Tag Archive | "Words"

Call-to-Action Optimization: 132% increase in clickthrough from changing four simple words

Small changes to call-to-action wording can have a large impact on conversion.
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War of Words: Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg Spar on Importance of AI

Nothing gets a geek’s dander up than a discussion of whether a Skynet-like AI will become part of our future, as seen in the beef apparently brewing between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

The two billionaires have opposing views with regards to artificial intelligence. While Musk is known for issuing warnings regarding the dangers of artificial intelligence, Facebook’s CEO has expressed optimism on how AI can improve people’s lives. A mindset that Tesla’s chief thinks is a pretty “limited” understanding of the topic.

The word war apparently started after Zuckerberg conducted a Facebook Live session. As he relaxed at home and manned the grill, the tech icon answered various question, including one about AI.

According to Zuckerberg, people who keep trying to drum up fear of AI are “really negative” and “pretty irresponsible.” He emphasized that any technology, including AI, can be used for either good or bad and that it’s up to designers and developers to be careful of what they create.

Zuckerberg added that he has a hard time understanding those who are against the development and evolution of AI technology, saying that these people are “arguing against safer cars that aren’t going to have accidents” and “against being able to better diagnose people when they’re sick.”

It’s safe to assume that Tesla’s boss was among those people Zuckerberg is talking about. Musk met a group of US governors earlier this month and proposed that regulations on artificial intelligence should be enacted.

Musk explained that AI technology posed a huge risk to society, hinting at a future similar to what the Terminator movies have implied.

“I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react, because it seems so ethereal,” Musk said then.

Upon hearing Zuckerberg’s comments on AI, Musk hit back on Twitter, saying that he has talked to his contemporary about this. He also said that Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”

However, Zuckerberg is sticking to his guns as he once more defended his views on AI in a recent Facebook post. He reiterated his optimism about AI and the technology’s potential to improve the world.

[Featured image via YouTube]

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Google to further dilute exact match in AdWords; will ignore word order & function words

Not just for plurals anymore, close variants will extend to include word ordering and function words in inexact match keywords.

The post Google to further dilute exact match in AdWords; will ignore word order & function words appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Profitable Writers Demonstrate How to Prosper from Your Words


If you aspire to make a comfortable income from your writing, you’ll find inspiration in the stories of the three people we’re featuring in today’s Certified Stories article.

This group comes direct from our Certified Content Marketer page here on Copyblogger.

You know what I liked best about their answers? That they were pleasantly surprised that writers can indeed make a healthy living doing what they do best.

I love hearing stories like that — they make our efforts here at Copyblogger worthwhile.

By the way, don’t miss the WORD ebook we developed specifically for writers — you’ll get instant access when you register at the bottom of this article.

Here’s who’s joined us today:


  • Aaron Wrixon specializes in white-label writing and content marketing services for web designers and their clients. Contact Aaron
  • Trudi Roth creates site copy, blog posts, video, and social media strategy that converts passive bystanders into active, engaged fans. Contact Trudi
  • Carin Kilby Clark writes conversational copy and content that demonstrates authentic thought leadership and builds authority. Contact Carin

Read on as Aaron, Trudi, and Carin share their hard-earned wisdom.

What do you wish you knew about writing when you first started out?

There’s perception and then there’s reality. Sometimes we perceive our dream careers through rose-colored glasses. Once we’re in them, though, the day-to-day reality doesn’t live up to the image.

But for our three writers, reality was better than perception.

Trudi had to first lose the notion that she couldn’t make a good living as a writer:

“I believed that writing was a low-paying job and making art (which is always how I think of writing!) in general is not lucrative. Today, as a more mature person who has made her way back into the workforce … I realize that was some toxic Kool-Aid I drank in my early career. Great writing has tremendous value, period. And that’s what I’m teaching my kids, so I’m paying that wisdom forward.” – Trudi Roth

Aaron came to the same realization as Trudi. Writing can be lucrative:

“… you can see how it would be easy to convince yourself you had to settle for (writing) cheap crap and only making 15k a year. I’ve since learned that’s total nonsense. And now I’m very, very fortunate, with a great wife and family who want for nothing — and all because I found out how to tap into the high-paying jobs. So sure, I wish I had done that a lot sooner, because if I had I’d be writing to you from Fiji now. But hey, my time machine is almost finished, and when it’s finally done I’m going to go back and smack my younger self.” – Aaron Wrixon

Carin realizes now that great writing is all about the rewrite — that she didn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate:

“The ‘ugly first draft’ truly is a writer’s best friend.” – Carin Kilby Clark

What’s the one thing you did in the past year that helped build your business?

Our three writers answered this question differently — but their answers share a common theme. Over the past year, each of them made a serious commitment to their businesses.

