Tag Archive | "Finding"

Becoming an Industry Thought Leader: Advanced Techniques for Finding the Best Places to Pitch Guest Posts

Posted by KristinTynski

If you’re involved in any kind of digital PR — or pitching content to writers to expand your brand awareness and build strong links — then you know how hard it can be to find a good home for your content.

I’m about to share the process you can use to identify the best, highest ROI publishers for building consistent, mutually beneficial guest posting relationships with.

This knowledge has been invaluable in understanding which publications have the best reach and authority to other known vertical/niche experts, allowing you to share your own authority within these readership communities.

Before we get started, there’s a caveat: If you aren’t willing to develop true thought leadership, this process won’t work for you. The prerequisite for success here is having a piece of content that is new, newsworthy, and most likely data-driven.

Now let’s get to the good stuff.

Not all publications are equal

Guest posting can increase awareness of your brand, create link authority, and ultimately generate qualified leads. However, that only happens if you pick publishers that have:

  • The trust of your target audience.
  • Topical relevance and authority.
  • Sufficiently large penetration in readership amongst existing authorities in your niche/vertical.

A big trap many fall into is not properly prioritizing their guest posting strategy along these three important metrics.

To put this strategy into context, I’ll provide a detailed methodology for understanding the “thought leadership” space of two different verticals. I’ll also include actionable tips for developing a prioritized list of targets for winning guest spots or columns with your killer content.

It all starts with BuzzSumo

We use BuzzSumo data as the starting point for developing these interactive elements. For this piece, the focus will be on looking at data pulled from their Influencer and Shared Links APIs.

Let’s begin by looking at the data we’re after in the regular user interface. On the Influencers tab, we start by selecting a keyword most representative of the overall niche/industry/vertical we want to understand. We’ll start with “SEO.”

The list of influencers here should already be sorted, but feel free to narrow it down by applying filters. I recommend making sure your final list has 250-500 influencers as a minimum to be comprehensive.

Next, and most importantly, we want to get the links’ shared data for each of these influencers. This will be the data we use to build our network visualizations to truly understand the publishers in the space that are likely to be the highest ROI places for guest posting.

Below you can see the visual readout for one influencer.

Note the distribution of websites Gianluca Fiorelli (@gfiorelli1) most often links to on Twitter. These sites (and their percentages) will be the data we use for our visualization.

Pulling our data programmatically

Thankfully, BuzzSumo has an excellent and intuitive API, so it’s relatively easy to pull and aggregate all of the data we need. I’ve included a link to my script in Github for those who would like to do it themselves.

In general, it does the following:

  • Generates the first page of influencers for the given keyword, which is about 50. You can either update the script to iterate through pages or just update the page number it pulls from within the script and concatenate the output files after the fact.
  • For each influencer, it makes another API call and gets all of the aggregated Top Domains shared data for each influencer, which is the same as the data you see in the above pie chart visualization.
  • Aggregates all the data and exports to a CSV.

Learning from the data

Once we have our data in the format Gephi prefers for network visualizations (sample edge file), we are ready to start exploring. Let’s start with our data from the “SEO” search, for which I pulled the domain sharing data for the top 400 influencers.

A few notes:

  • The circles are called nodes. All black nodes are the influencer’s Twitter accounts. All other colored nodes are the websites.
  • The size of the nodes is based on Page Rank. This isn’t the Google Page Rank number, but instead the Page Rank within this graph alone. The larger the node, the more authoritative (and popular) that website is within the entire graph.
  • The colors of the nodes are based on a modularity algorithm in Gephi. Nodes with similar link graphs typically have the same color.

What can we learn from the SEO influencer graph?

Well, the graph is relatively evenly distributed and cohesive. This indicates that the websites and blogs that are shared most frequently are well known by the entire community.

Additionally, there are a few examples of clusters outside the primary cluster (the middle of the graph). For instance, we see a Local SEO cluster at the 10 p.m. position on the left hand side. We can also see a National Press cluster at the 6-7 p.m. position on the bottom and a French Language cluster at the 1-2 p.m. position at the top right.

Ultimately, Moz, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Land are great bets when developing and fostering guest posting relationships.

Note that part of the complication with this data has to do with publishing volume. The three largest nodes are also some of the most prolific, meaning there are more overall chances for articles to earn Tweets and other social media mentions from industry influencers. You could refining of the data further by normalizing each site by content publishing volume to find publishers who publish much less frequently and still enjoy disproportionate visibility within the industry.

Webmasters.Googleblog.com is a good example of this. They publish 3 to 4 times per month, and yet because of their influence in the industry, they’re still one of the largest and most central nodes. Of course, this makes sense given it is the only public voice of Google for our industry.

Another important thing to notice is the prominence of both YouTube and SlideShare. If you haven’t yet realized the importance and reach of these platforms, perhaps this is the proof you need. Video content and slide decks are highly shared in the SEO community by top influencers.

Differences between SEO and content marketing influencer graphs

What can we learn from the Content Marketing influencer graph?

