Tag Archive | "Effective"

A 10-Minute ‘Hack’ that Makes You a More Confident and Effective Writer

Are you producing the volume and quality of work that you want to? Do you feel confident about your work…

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What Ethical, Effective Selling Looks Like

There’s a well-loved myth out there that if you do something reasonably remarkable and distribute passionate content, you’ll automatically have an audience who will support you in style for the rest of your life. You don’t have to do anything scary. Like sell, for example. Now if that works for you, that’s terrific. So does
Read More…

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How to Make Effective, High-Quality Marketing Reports & Dashboards

Posted by Dom-Woodman

My current obsession has been reporting. Everyone could benefit from paying more attention to it. Five years, countless ciders, and too many conferences into my career, I finally spent some time on it.

Bad reporting soaks up just as much time as pointless meetings. Analysts spend hours creating reports that no one will read, or making dashboards that never get looked it. Bad reporting means people either focus on the wrong goals, or they pick the right goals, but choose the wrong way to measure them. Either way, you end up in the same place.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.

We’re going to split this into:

(We’ll lean on SEO examples — we’re on Moz! — however, for those non-SEO folks, the principles are the same.)

What is the goal of a report versus a dashboard?


Dashboards should:

  • Measure a goal(s) over time
  • Be easily digestible at a glance

The action you take off a dashboard should be:

  • Let’s go look into this.

Example questions a dashboard would answer:

  • How are we performing organically?
  • How fast does our site load?


Reports should:

  • Help you make a decision

The action you take off a report should be:

  • Making a decision

Example questions a report would answer:

  • Are our product changes hurting organic search?
  • What are the biggest elements slowing our website?

Who is this data for?

This context will inform many of our decisions. We care about our audience, because they all know and care about very different things.

A C-level executive doesn’t care about keyword cannibalization, but probably does care about the overall performance of marketing. An SEO manager, on the other hand, probably does care about the number of pages indexed and keyword cannibalization, but is less bothered by the overall performance of marketing.

Don’t mix audience levels

If someone tells you the report is for audiences with obviously different decision levels, then you’re almost always going to end up creating something that won’t fulfill the goals we talked about above. Split up your reporting into individual reports/dashboards for each audience, or it will be left ignored and unloved.

Find out what your audience cares about

How do you know what your audience will care about? Ask them. As a rough guide, you can assume people typically care about:

  • The goals that their jobs depend on. If your SEO manager is being paid because the business wants to rank for ten specific keywords, then they’re unlikely to care about much else.
  • Budget or people they have control over.

But seriously. Ask them what they care about.

Educating your audience

Asking them is particularly important, because you don’t just need to understand your audience — you may also need to educate them. To go back on myself, there are in fact CEOs who will care about specific keywords.

The problem is, they shouldn’t. And if you can’t convince them to stop caring about that metric, their incentives will be wrong and succeeding in search will be harder. So ask. Persuading them to stop using the wrong metrics is, of course, another article in and of itself.

Get agreement now

To continue that point, now is also the time to get initial agreement that these dashboards/reports will be what’s used to measure performance.

That way, when they email you three months in asking how you’re doing for keyword x, you’re covered.

How to create a good dashboard

Picking a sensible goal for your dashboard

The question you’re answering with a dashboard is usually quite simple. It’s often some version of:

  • Are we being successful at x?

…where x is a general goal, not a metric. The difference here is that a goal is the end result (e.g. a fast website), and the metric (e.g. time to start render) is the way of measuring progress against that.

How to choose good metrics for dashboards

This is the hard part. We’re defining our goal by the metrics we choose to measure it by.

A good metric is typically a direct measure of success. It should ideally have no caveats that are outside your control.

No caveats? Ask yourself how you would explain if the number went down. If you can immediately come up with excuses that could be answered by things out of your control, then you should try to refine this metric. (Don’t worry, there’s an example in the next section.)

We also need to be sure that it will create incentives for how people behave.

Unlike a report, which will be used to help us make a decision, a dashboard is showing the goals we care about. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one. A report will help you make a single decision. A dashboard and the KPIs it shows will define the decisions and reports you create and the ideas people have. It will set incentives and change how the people working off it behave. Choose carefully. Avinash has my back here; go read his excellent article on choosing KPIs.

You need to bear both of these in mind when choosing metrics. You typically want only one or two metrics per goal to avoid being overwhelming.

Example: Building the spec for our dashboard

Goal: Measure the success of organic performance

Who is it for: SEO manager

The goal we’re measuring and the target audience are sane, so now we need to pick a metric.

We’ll start with a common metric that I often hear suggested and we’ll iterate on it until we’re happy. Our starting place is:

  1. Metric: Search/SEO visibility
    1. “Our search visibility has dropped”: This could be because we were ranking for vanity terms like Facebook and we lost that ranking. Our traffic would be fine, but our visibility would be down. *Not a good metric.
  2. Metric: Organic sessions over time
    1. “Our organic sessions have dropped”: This could easily be because of seasonality. We always see a drop in the summer holidays. *Okay, also not a good metric.
  3. Metric: Organic sessions with smoothed seasonality
    1. Aside: See a good example of this here.
    2. “Our organic sessions with smoothed seasonality have dropped”: What if the industry is in a downturn? *We’re getting somewhere here. But let’s just see…
  4. Metric: Organic sessions with smoothed seasonality and adjusted for industry
    1. “Our organic sessions with smoothed seasonality and adjusted for industry have dropped”: *Now we’ve got a metric that’s getting quite robust. If this number drops, we’re going to care about it.

You might have to compromise your metric depending on resources. What we’ve just talked through is an ideal. Adjusting for industry, for example, is typically quite hard; you might have to settle for showing Google trends for some popular terms on a second graph, or showing Hitwise industry data on another graph.

Watch out if you find yourself adding more than one or two additional metrics. When you get to three or four, information gets difficult to parse at glance.

What about incentives? The metric we settled on will incentivize our team get more traffic, but it doesn’t have any quality control.