Carin committed to putting herself out there to meet prospects in person. Here’s what worked to build her business:

“Good old-fashioned, face-to-face networking. Online is great, but there’s still a ton of value in getting out from behind the desk, shaking hands, and exchanging business cards with people.” – Carin Kilby Clark

Aaron decided — finally — to go all-in:

“I quit, finally. I’d been side-gigging for so long and I finally went full-time in March 2016. Since then I’ve matched my 2015 salary.” – Aaron Wrixon

And Trudi’s afraid you might think we put her up to this answer (but we didn’t):

“Hands down it was taking and completing Copyblogger’s Certified Content Marketer training program! I know it sounds like you guys paid me to say that, but … having a listing on the Copyblogger website as a Certified Content Marketer has brought me at least a dozen excellent repeat clients that know their stuff because they are fans of Copyblogger, too. (And my listing has only been up for a couple of months, so that’s really exciting!)” – Trudi Roth

Is there a writing tip you’d like to share with Copyblogger readers?

There’s nothing like the voice of experience, is there? Our three writers have picked up mindsets and habits that have helped them in their careers. We asked them to share what they’ve learned along the way.

“Be curious. That sounds like such a trite answer, but for me curiosity starts the whole process. It’s so tempting to hear a client say, ‘I want this many words that say this to this person,’ and answer, ‘Yes ma’am, right away ma’am.’ But it’s when you start questioning everything that good work happens. ” – Aaron Wrixon

Trudi reminds us that even the most boring topic has an angle that will make it enjoyable to write about:

Have fun. Being a writer is being a creative person in the world, and so any topic can be engaging and exciting when you find the angles that you connect into and that make your work enjoyable.” – Trudi Roth

And Carin repeats the advice we’ve shared here many times: write — even when you don’t feel like it.

“Write every day. Especially when you don’t want to or don’t feel like it. I’ve cranked out some of my best writing on the days when I wanted to do anything but sit down at the keyboard.” – Carin Kilby Clark

What was your favorite aspect of the Certification program?

Finally, we thought you might enjoy hearing about our Certified Content Marketer training program direct from three writers who have taken the course and gone on to be certified.

Trudi appreciated one particular piece of course content — and saw one sign that this course was the right one for her.

“There are a lot of great resources you get from the Certification program, but I have to say that the one that made it well-worth the price of admission to me is the workbook, ‘Using Empathy & Experience Maps to Develop a Killer Content Strategy.’ … it is really genius when it comes to developing helpful, engaging content that speaks to my clients’ core audiences. Copyblogger … makes me feel so supported and confident that my work as a kick-ass content marketer will continue even as the digital landscape changes. Being in the Authority program gives me access to awesome continuing education. Also, I like that Sonia has pink hair. It’s a sign to us all that we’re in the right place.” – Trudi Roth

Carin liked the professional preparation the Certification program offers:

“My favorite aspect of the Certification program is the education around the professional writer’s mindset, marketing yourself as a writer, and becoming an indispensable resource for your clients.” – Carin Kilby Clark

And Aaron? Well, Aaron plans an addition on his house …

“I get a whole lot of emails that start with ‘Hey, I found you on the Copyblogger site.’ When I build an addition on my house, I’m going to call it the Copyblogger Wing.” – Aaron Wrixon

Questions for these writers?

Head on down to the comments section and leave your thoughts about your writing career, your client work, or what the environment is like out there right now.

And to get the free WORD ebook we put together for you, sign up below!

WORD by Copyblogger: a new free resource for writers


At Copyblogger, we believe writers deserve to feel fulfilled — emotionally and financially — in their careers.

Get our best advice in our new WORD ebook: a smart resource we put together for our writer friends.

Click to get WORD, a free ebook for writers

The post Profitable Writers Demonstrate How to Prosper from Your Words appeared first on Copyblogger.


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3 Resources to Help You Choose the Right Words for Your Content

copyblogger collection - handpick the best words for your content

Taste the tomato.

The first week of the year can stir up a lot of energy, excitement — and anxiety.

The other day, while hurriedly shoving forkfuls of a salad into my mouth (I needed to get back to work), my taste buds suddenly lit up due to a bite-size piece of tomato. It was fresh and delicious.

I decided to slow down and enjoy my food. Eating was the only task I needed to focus on at that moment.

When you approach your content marketing duties, your only job is to focus on executing your current task as best as you can.

Sometimes that task is choosing the right words.

This week’s Copyblogger Collection is a series of three handpicked articles that will show you:

  • How to craft and deliver captivating presentations
  • How to make more sales during your webinars
  • How to optimize every element of your online copy

As you work your way through the material below, use the following lessons as a mini content enhancement course.

How to Craft and Deliver Captivating Presentations


You could think of each piece of content you create as a presentation. It’s the enjoyable information you publish in exchange for your audience’s attention.

