Tag Archive | "Read"

Snub Your Next Deadline and Read This Instead

“Creative people are flaky.” That statement gets my blood boiling a bit, but I do understand where the sentiment comes…

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Google: It’s Easy To Read Between The Lines

As you all know from reading this blog, I try hard to read between the lines when it comes to what Google and Googlers are saying. I try not to stretch that too much but I do use my 15+ years of history of covering Google to kind of help me with those calls. I am not always right and John Mueller of Google warns of us being careful with that.


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5 Things Successful Content Marketers Do to Make Sure Their Work Gets Read

There’s a lot of content created every day — and most of it gains almost no attention. In 2015, Moz…

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Google Reportedly Allows App Developers to Read the Private Messages of Gmail Users

A new report from the Wall Street Journal has revealed that third-party app developers have access to the emails of millions of Gmail account holders. Two companies have reportedly even allowed employees to read said emails. While Google claims that these developers have been thoroughly vetted, there are still fears that this could end up as a data breach similar to the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Gmail users that have signed up for some services, specifically travel and shopping price comparison tools, have agreed to terms and conditions that enabled the developers of this software and services to read their emails.

Gmail’s access settings do allow app developers and data companies to see the user’s emails and the private details that go with it, like the recipient’s address and time stamps. They can actually even view the whole message. And while application does require user consent, the permission form is admittedly vague on letting humans read emails instead of just machines.

These third-party developers claim to only use the information gathered from Gmail account holders for advertising purposes and targeted shopping suggestions. Google asserted that it has extensively vetted these developers, a process that entails checking that the company’s identity is represented by the app, that the data requested is in line with the service it offers, and that its privacy policy clearly states that it will monitor emails.

The Wall Street Journal report mentioned two specific apps that had access to said emails – Edison Software and Return Path. The former reportedly had employees read thousands of emails to assist in the training of its “Smart Reply” feature while the latter also allowed staff to read private messages to help in the development of the company’s software. Both companies said they have permission from users and that their actions were covered in their terms and conditions.

In a blog post, Return Path gave assurances that they “take great care to limit who has access to the data, supervise all access to the data.”

Meanwhile, Edison Software CEO Mikael Berner clarified the context in which their engineers read “a small random sample of de-identified messages” by saying it was for R&D purposes. He also revealed that the company stopped the practice some time ago and that all the data has been expunged “in order to stay consistent with our company’s commitment to achieving the highest standards possible for ensuring privacy.”

It’s not certain yet what kind of blowback the news that Google has allowed third-party developers access to user emails might have on the company. In all likelihood, it will be scrutinized the same way Facebook was after the Cambridge Analytica issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, try this on for size …

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

Simple, huh?

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

The headline only exists to get the first sentence read.

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

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

The secret is in the line.

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

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

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

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

Write well. Line by line.

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

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

Yes, demonstrate the benefits, not the features.

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

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

Difficult? Sure.

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

Image source: Mathias Herheim via Unsplash.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, try this on for size …

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

Simple, huh?

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

The headline only exists to get the first sentence read.

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

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

The secret is in the line.

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

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

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

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

Write well. Line by line.

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

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

Yes, demonstrate the benefits, not the features.

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

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

Difficult? Sure.

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

Image source: Mathias Herheim via Unsplash.

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8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content

small tweaks to get more attention

Your precious words. You know they’ve got to be right to attract the audience you want.

You’ve slaved over them, carefully crafting each phrase. You finally hit “publish,” and what happens?

Nobody reads them. No comments, no tweets, no sharing on Facebook.

It’s enough to send a writer into deep depression and wipe out motivation to keep producing great content.

Think you need to spend another 10,000 hours perfecting your writing skills? Probably not.

Actually, the solution may be a lot easier than you expect. Writing less and styling your text so it’s easy to read could be all you need to do to attract and hold attention.

Impatient searchers

Jakob Nielsen’s seminal web usability study from 1997 showed that 79 percent of web users scan rather than read.