We could succeed at our goal by aiming for low-quality traffic, which doesn’t convert or care about our brand. We should consider adding a second metric, perhaps revenue attributed to search with linear attribution, smoothed seasonality, and a 90-day lookback. Or alternatively, organic non-bounce sessions with smoothed seasonality (using adjusted bounce rate).

Both those metrics sound like a bit of a mouthful. That’s because they’ve gone through a process similar to what we talked about above. We might’ve started with revenue attributed to search before, then got more specific and ended up with revenue attributed to search with linear attribution, smoothed seasonality and a 90-day lookback.

Remember, a dashboard shouldn’t try to explain why performance was bad (based on things in your control). A dashboard’s job is to track a goal over time and says whether or not further investigation is needed.

Laying out and styling dashboards

The goal here is to convey our information as quickly and easily as possible. It should be eyeball-able.

Creating a good dashboard layout:

  • It should all fit on a single screen (i.e. don’t scroll on the standard screen that will show the results)
  • People typically read from the top and left. Work out the importance of each graph to the question you’re answering and order them accordingly.
  • The question a graph is answering should be sat near it (usually above it)
  • Your design should keep the focus on the content. Simplify: keep styles and colors unified, where possible.

Here’s a really basic example I mocked up for this post, based on the section above:

  • We picked two crucial summary metrics for organic traffic:
    1. Organic sessions with smoothed seasonality
      • In this case we’ve done a really basic version of “adjusting” for seasonality by just showing year on year!
    2. Revenue attributed to organic sessions
  • We’ve kept the colors clean and unified.
  • We’ve got clean labels and, based on imaginary discussions, we’ve decided to put organic sessions above attributed revenue.

(The sharp-eyed amongst you may notice a small bug. The dates in the x-axis are misaligned by 1 day; this was due to some temporary constraints on my end. Don’t repeat this in your actual report!)

How to create a good report

Picking a sensible decision for your report

A report needs to be able to help us make a decision. Picking the goal for a dashboard is typically quite simple. Choosing the decision our report is helping us make is usually a little more fraught. Most importantly, we need to decide:

  • Is there a decision to be made or are we knowledge-gathering for its own sake?

If you don’t have a decision in mind, if you’re just creating a report to dig into things, then you’re wasting time. Don’t make a report.

If the decision is to prioritize next month, then you could have an investigative report designed to help you prioritize. But the goal of the report isn’t to dig in — it’s to help you make a decision. This is primarily a frame of mind, but I think it’s a crucial one.

Once we’ve settled on the decision, we then:

  • Make a list of all the data that might be relevant to this decision
  • Work down the list and ask the following question for each factor:
    1. What are the odds this piece of information causes me to change my mind?
    2. Could this information be better segmented or grouped to improve?
    3. How long will it take me to add this information to the report?
    4. Is this information for ruling something out or helping me weigh a decision?

Example: Creating a spec for a report

Here’s an example decision a client suggested to me recently:

  • Decision: Do we need to change our focus based on our weekly organic traffic fluctuations?
  • Who’s it for: SEO manager
  • Website: A large e-commerce site

Are we happy with this decision? In this case, I wasn’t. Experience has taught me that SEO very rarely runs week to week; one thing our SEO split-testing platform has taught us time and time again is even obvious improvements can take three to four weeks to result in significant traffic change.

  • New decision: Do we need to change our focus based on our monthly organic traffic fluctuations?

Great — we’re now happy with our decision, so let’s start listing possible factors. For the sake of brevity, I’m only going to include three here:

  • Individual keyword rankings
  • Individual keyword clicks
  • Number of indexed pages

1. Individual keyword rankings

  • What are the odds this piece of information causes me to change my mind?
    • As individual keyword rankings? Pretty low. This is a large website and individual keyword fluctuations aren’t much use; it will take too long to look through and I’ll probably end up ignoring it.
  • Could this information be better segmented or grouped to improve?
    • Yes, absolutely. If we were to group this by page type or topic level, it becomes far more interesting. Knowing my traffic has dropped only for one topic would make me want to go to push more resources to try and bring us back to parity. We would ideally also want to see the difference in rank with and without features.
  • How long will it take me to add this information to the report?
    • There are plenty of rank trackers with this data. It might take some integration time, but the data exists.
  • Is this information for ruling something out or helping me weigh a decision?
    • We’re just generically looking at performance here, so this is helping me weigh up my decision.

Conclusion: Yes, we should include keyword rankings, but they need to be grouped and ideally also have both rank with and without Google features. We’ll also want to avoid averaging rank, to lose subtlety in how our keywords are moving amongst each other. This example graph from STAT illustrates this well:

2. Individual keyword clicks

  • What are the odds this piece of information causes me to change my mind?
    • Low. Particularly because it won’t compensate for seasonality, I would definitely find myself relying more on rank here.
  • Could this information be better segmented or grouped to improve?
    • Again yes, same as above. It would almost certainly need to be grouped.
  • How long will it take me to add this information to the report?
    • This will have to come from Search Console. There will be some integration time again, but the data exists.
  • Is this information for ruling something out or helping me weigh a decision?
    • Again, we’re just generically looking at performance here, so this is helping me weigh up my decision.

Conclusion: I would probably say no. We’re only looking at organic performance here and clicks will be subject to seasonality and industry trends that aren’t related to our organic performance. There are certainly click metrics that will be useful that we haven’t gone over in these examples — this just isn’t one of them.

3. Number of indexed pages

  • What are the odds this piece of information causes me to change my mind?
    • Low, although sharp jumps would definitely be cause for further investigation.
  • Could this information be better segmented or grouped to improve?
    • It could sometimes be broken down into individual sections, using Search Console folders.
  • How long will it take me to add this information to the report?
    • This will have to come from Search Console. It doesn’t exist in the API, however, and will be a hassle to add or will have to be done manually.
  • Is this information for ruling something out or helping me weigh a decision?
    • This is just ruling out, as it’s possible any changes in fluctuation have come from massive index bloat.

Conclusion: Probably yes. The automation will be a pain, but it will be relatively easy to pull it in manually once a month. It won’t change anyone’s mind very often, so it won’t be put at the forefront of a report, but it’s a useful additional piece of information that’s very quick to scan and will help us rule something out.

