A Quick Way to Improve Your Writing Skills and Create Better Content

SPECIAL NOTE: A couple of weeks back, I did a live class on search engine optimization (SEO) for bloggers. The class was incredibly popular, and since then I’ve had tons of requests from people who couldn’t attend the live workshop, but still want a way to access the class.

Well, there’s good news – now you can get the “What Bloggers Need to Know About SEO” master class for just $37. Click here to get the details. When you buy this class, you can immediately access the recording of the class along with an informative handout and the slides from the presentation. Here’s the link one more time.

BigPencilGirlWant a quick way to improve your writing? Here’s a practical tip.

I want you to take 15 minutes and read this article from the blog BoostBlogTraffic.com. It’s called “297 Flabby Words and Phrases That Rob Your Writing of All Its Power.

As an online content creator, you may be looking for ways to improve your writing skills. But it’s surprisingly hard to do that without hiring an editor for every piece you write.

So the question is — if you’re already a good writer, how can you become a great one?

If you’re struggling with this issue, this blog post might provide a real breakthrough for you. The post’s author, Shane Arthur, is one of the best copyeditors I’ve ever known – he can take an article, cut out all the unnecessary words, and turn it into a finely tuned piece of extraordinary content. He can find fluff in places I would never even think to look. But if you don’t have Shane to edit your writing, how can you tighten up your own email content, sales pages, and blog posts? He tells you exactly how with this “297 Flabby Words” post — and you’re going to be amazed by his insights.

After you’ve read the post in its entirety, print it out and hang it above your desk. Next time you’ve completed a piece of writing and you’re ready to edit, look over Shane’s list of “flabby” words and hunt for them in your own writing. Then ruthlessly cut them. I practically guarantee you will find a whole bunch of words you can cut – and it’s going to make your writing so much clearer and easier to understand.

After you do this a couple of times, you’re going to notice that you tend to overuse certain words or phrases again and again. When you spot those words, put them on your own personal “Flabby Words” list. Then put that list right next to Shane’s blog post, on the wall above your desk.

Here’s my own personal “Flabby Words” list:

  • Just
  • In order to
  • So (especially to start sentences)
  • That
  • Exactly
  • Really
  • And (especially to start sentences)

What’s on your personal “fluff” words list? Or do you have other ways of cutting out the fat and making your writing tighter? Tell us about it in the comments.

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The Quick and Easy Way to Manage Amazon Links

There are lots of reasons you might need to share a link to an Amazon product.

Maybe you’re an author who needs to link to your book’s Amazon page on a regular basis. Or perhaps you share resources with your blog readers or email subscribers, and many of those resources are books, ebooks or CDs.

If you want to give people a quick and painless way to buy stuff online, the easiest way to do it (in many cases) is to send them to Amazon.

However you might feel about the gigantic online store Amazon (and believe me, I’ve got some mixed feelings about it myself), there’s no denying that Amazon’s website is an incredibly popular place for people to buy stuff online. Right now, Amazon sells over 200 million products in the United States, and that number will continue to increase in the next few years.

But how do you easily share a link to a product on Amazon when their URLs look like…this?=

http://www.amazon.com/Winning-Story-Wars-Stories-Future-ebook/dp/B0088Q9UX6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404937095&sr=8-1&keywords=storywars

Gah. What a mess.

Whether you’re sharing that link over email, social networking sites, text message, or even trying to tell it to someone over the phone (eek), it’s a mouthful. Amazon URLs are messy and ugly  — and even worse, it’s really easy to accidentally drop part of the URL and mess up the link entirely.

But there is a solution. There is a quick and easy way to share a simple link to ANY product on Amazon without having to do backflips in order to do it.

Just find the product you want to link to on Amazon, and go to that product’s page. That page will look like the image below.

Then, find the area on the right area of the screen that says “Share” (it will have little Facebook and Twitter logos next to it, as indicated by the big arrow below).

AmazonSharewithArrow

When you find the “Share” area, just click on the little envelope icon. You’ll see a pop-up box that looks like this:

AmazonShare2withArrow

Check out the nice, neat, SHORT link indicated by the arrow in the image above. You can use that simple URL to link to this product on Amazon. Just copy that link and paste it anywhere you want — in email, social media, or in a blog post. Anywhere you need to link to this product, use this short little link instead of the other long, ugly one.

If you regularly link to this product, you can even make a note of the URL by bookmarking or saving it somewhere on your computer. That way you will have easy access to it anytime you need it.