Think about how you use the web. You’re in search of information. And if you don’t find it on the page you’re visiting, you click away and look elsewhere.

The web is a “lean forward and participate” medium. Television, by contrast, is a “lean back and let it wash over me” medium.

What can you do to engage your readers so they lean into your content, stay on your pages, and interact with your information?

Make it snappy

To write successfully for the web, you need to forget some of what you learned in English composition class.

Accept that people scan web pages, rather than reading them in detail, and work with this reality rather than fighting it.

If you want to cover a complex topic, consider breaking it into a series of posts. It’s a great way to keep people coming back for more, and your reader will find it easier to digest your content if they get it in portion-controlled sizes.

Structure your paragraphs in the inverted pyramid style. This means stating your conclusion first, then supporting it with the sentences that follow. This helps scanners move from point to point and decide where they’d like to dive in deeper.

Once you’ve done that, use the following easy design techniques to make your content much more reader-friendly.

It takes just a few minutes to turn a post from an overwhelming mass of gray text to something that engages the reader and pulls her in.

1. Embrace the line break

There are few easier ways to make your content more readable. Even complex content can be made much more reader-friendly with the simple introduction of lots of white space.

Feature one idea per paragraph, and keep them short — three or four sentences at most.

And try writing some paragraphs with one sentence only.

2. Break up your content with compelling subheads

One technique taught here at Copyblogger is to write your headline and subheads first.

A strong headline (and therefore a strong premise) is vital to getting readers to check you out in the first place. And solid subheads keep readers engaged, acting as “mini headlines” to keep them moving through the rest of your content.

Make your subheads intriguing as well as informative. Web readers have well-honed BS meters, so don’t exaggerate or you’ll lose credibility. “Compelling” is not the same as “hypey.”

Once you’ve written your subheads, review them to see what readers/scanners will understand if they only read that part of your article. Is there a compelling story? Will they get the gist of your information?

3. Create bulleted lists

  • They create fascinations your readers can’t resist.
  • They’re an easily scannable way to present multiple points.
  • They look different from the rest of your text, so they provide a visual break for your reader.

4. Use “deep captions”

Studies have shown that image captions are consistently some of the most-read copy on a page. Try pairing a strong image with a “deep caption.”

Deep captions are two to three sentences long. That’s long enough to intrigue your reader to dig into your whole article.

5. Add relevant and helpful links

Internal links back to your own cornerstone content will keep people on your site and reading your best material.

External links demonstrate that you’ve researched the topic and want to highlight other experts. Good content uses both to expand your reader’s understanding and add value.

Another advantage of internal links is they make it less frustrating when some dirtbag scrapes your content (cuts and pastes it to their own site without attribution).

6. Highlight content strategically

Add emphasis to your content by bolding important concepts. You reader will be able to scan through and pick out the most important information at a glance.

Don’t highlight everything (which would have the same effect as highlighting nothing). Instead, emphasize the key points so the scanner can quickly pick them out.

7. Harness the power of numbers

Think those numbered list posts are tired? Think again.

Numbers are an incredibly effective way to both capture attention and keep the reader oriented.

If you don’t believe me, take a quick look at the “Popular Articles” on the right hand of this site. You’ll get a mini-tutorial in some of the ways you can use numbers (and other techniques) to make a post more inviting.

You can often make a post more compelling just by numbering your main points. Give it a try.

8. Check your formatting to turn scanners into readers

Once you’ve used subheads, numbers, bulleted lists, and other formatting to highlight the key elements of your post, read through it again — looking only at the text you’ve called special attention to.

Does the reader get the gist? Have you pulled out the most interesting and relevant words, the words that will pull your scanner in and turn her into a reader?

How about you? What are your favorite techniques for getting readers to lean in to your content? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Want more advanced content tips? Get your free Authority session today!

content-map-video-image

We’re reopening our Authority advanced content marketing training program soon. Authority is like Copyblogger amplified.