For starters, it looks somewhat different overall from the SEO influencer graph; it’s much less cohesive and seems to have many more separate clusters. This could indicate that the content publishing sphere for content marketing is perhaps less mature, with more fragmentation and fewer central sources for consuming content marketing related content. It could also be that content marketing is descriptive of more than SEO and that different clusters are publishers that focus more on one type of content marketing vs. another (similar to what we saw with the local SEO cluster in the previous example).

Instead of 3 to 5 similarly sized market leaders, here we see one behemoth, Content Marketing Institute, a testament to both the authority of that brand and the massive amount of content they publish.

We can also see several specific clusters. For instance, the “SEO blogs” cluster in blue at the 8-9 p.m. position and the more general marketing blogs like Hubspot, MarketingProfs, and Social Media Examiner in green and mauve at the 4-5 p.m. position.

The general business top-tier press sites appear quite influential in this space as well, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, Adweek, Tech Crunch, Business Insider, Inc., which we didn’t see as much in the SEO example.

YouTube, again, is extremely important, even more so than in the SEO example.

Is it worth it?

If you’re already deep in an industry, the visualization results of this process are unlikely to shock you. As someone who’s been in the SEO/content marketing industry for 10 years, the graphs are roughly what I expected, but there certainly were some surprises.

This process will be most valuable to you when you are new to an industry or are working within a new vertical or niche. Using the python code I linked and BuzzSumo’s fantastic API and data offers the opportunity to gain a deep visual understanding of the favorite places of industry thought leaders. This knowledge acts as a basis for strategic planning toward identifying top publishers with your own guest content.

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The Practical Guide to Finding Anyone’s Email Address

Posted by David_Farkas

In link building, few things are more frustrating than finding the perfect link opportunity but being completely unable to find a contact email address.

It’s probably happened to you — if you’re trying to build links or do any sort of outreach, it almost always entails sending out a fairly significant amount of emails. There are plenty of good articles out there about building relationships within the context of link building, but it’s hard to build relationships when you can’t even find a contact email address.

So, for today, I want to focus on how you can become better at finding those important email addresses.

Link builders spend a lot of time just trying to find contact info, and it’s often a frustrating process, just because sussing out email addresses can indeed be quite difficult. The site you’re targeting might not even have a contact page in the first place. Or, if the site does have a contact page, it might only display a generic email address. And, sometimes, the site may list too many email addresses. There are eight different people with similar-sounding job titles — should you reach out to the PR person, the marketing director, or the webmaster? It’s not clear.

Whatever the case may be, finding the right email address is absolutely imperative to any successful outreach campaign. In our industry, the numbers around outreach and replies aren’t great. Frankly, it’s shocking to hear the industry standard — only 8.5% of outreach emails receive a response.

I can’t help but wonder how many mistakes are made along the way to such a low response rate.

While there are certainly instances where there is simply no clear and obvious contact method, that should be the exception — not the rule! An experienced link builder understands that finding relevant contact information is essential to their success.

That’s why I’ve put together a quick list of tips and tools that will help you to find the email addresses and contact information you need when you’re building links.

And, if you follow my advice, here is a glimpse of the results you could expect:

Screenshot of high open and reply rates on an email

We don’t track clicks, in case you were wondering ;)

ALWAYS start by looking around!

First, let’s start with my golden rule: Before you fire up any tool, you should always manually look for the correct contact email yourself.

Based on my experience, tools and automation are a last resort. If you rely solely upon tools and automated solutions, you’ll end up with many more misfired emails than if you were to go the manual route. There’s a simple reason for this: the email address listed on your target website may, surprisingly, belong to the right person you should contact!

Now, if you are using a tool, they may generate dozens of email addresses, and you’ll never end up actually emailing the correct individual. Another reason I advocate manually looking for emails is because many email finding tools are limited and can only find email addresses that are associated with a domain name. So, if there is a webmaster that happens to have a @gmail.com email address, the email finding tool will not find it.

It’s also important to only reach out to people you strongly believe will have an interest in your email in order to stay GDPR compliant.

So, always start your manual search by looking around the site. Usually, there will be a link to the contact page in the header, footer, or sidebar. If there’s not a page explicitly named “contact,” or if the contact page only has generic email addresses, that’s when I would recommend jumping to an “About Us” page, should there be one. 

You always want to find a personal email, not a generic one or a contact form. Outreach is more effective when you can address a specific individual, not whoever who is checking info@domain.com that day.

If you encounter too many emails and aren’t sure who the best person to contact is, I suggest sending an email to your best hunch that goes something like this:

And who knows, you may even get a reply like this:

Screenshot of a reply telling you to contact someone else

If you weren’t able to locate an email address at this point, I’d move on to the next section.

Ask search engines for help

Perhaps the contact page you were looking for was well-hidden; maybe they don’t want to be contacted that much or they’re in desperate need of a new UX person.

You can turn to search engines for help.