So now you know how to turn this:
http://www.amazon.com/Winning-Story-Wars-Stories-Future-ebook/dp/B0088Q9UX6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404937095&sr=8-1&keywords=storywars

…into this:
http://amzn.com/B0088Q9UX6

…any time you need to. Better, yes?

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A Simple Way to Write More Blog Posts in Less Time

ClockCoolSmallerAs a blogging and social media coach, I often hear my clients say, “I don’t have enough time to create all this content!” It’s a chronic problem for most marketers.

So here’s a simple (but massively effective) idea for making sure your next few blog posts get written.

If you want to write blog posts, you need to:

  1. Write your posts in batches
  2. Schedule your content creation sessions

What do I mean by “batches”? It’s simple — instead of trying to squeeze 10-minute increments of writing time into your already over-full schedule, I want you to set aside a couple of hours once a month to crank out two (or even three) blog posts at a time.

Sounds simple, right? But you’d be surprised how many people don’t write blog posts this way. Two of the most successful bloggers I know – Tamara Suttle and Cynthia Morris — both consistently schedule their blog writing time in batches, and it shows in their online marketing results. Batching works.

But intending to batch your blog post creation doesn’t work unless you actually schedule that writing time on your calendar. So block the time off in your paper schedule or e-calendar (whatever works for you) for a writing session, then honor that commitment just like you would any other important appointment.

Remember: Successful bloggers don’t schedule over their writing time!

Your 10-minute assignment for this week: Pick a 3-hour block of time during the next 3-4 weeks, and simply block it out on your calendar as blog post writing time. Then honor that commitment by using that time to write as many blog posts as you can.

In the future — when you know how fast you can write and how much you can accomplish during 3 hours of writing time — you’ll be able to pencil in a goal of how many blog posts you want to complete during each scheduled session. For now, just block the time and honor it!

Do you batch your blog post writing (or do you have other time-saving tips for creating content quickly and easily?) Share your ideas in the comments below!

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Peppy Podcasts for a Winter’s Day

In 2013, I started spending a lot of time walking. Many of you know I got a new puppy in February of last year. As soon as Moose came home, I started spending a solid hour (sometimes more) each day walking him around my neighborhood, getting out all of his infectious puppy energy.

So what does an entrepreneur do with all that walking time? Fall in love with podcasts, of course!

Before I got Moose, I was a very occasional podcast listener. I would grab an episode of This American Life if I missed one, but I wasn’t seriously invested.

But now that I’m logging all this leash time, I’ve figured out how to subscribe to podcast using iTunes and how to search for the best business podcasts online. Now I never take Moose out without a podcaster’s voice in my ear, and I’ve gotten some killer business advice from my favorite shows.

Want to know how to get started with listening to podcasts in iTunes? Check out this excellent FAQ podcast page from Apple to get you started.

If you’d like to know who I’ve got in my ear this winter, here are a few of my absolute favorites:

Do you listen to podcasts? Do you have any favorite business shows that you particularly love (and would recommend?) And when do you listen to podcasts (during a commute, at the gym, or somewhere else)? Tell me your podcast stories in the comments below.

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Moose Needs a Favor.

This is my dog, Moose.

Moose’s friends at The Dog Spot, his very favorite doggie day care facility in Boulder, have been hit hard by the Boulder floods. The owners of The Dog Spot (you may remember them from my recent blog post about how to run an extraordinary small business) are in trouble — they lost everything in the floods last week. Ben and Shannon escaped from their house by trekking perilously through waist-high flood waters, and now they have nothing but the clothes on their backs and their beloved pets. The business survived, but they’re now facing a massive rebuilding effort, and the herculean task of replacing all their possessions.

I started this online campaign to try to raise some money to help them, and it would mean the world to me if you would take a look and consider donating. Every little bit helps — even $5 would help them offset their living expenses and rebuilding costs while they’re trying to get back on their feet.

I normally don’t ask you for donations, but this is a very special situation, and these are extraordinary people. Thanks in advance for your support.

Moose says “Woof. Thank you. Woof.”

