Tag Archive | "Being"

Authentic Blogging: Stop Trying To Make The Right Impression And Start Being Yourself

Have you ever written a blog post and read it back only to find it sounds nothing like your style or voice? A lot of new bloggers create a frame in their mind about how they think they need to present themselves to the world. This is especially true when starting…

The post Authentic Blogging: Stop Trying To Make The Right Impression And Start Being Yourself appeared first on Yaro.blog.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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Chris Ducker: How Being ‘You’ Can Be Your Greatest Marketing Asset

 [ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] A few years ago I was at the Gold Coast in Australia, attending Darren Rowse’s Problogger conference as a speaker. On the stage that day was a man I’d know for many years online, but never…

The post Chris Ducker: How Being ‘You’ Can Be Your Greatest Marketing Asset appeared first on Yaro.blog.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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Google’s Walled Garden: Are We Being Pushed Out of Our Own Digital Backyards?

Posted by Dr-Pete

Early search engines were built on an unspoken transaction — a pact between search engines and website owners — you give us your data, and we’ll send you traffic. While Google changed the game of how search engines rank content, they honored the same pact in the beginning. Publishers, who owned their own content and traditionally were fueled by subscription revenue, operated differently. Over time, they built walls around their gardens to keep visitors in and, hopefully, keep them paying.

Over the past six years, Google has crossed this divide, building walls around their content and no longer linking out to the sources that content was originally built on. Is this the inevitable evolution of search, or has Google forgotten their pact with the people’s whose backyards their garden was built on?

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this question, but the evolution itself is undeniable. I’m going to take you through an exhaustive (yes, you may need a sandwich) journey of the ways that Google is building in-search experiences, from answer boxes to custom portals, and rerouting paths back to their own garden.


I. The Knowledge Graph

In May of 2012, Google launched the Knowledge Graph. This was Google’s first large-scale attempt at providing direct answers in search results, using structured data from trusted sources. One incarnation of the Knowledge Graph is Knowledge Panels, which return rich information about known entities. Here’s part of one for actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (note: this image is truncated)…

The Knowledge Graph marked two very important shifts. First, Google created deep in-search experiences. As Knowledge Panels have evolved, searchers have access to rich information and answers without ever going to an external site. Second, Google started to aggressively link back to their own resources. It’s easy to overlook those faded blue links, but here’s the full Knowledge Panel with every link back to a Google property marked…

Including links to Google Images, that’s 33 different links back to Google. These two changes — self-contained in-search experiences and aggressive internal linking — represent a radical shift in the nature of search engines, and that shift has continued and expanded over the past six years.

More recently, Google added a sharing icon (on the right, directly below the top images). This provides a custom link that allows people to directly share rich Google search results as content on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and by email. Google no longer views these pages as a path to a destination. Search results are the destination.

The Knowledge Graph also spawned Knowledge Cards, more broadly known as “answer boxes.” Take any fact in the panel above and pose it as a question, and you’re likely to get a Knowledge Card. For example, “How old is Chiwetel Ejiofor?” returns the following…

For many searchers, this will be the end of their journey. Google has answered their question and created a self-contained experience. Note that this example also contains links to additional Google searches.

In 2015, Google launched Medical Knowledge Panels. These gradually evolved into fully customized content experiences created with partners in the medical field. Here’s one for “cardiac arrest” (truncated)…

Note the fully customized design (these images were created specifically for these panels), as well as the multi-tabbed experience. It is now possible to have a complete, customized content experience without ever leaving Google.


II. Live Results

In some specialized cases, Google uses private data partnerships to create customized answer boxes. Google calls these “Live Results.” You’ve probably seen them many times now on weather, sports and stock market searches. Here’s one for “Seattle weather”…

For the casual information seeker, these are self-contained information experiences with most or all of what we care about. Live Results are somewhat unique in that, unlike the general knowledge in the Knowledge Graph, each partnership represents a disruption to an industry.

These partnerships have branched out over time into even more specialized results. Consider, for example, “Snoqualmie ski conditions”…

Sports results are incredibly disruptive, and Google has expanded and enriched these results quite a bit over the past couple of years. Here’s one for “Super Bowl 2018″…

Note that clicking any portion of this Live Result leads to a customized portal on Google that can no longer be called a “search result” in any traditional sense (more on portals later). Special sporting events, such as the 2018 Winter Olympics, have even more rich features. Here are some custom carousels for “Olympic snowboarding results”…

Note that these are multi-column carousels that ultimately lead to dozens of smaller cards. All of these cards click to more Google search results. This design choice may look strange on desktop and marks another trend — Google’s shift to mobile-first design. Here’s the same set of results on a Google Pixel phone…

Here, the horizontal scrolling feels more intuitive, and the carousel is the full-width of the screen, instead of feeling like a free-floating design element. These features are not only rich experiences on mobile screens, but dominate mobile results much more than they do two-column desktop results.


