Tag Archive | "Worth"

Alice Seba: How This Canadian Mother-Of-Three Sold Over A Million Dollars Worth Of Content Other People Created

 [ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] Alice Seba started out online in 2002, after the birth of her first child. She wanted to figure out a way to avoid working a job so she could spend more time with her son. It…

The post Alice Seba: How This Canadian Mother-Of-Three Sold Over A Million Dollars Worth Of Content Other People Created appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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Just How Much is Your Website Worth, Anyhow? An Easy Guide to Valuation

Posted by efgreg

We all work hard building our businesses.

We put in the sweat equity and all the tears that can come with it to build something truly great. After another day hustling at the office or typing furiously on your keyboard, you might be wondering… what is the end game here?

What are you really going for? Is there a glowing neon sign with the word “Exit” marking the path to your ultimate goal?

For the majority of businesses, the end goal is to eventually sell that business to another entrepreneur who wants to take the reins and simply enjoy the profits from the sale. Alas, most of us don’t even know what our business is worth, much less how to go about selling it — or if it’s even sellable to begin with.

That’s where Empire Flippers comes in. We’ve been brokering deals for years in the online business space, serving a quiet but hungry group of investors who are looking to acquire digital assets. The demand for profitable digital assets has been growing so much that our brokerage was able to get on the Inc. 5000 list two years in a row, both times under the 500 mark.

We can say with confidence that, yes, there is indeed an exit for your business.

By the end of this article you’re going to know more about how online businesses are valued, what buyers are looking for, and how you can get the absolute top dollar for your content website, software as a service (SaaS), or e-commerce store.

(You might have noticed I didn’t include the word “agency” in the last paragraph. Digital agencies are incredibly hard to sell; to do so, you need to have streamlined your process as much as possible. Even though having clients is great, other digital assets are far easier to sell.)

If you’ve built a digital asset you’re looking to exit from, the first question you likely have is, “This sounds fantastic, but how do I go about putting an actual price tag on what I’ve created?”

We’ll dive into those answers below, but first let’s talk about why you’re already in a great position just by being a reader of the Moz Blog.

Why is SEO the most valuable traffic for a digital asset?

SEO is by far the most attractive traffic source for people looking at purchasing online businesses.

The beauty of SEO is that once you’ve put in the work to achieve the rankings, they can maintain and bring in traffic for sometimes months without significant upkeep. That’s in stark contrast with pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, such as Facebook ads, which require daily monitoring to make sure nothing strange is happening with your conversions or that you’re not overspending.

For someone who has no experience with traffic generation but wants to purchase a profitable online business, an SEO-fueled website just makes sense. They can earn while they learn. When they purchase the asset (typically a content website for people just starting out), they can play around with adding new high-quality pieces of content and learn about more complicated SEO techniques down the road.

Even someone who is a master at paid traffic loves SEO. They might buy an e-commerce store that has some real potential with Facebook ads that’s currently driving the majority of its traffic through SEO, and treat the SEO as gravy on top of the paid traffic they plan to drive toward that e-commerce store.

Whether the buyer is a newbie or a veteran, SEO as a traffic method has one of the widest appeals of any other traffic strategy. While SEO itself does not increase the value of the business in most cases, it does attract more buyers than other forms of traffic.

Now, let’s get down to what your business is worth.

How are online businesses actually valued?

How businesses are valued is such a common question we get at our brokerage that we created an automated valuation tool that gives a free estimate of your business’s value, which our audience uses with all of their different projects.

At the heart of any valuation is a fairly basic formula:

You look at your rolling 12-month net profit average and then times that by a multiple. Typically, a multiple will range between 20–50x of the 12-month average net profit for healthy, profitable online businesses. As you get closer to 50x you have to be able to show your business is growing in a BIG way month over month and that your business is truly defensible (something we’ll talk about later in this article).

You might see some brokers using a 2x or 3x EBITDA, which stands for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization.

When you see this formula, they’re using an annual multiple, whereas at Empire Flippers we use a monthly multiple. There’s really not much of a difference between the two formulas; it mainly depends on your preference, but if you’re brand new to buying and selling online businesses, then it’s helpful to know how different brokers price businesses.

We prefer the monthly multiple since it shows a more granular picture of the business and where it’s trending.

Just like you can influence Google SERPs with SEO knowledge, so can you manipulate this formula to give you a better valuation as long as you know what you’re looking at.

How to move the multiple needle in your favor

There are various things you can do to get a higher multiple. A lot of it comes down to just common sense and really putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes.

