Tag Archive | "engage"

Fix This Writing Mistake to Engage Readers with the Right Challenges

In college, there are three kinds of classes. First, there’s the blow-off classes, where 80 percent of your grade comes from fill-in-the-blank worksheets. To pass, all you really have to do is show up. Then, there are the classes taught by “real hardasses.” These classes kept you up well past midnight, flipping frenetically through flashcards,
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7 Golden Rules for Hosting Webinars that Engage and Convert

Webinar shock. Familiar with it? Probably not, because I just made up the term. But you’re probably familiar with Webinar Shock’s sister term, Content Shock. It’s the idea, first described by Mark Schaefer, that we have entered an age in which “exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.” In
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How to Write Conversationally: 7 Tips to Engage and Delight Your Audience

engage readers with a conversational writing style

How often do you shrug your shoulders and press delete after reading a marketing email?

Many marketing messages make us cringe. They don’t sound like a human being wrote them. They don’t engage. They lack personality and feel cold-hearted.

It’s not surprising.

At school, we learned grammar rules. We learned how to write and spell, but we didn’t learn how to use language to connect with our readers. We didn’t learn how to engage, persuade, and inspire.

But readers crave a human touch.

When we read conversational content, we instantly feel a connection with the writer. We feel like we’re getting to know him. We start to like him.

As content marketers, we know this is our aim. When readers get to know, like, and trust us, we create opportunities to market our services and sell our products. We know we need to write conversationally, but how?

You might think writing in a conversational style requires recording yourself talking and typing out what you said. But have you ever seen a word-for-word transcript of an interview?

It’s full of wishy-washy words, grammar mistakes, and unfinished sentences. People rarely speak proper English when they talk. That’s normal.

Conversational text is a lot tighter than spoken language. So, writing conversationally doesn’t mean you write as you talk. Instead, edit your text so it doesn’t sound like writing.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” – Elmore Leonard

Specific editing techniques help make your content sound more conversational.

Shall I show you how to use them?

1. Quit writing to everyone

Imagine writing an email to a list of 10,000 people.

When you think about those 10,000 faceless subscribers, you probably sound like this:

Thank you to those of you who have donated to our charity appeal. You can still donate here.

It sounds like you’re addressing a crowd, right? The phrase “those of you” feels impersonal.

Now, let’s choose your favorite subscriber. Imagine your biggest fan — she often replies to your emails with praise, and sometimes with questions. Even though you’ve never met, she’s a friend:

Have you already donated to our charity appeal? Thank you so much. If you haven’t donated yet, you can still donate here.

A conversational tone makes readers feel like you’re addressing them personally. As if you two are having a drink at your local Starbucks.

“I’m going to have a green tea. What would you like to drink?”

2. Don’t write to impress

When you talk with your best friend, what kind of words do you use?

Do you try to impress with MBA jargon? Do you use complicated words?

To write conversationally, skip the gobbledygook and make your content more specific. For instance, look at this copy:

Pioneering software from the market leader. Schedule your social media updates with our award-winning all-in-one app.

Now, here’s the conversational version:

Save time with our new app. Schedule all your social media updates in one go.

Empathy is the foundation of a good conversation. Understand the problems your readers are struggling with, and address those problems using their words.

Write to engage and help.

“Would you like a ginger cookie with your coffee? Or a blueberry muffin?”

3. Make it a two-way conversation

When writing, we can’t see the person on the other end of the conversation. So, we forget to engage our readers and merely write from our own perspective.

Here’s an example of how self-importance sneaks into our content:

Sign up to get on our list, and we’ll send you our weekly email with marketing tips.

Note how “we” and “our” are both self-referring pronouns. Here’s how to focus on your reader instead:

Grow your business with smarter marketing. Sign up now to get weekly emails with marketing tips.

To spot your self-important sentences, look for the sentences with “I” and “we.” Edit them to highlight benefits for your reader.

But don’t feel you need to replace all instances of “I” and “we.” You don’t need to hide yourself.