In How to Craft and Deliver Captivating Presentations, Michael Port dissects the features of a mesmerizing speech or presentation, beginning with the words you write.

Next, he walks you through a detailed tutorial about effective content development.

If public speaking makes you nervous — or if you’re apprehensive about publishing your content online — Michael gives you the framework you need to confidently address your audience.

5 Insider Tips to Make More Sales During Your Webinars


Small changes during your webinars can make a big difference when it comes to turning webinar attendees into clients and customers.

What types of changes? Let’s ask Beth Hayden.

Beth admits she used to not make any sales from her webinars — until she learned special techniques that turned everything around.

Learn how to use them in 5 Insider Tips to Make More Sales During Your Webinars.

The Ultimate Copy Checklist: 51 Questions to Optimize Every Element of Your Online Copy [Free Poster]

Aaron Orendorff says:

Optimizing your own copy is a bit like scaling Mount Everest without a Sherpa. It doesn’t matter if you’re in shape; if you go it alone, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up a crumpled human popsicle.

To avoid that scenario, Aaron’s here to help with The Ultimate Copy Checklist: 51 Questions to Optimize Every Element of Your Online Copy.

You can download our free PDF that breaks down Aaron’s guidance into 10 categories:

  1. Headline
  2. Subheadline
  3. Value proposition
  4. Introduction
  5. Subheads
  6. Conclusion
  7. Call to action
  8. Voice
  9. Arguments
  10. Weapons of persuasion

Concentrate on your current activity

Some call it “being present.” Some call it “mindfulness.” I call it “tasting the tomato.”

Use this post (and save it for future reference) to help you make smart choices and focus on producing your best work each time you create content.

About the author

Stefanie Flaxman

Stefanie Flaxman is Rainmaker Digital’s Editor-in-Chief.

The post 3 Resources to Help You Choose the Right Words for Your Content appeared first on Copyblogger.


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4 Delightful Editing Tips to Make Your Words Dazzle and Dance

how to create excellence through editing

Do you ever read back a draft of your writing and wonder what happened?

Red-cheeked, you thought your draft was complete. You felt excited. Brimming with enthusiasm. You knew it … this was going to be superb. Probably your best-ever blog post. Yay!

You poured yourself a beer, feeling elated with your success.

Any minor editing and proofreading could wait until the next day.

But, the next day … you feel disappointed. Your writing sounds bland. Your sentences seem to stutter.

What can you do?

How can you create a smooth and enjoyable reading experience? How can you make your content dazzle and dance?

Let’s explore four ways …

1. Remove tiny obstacles from your sentences

Ever tried tangoing with a little stone in your shoe? Or tripped over your shoelaces while waltzing?

In writing, we know the big obstacles frustrating our readers. They’re irrelevant paragraphs and excessive sentences that befuddle readers and slow them down.

When readers lose track of your ideas, they head towards the exit.

And the tiny obstacles? They’re phrases like: “in my opinion,” “just,” “very,” “really,” and “actually.”

These phrases don’t typically add value — they only take up space. With a little discipline, you can cross them out and keep your readers tangoing through your content.

But even tinier obstacles exist. Sometimes even experienced writers and professional editors might not notice these.

These teeny-tiny obstacles are adverbs modifying verbs. In most cases, you can delete the adverb and choose a stronger verb.

For instance:

  • She walks slowly — She saunters; she strolls; she strides.
  • He said loudly — He barked; he yelled; he shrieked.
  • He talked aimlessly — He blabbered; he digressed; he yakked.
  • They worked really hard — They slaved; they labored; they toiled.
  • They ate their dinner greedily — They wolfed down their dinner; they devoured their dinner; they inhaled their dinner.

As bestselling author Stephen King has said:

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.

So do your readers a favor, and look out for those pesky words ending with -ly. See if you can find a more accurate or stronger verb.

Sharp writers choose each word with piercing precision.

2. Create a smooth reading experience

Have you ever seen ballroom dancers float across the dance floor?

Clumsy dancers think one step at a time. But professionals dance with flowing movements.

Your content must also flow from one sentence to the next. To create a smooth reading experience, use transitions:

  • Transitional words guide your readers. Examples of transitional words and phrases are: “and,” “but,” “or,” “however,” “in contrast,” “because,” “for instance,” and “so.” Use them at the beginning of a sentence to explain how it relates to the previous sentence or to connect two parts of one sentence.
  • Short questions can help readers move from one section to the next. For instance, in your introductory paragraphs, you might have explained a problem and promised your readers that you’ll provide a solution. To transition to your tips, use engaging questions like: “Ready to get started?” “Sound good?” or “Shall we begin?”
  • Seeds of curiosity are phrases you can use at the end of a paragraph to keep readers moving through your content; they are similar to short questions. Advocated by legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman, these phrases sound like: “Let me explain why,” “And now comes the best part,” or “Even more importantly.”
  • Word connectors are versatile transitions that keep readers glued to your content. They connect one sentence to the next by repeating a word. They’re especially useful when using metaphors. For example: Ever tried learning to dance? At first, you struggle to remember the moves. You stumble around and you might even trip over your own feet. In a first draft of your article, your words are stumbling, too. Use transitions to let your content flow gracefully.