My go-to search engine lately is Startpage. Dubbed as the world’s most private search engine, they display Google SERPs in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you just stepped into Times Square. They also have a cool option to browse the search results anonymously with “Anonymous View.”

For our purposes, I would use the site: search operator just like this:

If there is in fact a contact page or email somewhere on their website that you were not able to find, any competent search engine will find it for you. If the above site query doesn’t return any results, then I’d start expanding my search to other corners of the web.

Use the search bar and type:

If you’re looking for the email of a specific person, type their name before or after the quotation marks.

With this query you can find non-domain email addresses:

If that person’s email address is publicly available somewhere, you will likely be able to find it within the search results.

Email-finding tools

There are many, many excellent email finding tools to choose from. The first one I want to talk about is Hunter.

Hunter has a Chrome extension that’s really easy to use. After you’ve downloaded the extension, there’s not much more that needs to be done.

Go to the site which you are thinking about sending an email to, click on the extension in the top right corner of your screen, and Hunter, well, hunts.

It returns every email address it can find associated with that domain. And also allows you to filter the results based on categories.

Did I say “email address?” I meant to say email address, name, job title, etc. Essentially, it’s a one-click fix to get everything you need to send outreach.

Because I use Hunter regularly (and for good reason, as you can see), it’s the one I’m most familiar with. You can also use Hunter’s online app to look up emails in bulk.

The major downside of working in bulk is coming up with an effective formula to sift through all the emails. Hunter may generate dozens of emails for one site, leaving you to essentially guess which email address is best for outreach. And if you’re relying on guess-work, chances are pretty high you’re leaving perfectly good prospects on the table.

There are several other email finding tools to pick from and I would be remiss to not mention them. Here are 5 alternative email-finding tools:

Even though I personally try not to be too dependent on tools, the fact of the matter is that they provide the easiest, most convenient route in many cases.

The guessing game

I know there’s no word in the digital marketing world that produces more shudders than “guessing.” However, there are times when guessing is easier.

Let’s be real: there aren’t too many different ways that companies both large and small format their email addresses. It’s usually going to be something like:

If you’ve ever worked for a living, you know most of the variations. But, in case you need some help, there’s a tool for that.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you just pick any one of these random addresses, send your email, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. Far from it. There are actually tools that you can use that will indicate when you’ve selected the right one.

Sales Navigator is such a tool. Sales Navigator is a Gmail extension that is easy to use. Simply enter the name of the person you’re looking for, and it will return all of the possible standard variations that they may use for their email address. Then, you can actually test the address from your Gmail account. When you type in the address into the proper line, a sidebar will appear on your screen. If there no is no information in that sidebar, you have the wrong address. If, however, you get a return that looks like this:

Congratulations! You’ve found the right email address.

Obviously, this method only works if you know the name of the person you want to email, but just don’t have their email address. Still, in those scenarios, Sales Navigator works like a charm.

Trust, but verify

There’s nothing more annoying than when you think you’ve finally struck gold, but the gold turned out to be pyrite. Getting an email that bounces back because it wasn’t the correct address is frustrating. And even worse, if it happens too often, your email can end up on email blacklists and destroy your email deliverability.

There are ways to verify, however. At my company, we use Neverbounce. It’s effective and incredibly easy to use. With Neverbounce, you can enter in either individual email addresses or bulk lists, and voila!

It will let you know if that email address is currently Valid, Invalid, or Unknown. It’s that easy. Here are some other email verifiers:

Subscribe to their newsletter

Here’s one final out-of-the-box approach. This approach works more often with sites where one person clearly does most, if not all, of the work. A site where someone’s name is the domain name, for example.

If you come across a site like davidfarkas.com and you see a newsletter that can be subscribed to, hit that subscribe button. Once that’s done, you can simply reply to one iteration of the newsletter.

This method has an added benefit. An effective way of building links is building relationships, just like I said in the opening. When you can demonstrate that you’re already subscribing to a webmaster’s newsletter, you’ll be currying favor with that webmaster.

Conclusion

When you send a link building outreach email, you want to make sure it’s going to a real person and, even more importantly, ending up in the right hands. Sending an email to an incorrect contact periodically may seem like a negligible waste of time, but when you send emails at the volume a link builder should, the waste adds up very quickly. In fact, enough waste can kill everything else that you’re trying to accomplish.

It’s well worth your time to make sure you’re getting it right by putting in the effort to finding the right email address. Be a picky link builder. Don’t just choose the first email that comes your way and never rely solely on tools. If you email the wrong person, it will look to them like that you didn’t care enough to spend time on their site, and in return, they will ignore you and your pitch.

With the tips outlined above, you’ll avoid these issues and be on your way to more successful outreach.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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Finding Ideas for a Video Series or Podcast – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by PhilNottingham

Video and podcasts are only growing in popularity, proving to be an engaging way to reach your audience and find ways to talk about your industry or product. But it’s a crowded market out there, and finding a good idea is only half the battle. Join video marketing extraordinaire Phil Nottingham from Wistia as he explores how we can both uncover great ideas for a podcast or video series and follow through on them in this week’s episode of Whiteboard Friday.



Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. My name is Phil Nottingham, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to talk about how to come up with a great idea for your video series or podcast. I think a lot of businesses out there understand that there’s just this great opportunity now to do a longer form series, a show in podcast or video form, but really struggle with that moment of finding what kind of idea could take them to the next level and help them stand out.

1. Audience

I think the most common error that businesses make is to start with the worst idea in the world, which is interviewing our customers about how they use our product. I’m sure many of you have accidentally fallen down this trap, where you’ve thought, “Ah, maybe that will be a good idea.” But the thing is even if you’re Ferrari or Christian Louboutin or the most desirable product in the world, it’s never going to be interesting for someone to sit there and just listen to your customers talking about your product.

The problem is that your customers are not a unique group of people, aside from the fact that they use your product. Usually there isn’t anything else that brings them together. For this kind of content, for a video series and podcast to really stand out and to grow in terms of their audience, we need to harness word of mouth. Word of mouth doesn’t grow through the way we often think about audience growth in marketing.

Many of us, particularly in the performance marketing space, are used to thinking about funnels. So we get more and more traffic into the funnel, get more people in there, and ultimately some of them convert. But the way word of mouth works is that a small group of people start communicating to another group of people who start communicating to another group of people. You have these ever-expanding circles of communication that ultimately allow you to grow your audience.

How to find a niche audience

But that means you need to start with a group of people who are talking to one another. Invariably, your customers are not talking to each other as a kind of rule of thumb. So what you need to do is find a group of people, an audience who are talking to each other, and that really means a subculture, a community, or maybe an interest group. So find your group of customers and work out what is a subset of customers, what kind of community, wider culture they’re part of, a group of people who you could actually speak to.

The way you might find this is using things like Reddit. If there’s a subculture, there’s going to be a subreddit. A tool like SparkToro will allow you to discover other topics that your customer base might be interested in. Slack communities can be a great source of this. Blogs, there’s often any sort of topic or a niche audience have a blog. Hashtags as well on social media and perhaps meetup groups as well.

So spend some time finding who this audience is for your show, a real group of people who are communicating with one another and who ultimately are someone who you could speak to in a meaningful way. 

2. Insight

Once you’ve got your audience, you then need to think about the insight. What the insight is, is this gap between desire and outcome. So what you normally find is that when you’re speaking to groups of people, they will have something they want to achieve, but there is a barrier in the way of them doing it.

This might be something to do with tools or hardware/software. It could be just to do with professional experience. It could be to do with emotional problems. It could be anything really. So you need to kind of discover what that might be. The essential way to do that is just through good, old-fashioned talking to people. 

  • Focus groups, 
  • Surveys, 
  • Social media interactions, 
  • Conversations, 
  • Data that you have from search, like using Google Search Console, 
  • Internal site search, 
  • Search volume 

That kind of thing might tell you exactly what sort of topics, what problems people are having that they really try to solve in this interest group.

Solve for the barrier

So what we need to do is find this particular little nugget of wisdom, this gold that’s going to give us the insight that allows us to come up with a really good idea to try and solve this barrier, whatever that might be, that makes a difference between desire and outcome for this audience. Once we’ve got that, you might see a show idea starting to emerge. So let’s take a couple of examples.

A few examples

Let’s assume that we are working for like a DIY supplies company. Maybe we’re doing just sort of piping. We will discover that a subset of our customers are plumbers, and there’s a community there of plumbing professionals. Now what might we find about plumbers? Well, maybe it’s true that all plumbers are kind of really into cars, and one of the challenges they have is making sure that their car or their van is up to the job for their work.

Okay, so we now have an interesting insight there, that there’s something to do with improving cars that we could hook up for plumbers. Or let’s say we are doing a furniture company and we’re creating furniture for people. We might discover that a subset of our audience are actually amateur carpenters who really love wooden furniture. Their desire is to become professional.

But maybe the barrier is they don’t have the skills or the experience or the belief that they could actually do that with their lives and their career. So we see these sort of very personal problems that we can start to emerge an idea for a show that we might have. 

3. Format

So once we’ve got that, we can then take inspiration from existing TV and media. I think the mistake that a lot of us make is thinking about the format that we might be doing with a show in a very broad sense.

Don’t think about the format in a broad sense — get specific

So like we’re doing an interview show. We’re doing a talk show. We’re doing a documentary. We’re doing a talent show. Whatever it might be. But actually, if we think about the great history of TV and radio the last hundred years or so, all these really smart formats have emerged. So within talk show, there’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” a very sort of serious, long, in-depth interview with one person about their practice.

There’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which has got lots of kind of set pieces and sketches and things that intermingle with the interview. There’s “Ellen,” where multiple people are interviewed in one show. If we think about documentaries, there’s like fly-on-the-wall stuff, just run and gun with a camera, like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Carrying on the food thing, there’s “Chef’s Table,” where it’s very planned and meticulously shot and is an exposé of one particular chef.