A useful thing to ask: “Would I ever buy my business? Why? Why not?”

This exercise can lead you to change a lot of things about your business for the better.

The two areas that most affect the multiple come down to your actual average net profit and how long the business has been around making money.

Average net profit

The higher your average net profit, the higher your multiple will tend to be because it’s a bigger cash-flowing asset. It makes sense then to look at various ways you can increase that net profit and decrease your total amount of expenses.

Every digital asset is a little different in where their expenses are coming from. For content sites, content creation costs are typically the lion’s share of expenses. As you approach the time of sale, you might want to scale back your content. In other cases, you may want to move to an agency solution where you can scale or minimize your content expenses at will rather than having in-house writers on the payroll.

There are also expenses that you might be applying to the business but aren’t really “needed” in operating the business, known as add-backs.


Add-backs are where you add certain expenses BACK into the net profit. These are items that you might’ve charged on the business account but aren’t really relevant to running the business.

These could be drinks, meals, or vacations put on the business account, and sometimes even business conferences. For example, going to a conference about email marketing might not be considered a “required” expense to running a health content site, whereas going to a sourcing conference like the Canton Fair would be a harder add-back to justify when it comes to running an e-commerce store.

Other things, such as SEO tools you’re using on a monthly basis, can likely be added back to the business. Most people won’t need them constantly to run and grow their business. They might subscribe for a month, get all the keyword data they need for a while, cancel, and then come back when they’re ready to do more keyword research.

Most of your expenses won’t be add-backs, but it is good to keep these in mind as they can definitely increase the ultimate sales price of your business.

When not to cut expenses

While there’s usually a lot of fat you can cut from your business, you need to be reasonable about it. Cutting some things might improve your overall net profit, but vastly decrease the attractability of your business.

One common thing we see in the e-commerce space is solopreneurs starting to package and ship all of the items themselves to their customers. The thinking goes that they’re saving money by doing it themselves. While this may be true, it’s not an attractive solution to a potential buyer.

It’s far more attractive to spend money on a third-party solution that can store and ship the product for you as orders come in. After all, many buyers are busy traveling the world while having an online business. Forcing them to settle down just so they can ship products versus hanging out on the beaches of Bali for a few months during winter is a tough ask.

When selling a business, you don’t want to worry only about expenses, but also how easy it is to plug into and start running that business for a buyer.

Even if the systems you create to do that add extra expenses, like using a third party to handle fulfillment, they’re often more than worth keeping around because they make the business look more attractive to buyers.

Length of history

The more history you can show, the more attractive your business will be, as long as it’s holding at a steady profit level or showing an upward trend.

The more your business is trending upward, the higher multiple you’re going to get.

While you can’t do much in terms of lengthening the business’s history, you can prepare yourself for the eventual sale by investing in needed items early on in your business. For example, if you know your website needs a big makeover and you’re 24 months out from selling, it’s better to do that big website redesign now instead of during the 12-month average your business will be priced on.

Showing year-over-year growth is also beneficial in getting a better multiple, because it shows your business can weather growing pains. This ability to weather business challenges is especially true in a business whose primary traffic is Google-organic. It shows that the site has done quality SEO by surviving several big updates over the course of a few years.

On the flipside, a trending downward business is going to get a much worse multiple, likely in the 12–18x range. A business in decline can still be sold, though. There are specific buyers that only want distressed assets because they can get them at deep discounts and often have the skill sets needed to fix the site.

You just have to be willing to take a lower sales price due to the decline, and since a buyer pool on distressed assets is smaller, you’ll likely have a longer sales cycle before you find someone willing to acquire the asset.

Other factors that lead to a higher multiple

While profit and length of history are the two main factors, there are a bunch of smaller factors that can add up to a significant increase in your multiple and ultimate valuation price.

You’ll have a fair amount of control with a lot of these, so they’re worth maximizing as much as possible in the 12–24 month window where you are preparing your online business for sale.

1. Minimize critical points of failure

Critical points of failure are anything in your business that has the power to be a total deal breaker. It’s not rare to sell a business that has one or two critical points, but even so you want to try to minimize this as much as possible.

An example of a critical point of failure could be where all of your website traffic is purely Google-organic. If the site gets penalized by a Google algorithm update, it could kill all of your traffic and revenue overnight.

Likewise, if you’re an Amazon affiliate and Amazon suddenly changes their Terms of Service, you could get banned for reasons you don’t understand or even have time to react to, ending up with a highly trafficked site that makes zero money.