To allow readers to waltz through your text, create smooth transitions from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph.

3. Paint striking pictures

Words can conjure up vivid images.

Like an artist’s brush, they paint a picture in your reader’s mind. Some words can even make you shiver, like there are creepy crawlies tickling your spine.

Research suggests that we process sensory words as if we can feel, taste, hear, see, or smell the words. Non-sensory words don’t produce the same sensations.

But sensory words light up different areas of your brain — as if you hear the violins play, as if you see that dazzling dress, as if you feel the swirling movements.

Your job as a writer is to allow readers to visualize your story and feel your words. So, substitute bland words like ‘nice’ or ‘good’ with sensory alternatives like ‘tantalizing,’ ‘dazzling,’ or ‘tasty.’

When you pick the same words everyone else uses, your content becomes grey. But when you choose descriptive words other writers don’t use, your voice becomes unique and resonates with your readers. You stand out in a drab sea of bland voices.

Watch out for worn-out phrases. These are sensory expressions so overused their imagery has faded, and they have become clichés.

For instance, the first time someone used the phrase “out of the box,” it was a vivid metaphor that explained creative thinking. But now, the phrase is so common that nobody visualizes a box anymore.

The imagery has completely faded, and that’s why it has become a cliché.

Similarly, nobody pictures a bar when you talk about “raising the bar.” Nobody visualizes a bull when you say “take the bull by the horns.”

And nobody visualizes a baseball game when you’re “knocking it out of the park.”

Avoid such faded images. Instead, paint fresh and vibrant pictures with your own words. Be creative. Be different. And become memorable.

4. Let your words swing and swirl

Do your words jig or jive?

Rhythm influences us more than we think. We know that dancers follow the rhythm of a rumba or quickstep.

And when we work out at the gym, our brains synchronize with the rhythm of the music, too. An upbeat song makes us move faster. A dreamy love song slows us down.

In the same way, your readers experience the rhythm of your writing.

Even when content isn’t read aloud, readers hear their inner speech.

A dreary rhythm with a succession of long sentences makes them trudge. A faster cadence with a mix of short and long sentences allows them to hippety-hop through your words.

Writing engages readers when it ebbs and flows, sometimes slowing down with long and undulating sentences. Then upping the tempo again. With broken sentences. In staccato. Quick. Snappy.

Want to make your readers hop, skip, and dance?

Start with studying the rhythms of your favorite authors.

Notice, for instance, how Jack Kerouac runs ahead with his words. As a reader, you hardly have a chance to take a breath. His sentences are strung together, seemingly faster and faster.

Or reread your favorite Dr. Seuss story. His writing sticks to a rigid rhythm; you’ll detect the stress pattern quickly.

Finding a rhythm that suits your voice takes time. Read your content aloud. Play with the length of your sentences, and experiment with replacing a long word with a short one.

Break a few grammar rules and listen to how it changes your rhythm — and your voice.

Stand out in a sea of grey content

How often do we read content that surprises and delights?

The same ideas reverberate in the Internet echo chamber, again and again.

Almost everything has been said already. Several times. Using similar words.

To draw attention to your ideas — to grow a loyal following and build a thriving business — let your words dazzle and dance, swing and swirl, jig and jive.

Let your readers fall in love with your voice and crave your next blog update.

Come on. It’s time to swing your hips.

And let your ideas shine.

About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent copywriter and business writing coach. She’s on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs sparkle. Get her free 16-Part Snackable Writing Course for Busy People and learn how to enchant your readers and win more business.

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Trolls, Unkind Words, and How to Know You’re on the Right Track

image of Inuksuk sculpture from the Athabasca Glacier, taken by James Pratley

At the end of the day, I just find your persona incredibly grating.

Funny that I can still remember that comment word-for-word. It’s from an unsubscribe note to my email list dating back at least seven years now.

I heard lots of good things back then, too. I was helping people, sharing what I knew in a way that was useful to my (then tiny) audience. But I don’t remember any of the good comments verbatim.

Even back then, though, the note made me laugh.


Because I knew that it was a signpost. A signal that I was headed in the right direction.

The Internet is full of wonderful things. It’s given me a rich business life, a vehicle to help and teach, lots of friendships, and a wide view of this amazing world. I even met my husband online.