Laying out and styling reports

Again, our layout should be fit for the goal we’re trying to achieve, which gives us a couple principles to follow:

  • It’s completely fine for reports to be large, as long as they’re ordered by the odds that the decision will change someone’s mind. Complexity is fine as long as it’s accompanied by depth and you don’t get it all at once.
  • On a similar point, you’ll often have to breakdown metrics into multiple graphs. Make sure that you order them by importance so someone can stop digging whenever they’re happy.

Here’s an example from an internal report I made. It shows the page breakdown first and then the page keyword breakdown after it to let you dig deeper.

  • There’s nothing wrong with repeating graphs. If you have a summary page with five following pages, each of which picks one crucial metric from the summary and digs deeper, it’s absolutely useful to repeat the summary graph for that metric at the top.
  • Pick a reporting program which allows paged information, like Google Data Studio, for example. It will force you to break a report into chunks.
  • As with dashboards, your design should keep the focus on the content. Simplify — keep styles and colors unified where possible.

Creating an effective graph

The graphs themselves are crucial elements of a report and dashboard. People have built entire careers out of helping people visualize data on graphs. Rather than reinvent the wheel, the following resources have all helped me avoid the worst when it comes to graphs.

Both #1 and #2 below don’t focus on making things pretty, but rather on the goal of a graph: to let you process data as quickly as possible.

  1. Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Graphs
  2. Karl Broman on How to Display Data Badly
  3. Dark Horse Analytics – Data Looks Better Naked
  4. Additional geek resource: Creating 538-Style Charts with matplotlib

Sometimes (read: nearly always) you’ll be limited by the programs you work in, but it’s good to know the ideal, even if you can’t quite reach it.

What did we learn?

Well, we got to the end of the article and I’ve barely even touched on how to practically make dashboards/reports. Where are the screenshots of the Google Data Studio menus and the step-by-step walkthroughs? Where’s the list of tools? Where’s the explanation on how to use a Google Sheet as a temporary database?

Those are all great questions, but it’s not where the problem lies.

We need to spend more time thinking about the content of reports and what they’re being used for. It’s possible having read this article you’ll come away with the determination to make fewer reports and to trash a whole bunch of your dashboards.

That’s fantastic. Mission accomplished.

There are good tools out there (I quite like Plot.ly and Google Data Studio) which make generating graphs easier, but the problem with many of the dashboards and reports I see isn’t that they’ve used the Excel default colors — it’s that they haven’t spent enough time thinking about the decision the report makes, or picking the ideal metric for a dashboard.

Let’s go out and think more about our reports and dashboards before we even begin making them.

What do you guys think? Has this been other people’s experience? What are the best/worst reports and dashboards you’ve seen and why?

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How to Unlock the Door to Effective Content with Your Creativity

How to Unlock the Door to Effective Content with Your Creativity

We definitely had a creativity thread weaving through the week, both on the blog and the podcasts.

On Monday, I continued our “Quick Copy Tips” series by talking about the difference between benefits and features. It’s one of the first topics covered in nearly every copywriting book, but even experienced writers often get it wrong — because it can be so tricky to see with fresh eyes. I gave you a fast way to do exactly that.

On Tuesday, Stefanie addressed that nasty creativity killer: perfectionism. It takes many forms and hides in many disguises. She reminded us of the one thing we all have to do to defeat it.

And on Wednesday, we posted our creativity and productivity prompts for August. We’re offering a new pair of prompts for you every month this year, to help you create stronger work and more of it. This month’s prompts were heavily influenced by Growing Gills, Jessica Abel’s terrific book on productivity for creative people.

Over on Copyblogger FM, we republished an episode on writing (much better) blog comments. Blog comments can be a surprisingly great way to forge connections with web publishers … but there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way. Quit writing flat, stale comments and start leaving comments that actually make an impact.

And in an encore episode of The Writer Files, Kelton Reid shared a fascinating conversation with neuroscientist Michael Grybko about the nature of creativity — where it comes from and how to nurture it.

That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday. :)

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital

Catch up on this week’s content

quick copy tipBoost the Relevance of Your Content with Benefits and Features

by Sonia Simone

you can care about quality and produce meaningful work without driving yourself crazyThe Non-Perfectionist’s Guide to Noteworthy Blogging for Your Business

by Stefanie Flaxman

2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The August Prompts2017 Content Excellence Challenge: The August Prompts

by Sonia Simone

How to Write (Much Better) Blog CommentsHow to Write (Much Better) Blog Comments

by Sonia Simone

How to Write (Much Better) Blog CommentsHow to Know Exactly What Content You Should Create

by Jerod Morris

The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part One: CreativityThe Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part One: Creativity

by Kelton Reid

How Website Personalization Grows Your Business Faster, with Brennan DunnHow Website Personalization Grows Your Business Faster, with Brennan Dunn

by Brian Clark

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Facebook’s Creative Hub Helps Businesses Make Effective Ads

Facebook has launched Creative Hub, a platform for its mobile advertisers to learn, create and share ad media. Creative Hub is billed as “a new way to create mockups for ads, share them with anyone and experience your work as though it’s live.”

Creative Hub is already getting rave reviews from advertisers and agencies. “I am in no way exaggerating when I say that when I first used it, I sent an internal email to the whole department declaring (and I quote) ‘it is sick… IT WILL CHANGE OUR LIVES’,” exclaimed Ben Shaw, Head of BBH Live at BBH London.

“We designed Creative Hub to be a faster, easier way to produce ideas that capture attention and delight people where they’re spending their time—on mobile,” noted the Facebook ad team in a recent blog post. “Today, the Creative Hub is available to the entire global advertising and marketing community.”

Facebook has been testing Creative Hub since June with selected ad agencies and is just now making it available for all advertisers. They have since added a new Inspiration Gallery showcasing examples of inspiring mobile creative across Facebook and Instagram.