III. Carousels

Speaking of carousels, Google has been experimenting with a variety of horizontal result formats, and many of them are built around driving traffic back to Google searches and properties. One of the older styles of carousels is the list format, which runs across the top of desktop searches (above other results). Here’s one for “Seattle Sounders roster”…

Each player links to a new search result with that player in a Knowledge Panel. This carousel expands to the width of the screen (which is unusual, since Google’s core desktop design is fixed-width). On my 1920×1080 screen, you can see 14 players, each linking to a new Google search, and the option to scroll for more…

This type of list carousel covers a wide range of topics, from “cat breeds” to “types of cheese.” Here’s an interesting one for “best movies of 1984.” The image is truncated, but the full result includes drop-downs to select movie genres and other years…

Once again, each result links to a new search with a Knowledge Panel dedicated to that movie. Another style of carousel is the multi-row horizontal scroller, like this one for “songs by Nirvana”…

In this case, not only does each entry click to a new search result, but many of them have prominent featured videos at the top of the left column (more on that later). My screen shows at least partial information for 24 songs, all representing in-Google links above the traditional search results…

A search for “laptops” (a very competitive, commercial term, unlike the informational searches above) has a number of interesting features. At the bottom of the search is this “Refine by brand” carousel…

Clicking on one of these results leads to a new search with the brand name prepended (e.g. “Apple laptops”). The same search shows this “Best of” carousel…

The smaller “Mentioned in:” links go to articles from the listed publishers. The main, product links go to a Google search result with a product panel. Here’s what I see when I click on “Dell XPS 13 9350″ (image is truncated)…

This entity live in the right-hand column and looks like a Knowledge Panel, but is commercial in nature (notice the “Sponsored” label in the upper right). Here, Google is driving searchers directly into a paid/advertising channel.


IV. Answers & Questions

As Google realized that the Knowledge Graph would never scale at the pace of the wider web, they started to extract answers directly from their index (i.e. all of the content in the world, or at least most of it). This led to what they call “Featured Snippets”, a special kind of answer box. Here’s one for “Can hamsters eat cheese?” (yes, I have a lot of cheese-related questions)…

Featured Snippets are an interesting hybrid. On the one hand, they’re an in-search experience (in this case, my basic question has been answered before I’ve even left Google). On the other hand, they do link out to the source site and are a form of organic search result.

Featured Snippets also power answers on Google Assistant and Google Home. If I ask Google Home the same question about hamsters, I hear the following:

On the website TheHamsterHouse.com, they say “Yes, hamsters can eat cheese! Cheese should not be a significant part of your hamster’s diet and you should not feed cheese to your hamster too often. However, feeding cheese to your hamster as a treat, perhaps once per week in small quantities, should be fine.”

You’ll see the answer is identical to the Featured Snippet shown above. Note the attribution (which I’ve bolded) — a voice search can’t link back to the source, posing unique challenges. Google does attempt to provide attribution on Google Home, but as they use answers extracted from the web more broadly, we may see the way original sources are credited change depending on the use case and device.

This broader answer engine powers another type of result, called “Related Questions” or the “People Also Ask” box. Here’s one on that same search…

These questions are at least partially machine-generated, which is why the grammar can read a little oddly — that’s a fascinating topic for another time. If you click on “What can hamsters eat list?” you get what looks a lot like a Featured Snippet (and links to an outside source)…

Notice two other things that are going on here. First, Google has included a link to search results for the question you clicked on (see the purple arrow). Second, the list has expanded. The two questions at the end are new. Let’s click “What do hamsters like to do for fun?” (because how can I resist?)…

This opens up a second answer, a second link to a new Google search, and two more answers. You can continue this to your heart’s content. What’s especially interesting is that this isn’t just some static list that expands as you click on it. The new questions are generated based on your interactions, as Google tries to understand your intent and shape your journey around it.

My colleague, Britney Muller, has done some excellent research on the subject and has taken to calling these infinite PAAs. They’re probably not quite infinite — eventually, the sun will explode and consume the Earth. Until then, they do represent a massively recursive in-Google experience.


V. Videos & Movies

One particularly interesting type of Featured Snippet is the Featured Video result. Search for “umbrella” and you should see a panel like this in the top-left column (truncated):

This is a unique hybrid — it has Knowledge Panel features (that link back to Google results), but it also has an organic-style link and large video thumbnail. While it appears organic, all of the Featured Videos we’ve seen in the wild have come from YouTube (Vevo is a YouTube partner), which essentially means this is an in-Google experience. These Featured Videos consume a lot of screen real-estate and appear even on commercial terms, like Rihanna’s “umbrella” (shown here) or Kendrick Lamar’s “swimming pools”.

Movie searches yield a rich array of features, from Live Results for local showtimes to rich Knowledge Panels. Last year, Google completely redesigned their mobile experience for movie results, creating a deep in-search experience. Here’s a mobile panel for “Black Panther”…

Notice the tabs below the title. You can navigate within this panel to a wealth of information, including cast members and photos. Clicking on any cast member goes to a new search about that actor/actress.

Although the search results eventually continue below this panel, the experience is rich, self-contained, and incredibly disruptive to high-ranking powerhouses in this space, including IMDB. You can even view trailers from the panel…

On my phone, Google displayed 10 videos (at roughly two per screen), and nine of those were links to YouTube. Given YouTube’s dominance, it’s difficult to say if Google is purposely favoring their own properties, but the end result is the same — even seemingly “external” clicks are often still Google-owned clicks.


VI. Local Results

A similar evolution has been happening in local results. Take the local 3-pack — here’s one on a search for “Seattle movie theaters”…

Originally, the individual business links went directly to each of those business’s websites. As of the past year or two, these instead go to local panels on Google Maps, like this one…

On mobile, these local panels stand out even more, with prominent photos, tabbed navigation and easy access to click-to-call and directions.