But it’s also populated by a few people who are rude and disagreeable, if not outright trolls.

The day you get your first snotty comment is the day you’ve arrived, in a weird way. It means you’ve escaped your own echo chamber. You’ve grown out of the little cocoon that kept you safe.

And you’re strong enough to handle that, even if you don’t always feel that way.

No one takes a swipe at boring people

If you’re a bland, unremarkable serving of Cream of Wheat, you won’t attract many haters.

You need a strong voice to stand out online — and some will find that “incredibly grating.” You’re on the right track.

You need to stand for something beyond platitudes and conventional wisdom. Some will find that threatening or even offensive. You’re on the right track.

You need to stand tall and own your success and authority. Some will find that intolerable. Let them howl. You’re on the right track.

Don’t worry — if you’re helping people, you’re doing it right. You’ll attract supporters, too. Try to give them more attention than you do the rude ones. Not easy to do, but worth our effort.

But the jerks and even the haters are an inuksuk — a sign on the rough and wild path.

It says:

There is something good ahead. Keep going.

Flickr Creative Commons image by James Pratley.

About the author

Sonia Simone

Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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Use Images (Not Just Words) to Turn Your Distracted Visitors into Engaged Readers

woman taking iPhone photo

If you have kids — or if you’ve ever been around kids — you’ve heard the sound before.

It’s a noise that’s somewhere between the cry of a lost wolf cub and the wail of a nearby car alarm. It’s one of the most annoying sounds you’ll ever hear.

It’s the ear-piercing cry of a child who has been over-stimulated.

The angelic child becomes a hot mess of whiny, clingy neediness.

If you’re the adult in charge and you manage to keep a cool head, you say something like, “Calm down. I don’t understand what you need. Use your words.”

And sometimes it works. It stops children long enough to engage their brains rather than just their emotions, and they are able to communicate what they need.

As consumers of information online, we’re a little like that over-stimulated child.

But as producers of online content, one of the worst things we can do is throw more words at our readers. Because the best way to reach an over-stimulated population is to offer something different. How do we do that?

I propose you offer an image.

We are visual people

More than half the surface of the brain is reserved for processing visual information.

With that much brain power behind understanding visuals, it makes sense to harness the power of images to communicate our messages.

Besides, we all know we’re drowning in words.

So. Much. Content.

Not. Enough. Time.

Fortunately, images are processed in a different part of our brains than words. Using them gives the over-stimulated, word-crunching parts of our brains a break. And images will help your carefully crafted words attract and hold attention and have more impact.

Harness the power of images

We’re living in an amazing time for people with the courage to learn new skills online. There are tools and resources available to all of us — many of them free — that would have been unimaginable 10 years ago.

Let’s review some of our options when it comes to image creation, starting with the pure DIY track.

Make your own images

Most of us are walking around with powerful cameras right on our phones.

You may feel like you’re not a competent photographer, but consistently using a service like Instagram can increase your confidence.

Instagram’s square format forces you to focus on the most important elements in your viewfinder, and the easy-to-apply effects make even ordinary photos more interesting.

A content marketing bonus? You can set up your account so it posts to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook all at once. That’s what I call social media efficiency.

When looking for images to use in your blog posts and email marketing, think beyond images with people. Focus on showing the telling details instead.

For example, zoom in on the tools you use to do your work, whether they’re machines, computers, paintbrushes, or a big stack of books. Let viewers into your world by sharing close-ups from your environment.

Enlist stock photos

Stock photo sites are pretty amazing. I still remember the days when stock photo catalogs would arrive at the design studio where I worked in the early days of my career. They were bulky, unwieldy, and printed on paper. (Can you imagine?)

Plus, those stock photos each cost several hundred dollars, and the exact prices depended on how you would use the images. Once you received an image, which came in slide form, you had to pay to have it scanned and converted so you could use it in print.

Now, we have access to thousands of searchable, inexpensive stock images on sites such as:

And there are plenty of free stock image sites, too. Here are a few of my favorites:

To use photos from these sites for business purposes, be sure to review and respect any licenses associated with the images. And steer clear of the obvious, overused images and lame visual clichés.

Modify images with easy-to-use online tools

Unless you purchase exclusive rights to a stock image, you won’t be the only person using it.

The solution? Modify the image — add a filter, crop it creatively, or add text to it. My favorite sites for editing images are:

Remember, you want your image to be easy to “read” visually. Use filters that enhance, not obliterate, the original image.

If you decide to add text, use a clear, high-contrast font so the message can be read and understood in a single glance.

Dig into Flickr’s Creative Commons

Flickr has a deep well of images by photographers who’ve agreed to share their photos on a Creative Commons license. You’ll notice you see many Flickr images on Copyblogger. They take longer to find, but if you take the time they often bring a creativity that can be hard to find on the stock sites.