Or something like “Ugly Delicious,” which is a bit more like a kind of exploratory piece of documentary, where there’s kind of one protagonist going around the world and they piece it together at the end. So you can think about all these different formats and try to find an idea that maybe has been done before in TV in some format and find your way through that. 

A few more examples

So let’s think about our plumber example. Plumbers who love cars, well, we could do “Pimp My Ride for Tradesmen.”

That’s an interesting idea for a talk. Or let’s say we’re going after like amateur carpenters who would love to be professional. We could easily do “American Idol for Lumberjacks or Carpenters.” So we can start to see this idea emerge. Or let’s take a kind of B2B example. Maybe we are a marketing agency, as I’m sure many of you are. If you’re a marketing agency, maybe you know that some of your customers are in startups, and there’s this startup community.

One of the real problems that startups have is getting their product ready for market. So you could kind of think, well, the barrier is getting the product ready for market. We could then do “Queer Eye for Product Teams and Startups,”and we’ll bring in five specialists in different areas to kind of get their product ready and sort of iron out the details and make sure they’re ready to go to market and support marketing.

So you can start to see by having a clear niche audience and an insight into the problems that they’re having, then pulling together a whole list of different show ideas how you can bring together an idea for a potential, interesting TV show, video series, or podcast that could really make your business stand out. But remember that great ideas are kind of 10 a penny, and the really hard thing is finding the right one and making sure that it works for you.

So spend a lot of time coming up with lots and lots of different executions, trying them out, doing kind of little pilots before you work out and commit to the idea that works for you. The most important thing is to keep going and keep trying and teasing out those ideas rather than just settling on the first thing that comes to mind, because usually it’s not going to be the right answer. So I hope that was very useful, and we will see you again on another episode of Whiteboard Friday.

Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Ask MarketingSherpa: Finding and hiring content marketing writers

Read on for factors to consider when hiring a content marketing writer.
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The Art of Finding Ideas

Every writer who has ever lived has lusted after ideas. Where are they, how do I get them, and how…

The post The Art of Finding Ideas appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Bing Open Sources Their Vector Search Algorithm To Make Finding Results Fast

Bing announced they have made their Space Partition Tree And Graph (SPTAG) vector search algorithm open source to help others who want to make it possible to search through billions of pieces of information in milliseconds.


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Finding Flow, The Definition Of A Meaningful Life And How To Discover Your True Purpose

Note From Yaro: This article is from my Change Manifesto series. Entrepreneurs-Journey.com and ChangeManifesto.com are being merged into my one main website, Yaro.blog, the umbrella brand for all my work going forward.  For over a decade I’ve made my living — and a very good one — writing. I’m still surprised to say this. I never […]

The post Finding Flow, The Definition Of A Meaningful Life And How To Discover Your True Purpose appeared first on Yaro.Blog.

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eBay’s New AR Feature Makes Finding the Right Shipping Box a Lot Easier

eBay has now made it easier for sellers to ship their items by using augmented reality to pick the right USPS box, the company announced in a Monday press release.

Using Google’s ARCore platform on Android, eBay leverages motion tracking and environmental recognition to help sellers superimpose virtual shipping boxes of various sizes over a physical product.

Aside from accurate sizing, the new AR feature will help sellers quickly compute for actual shipping costs, as well as save time from having to test boxes at the post office.

The new feature can be found in the “Selling” part of your eBay account. To try it, tap on “Will it Fit?” option on your smartphone. You’ll then have to place your item on a flat, non-reflective surface, say a wooden tabletop, for the AR to work.

Next, tap on your item to place the virtual box over it, then aim the smartphone camera around it to map the surrounding area. You can move around the box and look from all angles to see if the product sticks out while adding room for padding. Once you’ve picked the box, you’re now ready to ship out the item.  

Sellers on eBay ship billions of items annually, so any innovation that simplifies the shipping process will likely be well-received.

“By coupling Google’s ARCore platform with premiere AR technology built at eBay, we are continuing to make the selling experience more seamless,” James Meeks, eBay mobile head, pointed out. “This technology is just one example of the types of innovation we’re working on to transform eBay. It demonstrates our continual innovation on behalf our sellers to help them save time and remove barriers.”

However, the AR feature of the updated eBay app is currently only available on a few Android ARCore-compatible devices in the US. There are plans to eventually extend the feature to iOS devices, but no timetable has been set yet.

[Featured image via eBay]

The post eBay's New AR Feature Makes Finding the Right Shipping Box a Lot Easier appeared first on WebProNews.


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Practical Tools for Finding Courage and Revealing Your True Voice

"My life has taught me to be more curious than afraid." – Ishi, the last of the Yahi people

In 1911, a man known as “Ishi” (the name just means man in his language), believed to be the last of the Yahi people, emerged from the wilderness after 44 years.