In certain industries, local packs have additional options to run a search within a search. Here’s a pack for Chicago taco restaurants, where you can filter results (from the broader set of Google Maps results) by rating, price, or hours…

Once again, we have a fully embedded search experience. I don’t usually vouch for any of the businesses in my screenshots, but I just had the pork belly al pastor at Broken English Taco Pub and it was amazing (this is my personal opinion and in no way reflects the taco preferences of Moz, its employees, or its lawyers).

The hospitality industry has been similarly affected. Search for an individual hotel, like “Kimpton Alexis Seattle” (one of my usual haunts when visiting the home office), and you’ll get a local panel like the one below. Pardon the long image, but I wanted you to have the full effect…

This is an incredible blend of local business result, informational panel, and commercial result, allowing you direct access to booking information. It’s not just organic local results that have changed, though. Recently, Google started offering ads in local packs, primarily on mobile results. Here’s one for “tax attorneys”…

Unlike traditional AdWords ads, these results don’t go directly to the advertiser’s website. Instead, like standard pack results, they go to a Google local panel. Here’s what the mobile version looks like…

In addition, Google has launched specialized ads for local service providers, such as plumbers and electricians. These appear carousel-style on desktop, such as this one for “plumbers in Seattle”…

Unlike AdWords advertisers, local service providers buy into a specialized program and these local service ads click to a fully customized Google sub-site, which brings us to the next topic — portals.


VII. Custom Portals

Some Google experiences have become so customized that they operate as stand-alone portals. If you click on a local service ad, you get a Google-owned portal that allows you to view the provider, check to see if they can handle your particular problem in your zip code, and (if not) view other, relevant providers…

You’ve completely left the search result at this point, and can continue your experience fully within this Google property. These local service ads have now expanded to more than 30 US cities.

In 2016, Google launched their own travel guides. Run a search like “things to do in Seattle” and you’ll see a carousel-style result like this one…

Click on “Seattle travel guide” and you’ll be taken to a customized travel portal for the city of Seattle. The screen below is a desktop result — note the increasing similarity to rich mobile experiences.

Once again, you’ve been taken to a complete Google experience outside of search results.

Last year, Google jumped into the job-hunting game, launching a 3-pack of job listings covering all major players in this space, like this one for “marketing jobs in Seattle”…

Click on any job listing, and you’ll be taken to a separate Google jobs portal. Let’s try Facebook…

From here, you can view other listings, refine your search, and even save jobs and set up alerts. Once again, you’ve jumped from a specialized Google result to a completely Google-controlled experience.

Like hotels, Google has dabbled in flight data and search for years. If I search for “flights to Seattle,” Google will automatically note my current location and offer me a search interface and a few choices…

Click on one of these choices and you’re taken to a completely redesigned Google Flights portal…

Once again, you can continue your journey completely within this Google-owned portal, never returning back to your original search. This is a trend we can expect to continue for the foreseeable future.


VIII. Hard Questions

If I’ve bludgeoned you with examples, then I apologize, but I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not a case of one or two isolated incidents. Google is systematically driving more clicks from search to new searches, in-search experiences, and other Google owned properties. This leads to a few hard questions…

Why is Google doing this?

Right about now, you’re rushing to the comments section to type “For the money!” along with a bunch of other words that may include variations of my name, “sheeple,” and “dumb-ass.” Yes, Google is a for-profit company that is motivated in part by making money. Moz is a for-profit company that is motivated in part by making money. Stating the obvious isn’t insight.

In some cases, the revenue motivation is clear. Suggesting the best laptops to searchers and linking those to shopping opportunities drives direct dollars. In traditional walled gardens, publishers are trying to produce more page-views, driving more ad impressions. Is Google driving us to more searches, in-search experiences, and portals to drive more ad clicks?

The answer isn’t entirely clear. Knowledge Graph links, for example, usually go to informational searches with few or no ads. Rich experiences like Medical Knowledge Panels and movie results on mobile have no ads at all. Some portals have direct revenues (local service providers have to pay for inclusion), but others, like travel guides, have no apparent revenue model (at least for now).

Google is competing directly with Facebook for hours in our day — while Google has massive traffic and ad revenue, people on average spend much more time on Facebook. Could Google be trying to drive up their time-on-site metrics? Possibly, but it’s unclear what this accomplishes beyond being a vanity metric to make investors feel good.

Looking to the long game, keeping us on Google and within Google properties does open up the opportunity for additional advertising and new revenue streams. Maybe Google simply realizes that letting us go so easily off to other destinations is leaving future money on the table.

Is this good for users?

I think the most objective answer I can give is — it depends. As a daily search user, I’ve found many of these developments useful, especially on mobile. If I can get an answer at a glance or in an in-search entity, such as a Live Result for weather or sports, or the phone number and address of a local restaurant, it saves me time and the trouble of being familiar with the user interface of thousands of different websites. On the other hand, if I feel that I’m being run in circles through search after search or am being given fewer and fewer choices, that can feel manipulative and frustrating.

Is this fair to marketers?