Searching Flickr by “Creative Commons” allows you to look through photos with a variety of licenses that allow you to share, adapt, or even use for commercial purposes. Be sure you understand what rights you have — and don’t have — for a given image. The broadest license is “Attribution Only,” which needs only credit and a link to the creator.

Keep in mind that it it takes time to find the great photos in the sea of amateur images. Copyblogger likes to build relationships with exceptional photographers on Flickr, in some cases even those who retain copyright of their work. The photographer gets a wider audience, and Copyblogger gets fantastic images. It’s a win-win.

Lead with an image

Our brains also process images faster than words.

Way faster.

Visual information is processed 60,000 times faster than text.

Images at the top of blog posts work so well because they make an immediate impact and open the door to the rest of the information you present.

When you choose your image carefully, it can add shades of meaning to your content.

Look for images beyond typical stock photo fare. Avoid overly posed and polished images that feature professional models. Aim to find images that feature everyday people.

Avoid the obvious, and go for subtlety.

Get radical: consider only using images

Sometimes, an image can stand alone– whether it’s on your blog or social media.

Take, for example, this popular infographic here on Copyblogger: 11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs.

It’s strongly visual content (paired, of course, with some well-chosen words), and as of this writing it has been shared more than 3,000 times on Twitter.

If you want to stretch this idea a bit, video is another format for sharing compelling content.

Think outside the word box

The next time you need a direct line to the inside of your prospects’ brains, consider an image.

If you’d like to chat more about how to use images to communicate your message, click over to Google+, and we’ll compare notes there.

Editor’s Note: If you are excited to learn more about how incorporating images increases the impact of your blog posts, we recommend you read this post by Alex Turnbull next: The 8 Types of Images That Increase the Psychological Impact of Your Content.

Image via Death to the Stock Photo.

About the Author: Pamela Wilson founded Big Brand System to empower small business owners with marketing and design information that gives their businesses an edge. Want to learn more about using images to communicate? Sign up for the free 12 Days of Visual Buzz series here.

The post Use Images (Not Just Words) to Turn Your Distracted Visitors into Engaged Readers appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Why We Overestimate Technology and Underestimate the Power of Words

Image of Victorian Machine

Many experts assume that Amazon’s social recommender system is its killer feature. But what exactly about this feature makes it a killer?

What — in fact — is the magic sauce of Amazon?

Sure, there is some predictive value in keeping track of many different variables. There always is. It’s probably Amazon’s best kept secret. But I am guessing it’s not only a secret for people outside of Amazon.

If you would ask me what the most persuasive ingredient is of the sauce, I would say it’s copy.

The smartest algorithms make sure you get to see products that you love (to buy). A recommendation engine knows what you really want, what you really really want. Computing thousands of variables is the key to predicting consumer behavior. Right?

Nah, I don’t buy it*. The black box probably does have an impact, but I know for sure that the copy does.

The power of a few simple words

The words “Customers who bought this also bought” are cues of social proof.

This is a very well known persuasive principle of social psychology. Offers that are accompanied by a social proof message will be more effective than those with a merely neutral message.

What if Amazon would use its recommender technology and label it with “You could also try”. That would be a neutral message. A/B test “You could also try” versus “Customers who bought this also bought” and you will get an idea of how much of Amazon’s sauce is technology and how much copy.

And while you are at it, also test “Our editors recommend” as copy with authority cues. I’d bet it will do better than the neutral version.

More and more scientists understand the essential part that psychology plays in what appears to be technological enhanced commerce. If technology gives you an unfair competitive advantage, it’s essential to know what is really at play. It’s not enough to say your black box is the secret sauce.

We shouldn’t spend millions of dollar on technology, just for the sake of technology. Or should we?

People who bought recommender systems also bought yachts.**

The rise of the machines? Not so fast …

I am not a technologist. That’s why I like bashing technology.

I do run a high-end software boutique though, and I am amazed by the number of companies that seem to have an undying hunger for more technology. Most of the time I don’t see much reason for it.

A small sidestep …

Why do you think people buy yachts? Is it because they need a reliable means of transportation? To get them from A to B? For most, probably not. Maybe because they need a place where they can host one of their bunga bunga parties?

Getting warmer …

I think it’s safe to say that showing off to peers is a big part of the reason why luxurious yachts are being bought. “Darling … Henry bought his wife a yacht, so I was thinking of getting one for ourselves as well …”

Is a recommender system (technology) the best investment if you want to go from A to B? If you want to persuade people to buy your products I wouldn’t recommend putting all your hopes in black box technology.

The true killer app

I would advise you to better understand the psychology of consumer behavior.

Knowing why people buy will get you that unfair advantage that technology so often promises.