If you’re a one-person business, use “I,” “me,” and “my.” And if you write on behalf of a team, feel free to use “we,” “us,” and “our,” when appropriate.

A good conversation goes two ways: A little bit about “me” or “us.” A little more about “you.”

“How was your weekend?”

4. Add a dollop of personality

Think about your friends or favorite colleagues. Why do you enjoy chatting with them?

It’s the small stories you share. You might discuss a bad referee decision in Sunday’s match, the movie you went to yesterday, or where you can get the best steak.

Your friends talk about more than their specialty subject.

It’s the same with your content. If you only discuss your topic of expertise, you show yourself as a one-dimensional expert. It’s kind of boring.

Think about how you can inject your personality into your blog posts, emails, or sales copy:

  • Share the mistakes you’ve made so your readers can learn from them.
  • Use a personal anecdote to illustrate a point.
  • Create your own style of metaphors.
  • Tell readers why you’re on your mission to change the world.
  • Add a personal P.S. to your emails — even if it’s an unrelated comment about the weather or your latest cycling trip.

When you sprinkle a little bit of yourself over your content, readers get to know you.

That’s when content marketing becomes magic.

“Yeah, my weekend was good. My sister came over from the Netherlands. Luckily the weather was good.”

5. Engage with questions

Do you pose questions in your writing?

Research has shown that questions in tweets can get more than double the amount of clicks. And what’s more, they can even boost your persuasiveness.

In his book To Sell Is Human, Daniel Pink explains that a question makes readers think — they process your message more intensely. And when readers agree with you, your question is more persuasive than a statement.

Note the difference between:

You ought to include questions marks, so your writing becomes more conversational.


Want to make your writing more engaging? Add a few questions.

Questions are a powerful technique for engaging and persuading your readers. They keep readers invested in your content.

“The weather is nice today, too. Shall we sit outside?”

6. Shorten your sentences

A standard tone of voice in marketing often sounds boring and robotic, and an academic tone creates a certain distance, too, as if you look down on your readers.

Both styles tend to use unwieldy sentences — and those long sentences are tiring to read. To make your content more readable, chop up long sentences.

Here’s a long academic sentence:

Presenting yourself only as an expert makes you one-dimensional, but when you tell short stories about yourself in addition to sharing your knowledge, you become a multi-dimensional human being, and you become a more fascinating person in your reader’s eyes.

Phew. Did you run out of breath? That’s forty words in one sentence.

Here’s the conversational version with only nine words per sentence on average:

Presenting yourself only as an expert makes you one-dimensional. Perhaps even a bit boring. But when you tell itty-bitty stories about yourself, your hobbies, and your life, you become a real human being. You become more fascinating.

In grade school, we received praise for using difficult words to write complicated sentences. In college, we read verbose sentences stuffed with words derived from Latin and Greek.

That’s how we learned to write to impress.

We didn’t learn how to communicate our message, write with clarity, and be persuasive. To engage our readers, we must unlearn what we learned in school.

Put your readers first. Make your message simple. Chop your sentences down.

“Nice shirt you’re wearing. I like the color. Suits you well.”

7. Don’t drink coffee with your high school teacher

Just thinking about my high school teachers puts me on edge. I get nervous about making mistakes. I worry about sounding crazy. I fear not living up to their expectations.

And that’s how writing becomes stilted.

Following grammar rules usually makes content easier to read. However, certain rules may actually hamper readability. So, give yourself permission to break them:

  • Use broken sentences. Broken sentences don’t necessarily befuddle readers; they often add clarity. By stressing words. (Like that.)
  • Start a sentence with “and,” “but,” or “or.” Because it makes your content easier to read and less monotonous. More dynamic. Enthusiastic.
  • Create one-sentence paragraphs to stress specific statements and give readers room to breathe. A short silence in a conversation is okay, right?
  • Feel free to occasionally use … uhm … interjections like “Ouch,” “Phew,” and “Duh.” They add emotion and a touch of casualness to your writing voice.

Writing is not about sticking to grammar rules. It’s about communicating ideas with clarity and personality.