  • We have weekly multimedia sessions (video, audio, transcripts) that bring you the latest content marketing strategies, tools, and approaches.
  • We show you how to build a memorable online presence that builds your business.
  • In our private members-only forum, you can get your questions answered by members of the Copyblogger editorial team and your fellow Authority colleagues.

And today, we’ve got a free Authority session when you sign up for the interest list for the program. It’s called How to Use a Content Map to Convert Prospects to Customers.

This session will help you discover:

  • How to map out your content so it reliably moves people from prospect to customer.
  • The rule of thumb for deciding which content should be free and which should require payment.
  • How to decide what form your content should take: Blog post? Autoresponder? Sales page? White paper? We’ll show you how to give your content a form that helps it function best.

Join Sonia Simone and me for How to Use a Content Map to Convert Prospects to Customers. It’s free when you sign up below.

Bonus! When you put your email address on the interest list below, you’ll find out first when the program reopens and get a special offer no one else will see. :-)

Get a free session and find out when Authority opens:

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on December 7, 2010. We’re observing the Labor Day holiday in the U.S. on Monday, September 5, 2016, but we’ll be back with a fresh article on Tuesday.

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Want to Be an Amazing Writer? Read Like One

how to read like a writer

When it comes to reading, there are two ditches modern-day web writers may fall into. Both are notorious, unrefined, and dangerous — especially if you want to be more than an ordinary writer.

On one side, you have the ditch of never-ending digital content where you spend all your time reading online.

Your day looks like this:

  • You begin with the latest Copyblogger article and a heavy dose of articles from news sites by the time you down your third cup of morning coffee.
  • During lunch, it’s a dash through some popular and arcane sports, fashion, cooking, or interior design blogs (but not any by that potty-mouthed she-devil who can’t stop talking about her cowhide throw blankets).
  • In the afternoon, you gobble up several articles on LinkedIn, 99u, Fast Company, and the fun ones you find on Facebook.
  • Late at night, you start reading your third brand-new James Patterson novel of the year (and it’s only May!) on your Kindle (not quite online, but still digital).

On the other side, you have the ditch of “made-for-loneliness” wonkism where all you do all day is read about one topic — and one topic only.

Your day looks like this:

  • During your breakfast of Fig Newtons and yesterday’s coffee, you read Copyblogger’s ebook on SEO copywriting and then watch as many Whiteboard Fridays as you can during your hour-long carpool ride into work.
  • At lunch, you finish memorizing Search Engine Land’s periodic table of SEO success factors — and then recite it for your three sleeping lunchmates.
  • Before you leave work, you print out three ebooks on local SEO and read those during the carpool ride home.
  • And in the dead of the night, you thumb through a musty copy of SEO 2015 and Beyond while you drink your fourth “I heart SEO” coffee mug full of Belgian-style quadrupel.

There is nothing wrong with these two approaches to reading if you have no ambition to be a great writer. However, if you aspire to be an exceptional writer, follow these sophisticated reading habits.

Read more old books

Many books published each year will end up in the remainder pile — forgotten, useless, and cheap. Really cheap.

And while reading new books is a great way to stay on top of the latest ideas (or be reminded of the old ones), I think it’s much better to make a habit of reading older books.

Old books have ideas and stories that have endured for 50, 100 — even thousands of years. Darwin. Schopenhauer. Hobbes. Nicholas of Cusa. Sappho.

When you read a book, letter, article, or essay that has endured through the ages, you can be confident that it’s quality writing. Not as much with new books.

Another advantage of reading classics is that there are fewer to choose from. You could read Random House’s list of the 100 best novels in a few years. You couldn’t do that with all the new fiction published in just one year.

Or maybe reading 100 books is just too daunting. Instead, wrestle through James Joyce’s Ulysses or Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica for half an hour every day. It might take you a year to get through one of those books.

Or two.

If you need encouragement from others, start a book club where you tackle ancient classics by Xenophon, Thucydides, or Herodotus.