Understanding other people’s behavior might even shed light on why we buy recommender systems, or throw bunga bunga parties for that matter.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

*A big thank you to Sinan AralDean Eckles and Mats Einarsen for pointing me in the direction of scientific papers on the topic.

**Quote from K Young of his 2013 #DataGotham talk.

About the Author: Arjan Haring is cofounder of Science Rockstars, creators of PersuasionAPI. Supercharge your content by matching it to the persuasive DNA of your target audience.

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The 5 Most Persuasive Words in the English Language

Image of Open Dictionary

When it comes to assembling persuasive copy, like any other construction job, you need to rely on your skills, experience, and toolbox.

The toolbox of the writer is filled with words.

In defining what I believe is a critical element of crafting effective copy, I’ll make my case by amending the famous quote from Animal Farm: “All words are equal, but some words are more equal than others.”

And there are certain power words that hold more sway over our decision making process than others. You might be surprised to find that these “power words” don’t seem … well, all that powerful.

This speaks to just how damned efficient they are. Simple language is crystal-clear language, and these words make it clear just what you want your reader to do.

And you might be surprised just how effective these deceptively simple words can be.

I’ve listed these words below (along with studies related to their power) that will show you how to speak more persuasively to your audience.

Warning: I can’t stress enough — just as in the application of writing headlines that work — you must understand why these words are persuasive, and you must use them in the contexts that make sense for your audience and your business. If you just start slapping them on every piece of content you create for no apparent reason, you’ll quickly see just how unpersuasive they can be.

There, you’ve been warned. Now, let’s get on with the show …

1. You

There’s an often-cited study in the copywriting world about a piece of Yale research that reveals “You” to be the #1 power word out of a supposed 12.

Despite the fact that the study likely never happened, I have some actual research that reveals the power of invoking the self.

As it turns out, while people might like the word “you,” it is guaranteed that that they love reading their own name much more.

According to recent research examining brain activation, few things light us up quite like seeing our own names in print or on the screen. Our names are intrinsically tied to our self-perception and make up a massive part of our identity. No surprise then, that we become more engaged and even more trusting of a message in which our name appears.

Research has shown that we will gladly pay more for personalization, so isn’t it about time you start getting personal with your customers?

However, there is one small problem with this finding …

Writing general web copy with name utilization in mind isn’t usually possible, but by capitalizing on the power of permission marketing, you can adapt this strategy easily — many email lists are greatly aided by being able to start off messages with a customer’s name.

While that may not be important for your blog updates, if you maintain a variety of separate lists for your products (and you should), make sure you’re grabbing a first name to make your broadcasts trigger that personal aspect with customers.

2. Free

Everybody loves free.

People love free stuff so much they’ll actually make different choices, even when the respective value of the item or service remains the same.

Dan Ariely revealed this startling fact in his book Predictably Irrational, where he examined a very unusual “battle” between Lindt chocolate truffles and Hershey Kisses.

To test the power of the word “free” in relation to concrete value, the study first asked people to choose between a 1 cent Hershey Kiss or a 15 cent Lindt truffle (about half its actual value, generally considered a richer, superior chocolate).

The results were as follows:

In other words, tastes were found to be very much in favor for the truffle. I mean, who’s going to pass up a deal, right?

Later though, another random group of subjects seemingly flipped on their opinion of these two treats. Ariely revealed that when the price was reduced by one cent for both brands (meaning the Kiss was now free), people altered their choices drastically.

With the new prices, here were the results:

Although in the first test it appears we simply can’t pass up a deal, as it turns out, we really can’t pass up a steal. Although the relation in prices remained the same (a 14 cent difference between the two), people chose the Kiss far more often when it was free.

Ariely points to loss aversion (our disdain for losing out on things) and our natural instinct to go after “low hanging fruit” as the reasons why we are so susceptible to snatching up free stuff.

The danger of free: As we’ve seen here, there is a certain inherit danger in trumpeting free things. Having something for free will attract more people. But that will most certainly include a fair share of “bargain hunters” who aren’t likely to turn into the superstar customers that really grow your business.

Use free only when it makes sense, and only in the right context.

Emphasizing the “freeness” of your free guides, courses, information, support, etc., can go a long way in attracting attention. On Sparring Mind, I emphasize the fact that my newsletter is “free to join,” because although most marketers understand this, many folks don’t quite understand what it means to subscribe.

Conversely, you should use minimal pricing to keep out those barnacle customers who aren’t ideal long-term buyers, or who aren’t truly suited for your flagship offerings.

3. Because

In a study from the classic book Influence by Robert Cialdini, tests were conducted on requests from a person in a hurry to use an in-office copy machine. The tests examined how different requests might affect people’s willingness to allow this person to “cut” in line.

In the first test, the participant simply stated:

Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?

In this scenario, around 60% of people allowed him to cut in line and use the machine first.