So, please come along for a cup of tea and a chat, but don’t bring your grammar teacher with you. She’ll strangle our conversation with her pedantic remarks.

“Your hair is getting long. You should get a haircut.”

Embrace the power of your voice

Do you ever think back to a conversation you had with a friend? Do you hear her voice in your head?

That’s how readers should experience your content. Let your words linger in their minds. Inspire them long after they’ve read your words.

In a world of endless pixels and meaningless likes, we crave human connections and voices that resonate with us.

So, be yourself. Brew a cup of green tea. Offer your readers a slice of homemade cake.

And have a cozy chat.


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Should Venture Backed Startups Engage in Spammy SEO?

Here’s a recent video of the founders of RapGenius talking at TechCrunch disrupt.

Oops, wrong video. Here’s the right one. Same difference.

Recently a thread on Hacker News highlighted a blog post which pointed how RapGenius was engaging in reciprocal promotional arrangements where they would promote blogs on their Facebook or Twitter accounts if those bloggers would post a laundry list of keyword rich deeplinks at RapGenius.

Matt Cutts quickly chimed in on Hacker News “we’re investigating this now.”

A friend of mine and I were chatting yesterday about what would happen. My prediction was that absolutely nothing would happen to RapGenius, they would issue a faux apology, they would put no effort into cleaning up the existing links, and the apology alone would be sufficient evidence of good faith that the issue dies there.

Today RapGenius published a mea culpa where ultimately they defended their own spam by complaining about how spammy other lyrics websites are. The self-serving jackasses went so far as including this in their post: “With limited tools (Open Site Explorer), we found some suspicious backlinks to some of our competitors”

It’s one thing to in private complain about dealing in a frustrating area, but it’s another thing to publicly throw your direct competitors under the bus with a table of link types and paint them as being black hat spammers.

Google can’t afford to penalize Rap Genius, because if they do Google Ventures will lose deal flow on the start ups Google co-invests in.

In the past some of Google’s other investments were into companies that were pretty overtly spamming. RetailMeNot held multiple giveaways where if you embedded a spammy sidebar set of deeplinks to their various pages they gave you a free t-shirt:

Google’s behavior on such arrangements has usually been to hit the smaller players while looking the other way on the bigger site on the other end of the transaction.

That free t-shirt for links post was from 2010 – the same year that Google invested in RetailMeNot. They did those promotions multiple times & long enough that they ran out of t-shirts!. Now that RTM is a publicly traded billion Dollar company which Google already endorsed by investing in, there’s a zero percent chance of them getting penalized.

To recap, if you are VC-backed you can: spam away, wait until you are outed, when outed reply with a combined “we didn’t know” and a “our competitors are spammers” deflective response.

For the sake of clarity, let’s compare that string of events (spam, warning but no penalty, no effort needed to clean up, insincere mea culpa) to how a websites are treated when not VC backed. For smaller sites it is “shoot on sight” first and then ask questions later, perhaps coupled with a friendly recommendation to start over.

Here’s a post from today highlighting a quote from Google’s John Mueller:

My personal & direct recommendation here would be to treat this site as a learning experience from a technical point of view, and then to find something that you’re absolutely passionate & knowledgeable about and create a website for that instead.

Growth hack inbound content marketing, but just don’t call it SEO.

What’s worse, is with the new fearmongering disavow promotional stuff, not only are some folks being penalized for the efforts of others, but some are being penalized for links that were in place BEFORE Google even launched as a company.

Given that money allegedly shouldn’t impact rankings, its sad to note that as everything that is effective gets labeled as spam, capital and connections are the key SEO innovations in the current Google ecosystem.


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How to find and engage influencers in your industry

Author (displayed on the page): 

By knowing this, I can do some of the following:

  • Create content that is more likely to be shared via social media.
  • Reach out to industry influencers to show them my content.
  • Get links from major digital publications and blogs.
  • Improve the effectiveness of my prospecting/outreach campaigns.
  • Identify the websites that will give me the best ROI for my link building.
  • Build influential brand evangelists.