Let’s be brutally honest — it doesn’t matter. Google has no obligation to us as marketers. Sites don’t deserve to rank and get traffic simply because we’ve spent time and effort or think we know all the tricks. I believe our relationship with Google can be symbiotic, but that’s a delicate balance and always in flux.

In some cases, I do think we have to take a deep breath and think about what’s good for our customers. As a marketer, local packs linking directly to in-Google properties is alarming — we measure our success based on traffic. However, these local panels are well-designed, consistent, and have easy access to vital information like business addresses, phone numbers, and hours. If these properties drive phone calls and foot traffic, should we discount their value simply because it’s harder to measure?

Is this fair to businesses?

This is a more interesting question. I believe that, like other search engines before it, Google made an unwritten pact with website owners — in exchange for our information and the privilege to monetize that information, Google would send us traffic. This is not altruism on Google’s part. The vast majority of Google’s $ 95B in 2017 advertising revenue came from search advertising, and that advertising would have no audience without organic search results. Those results come from the collective content of the web.

As Google replaces that content and sends more clicks back to themselves, I do believe that the fundamental pact that Google’s success was built on is gradually being broken. Google’s garden was built on our collective property, and it does feel like we’re slowly being herded out of our own backyards.

We also have to consider the deeper question of content ownership. If Google chooses to pursue private data partnerships — such as with Live Results or the original Knowledge Graph — then they own that data, or at least are leasing it fairly. It may seem unfair that they’re displacing us, but they have the right to do so.

Much of the Knowledge Graph is built on human-curated sources such as Wikidata (i.e. Wikipedia). While Google undoubtedly has an ironclad agreement with Wikipedia, what about the people who originally contributed and edited that content? Would they have done so knowing their content could ultimately displace other content creators (including possibly their own websites) in Google results? Are those contributors willing participants in this experiment? The question of ownership isn’t as easy as it seems.

If Google extracts the data we provide as part of the pact, such as with Featured Snippets and People Also Ask results, and begins to wall off those portions of the garden, then we have every right to protest. Even the concept of a partnership isn’t always black-and-white. Some job listing providers I’ve spoken with privately felt pressured to enter Google’s new jobs portal (out of fear of cutting off the paths to their own gardens), but they weren’t happy to see the new walls built.

Google is also trying to survive. Search has to evolve, and it has to answer questions and fit a rapidly changing world of device formats, from desktop to mobile to voice. I think the time has come, though, for Google to stop and think about the pact that built their nearly hundred-billion-dollar ad empire.

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Chris Ducker: How Being ‘You’ Can Be Your Greatest Marketing Asset

 [ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] A few years ago I was at the Gold Coast in Australia, attending Darren Rowse’s Problogger conference as a speaker. On the stage that day was a man I’d know for many years online, but never…

The post Chris Ducker: How Being ‘You’ Can Be Your Greatest Marketing Asset appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

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How to Get Your Writing on the Road to Being Read and Spread

"That's why they call it work." – Robert Bruce

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

It’s something the immortals — from Aristotle to Ogilvy to Mamet — have known, but few have stated it as directly as I’m about to.

By now, many of you know the basics of the craft of copywriting

Know your audience. Know your product cold. Research. Nail the headline. Write plainly, in the language of your audience. Research more. Write great bullets. Craft a great offer. Include a strong call to action. Et cetera.

These elements are the standard. They get the job done.

But this little truth I’m about to tell you is the foundation that makes all the rest of it work, and it’s the answer to getting you on the road to getting your writing read and shared.

So, try this on for size …

Every sentence you write should make them want to read the next sentence you write.

Simple, huh?

Yes, this entire business of creating content in order to build an audience (people who will potentially buy from you) can be boiled down to that stupidly simple statement.

The headline only exists to get the first sentence read.

The first sentence only exists to get the second sentence read. And so on, pulling your reader right on down through your page, story, bullets, and call to action.

It’s that simple. And it’s that difficult.

The secret is in the line.

A great headline is followed by a single, compelling sentence that engages the reader’s interest. And then another, followed by another, and another.

You won’t be able to pull this off all the time. Hell, you won’t even pull it off most of the time.

But if you keep the raw horsepower of The Single Line in your mind as you work, you might make something good enough to be read and shared … maybe even shared widely.

This is foundational because even if you employ every bullshit “content distribution” trick and tip in the book, and your writing is bad, it won’t get you anywhere.

Write well. Line by line.

If you’re able to work in this way, all of those lines will begin to add up, and then they’ll go to work for you, day and night, for a long, long time on this thing we call the internet.

So yes, write urgent, unique, ultra-specific, and useful headlines.

Yes, demonstrate the benefits, not the features.

Yes, make them an offer they can’t refuse.

But do it all by deliberately crafting each sentence to honestly, accurately, and entertainingly tell the story you want to tell.

Difficult? Sure.

But, to quote someone that I could not confirm the identity of … that’s why they call it work.

Image source: Mathias Herheim via Unsplash.

The post How to Get Your Writing on the Road to Being Read and Spread appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to Get Your Writing on the Road to Being Read and Spread

"That's why they call it work." – Robert Bruce

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

It’s something the immortals — from Aristotle to Ogilvy to Mamet — have known, but few have stated it as directly as I’m about to.

By now, many of you know the basics of the craft of copywriting

Know your audience. Know your product cold. Research. Nail the headline. Write plainly, in the language of your audience. Research more. Write great bullets. Craft a great offer. Include a strong call to action. Et cetera.