If you are really brave, write out your favorite short story or article by hand. This practice will help you notice and absorb the qualities that make these works so great.

In the end, there are lots of ways to skin this cat, so just remember the goal is to read more old books.

Read wide (outside of your discipline)

I recently shared a list of books every content marketer should read. You might suppose all the books on that list focus on content marketing.

But they don’t.

I recommended a book on web usability, a book on design principles (by a cognitive scientist), a book on storytelling, and a book on mobile marketing. This is called “reading wide.”

However, another trap we can fall into is not going wide enough.

While all those books are different from one another, they aren’t that different. When you take a step back, you see that they are all business books.

I’m urging you to study completely different categories. Like astronomy, Latin American politics, or medieval architecture. It doesn’t matter if these books are old or new. Just read something outside of your discipline.

Why?

You’ll be surprised by the associations that emerge in your mind after you read a book like The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic. Or the metaphors that emerge after reading The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco or Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz.

Illustrating that point was my intent when I wrote 10 Surprising Books that Will Transform Your Writing.

Read long-form journalism

Not long ago, I received a question from a reader whose first language was Chinese. She asked what she could do to improve her writing in English, specifically conversational English.

I understood her situation because English isn’t my first language either. I’m a native speaker of Mumblish, with a heavy obscurantist accent.

Speaking clearly, concisely, and compellingly was foreign to me when I got started.

A college-level essay writing class helped. As did learning about direct-response copywriting. But it wasn’t until I took a serious interest in long-form journalism that my conversational writing skills took a healthy turn for the better.

Here are some of the things I did:

I’ve learned so much about conversational writing from reading smart long-form journalism.

I’ve learned how to take facts and build them into a story, how to use dialogue, and how to make people the central part of every piece I write.

Speaking of people …

Read books about becoming a better person

Ultimately, if you want to become a better writer, you have to become a better person. Let me explain how I came to this conclusion.

Denver, Colorado. April 14, 2016. Sonia Simone, Pamela Wilson, and I were spread out around a large table talking about our favorite books that we had read in the last year.

Here’s a sample:

At some point during our conversation, a light bulb went off in my mind.

Nobody mentioned a book on copywriting, content marketing, or even business. The closest was perhaps Sonia’s pick (The Upside of Stress).

Instead, these were all difficult books — difficult in the sense that they are not light affairs you can dabble in on a lazy Sunday afternoon. They were also very personal.

A commitment is required. A commitment to become a better person.

When you do that, a nifty thing happens: You begin to care more about people. You begin to care about their sorrows, pains, joys, and dreams.

You begin to listen more, soften toward their plights, and lighten up about their moments of good fortune (instead of getting jealous).

Great writers strive to become altruistic and empathetic.

And they put in the hard work by reading books on difficult topics that challenge, stretch, and expand them.

Your turn

So, how’s your reading going? Are you satisfied with a steady diet of digital content? Are you obsessed with one subject — and only one subject? Or, are you reading more old books, long-form journalism, and content far outside of your comfort zone?

More importantly, are you reading books that help you become a better person?

I have a hunch you are. Especially if you stayed with me all the way down to this final sentence. It shows me you have grit. A necessary trait of great writers.

In the comments section below, share your favorite books you read in the last year. I look forward to hearing from you.

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How to Write Email Subject Lines that Make People Stop, Click, and Read

subject lines that get attention

Email subject lines are our first (and sometimes only) chance to make a good impression on our subscribers, so making them interesting and compelling is essential to your email marketing success.

If you miss your chance to capture and hold their attention, your subscribers are less likely to open your emails, read your content, and click on your call-to-action links.

Today we’re going to cover the elements of captivating subject lines and how to discover which types of subject lines work best for your specific audience.

Let’s get started.

General guidelines for effective email subject lines

Writing subject lines that inspire people to open and read your emails is both an art and a science.

To get your subscribers to open, read, and click on the links in your email messages, thoughtfully craft the subject line of every message you send.