Identifying Influencers

This is something that I focus a lot of my time on. In particular, I’ve been looking at ways to scale the ‘influencer analysis’ stage because I’ve found the data that can be gathered to be hugely beneficial to my SEO campaigns.

Finding popular content

I begin this process by identifying great content within my niche. To do this I use a number of tools, one of which is BuzzSumo.This is a free tool that enables you to search for influential content (based on social shares across the major networks) related to any keyword that you enter.

In the screenshot above, I’ve found some of the most popular link building content from the past month. You can then download this data to a .csv file for further analysis.

Pro Tip: Wherever possible, get all of your data into a spreadsheet to allow you to filter through it. You’ll be able to do much more this way compared to filtering within tools.

Another tool that I like to use to find good quality content is Social Crawlytics. Like BuzzSumo, Social Crawlytics is completely free to use – although, there is a limit to the amount of reports you can run. I won’t go into too much detail on how to use Social Crawlytics because I’ll leave you to play around with it. Essentially, you can scout through leading industry blogs or competitors to find which content has performed well.

Who’s sharing this content?

Behind all of the top performing content that I gather are the social influencers. These are the people that are getting the content seen by others within the industry, and these are the people that I want to be building relationships with. A great way of finding them is by using another free tool, Topsy.

Topsy is a social search tool that you can use to find exactly who has shared any given URL via Twitter (and Google Plus). You can also drill down on ‘influential users’, which is what I’m interested in. I tend to go through as much of the top industry content (depending on how much I’m able to gather) as possible and then place the ‘influential’ sharers within a spreadsheet.

Pro Tip: You can save loads of copy/paste time here by using the Scraper plugin from Chrome to scrape the names, Twitter handles and Twitter profile URLs of the sharers in a matter of seconds.

Who’s creating the content?

As well as the people that are sharing the content, the creators themselves are people that I want to be engaging with. If someone has managed to get their post shared 1,000+ times over Twitter then there’s loads of ways that they could be useful to have on my side!

Now, going in and manually searching through all of the top content to find who has produced it may take a little time – this is where I use the SEO Tools plugin for Excel to scrape this information with XPath. I should mention that you need Excel to be running on Windows to be able to install and use the plugin.

Note: If you haven’t used the SEO Tools plugin for Excel before then make sure you check out my full video tutorial on how to get the most from it.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed the plugin, open up the spreadsheet with all of the top content that was gathered within BuzzSumo. You’ll then be able to scrape the name of the author from each URL using the following formula (replace URLHERE with the URL of the popular content):


Note: This will only work for sites that have a rel=”author” attribute where they list the author’s name. You can also use BuzzStream to try and gather some of this information. In addition to this you can use the following formula to gather the author’s Twitter handle (as long as the URL has Twitter meta data set up):


Once you have someone’s Twitter handle, you’ll be able to gather a whole host of other information on them – but I’ll come to this shortly.

Pro Tip: You can find popular authors on big blogs by running a report within Social Crawlytics. The tool will then give you a breakdown of the top authors based on the number of social shares their content has had.

Where else do they publish content?

Finding the other places where these influential authors are publishing content will help to identify more link building opportunities. It will also give me more intelligence around where the top authors in the industry are writing and getting exposure for their content – these sites will then be my primary outreach targets.

I wrote a full post about following authors’ paper-trails – here’s a brief overview:

  • Search through the author’s ‘contributor to’ section of their Google+ profile.
  • Do a reverse image search on the author’s profile image to find sites where it has appeared (this will likely be in their author bio).
  • Do an advanced query within Google to search for their name and job title (they will usually mention this in author bios on content they’ve written).

Gathering contact information

Before we can start building relationships with these influencers, we’ll need to gather contact information for them. As I mentioned, once we have their Twitter URL, we’re able to get a load more information on them. We can do this using FullContact’s Persona API. If your’e using the SEO tools Excel plugin, then another way to gather contact information on them is to go back and use some more XPath to find the URL listed on their Twitter profile – which will usually be their personal website. You can do that with the following formula (just add in their Twitter profile URL):


Once you have this URL, plug it into BuzzStream and let it work its magic to find any contact information that’s available on the site. I usually get a good success rate with this method.