“We developed Creative Hub in response to the needs we heard from the creative community, who told us they needed a tool to help them experiment with content creation on Facebook and Instagram—including trying new formats, previewing ideas on mobile screens, collaborating internally and sharing mock-ups with stakeholders,” noted Facebook.

With Facebook Creative Hub advertisers can be inspired by a gallery of creatives from various brands and agencies in all available formats including 360 video, carousel, canvas and video. You can even mock up your own ideas within the various ad formats and save your work to view later, or even share and collaborate on your creative work with your team.

Once you have mock-ups, you can preview your ad as though it’s live in a mobile feed, and you can also see how it might look on Facebook News Feed or Instagram feed, according to Facebook. The Hub will provide you with a URL of your work to share with staff and clients as well.

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5 Remarkable Qualities of Effective Online Content

content marketing's five essential elements

When I prepare for a presentation on digital business and content marketing, I think a lot about what I want the audience to take away.

Of course, there’s always the First Rule of Copyblogger, which I preach to anyone who will listen. But telling people “don’t publish content that sucks” tends to need a little more explanation if it’s going to be helpful.

What would give content marketing newbies the right foundation? And how can I help content marketing veterans who aren’t finding the success they want? Is there a framework they can use that would start them off on the right foot?

What makes some content marketing succeed, while other efforts fail?

Like any framework, this one can be stated simply. Actually executing it is going to be more complicated. But if you use it, you’ll avoid the pitfalls that bring down most content marketing.

The framework: Education + Personality = Effective Content

1. Effective content educates

Over the years, you’ve heard us say: Don’t sell, teach.

Content that sells (whether you’re in the premium content business or you use content to sell another product or service) is content that makes itself useful.

Effective content teaches your audience something they want to know more about.

It might be fitness tips, parenting skills, or career advice. But it answers pressing questions and makes your readers’ lives better in some key way.

2. Effective content has personality

Aim to create a content-driven website that has personality, that’s reader-friendly, and that’s written to both educate and entertain.

Bringing a consistent voice and personality to your content is a lot of work — but it’s also highly rewarding, both personally and professionally.

3. Effective content has a great headline

We’ve said it before, and we’ll keep saying it until we turn the lights off for good:

If you’re going to put in the work to create strong content that educates in a reader-friendly way, please don’t bury it with a lousy headline.

Great headlines make it easy for readers to share your content. They attract more links, social media sharing, readers, and customers.

Take the time to learn how to write better headlines. It really does pay off.

4. Effective content keeps SEO in mind

Creating content that’s both educational and reader-friendly has SEO benefits. It’s exactly the content search engines wants to serve.

Just remember, effective content works for human readers first and search engines second. If balancing those two still seems mysterious to you, take a look at our free SEO Copywriting ebook.

5. Effective content puts the reader first

All of the “rules” of great content marketing come from one rule: put your audience first.

It’s not about how much money you need to make with this launch, where you want to rank in search engines, or what your cat had for breakfast this morning.

It’s about your audience — the readers, prospects, and customers — not you.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t have goals for your business and your content. But when you create content that both benefits your readers and makes them feel good, you’ll find that your marketing goals become a lot more achievable.

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An Effective (but Embarrassing) Way to Develop Elite Copywriting Skills with Mini Habits

why doing a small thing leads to big results

After reading smart advice, how many of us immediately turn around and apply it?

Not many, unfortunately.

If smart advice only produces results once we begin applying it, why doesn’t it automatically become a part of our lives after we read it?

This post will help you bridge the vast gap between learning something and applying it.

To bridge the gap between theory and reality, we need an application strategy that empowers us to practice.

Until we apply what we’ve learned, the benefits of any action remain theory instead of reality.

My secret for applying what I’ve learned … fast

For the first 10 years I was interested in personal growth, I made meager progress.

I wasn’t one of those transformation stories like Jack LaLanne, who heard a seminar on healthy eating and changed his behavior dramatically — starting his path to become the “godfather of fitness” for the next several decades.

I’d be willing to bet that most other people don’t fall into that quick frog-into-prince category either.

In the last three years, however, I’ve made massive strides in multiple areas of my life at the same time.

Do I have a secret? Yes, actually. I stumbled upon a nearly foolproof application strategy. Before we talk about that, it’s important to understand the supreme importance of practice.

Practice makes subconscious

The popular saying is “practice makes perfect.” The more accurate saying is “practice makes subconscious.”

If you want to become good at anything, you have to recruit the power of your subconscious brain. There is no other way.

For example, Michael Jordan was so skilled at basketball because he practiced so much that all the scenarios, movements, and requirements of the game became second nature to him.

He didn’t have to consciously think, “Okay, I’m going to dribble around this guy, do a quick spin, pump fake to get the big man to jump, and do a reverse layup on the other side.” Instead, he did it all instinctively and swiftly. He had the skills, athletic ability, and court awareness, all of which were developed through hours and hours of practice.

Similarly, expert copywriters have practiced the craft so much that the right words, sentence structure, and emotional tone flow out of them — the concepts of effective copywriting are already a part of their ways of thinking. They may consult materials to aid their efforts (as Jordan studied the game of basketball), but they don’t necessarily need them in order to do a fine job.

Beginners in any discipline need external help because they haven’t learned the core skills yet. On their paths to mastery, they’ll often emulate known authorities.

The difference between experts and those trying to emulate them is the amount and consistency of practice.

To reach your goal — whether it’s to create a popular blog, become a world-class copywriter, or do a double backflip on skis — you must practice consistently.

Success comes from consistent, repetitive action

When most people want to become good at something, they do it a few times and quit, or they do it sporadically for years.

To the subconscious mind, this doesn’t cut it. If you want to change your subconscious, repeat a behavior over and over and over again. Repeat it once more after that. Do it every day. Repetition is the language of the subconscious mind.

Seth Godin has written 18 bestselling books and has one of the most popular blogs in the world. Do you think it’s coincidence that he’s published a post every day for years and is a successful writer? I don’t.

“If you know you have to write something every single day, even a paragraph, you will improve your writing.” – Seth Godin

Success is born from consistency. People aren’t consistent because they’re successful; their consistency creates and sustains their success.