Your subject line is like the headline of a piece of online content — you get one shot to encourage your recipient to keep reading.

If you’re just getting started (or you’re not sure where to begin), here are some guiding principles for crafting compelling subject lines.

Your email subject lines should:

  • Provide a succinct summary. Forty characters or five-to-ten words is standard.
  • Create a sense of urgency. Why should your reader open your email now?
  • Match your content. Don’t misrepresent the content of your email — it annoys your subscribers and could increase your unsubscribe rate.
  • Arouse curiosity in your readers. What will inspire them to open your email and check out your message?
  • Convey a strong and clear benefit to your readers. What will they get out of reading your message? Will they get a new piece of educational content? Or can they take advantage of a limited-time 50 percent discount?
  • Adding personalization to your emails — should you or shouldn’t you?

    Should you customize your subject lines with your recipients’ names? The jury is still out on this topic.

    To see if personalization works with your community members, test out personalized subject lines by inserting dynamic tags. Most email service providers offer a fairly straightforward way to do this.

    Of course, you can only personalize subject lines if you’ve collected people’s names through your opt-in form when they signed up for your email list. If you don’t have this information, personalization isn’t an option.

    If you do collect names through your email list opt-in form and decide to use personalized subject lines, review the names on your list regularly to ensure a valid name corresponds to each email address. You never want recipients to see, “Sign up today, [NAME ERROR]” in the subject line of an email in their inboxes.

    After your tests, you’ll be able to determine if personalized subject lines perform better than other types of subjects.

    A process for generating winning ideas

    To create effective subject lines, get into the habit of brainstorming ideas for every email you send.

    Grab a piece of paper (or open a document on your computer) and set a timer for 10 minutes. Brainstorm subject lines for your latest email, and don’t stop until the timer goes off.

    Then set the timer for another 10 minutes, and try to brainstorm the same amount of headlines again. For example, if you wrote 25 headlines in your first 10 minutes, try to write 25 more in the second brainstorming session.

    Then choose the one headline you’ll use for your email — or pick two or three if you’ll be split-testing your subject lines. (More on this below.)

    How to find out what subscribers really want

    Split-testing (or A/B testing) can be a powerful tool for improving your email subject lines.

    When you split-test emails, you send one subject line to one part of your subscriber list and a different subject line to another part of your list. Then you track both emails and monitor which one performs the best.

    You decide which performance metrics to track, but open rates, links clicked, sales generated, or a combination of these actions are typically measured.

    Most email service providers equip you with a way to split-test your subject lines. Check with your email service provider’s knowledge base or tech support team if you have questions about implementing a split-testing campaign.

    When testing your email subject lines, consider:

    • Including your recipient’s name in the subject line (personalization) vs. no personalization
    • Trying short vs. long subject lines
    • Experimenting with specific vs. general language
    • Communicating the same topic in different ways (For example, test “Are you dreaming big enough?” against “Why you must dream bigger”)
    • Capitalizing the first letter of each word (title case) or only capitalizing the first letter of the first word (sentence case)

    As you split-test your subject lines, track your results so you can continually learn about what your audience likes and what causes them to take action.

    Captivating subject lines move the needle

    Optimizing your subject lines to increase opens and clicks is one of the best ways to improve the results of your email marketing campaigns.

    Dedicate time to writing benefit-rich, curiosity-provoking subject lines and testing them with your audience to learn more about what they want and need.

    When you implement this practice, you’ll see a noticeable increase in the amount of people who respond to the calls-to-action in your messages!

    Read other posts in our current email marketing series

    About the Author: Beth Hayden is a content marketing expert, author, and speaker who specializes in working with women business owners. Want Beth’s best blogging tip? Download her free case study, How This Smart Writer Got 600 New Subscribers by Taking One Brave Step.

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    Google AdWords Read Now Ads

    Pete Meyers from Moz spotted potentially a new ad format from Google named “Read Now Ads.”

    He posted a screen shot of the ad he spotted on Twitter…


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