Utilising the influencers

Once I’ve carried out all of my analysis and gathered contact information on all of the influencers, it’s then time to start building relationships with them. There’s no set way to go about this because the way that you build relationships will differ depending on what your objectives are and what industry you’re working within. Having said that, here’s a few ideas on how you can use the industry influencers to boost your SEO campaign:

  • Gain opportunities to write on their personal blogs.
  • Reach out to the list of sites that they write for – they’re likely to also accept other guest contributors (plus, if the top writers are contributing, the sites must be good quality).
  • Gather their input for posts on your on site to get ‘expert insights’.
  • Ask them to write on your website.
  • Share relevant content directly to the social influencers to increase the likelihood of it being picked up by and featured on major sites.
  • Have them ghost-write for you on the sites they contribute to and gain some good quality links (you’ll likely need to pay them here).
  • Offer them free use of your products/services in return for writing reviews.
  • Build relationships with them offline and work on moulding them as brand evangelists.


It’s worth spending more time on gathering information on the people that influence the market you’re working on – it may feel like hard work, but the benefits can be enormous. Remember to use a combination of tools so that you can really scale out the analysis process and get the most from it. Most importantly, build relationships with the people (influencers are people too) which will increase the reach of your content, and can open doors to big link building opportunities.

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Mobile Marketing: Use video content as a tactic to engage your customers

Mobile marketing is still a new channel with several unknowns and lots of challenges for marketers looking to improve their bottom line in the upcoming year. Read further to learn more about how you can use video content to engage your mobile customers.
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www.youtube.com We List The MUST have Internet Marketing Tools for Every Internet Marketer. From creating squeeze page, sales pages and video sales page to re-writing & spinning tools and on-page SEO to off-page SEO (link building tools) and Facebook Viral Images Creator plugin etc. Get the…
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Only 6% of Fans Engage With a Brand’s Facebook Page, and Other Marketing Stories of the Week


Many inbound marketers have reached the point where they’re actively using social media, business blogging, and working on their on-page SEO, but how do you take your marketing to the next level?

You’re smart for having that scaling mindset and wanting to do more, but the problem is keeping up with it all! Facebook and Google have been making some serious changes lately, and growing a following of loyal subscribers for your blog isn’t exactly something that happens over night. So how does a marketer do it all?

In this post, you’ll find the top 6 marketing stories and resources of the week to keep you updated and help you learn how to scale your online presence.

Google Searchers 3x More Likely to Be Logged-In Than Bing, From Search Engine Land

Have you noticed that social and search are becoming more and more integrated lately? Well, according to a recent survey from Search Engine Land, 62% of respondents reported they do not want or gain benefit from social results mixed in with search results. Whoa. That throws us marketers a bit off course, doesn’t it? Isn’t personalization a good thing? In the same survey, data also revealed that 61% of Google searchers are logged into a Google service when using the search engine, compared to 22% of Bing users. This shows that Google clearly has an advantage over Bing when it comes to collecting information about users, due to the high rate at which users are logged in to the search engine. Even if users aren’t certain they want social and search to be integrated, this data proves that users are still using it at an incredible rate, regardless of what they might want. To see more data on Google vs. Bing in their social integration battle, check out the full story here.

Google Launches Promotions on Google Shopping, Enables Distribution to Google Offers & Maps on Android, Too, From TechCrunch

Google recently announced a new feature for merchants called ‘Promotions,’ where retailers can add promotions to their product listings in Google Shopping, Google Offers, and Google Maps on Android. These new promotions are meant to encourage foot traffic to a retailer’s store through Google Offers, which, if you’re not familiar, is similar to Groupon and Groupon Now. Essentially, you can purchase a deal online and then visit the store’s physical location to redeem that deal. Additionally, retailers can now create promotion lists, map them to the right products in Google Shopping, and then upload them to the Google Merchant Center. With this system, users can also redeem special promo codes, allowing retailers to actually track and measure the performance of their brick-and-mortar promotions. If you’re interested in learning more about Google’s new updates for retailers, check out the full story here.

