long they want it and provide feedback on angles, styles, and subject matter, helping you craft a piece perfectly suited for the publication and saving you major revisions.

All told, writing query letters is probably nobody’s favorite task, so  you can always hire an article writing service to draft or edit your queries.  However, treating this must-do as an opportunity to hone your voice and your writing skills can help you further your career as you seek out that elusive by-line.

~Kasey

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Filed under Conferences, Content, Queries & Articles