He was taken from Oroville, California to San Francisco by an anthropologist, to work with a group that wanted to learn more about Ishi’s language and culture.

When the train came into the station to take him to San Francisco, Ishi went to stand quietly behind a pillar. Puzzled, the researchers beckoned to him, and Ishi joined them and got on the train.

They asked him about it later, and he said his people had seen the smoky, noisy train snaking through the valley for many years, with faces visible through the windows. The Yahi had always believed it was a demon that ate people.

The researchers asked, if that is what he believed, how could he have possibly gathered the courage to get on board?

Ishi’s response was:

“Well, my life has taught me to be more curious than afraid.”

I first read that story in Pema Chödrön’s book Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. Ishi’s story is sad and complex, but he struck the people who knew him at the end of his life as being markedly calm, measured, and kind.

His words have never left me — they strike me as being a true motto for a life worth living.

Fast-forward a few decades. Last summer, I was doing an “ask me anything” session in Chicago with Andy Crestodina, and someone asked me:

“Where do you get your courage?”

I genuinely thought it was a funny question. I told her that I don’t think of myself as particularly courageous at all. In fact, I’d say I’m scared most of the time.

But if Ishi, who had survived so much that he outlived all of his people, could be more curious than afraid, I’ve never thought I had much of an excuse for holding back just because something scared me.

Pursue the beautiful and rocky path

When you’re finding the courage to share your authentic voice, I can almost promise you’ll have days when you ask yourself:

What on earth was I thinking?

There will be trolls, creeps, delusional people, and the occasional idiot.

People will question your motives, your competence, your scruples, your beliefs, your body fat composition, and what you’re wearing.

I’m not going to tell you that it doesn’t matter, because that probably won’t help. If you could shrug these things off so easily, you probably wouldn’t have clicked through to read this article.

But I will tell you that courage is a habit, and you can get better at it.

Allow me, a lifelong coward, to share some of the techniques I’ve learned for being more curious than afraid.

Discover the biology of courage

I’ll start with a resource I discovered not too long ago. If you haven’t picked up Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress yet, I found it fantastically useful.

It pulls together a lot of research to support a single point: Despite what we believe, stress is not always harmful.

How we think about our stress affects how our bodies react to it. For example, when people perceive stress as a sign that they’re doing something that matters — something hard but rewarding — their stress-related health risks drop dramatically.

“How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”

– Kelly McGonigal, “How to Make Stress Your Friend” (TED talk transcript)

But “embrace your stress” only goes so far. You’ll also want to take some practical measures to neutralize it.

Protect your privacy

One concrete thing you can do is reduce the number of things you need to worry about.

If you’re going to claim a public voice, it just makes sense to be smart about keeping yourself secure. There are sensible actions everyone can take to keep our sanity and protect our privacy.

Before you explore the technical solutions, start by making a commitment to be intentional about how much personal information you share.

Decide how many details you want to share about your family. You can draw this line wherever you feel is best for you — there are plenty of folks with successful online businesses who share pictures of their kids. Just be conscious about it, and be consistent.

Protect your website. Use hosting, themes, and plugins that have a good security reputation. Subscribe to a monitoring service like Sucuri to make sure bad guys aren’t doing anything weird to your site.

Protect your online privacy. It’s always smart to use free, legal privacy protections.

For most of us, trolls aren’t much more than an annoyance. But if you were lying awake at night worrying about burglars, it would make sense to get up and lock the door. These are straightforward measures that can help prevent problems.

When you do encounter trolls, block and report them promptly. Don’t engage with them, and don’t try to convince them to be good people.

At first, you’ll be sorely tempted. You’ll think that if you just calmly explain to them that you are not, in fact, possessed by Satan, surely they’ll see reason.

I can tell you from annoying experience, it doesn’t work. Worse, it’s an invitation to the troll to live rent-free inside your head. Block them so they can’t keep spewing their nonsense at you, report them if it’s an option, and move on to more important things.

If you’d like more thoughts on how to deal with trolls, you might benefit from this podcast episode, in which I compare trolls to flaming bags of poop.

But courage is about more than protecting ourselves against creeps.

Focus on service

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: When you know why you’re doing what you do, you’ll have more courage, more power, and more resilience.

Making a living is a perfectly good place to start. It’s where I started, and it’s still important. I have bills to pay, like anyone else does.

But a life spent just paying the bills becomes a grind.

Business, and especially online-based business, is built on helping people.

When you know who you help, and why it matters, it will give you an energy and resilience that’s hard to describe.

The first time you get a heartfelt message from someone telling you that you meaningfully changed their life, you’ll realize:

This is why I do this.

And, unlike so many things in life, it never gets stale.

Find your people

Are you going to have tough days? Maybe even serious crises of faith?

Sure you will.

Most of those outwardly ultra-confident people you see have moments, or days — or whole years — when they feel afraid and small. Being fearless is not normal, and it’s not beneficial.

The handful of genuinely fearless people are usually fearless because they lack empathy. Their ability to help others is seriously compromised, because trying to help without understanding tends to do more harm than good.