In the next scenario, the request was slightly tweaked. This time the participant said:

I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I am in a rush?

Did you see the ever-so-subtle difference between the two?

Let’s break this down: Not only was the request only minimally changed, but the “because” (his reason) was barely a reason at all! “Because I’m in a rush” wouldn’t stand up as a good excuse for most of us, right? Isn’t a majority of the working world in a rush?

Despite what we might like to believe, around 94% of people allowed him to cut in line this time! If you think that’s strange, check out the request used in the 3rd and final test:

Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?

That went from having a barely passable reason to absolutely no reason at all for letting the man cut. In spite of this, 93% of people let him cut on this third trial, only a 1% drop from when he had a weak reason (“I’m in a rush”) and a 33% improvement vs. the first test.

According to Cialdini:

A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.

Here’s the bottom line: Many companies are proud of the features that their product (or service) can offer, and that’s fine, but you have to remember that when you are focusing on writing persuasive copy, it all comes down to answering your customer’s #1 question:

What’s in it for me?

Although “because” may appear to have some sort of brainwashing effect on people at Xerox machines, it’s only really a matter of reasoning: even giving weak reasons have been shown to be more persuasive than giving no reason at all.

Only trumpet features and product traits you are proud of when they help make your point. Use them to create an incentive for customers to take action. And use “because” when pointing out these compelling reasons, but don’t rely on it as a crutch.

4. Instantly

The subject of delayed gratification is an important one among neuroscientists, as many famous studies (such as the Stanford marshmallow experiment) showcase how being able to delay rewards to a later date is a skill needed to become successful. (I know very few entrepreneurs who would argue against that.)

The reason this interests us as marketers is because it reveals an interesting aspect of human nature …

We want things yesterday!

Several MRI studies have shown just how fired up our mid-brain gets when we envision instant rewards, and how it’s our frontal cortex that’s activated when it comes to waiting for something (that’s a no-no for sales).

Words like “instant,” “immediately,” or even”fast” are triggers for flipping the switch on that mid-brain activity.

If you are in the business of selling web-based software, you already have an advantage here: “instant access” isn’t a vague promise, it’s often the reality. For those in the physical products or services business, reminding customers that they will receive their product quickly (or someone will get in touch with them ASAP) can go a long way in being the gentle push they need to buy.

We’ve seen how even “tightwad customers” can be swayed with these subtle changes in language to insinuate fast pain removal. It’s a reliable tactic for converting more prospects into customers as long as you follow the one golden rule …

Always deliver on your promises. And, whenever possible, overdeliver.

This is an area where many business get too optimistic, and although it’s smart to emphasis these instant rewards, it’s also always a good idea to under-promise and over-deliver, so be sure you can actually follow through on your promises or you may end up with a “tribe” that hates your guts.

5. New

This one almost seems paradoxical.

According neuroimaging research, we actually respond more favorably to recognized brands, and can have a hefty amount of disdain for any drastic changes. (Remember New Coke? Oh, the horror …)

On the other hand, it’s long been known that novelty plays an incredibly important role in activating our brain’s reward center and in keeping us content with our products.

“Newness” is important to products, especially because research has shown that they age far more quickly than “experiential” purchases. (In other words, you’ll hate your new headphones in 2 years, but that concert you went to 5 years ago probably aged in your mind like a fine wine.)

How can you achieve a zen-like balance against these two contradictory sides of the same word?

The important things to consider here are which parts of your business generate trust, and which parts generate utility. It’s your brand that creates trust, and as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Your products however are what customers get utility out of, and stagnant offerings are your first class ticket to an abysmally bored userbase.

Your core brand elements like your unique selling proposition, your dazzling customer service and your quality offering in the marketplace should be approached with excessive caution if things are going well.

With your products, it’s far easier to excite customers with new features and polish. Even if things don’t work out perfectly, a majority of customers will appreciate innovation attempts over no progression at all (unless you pull a Digg v4 and ruin everything in one fell swoop).

New fixes to old problems, new features and improvements, a fresh new design, or even new ways of getting your message out there (Red Bull anyone?) are all essential for keeping your customers “on their toes,” without losing the trust that has cemented you as an awesome brand in their mind.

Now it’s your turn …

Here’s what to do next:

  1. Let me know in the comments what you thought of the research above. Also let me know about what words you love to implement into your persuasive copy. You don’t need to cite research, just give me a reason why.
  2. As a special thanks (and if you want more research-backed content), be sure to pick up our guide on 10 Ways to Convert More Customers with Psychology (it’s free!). You should check it out because it’s a really good read ;-)

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the comments!

About the Author: Gregory Ciotti is the content strategist for Help Scout, the invisible help desk software for small business owners. Get more research tidbits from Greg on Help Scout’s customer loyalty blog.

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