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My Favorite Online Marketing Books

I read a lot. In fact, reading the best books in my field is one of the ways I stay on top of what’s going on the world of online marketing. Yes, blogs are fantastic — I read a lot of those, too — but sometimes, nothing beats a real book (or a Kindle book!) for really digging into a meaty subject. So what are my favorite online marketing books? Here are my top three all-time favorites (and why I recommend each one):

The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases & Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott.  This is the book that started it all for me. It explains how to harness “pull” marketing (blogs, podcasts, videos and social media) to speak directly to your customers, develop real relationships online, and spread the word about your business (even with no marketing budget!) Full of fantastic case studies and stories. This is not a fast read, but it’s an absolute must for internet marketers today.
The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself by John Jantsch. My copy of this book is so highlighted, dog-eared and marked up that I had to buy a new one this year! Technically, this is a book about getting more referrals for your business, but I think it’s so much more than that. You’ll learn everything you need to know to create extraordinary customer experiences, and get amazing referrals from every client who works with you. Some fantastic advice on creating online content lies at the center of this marketing classic.
Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman.  If you find yourself constantly asking , “How am I supposed to create all this content?”, this is the book for you. It offers step-by-step advice on creating all kinds of compelling content, and makes the world of content marketing much more manageable (possibly even fun!) Read this book with a notebook nearby — you get TONS of content ideas.
This week: Check out these amazing content marketing resources, and strongly consider adding them to your office’s bookshelf. Then tell me your favorite marketing books by adding a comment on today’s blog post.
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What Are Sales Pages?

With our webinar about writing compelling web copy just around the corner, (register for Creating High-Impact, No-Hype Sales Pages that Get Results here) I wanted to answer some questions about sales pages that have come up in the last few days.

I’ll explain a bit more about what sales pages are, why they’re useful, and why it’s important for small business owners to know how to write them well. We’ll also talk about some basic pitfalls to avoid, when you’re writing web copy that sells.

What Exactly Is a Sales Page?

A sales page is simply a web page used to sell a product or service. Your job as the creator of a sales page is to give the reader all the information they might need in order to make a purchase. The content on a sales page has to be informative, interesting AND persuasive, which can make them very challenging to do them well.

Some pages are simple and short, others are fancy and complicated – some may even include video or audio elements.

How Can I Use Sales Pages?

You can use sales pages on your website any time you want to sell one of your products or services. That includes things like coaching packages, conferences, online classes and programs, or physical products. If you can sell it, you need a sales page on your website to HELP you sell it.

What Is an Example of a Sales Page?

One of my all-time favorite sales pages is one that was created by coach and author Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation. The sales page for her year-long mastermind program, Power Boost Marketing, is classy, professional, totally comprehensive, and very persuasive. Pam puts a lot of time and effort into creating compelling sales pages for her products and programs, and her attention to detail is one of the reasons she is so successful.

What Are Some Things to Avoid, When I’m Creating a Sales Page for My Products or Services?

We’ve all seen sales pages that ramble on and on, and never seem to get to the point. These are the pages that sound like a bad television commercial — “But wait! There’s MORE!”

You need to avoid sleazy, hard-sell sales tactics in your online pages, but you also want to make sure you’re giving people the information they need in order to make a purchase. You don’t want to leave your reader with a lot of unanswered questions, either! Finding a happy balance between overselling and underselling is one of the greatest challenges of writing effective sales pages.

Do I Need to Be an Advanced Internet Marketer to Create and Use a Sales Page?

Absolutely not. Advanced markerters CAN use them, but so can beginners. If you want to sell more or your products and services, it’s a good idea to learn how to create more effective sales pages.

If you want to learn how to write compelling sales pages that really convert, check out the online class I’m teaching with copywriter Kathryn Aragon, Creating High-Impact, No-Hype Sales Pages that Get Results. The class is on Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 at 1 PM Eastern time.

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Win a Ticket to the Social Media Success Summit!

I am having a CONTEST!

In just a few days, I am going to give one lucky reader the opportunity to attend one of the biggest social media training events of the year –  the Social Media Success Summit, sponsored by Social Media Examiner — for FREE!

This online-only event will be led by 45+ of the world’s top social media marketing pros (including yours truly) and you don’t want to miss it.

And you don’t even need to leave your house to participate — all the sessions will be available for you to access online, from the comfort of your own home!

How to Enter:

To enter to win a FREE ticket to this awesome event (a $597 value), all you need to do is add a comment on this post, describing your biggest question or challenge about blogging (or if you’re not into blogging, tell me about your biggest online marketing challenge). Your questions can be technical, strategic, or everything in between — so add your comment today, and get yourself entered to win this incredible prize!