Nothing is better for getting through the rough days than having a crew who understands you.

It might be an official mastermind group, a community of business owners, or just a few friends who get it. Assemble a Council of Allies who are in the same game you are. Lean on one another when the days get tough.

Another thing I learned from McGonigal’s book is that oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” is also a stress hormone.

When we’re afraid, we can choose to “Tend and Befriend” — seeking the comfort and company of people we care about — over the more common “Fight or Flight” response.

Not only is Tend and Befriend more comforting, it’s also actually healthier. Here’s another quote from McGonigal’s TED talk:

“… oxytocin doesn’t only act on your brain. It also acts on your body, and one of its main roles in your body is to protect your cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory. It also helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress. But my favorite effect on the body is actually on the heart. Your heart has receptors for this hormone, and oxytocin helps heart cells regenerate and heal from any stress-induced damage. This stress hormone strengthens your heart.”

Reaching out to your community will not only help you feel better and manage your stress, it actually creates a physiological response that benefits your heart health and keeps your stress on the “healthy” side of the equation.

Live a life worth living

Why put ourselves through it?

Why stand up and speak with a true voice, about something that matters, even when we know that we may have some rocky days because of it?

Because, whether your life is long or short, it’s a good idea to spend it on worthwhile things.

Spend your life creating meaning. Spend it helping other people. Create a satisfying life, not just an easy one.

Take reasonable measures to protect yourself. Remember the rewards of service. And get your crew together to Tend and Befriend on the rocky days. Finally, realize that stress is a sign that you’re doing something you truly care about.

Be more curious than afraid.

How about you? What’s your best tip for finding your courage? Let us know in the comments!

The post Practical Tools for Finding Courage and Revealing Your True Voice appeared first on Copyblogger.


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4 Creative Models for Finding the Right Niche for Your Online Business

how to find and focus on the best niche

If you want your marketing to work, you have to focus.

You have to understand who your message is for, then speak to that person.

And you have to craft your offers to serve that person. Present options that appeal to her, that are in line with what she’s willing to spend, and that will benefit her in ways she cares about.

In other words … you need to specialize. You don’t have the budget to blanket the earth in ads that appeal to everyone, and neither do I.

One of the first things people do when thinking about building a business online is rush to identify their “niche.” And that isn’t wrong … but it’s more complicated than it might seem at first.

The word niche doesn’t just mean a focused topic. In biology, niche refers to how each type of organism interacts with all the other organisms in its ecosystem.

It’s how a plant or animal fits into the larger context.

Your topic is part of your niche, of course. But so is your audience. And your positioning. Not to mention your potential partners. And the folks who share your content. And the content platforms you publish on.

A conversation in the comments here on Copyblogger got me thinking about some of the different ways that business owners inhabit their niches.

Early niche sites

Back in the day, creating a “niche website” meant building a compact site around an under-served keyword phrase, pulling out all the SEO stops to get it to rank, then loading it up with affiliate offers.

That was tidy, and some did very well with it, but it doesn’t work today.

Rae Hoffman nailed it years ago, in a post that’s still highly relevant on how to survive the affiliate evolution.

Her post talked about moving toward richer and better content, a better user experience, communicating quality (to both visitors and potential partners), and establishing a credible point of difference.

The problem with the old way of thinking about nicheing is that it focuses on the search, not the searcher. The keyword phrase is the focus, rather than the human being at the keyboard who’s using that phrase to solve a problem.

So, I’d like to look at some more effective models. Let’s take a topic like learning art.

There’s an astonishing amount of free art education on the web, particularly YouTube. You can learn to sketch, paint, sculpt — whatever floats your boat.

It’s tough to make a living teaching art online. But there are many businesses that do exactly that. How? By defining their audiences clearly, focusing their messages and offers, and differentiating themselves. Finding that point of difference.

Keep in mind that art education is a nonzero market. In other words, people interested in learning more about art don’t just watch one video, read one ebook, or join one membership site. They tend to immerse themselves, especially early on in their journeys.

Now let’s take a look at four examples of sites that are doing it well.

1. The mega authority

One way to differentiate is simply to be bigger and more comprehensive than anyone else.

Simply, in this case, doesn’t mean easily.

The site ArtistsNetwork.tv brings dozens of well-known artists and art teachers under one virtual roof, partnering with big publishers of art books to give authors a venue to teach.

artists-network-tv

If you’re the kind of person who has “How to Paint” books on your bookshelf, it’s a good bet that some of those authors have courses on ArtistsNetwork.tv.

The model is: find ultra qualified authorities, publish excellent tutorial content that’s interesting and useful, then use the publishing platform to offer more advanced content at an additional fee.

Of course, there are also individual mega authorities. We all know the name Bob Ross, the “happy little trees” painter whose videos were so weirdly soothing to watch.

Ross actually modeled his painting and his patter on the “happy trees” of his mentor, Bill Alexander, who had a PBS show that I fondly remember watching as a child. Alexander’s family still runs art courses that you can pick up online and also offers supplies, books, and a free membership library.