Facebook Launches Global Pages to Simplify Brands’ International Facebook Presence

Facebook has recently launched a new structure to business pages for global brands, called Global Pages. This change is aimed to provide a better, localized experience for international brands’ prospects and customers, while also consolidating a business’ global Facebook presence into one destination. Do you know of any brands with multiple Facebook Pages for different countries and languages? Well, maintaining these confusing, multiple pages will no longer be an issue with Facebook’s new updates. Now a brand can simply have one general Facebook Page, but also take advantage of the ability to automatically route visitors to the appropriate version of the page depending on their geographic location for a more personalized experience. Administrators can customize each variation to include different cover photos, profile photos, applications, milestones, ‘About’ information, and even news feed stories. Does this global consolidation sound like something you’d be interested in? Read the full story here to learn more.

EdgeRank: Doing the Right Things Doesn’t Solve the Bigger Issue, From Social Media Today

Have you heard of Facebook’s Interest Lists? According to Facebook, “Interest Lists are an optional way to organize the content you’re interested in on Facebook. You can create your own Interest Lists based on the things you care about, or subscribe to other people’s lists.” Sounds pretty great, right? They’re not a brand spankin’ new feature, but many brands have been recently encouraging users to create these Interest Lists, in hopes that the brand will appear more in users’ news feeds. Of course, this doesn’t solve the bigger issue of EdgeRank overall because, according to Social Media Today, Facebook is “deciding that my news feed is too cluttered and attempting to fix that for me (and you) by developing an algorithm and basically deciding for me (and you) what I’ll find interesting.” Big brands like Starbucks and Coca-Cola get a great deal of fan interaction, so they generally have a higher EdgeRank. But what about the smaller brands? To learn more about the lingering EdgeRank issue, you can read the full story here.

Only 6% of Fans Engage With a Brand’s Facebook Page [STUDY], From Mashable

Oh, so hundreds of thousands of people ‘Like’ your Facebook Page? You must be getting so much engagement! Or maybe not. According to a study reported by Mashable, “On average, just 6% of fans engage with a brand’s Facebook Page via Likes, comments, polls, and other means.” Wow. So what does this mean for brands if 94% of people who Like your page are not engaging? Let’s look at this statistic from a positive point of view. Those 6% of people engaging are your “super fans,” which means they will gladly like, share, and comment on your page content, which helps boost your EdgeRank. In fact, “each month, the so-called super fan Likes 10 posts, shares five pieces of content, and comments once,” according to Mashable. So what you can do as a page administrator is leverage these 6% of engaged fans, and use them to your advantage. Make sure you’re catering to the needs of your core audience and you will build a much better, more prominent presence in users’ news feeds. To learn more about this study, you can read the full story here.

How to Grow & Scale Your Business Blog: A Guide to Increasing the Reach and Marketing ROI of Your Blog

You’re probably already aware that content creation is a very necessary function of successful inbound marketing. And for the inbound marketers who embrace that, a business blog is one of the most reliable and effective platforms for publishing your content. So wouldn’t it be great if you could scale the impact of your blog so it makes an even bigger, better, and more powerful dent in your marketing results? We recently released a new ebook that will teach you how to implement an advanced blog marketing strategy to help you grow, scale, and rethink the role of your business blog. Most importantly, this ebook will teach you how to actually convert blog visitors into dedicated subscribers. To learn more, download the free ebook here.

What other informative marketing stories or resources did you come across this week? Share them in the comments below!

Image credit: Wim Vandenbussche


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Customer-centric Marketing: 7 triggers to engage customers and build loyalty

MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2012 keynote speaker Sally Hogshead presented her 7 Triggers of Fascination, which represent different paths or ways to fascinate your customers with your brand. Read on for a breakdown of each, with key takeaways for brands to implement.
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