In the e-commerce space, we see situations where the entrepreneur only has one supplier that can make their product. What happens if that supplier wants to jack up the prices or suddenly goes out of business completely?

It’s worth your while to diversify your traffic sources, have multiple monetization strategies for a content site, or investigate having backup or even competing suppliers for your e-commerce products.

Every business has some kind of weakness; your job is to minimize those weaknesses as much as possible to get the most value out of your business from a potential buyer.

2. High amounts of traffic

Higher traffic tends to correlate with higher revenue, which ultimately should increase your net profit. That all goes without saying; however, high traffic also can be an added bonus to your multiple on top of helping create a solid net profit.

Many buyers look for businesses they can optimize to the extreme at every point of the marketing funnel. When you have a high amount of traffic, you give them a lot of room to play with different conversion rate optimization factors like increasing email options, creating or crafting a better abandoned cart sequence, and changing the various calls to action on the site.

While many sellers might be fantastic at driving traffic, they might not exactly be the biggest pro at copywriting or CRO in general; this is where a big opportunity lies for the right buyer who might be able to increase conversions with their own copywriting or CRO skill.

3. Email subscribers

It’s almost a cliche in the Internet marketing space to say “the money is in the list.” Email has often been one of the biggest drivers of revenue for companies, but there’s a weird paradigm we’ve discovered after selling hundreds of online businesses.

Telling someone they should use an email list is pretty similar to telling someone to go to the gym: they agree it’s useful and they should do it, but often they do nothing about it. Then there are those who do build an email list because they understand its power, but then never do anything useful with it.

This results in email lists being a hit-or-miss on whether they actually add any value to your business’s final valuation.

If you can prove the email list is adding value to your business, then your email list CAN improve your overall multiple. If you use good email automation sequences to up-sell your traffic and routinely email the list with new offers and pieces of high-quality content, then your email list has real value associated with it, which will reflect on your final valuation.

4. Social media following

Social media has become more and more important as time goes on, but it can also be an incredibly fickle beast.

It’s best to think of your social media following as a “soft” email list. The reach of your social media following compared to your email list will tend to be lower, especially as social organic reach keeps declining on bigger social platforms like Facebook. In addition, you don’t own the platform that following is built off of, meaning it can be taken away from you anytime for reasons outside of your control.

Plus, it’s just too easy to fake followers and likes.

However, if you can wade through all that and prove that your social following and social media promotion are driving real traffic and sales to your business, it will definitely help in increasing your multiple.

5. How many product offerings you have

Earning everything from a single product is somewhat risky.

What happens if that product goes out of style? Or gets discontinued?

Whether you’re running an e-commerce store or a content site monetizing through affiliate links, you want to have several different product offerings.

When you have several products earning good money through your website, then a buyer will find the business ultimately more attractive and value it more because you won’t be hurt in a big way if one of the “flavors of the month” disappears on you.

6. Hours required

Remember, the majority of buyers are not looking at acquiring a job. They want a leveraged cash-flowing investment they can ideally scale up.

While there’s nothing wrong with working 40–50+ hours per week on a business that is really special, it will narrow your overall buyer pool and make the business less attractive. The truth is, most of the digital assets we’re creating don’t really require this amount of work from the owner.

What we typically see is that there are a lot of areas for improvement that the seller can use to minimize their weekly hour allotment to the business. We recommend that everyone looking to sell their business first consider how they can minimize their actual involvement.

The three most effective ways to cut down on your time spent are:

  • Systemization: Automating as much of your business as possible
  • Developing a team: The biggest wins we see here tend to be in content creation, customer service, general operations, and hiring a marketing agency to do the majority of the heavy lifting for you. While these add costs that drive down the average net profit, they also make your business far more attractive.
  • Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs): SOPs should outline the entire process of a specific function of the business and should be good enough that if you handed them off to someone, they could do the job 80 percent as well as you.

You should always be in a position where you’re working ON your business and not IN.

7. Dig a deeper moat

At Empire Flippers, we’re always asking people if they built a deep enough moat around their business. A deep moat means your business is harder to copy. A copycat can’t just go buy a domain and some hosting and copy your business in an afternoon.

A drop-shipping store that can be copied in a single day is not going to be nearly as attractive as one that has built up a real following and a community around their brand, even if they sell the same products.

This fact becomes more and more important as your business valuation goes into the multiple six-figure and seven-figure valuation ranges because buyers are looking to buy a real brand at this point, not just a niche site.