These elements are the standard. They get the job done.

But this little truth I’m about to tell you is the foundation that makes all the rest of it work, and it’s the answer to getting you on the road to getting your writing read and shared.

So, try this on for size …

Every sentence you write should make them want to read the next sentence you write.

Simple, huh?

Yes, this entire business of creating content in order to build an audience (people who will potentially buy from you) can be boiled down to that stupidly simple statement.

The headline only exists to get the first sentence read.

The first sentence only exists to get the second sentence read. And so on, pulling your reader right on down through your page, story, bullets, and call to action.

It’s that simple. And it’s that difficult.

The secret is in the line.

A great headline is followed by a single, compelling sentence that engages the reader’s interest. And then another, followed by another, and another.

You won’t be able to pull this off all the time. Hell, you won’t even pull it off most of the time.

But if you keep the raw horsepower of The Single Line in your mind as you work, you might make something good enough to be read and shared … maybe even shared widely.

This is foundational because even if you employ every bullshit “content distribution” trick and tip in the book, and your writing is bad, it won’t get you anywhere.

Write well. Line by line.

If you’re able to work in this way, all of those lines will begin to add up, and then they’ll go to work for you, day and night, for a long, long time on this thing we call the internet.

So yes, write urgent, unique, ultra-specific, and useful headlines.

Yes, demonstrate the benefits, not the features.

Yes, make them an offer they can’t refuse.

But do it all by deliberately crafting each sentence to honestly, accurately, and entertainingly tell the story you want to tell.

Difficult? Sure.

But, to quote someone that I could not confirm the identity of … that’s why they call it work.

Image source: Mathias Herheim via Unsplash.

The post How to Get Your Writing on the Road to Being Read and Spread appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Google Site Search Being Phased Out

Google Site Search is being discontinued according to multiple reports. Google emailed its Site Search customers saying that starting April 1, 2017, new purchased and renewals of GSS will not be available. The product will completely shut down on April 1, 2018.

They noted that this move will not have any impact on a customers current use of Google Site Search or until your license expires. Customers will continue to receive customer and technical support for the duration of their license.

The rest of the email from Google’s Enterprise Search Team provides some additional insights:

“Search has always been core to Google and we know its essential to the way your customers find content and interact with your website,” wrote the Google’s Enterprise Search Team. “While Google Cloud will no longer support GSS, we’re continuing to invest in other technologies that make enterprise search a great experience for our customers. Recently, we introduced the general availability of Google Cloud Search, which searches across G Suite content, providing useful and actionable information and recommendations.”

“When your GSS subscription expires or your quota is exhausted, your subscription will automatically convert to Custom Search Engine (CSE),” noted Google. “Custom Search Engine is an ad-supported product that provides similar capabilities to GSS, including the ability to build custom search engines for sites or pages, image search for your website, and customize the look and feel of search results.”

The Google Enterprise Search Team noted that there are difference between differences between GSS and CSE.

The post Google Site Search Being Phased Out appeared first on WebProNews.


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5 Cognitive Biases You Need to Put to Work … Without Being Evil

"We tend to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions." – Jerod Morris

All writing is persuasion in one form or another.

This is more obvious in some types of writing than others, but it is nonetheless true for all.

When it comes to copywriting, it is clearly true. Every piece of copy we write should drive a reader toward a specific action.

“Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.”

– David Sedaris

But even the best piece of copy in the world doesn’t actually control a reader’s actions. Well-written copy only provides the “illusion of control.” What a reader does after reading is dependent on the “stuff” they brought into it.

That “stuff” includes past experiences, preconceived notions, and, above all else, cognitive biases.

Let’s discuss a helpful handful of these cognitive biases — some you’ll know well, some you may not — and how understanding them and structuring your content in a way that acknowledges and appreciates them will help you connect, compel, and serve better.

What are cognitive biases?

“A cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.”

Wikipedia

In other words, cognitive biases are mental shortcuts we all make, all the time, without consciously realizing it, that can lead to irrational thoughts and actions.

An example:

We tend to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions.

I sat down to write this article believing that understanding cognitive biases would be useful for content marketers. So, I researched articles that discussed how marketers use cognitive biases to influence decision-making. Naturally, I found many, which confirmed by preconception.

This is called confirmation bias.

In this case, my clear confirmation bias did not lead to a poor or irrational decision. The scientific evidence is quite clear, and ever-expanding, that cognitive biases are indeed constantly affecting people’s decisions and behavior. So, the premise of this article is built on a solid foundation of unbiased evidence.

But what if my goal had been to poke holes in the idea of cognitive biases existing and affecting behavior?

I would have had a hard time finding any credible evidence to support my hypothesis — and, if I did, I would have been much more likely to place undue weight on its validity due to my preconception.

We’ll never eliminate cognitive biases, in ourselves or others. There’s no use trying. All we can do is understand them, embrace them, and endeavor to use them ethically and morally*.

*This is important: There can be a fine line between understanding cognitive biases and then using them for good or exploiting them for evil. If you’re not committed to staying on the ethical and moral side of that line, please stop reading this article now and consider not coming back to this site. You’re definitely not for us, and we’re probably not for you.