You won’t believe what triggered my breakthrough

If you’ve been reading carefully, you’ve noticed that I think consistency matters a lot. Well, I want to take it a step further. There is nothing more important than being consistent.

Let me briefly explain why I believe this so sincerely.

It was mid-2013, and I was struggling (to put it lightly). I had been blogging for 2.5 years and only had 440 subscribers to show for it. Most of my peers had done far better in far less time. Despite my Finance degree, I was jobless and living with my parents at the ripe old age of 28. My hopes for the future were ashes at the feet of my reality.

I made a decision in mid-2013, however, which gained me 4,000 more subscribers during the rest of that year.

Later that same year, I self-published a book which has been translated into more than a dozen languages and has been the number one self-help book in the USA, Canada, and South Korea.

After that, I created a video course, which now has more than 7,500 paying students. I wrote another international bestselling book last year, and my blog has grown to more than 12,000 subscribers. I’ve also put on 15 pounds of muscle by going to the gym.

It was a dramatic turnaround. What do you imagine was the “big” strategy that changed my life?

Writer’s Xtreme Boot Camp: Bleed By Day Three or Your Money Back!

Um … no. Yikes.

You went to Tibet and found yourself!

Nope. Sounds fun though.

You got lucky.

I don’t believe in luck anymore; I believe in consistency.

I’ll tell you the real strategy that created my avalanche of positive change, but you might laugh at it and you may not even believe me. In mid-2013, at the height of my failure, I set four daily goals that changed my life:

  1. Do one push-up.
  2. Write 50 words (blog).
  3. Write 50 words (book).
  4. Read two pages in a book.

Anticlimactic, isn’t it? Four activities that took me a cumulative time of five minutes to do completely transformed my life.

I call these “mini habits,” and it’s the topic of that book I published in December 2013.

Mini habits make application (really) easy

The transformation in my life occurred as a direct result of my strategy change. I switched from chasing “goals” to chasing consistency. Because these mini habits were so minuscule, I had no problem accomplishing them every day.

This concept is about more than just “set small goals.”

A unique part of the mini habits strategy is that the daily goal is not a ceiling. I actively encouraged myself to do more than my mini requirements. This ensured my consistency and also gave me an outlet for excess motivation. I realized that motivation isn’t supposed to be our primary fuel for action, though — it’s too inconsistent for that.

In psychology, there’s a term called autonomy. It’s far more important than people realize: “The term autonomy literally refers to regulation by the self. Its opposite, heteronomy, refers to controlled regulation, or regulation that occurs without self-endorsement.”

Autonomy means that you feel in control and are in charge of yourself.

Most goals people set seem like they provide autonomy since they’re decisions we make, but a big goal can easily become the boss you despise.

For example, when you’re unmotivated, you’ll resist the goals you’ve set, and you’ll feel controlled by your prior decision to pursue the goal. Your sense of autonomy will disappear and you’ll feel controlled. When people feel controlled, they fight back or try to escape.

Instead of stripping away your sense of autonomy, a mini habit enhances it and makes you feel empowered.

It’s never too intimidating to practice copywriting for 50 words or one minute. You’ll often exceed your small goal, not because of an arbitrary aim, but because you want to get better at it. You want to practice more, and meeting your mini habit requirement is a potent momentum and motivation booster to keep going.

A mini habit shines most on the days you’re tired and unmotivated, as you can still knock out your requirement and feel good about what you did.

This is why the mini habits strategy is the ultimate consistency tool.

Start small on your way to big results

Aristotle famously said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” That is true, even if what we repeatedly do is really small and simple.

Before my writing mini habit, I wrote sporadically and my results were sporadic.

When you do something every day, you resist it less over time. That’s why I was able to go from one push-up a day to a full gym habit. As a bonus, you will also develop the skill more rapidly.

There are considerations, such as how many mini habits to pursue at once and how to keep your mini habit small, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. For that, I recommend reading the Mini Habits book, which goes into more detail.

Dream big, but keep your goals small to harness the exponential power of consistency. You won’t look back.

The post An Effective (but Embarrassing) Way to Develop Elite Copywriting Skills with Mini Habits appeared first on Copyblogger.


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6 Marks of Effective Content: ‘The Lego Movie’ Edition

how to snap together effective content marketing

Shortly after the release of The Lego Movie (2014), more than one professional marketer went on record to say that it was the best piece of content marketing they’d seen in a long time.

Well, I finally saw the movie, and I don’t buy that claim. Why?

To be honest, I have a hunch it won’t pass a simple test — a test I’m calling “The Six Marks of Effective Content.”

And what exactly are those six marks? They are:

  1. A headline that instantly commands attention
  2. An opening that hooks your audience
  3. An element of education, inspiration, or entertainment
  4. A persuasive story
  5. A single, focused moral
  6. A well-crafted call to action

Seems easy enough to pass, but before we dive in, do me a favor if you have seen the movie: Think through how you would grade the movie based on these six marks. And then let’s see how we compare at the end. Cool?

Here we go.

1. A headline that instantly commands attention: A+

If we were to evaluate the title of the movie based on the four U’s of headline writing, The Lego Movie is a below-average headline:

  • Is it useful? No.
  • Is it urgent? No.
  • Is it unique? Yes.
  • Is it ultra-specific? Not really — all we know is that it’s a movie about Lego bricks.

A headline I would write for the movie using the four U’s might look something like:

  • Soap Bubbles and 44 Other Surprising Things You Can Make with Lego Pieces
  • The Fellowship of the Brick
  • Lord Business Is No Megamind

However, the headline doesn’t have to do much because of the hefty value of its brand name. Except for space aliens, everybody knows what Lego bricks are.

See, The Lego Movie as a headline is equivalent to announcing “Free Money” or “Sex.” Few people need to be told the value proposition behind those headlines (that first headline was once used by a bank, the second one by a bookstore).

The creators of the movie didn’t have to be clever — just clear and concise.

That’s because we’ve all been waiting forever (whether or not we knew it) for a Lego movie. Just hearing those three words — The Lego Movie — made us all squirm in anticipation like a batch of soft, fluffy, yowling puppies.