Authorities can compete with the huge volume of “free” in this topic because they’re … authorities.

Art instruction has the advantage of providing exceptionally appealing content that audiences can see and say, “I want to know how to do that.” These teachers demonstrate superior mastery of their subjects. They’ve won awards and written books, but most importantly, they know how to teach what we want to do.

2. The professional authority

Over on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, Derek Balsley brought my attention to the site The Art of Education.

They’ve partnered with an accredited college to focus on professional development for a very well-defined group of artists — art teachers. The Art of Education offers courses for graduate or undergraduate credit, as well as satisfying ongoing education requirements for teachers.

the-art-of-education

The courses are priced to be highly competitive with courses offered at brick-and-mortar institutions. So even though art teachers aren’t known for their deep pockets, the product makes sense financially for its audience.

Like the other models, The Art of Education offers free authoritative content as well, producing shareable, relevant material that attracts the attention of the customers their business needs.

If you can create content at the right quality, professional development is always a smart play. It’s highly marketable, because it’s something professionals need in order to advance their careers — especially those who need ongoing education to keep their licenses.

For content marketers who make the commitment to the work, it can be a great model.

3. The identity authority

Another serious authority in art education is Bob Davies — a wry, soft-spoken watercolor teacher who built a following on YouTube, then sold his home-filmed DVD series in massive numbers.

Bob and his son Phil founded an art education website similar to ArtistsNetwork.tv — with one key difference that they don’t actually mention in their marketing.

Davies is British. Specifically, Davies is Northern, with a Welsh background. My top analyst for British accents figures him for northwest England, probably somewhere near Liverpool.

Davies’s accent, his delivery, his self-deprecation, and his sense of humor all quietly point back to a strong sense of identity … something Robert Cialdini would identify as Unity.

Bob and Phil run a site called ArtTutor.com. It’s not as big as ArtistsNetwork.tv, but it’s got a much more cohesive identity.

art-tutor

Not all of their students are British, but every teacher I could find on their site is. Most share the Northern background of the founders. Courses include topics like “English Watercolour Landscapes,” “Yorkshire Landscapes,” “Green Landscape,” and, just to break things up, “Isle of Man Line & Wash.”

(I’m teasing them a bit — but if you want to learn to paint or draw, it’s a very good site, with lots of project topics.)

And beyond a question of accents or subject matter for paintings, there’s a point of view that’s highly consistent on ArtTutor — among the founders, the teachers, and the member comments in their forums.

It comes back to that personality of Bob’s … understated, self-deprecating, a bit dry.

I don’t think it’s about geography. It’s about a particular set of outlooks, attitudes, and expressions that art lovers from Northern Britain tend to share.

ArtTutor’s marketing doesn’t say, “This is the art education site for Northern British painters and sketch artists.” They don’t have to. The identity gently infuses the content — both free and paid — in an appealing way.

Although it can be strategic to chase away the ones who aren’t part of your “tribe,” in this case it’s not necessary. The cohesion of group unity makes the site attractive to paying students from all over the world.

If they tried to become more international — if they tried to go head to head with a site like ArtistsNetwork.tv — I think they’d fail. Their site would lose its individual personality and flavor — and personality is crucial if you want to stand out and you aren’t the biggest on the block.

4. The category of one authority

The sites I’ve mentioned have all been big. Well-known teachers, lots of content, lots of money and time to set up.

But big isn’t the only way to go.

Artist Eni Oken has niched down her topic in multiple ways.

She’s a certified Zentangle teacher — a form of meditative drawing that is a tribe unto itself. But even within that specific niche, Eni narrows down her focus to specific subtopics, like shading drawings or specific compositional approaches.

eni-oken-zentangle

Eni runs a popular group on Facebook, where she invests a lot of time and energy. She’s also smart about SEO and ranks for some keyword terms for popular drawing techniques within the Zentangle format.

She funnels her audience attention into an email list to promote her library of ebooks and keeps her eye on the promotion prize with consistent calls to action.

There’s plenty of beautiful art to look at in her content, but you’re never in doubt that she has a business, either.

When you’re willing to make yourself a “star” of your business, differentiation becomes fairly simple.

Eni Oken differentiates by topic and subtopic (she’s the “shading Zentangle teacher”), but that’s just an introduction to the real differentiation — her distinctive artistic style, her teaching approach, and her personality. Those elements come together into “the brand of Eni.”

You don’t have to build your whole business around your personality — that doesn’t have to be your only differentiator. But for those who are willing, adding an element of individual personality — a founder’s newsletter, a blog, a podcast, a vlog — can make a winning difference.

How about you?

What kind of niche do you occupy in your ecosystem?

What’s your topic? How do you approach it? Who do you serve? And what makes you different from the other options?

Drop a comment and let us know!

The post 4 Creative Models for Finding the Right Niche for Your Online Business appeared first on Copyblogger.


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