4 more cognitive biases you need to know to better serve your readers

Hopefully it’s clear why acknowledging your own natural proclivity for confirmation bias is important. You and your audience will be well-served by your commitment to combating it.

Now let’s run through several additional cognitive biases that your readers bring with them to your content and how those might help both you and your readers make better decisions. (This is a carefully curated list, but I recommend this blog post at Neuromarketing for a deeper dive into 60+ cognitive biases that are useful to know.)

1. Attentional bias

We have a tendency to be affected by our recurring thoughts. Brand advertising is built on that premise.

The more people see an image or a message, the more likely they are to remember the brand, trust the company, and then do business with it down the line.

So if you want to influence your audience with a call to action — for example, trying out our new StudioPress Sites product — then you’re much better off repeating it often, and in several different places.

Consider how often we have subtly and not-so-subtly exposed people to StudioPress Sites as they’ve navigated through the Rainmaker Digital universe over the last few weeks:

  • StudioPress.com has been revamped to display Sites as a major component
  • Brian Clark dropped hints, then followed with explicit mentions on his podcast Unemployable
  • We reached out to StudioPress affiliates prior to the launch to prepare them, and many have published posts alerting their audiences to Sites’s arrival
  • We published an announcement here on the Copyblogger blog
  • We’re running paid ads announcing Sites

You get the picture.

Don’t say it once — say it often, and in many different places.

2. Framing effect

There is the offer. And then there is how you frame the offer.

For example, we recently had a fundraising drive for The Assembly Call — a live postgame show and podcast about Indiana basketball that I co-host. We have sponsors for the show, but we are also listener supported.

Our goal was to generate $ 2,613 (more on the odd specificity of this number in a minute) during an eight-day window. We promoted the fundraising drive to our email list of about 3,300 people.

The offer — in this case, more of a request — began with:

“All we’re asking is for you to contribute what you believe our content is worth. If you do find value in what we do, any donation helps.”

Okay. Fine.

Now here is how we framed the donation request:

“The average donation has been $ 52 and the most common donation denomination has been $ 50. But we’ve had donations as small as $ 4 and as large as $ 300.

In fact, this email will go out to roughly 3,300 people … so if every person just donates a dollar, roughly the cost of a gas station coffee, we’ll fly past our goal.”

The initial request left so much open to interpretation: How much should I donate? What’s reasonable? What have other people donated? Will my donation actually make a difference?

Questions like these, left unanswered, can lead to friction that prohibits action.

But framing the requested action based on what’s common and what the range has been — and then explaining how a comparatively small contribution could still make a difference — helped to reduce this friction and induce action.

(In addition, you can see the bandwagon effect at work here: the part that explains what other people have already done.)

We reached our goal in less than 24 hours. I have no doubt this framing had a huge impact.

So, did we play a psychological trick on our audience?

No.

We had many donors who actually thanked us for giving them the opportunity to contribute to the cause. They wanted to support us. We have a good product, a good relationship with our audience, and this was a fair request that we’d earned the right to make.

This is the difference between ethical and moral use of cognitive biases in marketing and using knowledge of cognitive biases to take advantage of an unsuspecting target.

3. Bizarreness effect

So, why the oddly specific number $ 2,613? Why not $ 2,500 or $ 3,000?

Because people are more likely to take notice of — and remember — something that stands out rather than blends in. This is also referred to as the Von Restorff effect.

I’ve found it to be especially true when it comes to headlines and email subject lines, and I knew that the amount of donations we’d receive would be in part dependent upon the open rate of the email blast.

The subject line we used was: “Will you help us reach our goal of $ 2,613?” I also had the email come from “Jerod Morris” as opposed to “The Assembly Call.”

The number shouts from the inbox, inducing curiosity and demanding a click. As does the request of “help,” especially from a person’s name rather than a brand name; it’s compelling.

We never ask our audience for “help” and they rarely get an email from my name. Bizarre. We figured they’d want to know why.

An open rate of 70 percent suggests they did.

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 11.28.43 AM

And the donations that were coming in as late as a week after sending that email (without another email blast to remind them) suggest that the offer was indeed memorable.

4. Risk compensation

Some of these cognitive biases just make simple sense. Like risk compensation, which suggests that people adjust their behavior in relation to perceived risk — we’re more likely to take a bigger risk when perceived safety increases, and vice versa.

This is precisely why every single product we sell at Rainmaker Digital comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

And why we focus on the guarantee toward the ends of promotions.

For example, we recently announced that the price of the Rainmaker Platform was going up. (Spoiler alert: the promo is over; the price has already gone up.)

Here’s what the final email, sent two hours prior to the price raise, looked like:

“Subject: [2 Hours Left] The Price of Rainmaker Goes Up Soon

One last reminder …

Start your free, 14-day trial of the Rainmaker Platform in the next two hours so that you lock in the current price (before it goes up).

Of note:

  • If you cancel prior to your 14-day trial ending, you won’t be charged at all.
  • If you decide to cancel within 30 days of your first payment, you’ll get a refund with no questions asked.
  • In either situation, you can export whatever progress you’ve made with your site and take it with you elsewhere.

So there’s no risk, just a massive annual savings you can lock in.

Click here to start your no-risk free trial of the Rainmaker Platform today.”