Here are a few actions you can take to deepen this moat:

  • Niche down and own the market with your brand (a woodworking website might focus specifically on benches, for example, where you’re hiring expert artisans to write content on the subject).
  • Source your products and make them unique, rather than another “me too” product.
  • Negotiate special terms with your affiliate managers or suppliers. If you’ve been sending profitable traffic to an affiliate offer, often you can just email the affiliate manager asking for a pay bump and they’ll gladly give it. Likewise, if you’re doing good business for a drop-shipping supplier, they might be open to doing an exclusivity agreement with you. Make sure all of these special terms are transferable to the buyer, though.

The harder it is to copy what you’ve built, the higher the multiple you’ll get.

But why would you EVER sell your online business in the first place?

You’re now well-equipped with knowledge on how to increase your business’s ultimate value, but why would you actually sell it?

The reasons are vast and numerous — too many to list in this post. However, there are a few common reasons you might resonate with.

Here are a few business reasons why people sell their businesses:

  • Starting a new business or wanting to focus on other current projects
  • Seeking to use the capital to leverage themselves into a more competitive (and lucrative) space
  • Having lost any interest in running the business and want to sell the asset off before it starts reflecting their lack of interest through declining revenue
  • Wanting to cash out of the business to invest in offline investments like real estate, stocks, bonds, etc.

Just as there are a ton of business reasons to sell, there are also a ton of personal reasons why people sell their business:

  • Getting a divorce
  • Purchasing a home for their family (selling one digital asset can be a hefty down payment for a home, or even cover the entirety of the home)
  • Having medical issues
  • Other reasons: We had one seller on our marketplace whose reason for selling his business was to get enough money to adopt a child.

When you can collect 20–50 months of your net profit upfront, you can do a lot of things that just weren’t options before.

When you have a multiple six-figure or even seven-figure war chest, you can often outspend the competition, invest in infrastructure and teams you couldn’t before, and in general jumpstart your next project or business idea far faster without ever having to worry about if a Google update is going tank your earnings or some other unforeseen market change.

That begs the question…

When should you sell?

Honestly, it depends.

The answer to this question is more of an art than a science.

As a rule of thumb, you should ask yourself if you’re excited by the kind of money you’ll get from the successful sale of your online business.

You can use our valuation tool to get a ballpark estimate or do some back-of-the-napkin math of what you’re likely to receive for the business using the basic multiple formula I outlined. I prefer to always be on the conservative side with my estimations, so your napkin math might be taking your 12-month average net profit with a multiple of 25x.

Does that number raise your eyebrows? Is it even interesting?

If it is, then you might want to start asking yourself if you really are ready to part with your business to focus on other things. Remember, you should always set a MINIMUM sales price that you’d be willing to walk away from the business with, something that would still make you happy if you went through with it.

Most of us Internet marketers are always working on multiple projects at once. Sadly, some projects just don’t get the love they deserve or used to get from us.

Instead of letting those projects just die off in the background, consider selling your online business instead to a very hungry market of investors starting to flood our digital realm.

Selling a business, even if it’s a side project that you’re winding down, is always going to be an intimate process. When you’re ready to pull the trigger, we’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

Have you thought about selling your online business, or gone through a sale in the past? Let us know your advice, questions, or anecdotes in the comments.

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Amazon is Now Worth More Than Microsoft, Becomes the World’s Third Most Valuable Company

The race in becoming the first company to reach the trillion dollar mark in terms of market capitalization is still ongoing. However, Amazon is a strong contender as its long-running market rally continues unabated. Thanks to a sharp rise in its company’s shares on Wednesday, Amazon became the world’s third most valuable company, overtaking Microsoft for the first time.

Amazon shares surged by 2.6 percent on Wednesday—an increase of $ 36.54 a share in just a single day of trading. Closing at $ 1,451.05 per share, the online retail giant is now valued at $ 702.5 billion. Its market value went up by $ 17.69 from the previous day’s close.

While Microsoft managed to post some gains on the same day, it was not enough to offset Amazon’s increase. The software giant’s stock rose by 1.6 percent or $ 1.40 per share, translating to an increase in total market cap by $ 10.78 billion. The company is now valued at $ 699.22 billion on Wednesday’s close.

At the moment, only two companies are worth more the Amazon. Gadget maker Apple is still number one with a market valuation of $ 849.2 billion. Meanwhile, Google’s parent firm Alphabet is in the second spot currently valued at $ 746 billion.