THIS CONTEST HAS CLOSED. You can comment on this post (and let me know your problems/issues/gripes) but you will not be entered into the contest.

RULES (Please read carefully before you enter):

  • Deadline for the contest is midnight on Tuesday, August 28th. That means you only have a couple of days to enter, so leave your comment today!
  • Winner will be selected at random from the entries. Please, only ONE entry per participant.
  • When you comment, you MUST use a working email address in the comment form. The email address will be used to send you your free ticket, so make sure it’s one that you check regularly (and don’t worry — no one will see that address except me and the Social Media Examiner administrator who will send your ticket if you win).
  • I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday, August 29th.

THIS CONTEST HAS CLOSED. You can comment on this post (and let me know your problems/issues/gripes) but you will not be entered into the contest.

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Get Ready for Pinfluence Academy!

Are you ready to be a Pinterest Powerhouse?! Join us for Pinfluence Academy!

Learn to use Pinterest to create an avalanche of referral traffic, mailing list sign-ups, and online sales for your business.

Pinfluence Academy is a four-week online course, beginning May 20th, with content-rich learning modules that give you all the best Pinterest marketing knowledge, PLUS a full hour of live Q&A with me.

This comprehensive Pinterest marketing course includes video and text content as well as worksheets, checklists and other bonus goodies. Learn at your own pace and on your own schedule.

Whether you are a seasoned Pinterest user or brand new to the tool, you’ll learn to drive traffic and sales to your business.

Here’s how the program launch will work -

  • Student enrollment opens at 9:00 AM Eastern time on Wednesday, May 15th, 2013.
  • Class is limited to the first 100 registrants, so sign up early!
  • The course begins on May 20th.
  • You can sign up here — I have extended the registration deadline though Tuesday, May 21st.

Can’t wait to see you in The Pinfluence Academy!

Questions? Leave ‘em here in the comments, and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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4 Ways to Make Your Business Extraordinary

I recently had an amazing experience with a local business here in Boulder, Colorado. I had been shopping around for a doggie daycare for my new puppy, so I asked my dog owner friends for their recommendations.

Many of my friends recommended The Dog Spot, a locally-owned daycare and boarding business for active pups.

I reserved Moose’s first daycare day with them, and right from the first moment, I got a great feeling about The Dog Spot. Here’s what I loved about my experience on the first day:

1. I was asked to fill out a complete profile for Moose, so that his caretakers would know his personality, including all his quirks and weird habits. I love that they wanted to know everything about my dog, in order to take the best possible care of him.

2. The owner, Shannon, greeted me warmly at the door, and as I was filling out my paperwork, she greeted each of the other customers (and their dogs!) by name as they came in the door.

3. Every dog who came in was incredibly excited to be there — some were actually scratched at the door to get in!

4. I was told exactly what Moose’s schedule for the day would be, so that I would know what to expect. I particularly loved hearing that The Dog Spot owners carve out the hours between 12-2 PM every day as “naptime,” so the pups can get some rest.

5. The place was clean, welcoming, and quiet when I arrived. It is obviously well-run and very organized.

6. During Moose’s first day, the caretakers posted hilarious photos of him on their Facebook page. When I picked up him that evening, I also received a full report on his first day, including a fabulous photo collage of pictures of Moose with all his new friends.

I am so thrilled with The Dog Spot that I have been talking about them non-stop on Facebook and Twitter. I have also recommended their facility wholeheartedly to my dog owner friends in Boulder.

Here are the lessons you can take from The Dog Spot, to make YOUR local business more extraordinary:

1. Know your clients! Greeting people by name when they arrive makes them feel valued and welcomed.

2. Go out of your way to provide a memorable experience. Because The Dog Spot owners provided an amazing experience for me and Moose, they are going to get tons of referrals from me. What can you do to provide an incredible experience for your clients?

3.  Integrate your social media presence in smart ways. The Dog Spot uses their Facebook page to post regular pics of the dogs’ adventures, so puppy owners can keep an eye on their pets during the day. What can you do with social media that makes your customers’ experiences even better?

4. Be nice. One of the things I love about the folks at The Dog Spot is that they are so warm and friendly. Studies show that as human beings, we most often do business with the people we like — so being nice is not only the right thing to do, it’s the profitable thing, as well!

Your assignment for this week: Take a look at what you’re doing with your business, and see if you can make some small changes that would make your company really stand out from the competition. Make your business better, and your clients will be delighted to refer their friends and family members to you.

 

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