We’d proudly suggest the Rainmaker Platform to any of our audience members who have a desire to build and sell digital products. Still, that doesn’t mean starting a trial is without risk, or perceived risk.

A few risks people might identify — rationally or irrationally — before signing up:

  • I have to enter a credit card, so am I going to get charged right away? (Nope, you aren’t charged until the trial ends.)
  • If I make a payment, but then realize Rainmaker won’t work for me, am I out the money? (Nope, you get a refund within the first 30 days of payment.)
  • But what if there is nothing wrong with the Platform and I just decide I don’t want it? (Not a problem! We don’t ask any questions.)
  • I just don’t want to be hassled if I want to cancel and get my money back. (Again, no problemo. The money-back guarantee is no questions asked.)
  • Okay, but what if I did a bunch of work to set stuff up. I don’t want to lose that if I cancel. (No worries. You can export any work you do and take it elsewhere.)

See how that works?

The copy answers the kinds of questions that will naturally come up before action and can even preempt the fears that cause the questions in the first place.

By dissolving the fears that risks induce, we offer people a more comfortable journey down a path they are already interested in walking (and that we know, long-term, could be a path they’ll be thankful we presented to them).

And this is a big reason why (along with the cognitive bias that induces FOMO, of course) the last day of the promo was by far the most successful one. Thirty-eight percent of new trials during the promo period started on the final day, many after this final risk-compensating reminder email was sent out.

So, is the “illusion of control” really such an illusion after all?

It’s interesting to note that illusion of control is also a cognitive bias, suggesting “the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they clearly cannot.” (Via RationalWiki.org)

You’re not there with your reader as she consumes your words. You’re not inside her brain, finding out exactly how she’s interpreting what you’ve written. You’re not present to offer any additional arguments about why she should take the action you’d like her to take.

So any control you feel you have as a copywriter does, indeed, seem like an illusion.

And yet …

We know that well-written copy is more likely to influence desired outcomes than poorly written copy.

We know that well-written copy contains words that make sound logical arguments, that empathize, and that possess the ability to compel useful emotional reactions in a reader.

Your ability to understand and acknowledge cognitive biases with your copy allows you to empathize with your reader, and that is what opens the door to compelling a useful emotional reaction.

And we know that emotion drives action more than logic — the latter of which serves more to justify than compel.

Look, who am I to defy the words of a writer like David Sedaris? And to deny a known cognitive bias? Writing probably does give you only the illusion of control.

But maybe, just maybe …

By committing to a better understanding of the “stuff” our readers bring to our words, we increase our ability to turn an illusion of control into … let’s call it … an opportunity to connect.

And when we connect, we have a chance to compel — a privilege and responsibility that truly unlocks the next level of service to our audiences.

The post 5 Cognitive Biases You Need to Put to Work … Without Being Evil appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to Quit Being So Damned Boring

"Please, please, please stop doing this." – Sonia Simone

It always begins with so much promise.

“I’ve been working really hard on my site. I put a lot of time and effort into it, but it’s just not getting any traction. Can you take a look?”

I don’t want to take a look. Because by now, I know what I’m going to find. And it just makes me sad.

There it is, the capable site design. The perfectly decent headlines. The bullet points of usefulness. The careful, even painstaking articles, describing 7 Ways to Do the Thing.

The blogger has been studying, and that’s excellent. We love content marketing strategy. But not when writers forget the most important thing:

Nobody has the time or attention span to read a boring website.

Why do we do it? Why do we launch a new site, when there are already hundreds of sites exactly like it?

Why put hours into writing content that melts into the vast, indistinguishable mass of Meh?

From my observation, there is one underlying reason there’s so much boring content being published:

We’re afraid someone won’t like it

We don’t want to use an unusual word, because someone won’t like it.

We don’t want to uncover a thorny problem or controversial issue, because someone won’t like it.

We definitely can’t tell the truth about the way we’re weird, or different, or vulnerable. We can only conform, because that’s the only way to be safe.

The sad irony is, it’s conformity that’s dangerous.

Nothing will kill your business faster than dull conformity.

When you make yourself bland and inoffensive, you appeal to no one. No one gets angry at you … and no one particularly wants to spend any time with you, either.

You’ve been in hiding so long, you’ve forgotten what it was like to be truthful.

We forgot what it was like

If you ever get the chance to spend time with very small children, you’ll notice something.

None of them are boring.

(Parenting reality moment: Spending a lot of time with little kids can be excruciatingly boring, especially if you can’t muster enthusiasm for their weird obsessions. But their thoughts, their expressions, their points of view, their wild passions — these are not boring people.)

Kids are not boring for two reasons:

  1. They care bizarrely deeply about things.
  2. They don’t know that it isn’t okay to be who they are.

Now, the process of teaching kids how to be good members of our culture is a good thing. Potty training and learning to eat without throwing your food are wonderful developments for everyone.

But the insidious messages always ride alongside.

“Those don’t really go together.”

“I’m sure you don’t really mean that word.”

“Being an artist (writer, cowboy, ballerina, musician, astronaut) is really hard. When you get bigger, you’ll choose a real job.”

“Let’s stay on this side, okay?”

“We don’t play with children like that.”

“We don’t spend time with people like that.”

“We don’t talk about things like that.”

Parents do it, teachers do it, and maybe more than anyone else, other kids do it. We knock all of the weird edges off one another.