Amazon continues to dazzle investors and has managed to post a 73 percent increase in the past year. As a result, CEO Jeff Bezos overtook Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as the world’s richest person. Microsoft’s 41 percent increase in the past 12 months was not enough to offset the online retailer’s meteoric rise.

[Featured image via Amazon]

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Writers: It’s Time to Get Paid What You’re Worth

This week is for our professional writers — whether you’re a freelancer or you work for a bigger organization. We’re tired of you missing out on the great gigs and the plum jobs, while you watch people zoom past you who can hardly type The Cat on the Mat. Poverty is overrated. Let’s get you
Read More…

The post Writers: It’s Time to Get Paid What You’re Worth appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Penguin 4.0: Was It Worth the Wait?

Posted by Dr-Pete

For almost two years (707 days, to be precise), one question has dominated the SEO conversation: “When will Google update Penguin?” Today, we finally have the answer. Google announced that a Penguin update is rolling out and that Penguin is now operating in real-time.

September has been a very volatile month for the SERPs (more on that later in the post), but here’s what we’re seeing in MozCast for the past two weeks, including last night:

In a normal month, a temperature of 82°F would be slightly interesting, but it’s hardly what many people were expecting, and September 2016 has been anything but a normal month. It takes time to refresh the entire index, though, so it’s likely Penguin volatility will continue for a few days. I’ll update this graph over the next few days if anything more interesting happens.

What happened in September?

September has been the most volatile month for SERPs since I started tracking temperatures in April of 2012 (just a couple of weeks before Penguin 1.0). To the best of my knowledge at this time, the volatility during the rest of September was not due to the Penguin 4.0 roll-out.

There are no official statements (currently) about other updates, but we’re aware of two things. First, many local SEOs saw major shifts around September 1st, when MozCast tracked a high of 108°F. This has been dubbed the Possum Update, and reports are that local pack URLs also moved substantially (MozCast does not track this data). We did see an overall drop in local pack presence in our data set on that day (about 7.3% day-over-day).

Second, between September 13th and 14th there was a massive drop in SERPs with image (vertical) results on page 1 in our data set. This caused substantial volatility, as image results occupy an organic position and so those SERPs got an extra organic result on page 1. The temperature that day was 111°F. Here’s the two-week graph of SERPs with image results on page 1:

SERPs with images in our data set dropped 49% overnight and have not recovered. I’ve hand-checked dozens of these results and have verified the drop. In some cases, images moved to deeper pages. It’s unclear if other vertical/universal results were affected.

Were you affected by Penguin 4.0?

I’ve often said that measuring algorithm flux is like tracking the unemployment rate. It’s interesting to the economy at large if the rate is 5% or 6%, but ultimately you either have a job or you don’t. If you were hit by an algorithm update, it’s little comfort that the MozCast temperature was low on that day.

Hopefully, if you were impacted by Penguin in the past and have made changes, those changes have been rewarded (or soon will be). The good news is that, now that Penguin is real-time, we shouldn’t have to wait another two years for a major refresh.

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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Is Residential Solar Energy Worth It?


The amount of solar energy varies greatly depending on what part of the world that you can live. Places to get much sun are most beneficial when it comes to installing residential solar power systems. Any person residing in an area like Florida or Phoenix would actually losing significant savings. You can save thousands of dollars a year with a residential solar system if you live in one of these areas. It is very obvious and if you thought you could not afford it, but have skills in hand-man of reach, think again!

Prices and quality vary to turn your home for residential solar energy. There are many factors that affect the productivity of the entire solar house. The largest is the place where you live, but another factor may be the type of system you want to install.

Some homeowners solar disconnection from the network altogether and use the backup battery. By including a battery backup system, the price of your solar energy system will increase. However, if you really want to be free from the power company, is your route. The energy is stored in batteries when used more electricity is produced. This energy is stored for times when the panels are not receiving sunlight, and night.

Most families choose to remain connected to the network instead of using a storage battery. Be connected to the network to be able to take the additional electricity (if necessary) from the electric company. It is also necessary for those who want to install a partial solar system, for those who can not afford a complete system to cover the entire home.

For those who remain connected to the network and produce more energy than they consume at some point, your meter box will be going back. When this happens, it means that you are feeding electricity to the grid and get credit for it on your bill! This is known as “net metering”.

There are some factors to consider when looking at the price of a residential solar installation. Many people may be surprised by the initial cost of a system. However, tax exemptions are available for families who run their homes on green energy. This can help offset costs dramatically and may be in the form of a credit, payment, or cuts in property taxes.