But there is a lesson that shouldn’t be missed here: unless you have an A+ brand name, write magnetic headlines.

The movie seems to be off to a good start.

2. An opening that hooks your audience: A

The second mark of effective content is a strong introduction that immediately hooks your audience member — and keeps her reading or watching.

For your content, use short, engaging sentences that could:

  • Tell a story.
  • Ask a question.
  • Share a metaphor, analogy, or simile.
  • Invoke the mind’s eye.
  • Quote a statistic.

The Lego Movie gets an A here because the movie grabs and keeps our attention when we meet the hero of the story, Emmet — an average guy who religiously follows an instruction booklet.

Then, his world is turned upside down. (I will stop there, for those who have not seen the movie.)

That’s the essence of a well-told story.

3. An element of education, inspiration, or entertainment: A

Effective content marketing educates, inspires, or entertains an audience.

A balanced piece of content will usually have a mix that is 40 percent education, 40 percent inspiration, and 20 percent entertainment:

So, how does The Lego Movie fare? It’s clearly full-scale entertainment, but there is an educational element, too: there is a time to follow rules, and there is a time to break them.

Ancient wisdom, if you think about it. The movie gets an A in this category.

4. A persuasive story: A

A captivating novel, movie, or TV series begins with a character in conflict, then amplifies that conflict so that life becomes miserable, and eventually ends in a satisfying resolution.

The same is true for your marketing story. You need a hero, a goal, an obstacle, a mentor, and a moral.

They can also use metaphors, case studies, examples, and other techniques to engage your audience and illustrate a point.

Of course the movie aces this one.

5. A single, focused moral: B

Yes, great content tells stories that show people just like you overcoming obstacles and attaining their goals. It shows how customers become better versions of themselves — how customers can overcome external and internal obstacles to gain what they’re searching for.

But great content also always states its purpose.

In the sea of distraction that is the web, don’t be afraid to spell it out. Be clear and direct. Clarity is golden.

Here are a few examples of morals in content marketing:

So, how did The Lego Movie do?

While the message wasn’t necessarily direct, it certainly was clear: You are special. Believe in yourself.

That’s certainly a moral, but I think it’s a lame one because when everyone is special, aren’t we all really just average then? ”</p

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Why Effective, Modern SEO Requires Technical, Creative, and Strategic Thinking – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

There’s no doubt that quite a bit has changed about SEO, and that the field is far more integrated with other aspects of online marketing than it once was. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand pushes back against the idea that effective modern SEO doesn’t require any technical expertise, outlining a fantastic list of technical elements that today’s SEOs need to know about in order to be truly effective.

Why Effective, Modern SEO Requires Technical, Creative, and Strategic Thinking - Whiteboard Friday

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard. Click on it to open a high resolution image in a new tab!

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I’m going to do something unusual. I don’t usually point out these inconsistencies or sort of take issue with other folks’ content on the web, because I generally find that that’s not all that valuable and useful. But I’m going to make an exception here.

There is an article by Jayson DeMers, who I think might actually be here in Seattle — maybe he and I can hang out at some point — called “Why Modern SEO Requires Almost No Technical Expertise.” It was an article that got a shocking amount of traction and attention. On Facebook, it has thousands of shares. On LinkedIn, it did really well. On Twitter, it got a bunch of attention.

Some folks in the SEO world have already pointed out some issues around this. But because of the increasing popularity of this article, and because I think there’s, like, this hopefulness from worlds outside of kind of the hardcore SEO world that are looking to this piece and going, “Look, this is great. We don’t have to be technical. We don’t have to worry about technical things in order to do SEO.”

Look, I completely get the appeal of that. I did want to point out some of the reasons why this is not so accurate. At the same time, I don’t want to rain on Jayson, because I think that it’s very possible he’s writing an article for Entrepreneur, maybe he has sort of a commitment to them. Maybe he had no idea that this article was going to spark so much attention and investment. He does make some good points. I think it’s just really the title and then some of the messages inside there that I take strong issue with, and so I wanted to bring those up.

First off, some of the good points he did bring up.

One, he wisely says, “You don’t need to know how to code or to write and read algorithms in order to do SEO.” I totally agree with that. If today you’re looking at SEO and you’re thinking, “Well, am I going to get more into this subject? Am I going to try investing in SEO? But I don’t even know HTML and CSS yet.”

Those are good skills to have, and they will help you in SEO, but you don’t need them. Jayson’s totally right. You don’t have to have them, and you can learn and pick up some of these things, and do searches, watch some Whiteboard Fridays, check out some guides, and pick up a lot of that stuff later on as you need it in your career. SEO doesn’t have that hard requirement.

And secondly, he makes an intelligent point that we’ve made many times here at Moz, which is that, broadly speaking, a better user experience is well correlated with better rankings.

You make a great website that delivers great user experience, that provides the answers to searchers’ questions and gives them extraordinarily good content, way better than what’s out there already in the search results, generally speaking you’re going to see happy searchers, and that’s going to lead to higher rankings.

But not entirely. There are a lot of other elements that go in here. So I’ll bring up some frustrating points around the piece as well.

First off, there’s no acknowledgment — and I find this a little disturbing — that the ability to read and write code, or even HTML and CSS, which I think are the basic place to start, is helpful or can take your SEO efforts to the next level. I think both of those things are true.

So being able to look at a web page, view source on it, or pull up Firebug in Firefox or something and diagnose what’s going on and then go, “Oh, that’s why Google is not able to see this content. That’s why we’re not ranking for this keyword or term, or why even when I enter this exact sentence in quotes into Google, which is on our page, this is why it’s not bringing it up. It’s because it’s loading it after the page from a remote file that Google can’t access.” These are technical things, and being able to see how that code is built, how it’s structured, and what’s going on there, very, very helpful.

Some coding knowledge also can take your SEO efforts even further. I mean, so many times, SEOs are stymied by the conversations that we have with our programmers and our developers and the technical staff on our teams. When we can have those conversations intelligently, because at least we understand the principles of how an if-then statement works, or what software engineering best practices are being used, or they can upload something into a GitHub repository, and we can take a look at it there, that kind of stuff is really helpful.