So we make ourselves palatable and convenient. Girls are pretty and boys are tough. And no one likes the weird kid who reads too much and spends all that time by herself.

A word or two about honesty and outrageousness

There have always been some who try to create success by making themselves highly, visibly obnoxious.

The professional troll, the shock jock, the provocateur.

It’s pretty easy to infuriate people in order to get their attention. Easier than ever, in fact.

But mistreating other people to get attention isn’t “authenticity.” It’s just bullying. And the success it leads to is short-lived and shallow, if it comes at all. Which it probably won’t, because paying attention to you isn’t the same thing as trusting you.

Trust me, if you’re at all honest, you will offend people. You don’t need to go looking for ways to be offensive.

What to do differently

So, I’m not advocating that you go back to stomping, screaming, or throwing things.

Growing up is fantastic. I love grown-ups.

What I am advocating is that you re-find the habit of telling the truth about who you are.

The most important thing you can do to end the horrible cycle of boring writing is to write with your own voice. Your honest, unafraid voice. Even if it bothers people. Even if it makes people nervous.

It’s not about being loud. It’s about being real.

Luvvie Ajayi’s voice is hilarious, wide-ranging, and shade-rich.

“This is the time to use that ‘shutting the hell up is free’ coupon code. It never expires.”

Sugarrae Hoffman’s voice is sharp, salty, and truthful.

Jeff Goins’s voice is compassionate, quiet, and thoughtful.

“I spent too long waiting for someone to call me a writer before I was willing to act like one.”

Marjorie Ingall’s voice is opinionated, funny, and urbane.

“Did you miss the Google Home Super Bowl ad with the mezuzah in it because you were hanging out with activist rabbis instead of watching the game? Me, too!”

Roger Lawson’s voice is playful, goofy, and, yeah, cocky.

“Your friends are in relationships, eating wedding cake (mmmmmm!) and having all the sex while you stare wistfully out the window, waiting for your one true love to appear as a single tear rolls down your cheek.”

Pamela Slim’s voice is inspiring, sassy, and no-nonsense.

“Why do we tell women they are ‘too much?’

I will spend my life telling them to speak up, strut more, push the edge, and show up.

I want to see all you got and then some.”

Ishita Gupta’s voice is encouraging, vulnerable, and pragmatic.

“Resilience is what you hold onto and trust when it seems like there’s nothing left, and it’s more subtle and trustworthy than ‘bucking up.’”

Brian Clark’s voice is authoritative, definitive, and sometimes irreverent.

“‘But Brian,’ the voices in my head object. ‘What about branding, engagement, social sharing, SEO, comments …’

‘Let me stop you right there,’ I tell the voices. Which is awkward, because I’m in a crowded coffee shop.”

You get the idea. You’ll never mistake one of these voices for someone else’s. Each one is distinctive, opinionated, maybe sometimes a little cantankerous. And each one inspires action because they’re speaking from a position of courage and truth.

Please, please, please stop undermining all of your hard work by being afraid to step into a real voice. The world needs to know what you honestly have to say.

The post How to Quit Being So Damned Boring appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Rainmaker Rewind: The Power of Being an Unmistakably Creative Entrepreneur, with Srinivas Rao

Rainmaker FM rewind

This week on Rewind, Chris Ducker welcomes creative entrepreneur Srinivas Rao to Youpreneur to chat about the importance of thinking outside of the box and differentiating yourself in your industry.

They also share their tips on setting yourself apart and explore the value of audience participation and feedback when it comes to developing or shifting your brand.

And, as always, be sure to check out the other great episodes that recently aired on Rainmaker FM.

  1. Youpreneur. Chris Ducker and Srinivas Rao discuss standing out in a crowded space and the importance of being creative: The Power of Being an Unmistakably Creative Entrepreneur, with Srinivas Rao
  2. Copyblogger FM. Pamela Wilson reveals the story arc that makes testimonials believable and covers the six “magic” questions that generate powerful testimonials: How to Give and Get Exceptional Testimonials, Part One
  3. The Writer Files. Kelton Reid rounds out his latest interview with Stephanie Danler, bestselling author of the acclaimed debut novel Sweetbitter: How ‘Sweetbitter’ Author Stephanie Danler Writes: Part Two
  4. The Missing Link. Jabez LeBret shares his secret sauce for writing a book fast and how to get the attention of the media: How to Write a Book In 8 Hours and Get More Media Attention
  5. Zero to Book. Pamela Wilson and Jeff Goins welcome The Kindlepreneur, Dave Chesson, to the show to navigate the world of Amazon book sales: Get Your Book Found: How to Outsmart Amazon’s Algorithm
  6. Elsewhere. Pamela Wilson hops over to Beyond the To-Do List with Erik Fisher to discuss her workflows, processes, and organizational systems: Pamela Wilson on Beyond the To-Do List
  7. StudioPress FM. Brian Gardner and Lauren Mancke are back again this week to review the creative process behind the StudioPress site redesign: The Creative Process Behind the StudioPress.com Redesign

And, one more thing …

If you want to get Rainmaker Rewind sent straight to your favorite podcast player, subscribe right here on Rainmaker FM.

The post Rainmaker Rewind: The Power of Being an Unmistakably Creative Entrepreneur, with Srinivas Rao appeared first on Copyblogger.


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