Secondly, I don’t like that the article overly reduces all of this information that we have about what we’ve learned about Google. So he mentions two sources. One is things that Google tells us, and others are SEO experiments. I think both of those are true. Although I’d add that there’s sort of a sixth sense of knowledge that we gain over time from looking at many, many search results and kind of having this feel for why things rank, and what might be wrong with a site, and getting really good at that using tools and data as well. There are people who can look at Open Site Explorer and then go, “Aha, I bet this is going to happen.” They can look, and 90% of the time they’re right.

So he boils this down to, one, write quality content, and two, reduce your bounce rate. Neither of those things are wrong. You should write quality content, although I’d argue there are lots of other forms of quality content that aren’t necessarily written — video, images and graphics, podcasts, lots of other stuff.

And secondly, that just doing those two things is not always enough. So you can see, like many, many folks look and go, “I have quality content. It has a low bounce rate. How come I don’t rank better?” Well, your competitors, they’re also going to have quality content with a low bounce rate. That’s not a very high bar.

Also, frustratingly, this really gets in my craw. I don’t think “write quality content” means anything. You tell me. When you hear that, to me that is a totally non-actionable, non-useful phrase that’s a piece of advice that is so generic as to be discardable. So I really wish that there was more substance behind that.

The article also makes, in my opinion, the totally inaccurate claim that modern SEO really is reduced to “the happier your users are when they visit your site, the higher you’re going to rank.”

Wow. Okay. Again, I think broadly these things are correlated. User happiness and rank is broadly correlated, but it’s not a one to one. This is not like a, “Oh, well, that’s a 1.0 correlation.”

I would guess that the correlation is probably closer to like the page authority range. I bet it’s like 0.35 or something correlation. If you were to actually measure this broadly across the web and say like, “Hey, were you happier with result one, two, three, four, or five,” the ordering would not be perfect at all. It probably wouldn’t even be close.

There’s a ton of reasons why sometimes someone who ranks on Page 2 or Page 3 or doesn’t rank at all for a query is doing a better piece of content than the person who does rank well or ranks on Page 1, Position 1.

Then the article suggests five and sort of a half steps to successful modern SEO, which I think is a really incomplete list. So Jayson gives us;

  • Good on-site experience
  • Writing good content
  • Getting others to acknowledge you as an authority
  • Rising in social popularity
  • Earning local relevance
  • Dealing with modern CMS systems (which he notes most modern CMS systems are SEO-friendly)

The thing is there’s nothing actually wrong with any of these. They’re all, generally speaking, correct, either directly or indirectly related to SEO. The one about local relevance, I have some issue with, because he doesn’t note that there’s a separate algorithm for sort of how local SEO is done and how Google ranks local sites in maps and in their local search results. Also not noted is that rising in social popularity won’t necessarily directly help your SEO, although it can have indirect and positive benefits.

I feel like this list is super incomplete. Okay, I brainstormed just off the top of my head in the 10 minutes before we filmed this video a list. The list was so long that, as you can see, I filled up the whole whiteboard and then didn’t have any more room. I’m not going to bother to erase and go try and be absolutely complete.

But there’s a huge, huge number of things that are important, critically important for technical SEO. If you don’t know how to do these things, you are sunk in many cases. You can’t be an effective SEO analyst, or consultant, or in-house team member, because you simply can’t diagnose the potential problems, rectify those potential problems, identify strategies that your competitors are using, be able to diagnose a traffic gain or loss. You have to have these skills in order to do that.

I’ll run through these quickly, but really the idea is just that this list is so huge and so long that I think it’s very, very, very wrong to say technical SEO is behind us. I almost feel like the opposite is true.

We have to be able to understand things like;

  • Content rendering and indexability
  • Crawl structure, internal links, JavaScript, Ajax. If something’s post-loading after the page and Google’s not able to index it, or there are links that are accessible via JavaScript or Ajax, maybe Google can’t necessarily see those or isn’t crawling them as effectively, or is crawling them, but isn’t assigning them as much link weight as they might be assigning other stuff, and you’ve made it tough to link to them externally, and so they can’t crawl it.
  • Disabling crawling and/or indexing of thin or incomplete or non-search-targeted content. We have a bunch of search results pages. Should we use rel=prev/next? Should we robots.txt those out? Should we disallow from crawling with meta robots? Should we rel=canonical them to other pages? Should we exclude them via the protocols inside Google Webmaster Tools, which is now Google Search Console?
  • Managing redirects, domain migrations, content updates. A new piece of content comes out, replacing an old piece of content, what do we do with that old piece of content? What’s the best practice? It varies by different things. We have a whole Whiteboard Friday about the different things that you could do with that. What about a big redirect or a domain migration? You buy another company and you’re redirecting their site to your site. You have to understand things about subdomain structures versus subfolders, which, again, we’ve done another Whiteboard Friday about that.
  • Proper error codes, downtime procedures, and not found pages. If your 404 pages turn out to all be 200 pages, well, now you’ve made a big error there, and Google could be crawling tons of 404 pages that they think are real pages, because you’ve made it a status code 200, or you’ve used a 404 code when you should have used a 410, which is a permanently removed, to be able to get it completely out of the indexes, as opposed to having Google revisit it and keep it in the index.

Downtime procedures. So there’s specifically a… I can’t even remember. It’s a 5xx code that you can use. Maybe it was a 503 or something that you can use that’s like, “Revisit later. We’re having some downtime right now.” Google urges you to use that specific code rather than using a 404, which tells them, “This page is now an error.”

Disney had that problem a while ago, if you guys remember, where they 404ed all their pages during an hour of downtime, and then their homepage, when you searched for Disney World, was, like, “Not found.” Oh, jeez, Disney World, not so good.

  • International and multi-language targeting issues. I won’t go into that. But you have to know the protocols there. Duplicate content, syndication, scrapers. How do we handle all that? Somebody else wants to take our content, put it on their site, what should we do? Someone’s scraping our content. What can we do? We have duplicate content on our own site. What should we do?
  • Diagnosing traffic drops via analytics and metrics. Being able to look at a rankings report, being able to look at analytics connecting those up and trying to see: Why did we go up or down? Did we have less pages being indexed, more pages being indexed, more pages getting traffic less, more keywords less?
  • Understanding advanced search parameters. Today, just today, I was checking out the related parameter in Google, which is fascinating for most sites. Well, for Moz, weirdly, related:oursite.com shows nothing. But for virtually every other sit, well, most other sites on the web, it does show some really interesting data, and you can see how Google is connecting up, essentially, intentions and topics from different sites and pages, which can be fascinating, could expose opportunities for links, could expose understanding of how they view your site versus your competition or who they think your competition is.

Then there are tons of parameters, like in URL and in anchor, and da, da, da, da. In anchor doesn’t work anymore, never mind about that one.

I have to go faster, because we’re just going to run out of these. Like, come on. Interpreting and leveraging data in Google Search Console. If you don’t know how to use that, Google could be telling you, you have all sorts of errors, and you don’t know what they are.

  • Leveraging topic modeling and extraction. Using all these cool tools that are coming out for better keyword research and better on-page targeting. I talked about a couple of those at MozCon, like MonkeyLearn. There’s the new Moz Context API, which will be coming out soon, around that. There’s the Alchemy API, which a lot of folks really like and use.
  • Identifying and extracting opportunities based on site crawls. You run a Screaming Frog crawl on your site and you’re going, “Oh, here’s all these problems and issues.” If you don’t have these technical skills, you can’t diagnose that. You can’t figure out what’s wrong. You can’t figure out what needs fixing, what needs addressing.
  • Using rich snippet format to stand out in the SERPs. This is just getting a better click-through rate, which can seriously help your site and obviously your traffic.
  • Applying Google-supported protocols like rel=canonical, meta description, rel=prev/next, hreflang, robots.txt, meta robots, x robots, NOODP, XML sitemaps, rel=nofollow. The list goes on and on and on. If you’re not technical, you don’t know what those are, you think you just need to write good content and lower your bounce rate, it’s not going to work.
  • Using APIs from services like AdWords or MozScape, or hrefs from Majestic, or SEM refs from SearchScape or Alchemy API. Those APIs can have powerful things that they can do for your site. There are some powerful problems they could help you solve if you know how to use them. It’s actually not that hard to write something, even inside a Google Doc or Excel, to pull from an API and get some data in there. There’s a bunch of good tutorials out there. Richard Baxter has one, Annie Cushing has one, I think Distilled has some. So really cool stuff there.
  • Diagnosing page load speed issues, which goes right to what Jayson was talking about. You need that fast-loading page. Well, if you don’t have any technical skills, you can’t figure out why your page might not be loading quickly.
  • Diagnosing mobile friendliness issues
  • Advising app developers on the new protocols around App deep linking, so that you can get the content from your mobile apps into the web search results on mobile devices. Awesome. Super powerful. Potentially crazy powerful, as mobile search is becoming bigger than desktop.

Okay, I’m going to take a deep breath and relax. I don’t know Jayson’s intention, and in fact, if he were in this room, he’d be like, “No, I totally agree with all those things. I wrote the article in a rush. I had no idea it was going to be big. I was just trying to make the broader points around you don’t have to be a coder in order to do SEO.” That’s completely fine.

So I’m not going to try and rain criticism down on him. But I think if you’re reading that article, or you’re seeing it in your feed, or your clients are, or your boss is, or other folks are in your world, maybe you can point them to this Whiteboard Friday and let them know, no, that’s not quite right. There’s a ton of technical SEO that is required in 2015 and will be for years to come, I think, that SEOs have to have in order to be effective at their jobs.

All right, everyone. Look forward to some great comments, and we’ll see you again next time for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Effective Solutions In Heating and Cooling Systems in Australia

Normally, through Australia, 40 percent of the energy we use at home is for heating and cooling. This does not include the heating of hot water. The amount of energy used by your home vary according to their needs and the environment where you live and the type of heating and cooling depends on you. Most households have to be heated or cooled to a certain time of year, but with an efficient home, which could avoid dependence on heating and cooling additional devices in total.

Besides the type of heating and cooling solutions you choose, how to work and take care of your system may also have a significant impact. Once you have used all the options of passive heating involved, the next step is to select a suitable to your situation heating. There are many types of heating with different reasons of energy and environmental quantities efficiency.Your, type water heater, how to use it and to its position in the room can make a positive change in their leisure and heating costs. When sizing and adequate system of your home, you can avoid investing in the energy required. Central heating often can heat an entire home, while the space (room) heat warms everyone in the room (or more in the American zone) is used. Whether you opt for the central heating or space, there are many technologies and different heating options to consider, the best type of heating for you is determined by your circumstances, including the size of the rooms to become heated, the number of people in your home and your local climate.

Efficient gas heaters and reverse cycle air conditioning (heat pumps) are cheaper to acquire than standard electric heaters and create about a third of the amount of greenhouse gases. Note that it is important to work with unflued gas heaters with adequate ventilation when they cause indoor air pollution probably at home that may affect their welfare. See the requirements of your state or place.

Central heating systems are often critical to the gas, but could use a water heater in the fire, or heat pump solar system. Most of these systems circulating hot water radiators through solar panels, fan coils or in some cases indirectly through a concrete slab.

Air conditioning (or heat pumps) reverse cycle represent the type of electrical energy efficiency heater.Heat more levers have a fan and led the parties directly unheated heat your home.

They can be a profitable, low cost of operation. Portable electric heaters can be cheap to buy but expensive to maintain. Many are not as useful as other strategies slab floor heating heating.Electric often stronger fuel emissions of greenhouse gases whole house heating and perform.As rules would be the highest you should clean the filters in your heating system regularly to make sure it works effectively, follow the actual manufacturer. Use thermostats and timers to ensure that you are only heated room with everything you need to make when you need to save energy and money. Research on the best type of heating and cooling for your circumstances, our information could help you get started.

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