As more residential options available solar energy and solar gains occur, solar energy is becoming more convenient than ever. At the same time, the cost of all forms of energy are increasing. Did you think in the short term gain? Are you ready to get more for your money and go green?

In the era of today, we have more opportunities to reduce our footprint and save money than ever. The cost of installing a residential solar power system became affordable for the average family. Depending on the installation, converting your home to use solar energy can vary from a few hundred dollars to more than ten thousand dollars (professionally installed systems are very expensive).

If you have been concerned about the environment or looking to save money, we highly recommend that residential solar try I suggest. If you can afford a professional installation, go! However, if you want to go green and can not afford a system of this type, a project of solar energy to try. Projects DIY solar power seems complicated, but in reality are very simple and affordable. The level of quality depends on your care and craftsmanship, but DIY solar panels produce as much energy than other solar panels!

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The 7 Keys to List Posts that Are Worth Writing (and Reading)

canvas painting of scattered numbers

A lot of smart writers can’t stand list posts.

What’s a list post? It’s also known as a numbered list post, or a (shudder) listicle, and it’s a post whose headline features a numbered collection of things. This post, for example, is a list post.

There are an awful lot of crummy ones out there. The celebrity sites make frequent use of them (These 17 Celebrities Used to Be Hot, etc.). In fact, all of the CRaP blogs use them liberally.

So it’s natural that a quality-focused content writer (like you) might try to avoid them. But that would be silly. And here’s why:

Smart marketers have always focused on underlying human psychological drivers. And those drivers change very little, if at all.

One of them, for whatever reason, is that we get a tiny bit mesmerized by numbers. When we see a number in a headline, part of our brains gets activated (what persuasion scholar Robert Cialdini calls a Click, Whirr response), and we’re that much more likely to take an action — like, say, clicking on that headline to check out the whole piece.

Take a look at the Popular Posts section to the right of this article. You’ll see lots of numbers.

Now did those posts become popular because they had a number in the headline? No. A number is a nice booster, but it’s not a substitute for strong writing, solid content strategy, or effective promotion.

And that’s the problem with how most people look at list posts. They start with the number in the headline — but that’s not the right place to start. Which leads to my first tip:

# 1. Don’t start with a numbered list

You may have received an assignment from an editor, supervisor, or client to “Write a Listicle on 10 Ways to Do Our Thing.”

Your very first order of business is to go to your favorite writing forum and bemoan the fact that the word listicle is now part of your life. I’m sorry. If we can figure out a way to burn this out of the English language, we will.

But let’s move forward.

Even if this is technically your assignment, the worst way to create a list post is to open your writing tool of choice and put the numbers one through 10 in there, then look for ways to fill them in.

It’s probably the fastest way. But it is not the right way.

You must begin with the itch that needs scratching. There needs to be a seed of a problem, an unanswered question, a fascination to know more.

Those seeds can only come from your audience. The seed of a killer list post for electrical engineers won’t work at all on an audience of Hello Kitty cosplay enthusiasts. (Although there may well be some overlap.)

Pro tip: Some of your best-performing list posts can come from strong, interesting, problem-solving content that you realize, after it’s mostly written, can be lightly re-organized into a numbered list.

#2. Understand what problem you’re solving

All good content starts with the same impulse: to solve a reader problem. (Even if the reader’s problem is boredom, which is the case for pure entertainment sites.)

As the content creator, it’s your job to understand those “itches” of your audience. You have to know what’s worrying them. You have to know what excites them. You have to understand what they’re afraid of, and what they cherish, and what they are unwilling to lose.

Human existence is full of problems to solve. Some of them are simple and some are so complex that they take a lifetime to untangle. Every collection of humans (in other words, every audience) has its own set of problems.

If you want a list of what kind of content to create, build a list of your audience’s problems. Answer those problems in your content, using numbered lists (and any other persuasion technique you learn) when they make sense.

Keep listening for problems, and keep researching more effective ways to resolve those problems. That, more than anything else, is what creates your authority in a topic.

#3. What makes it fascinating?

The cornerstone of good content is usefulness. But usefulness without interest is Wikipedia, and that’s already covered.

Boring content — even if it’s useful, and even if it’s “optimized” by whatever measure you choose — doesn’t succeed. It doesn’t get shared and it doesn’t get read. (Or listened to, or viewed.)

If you consistently put fantastic headlines on mediocre or boring content, all you do is train people that much more quickly to avoid your site.

Luckily for us, relevant problems are inherently interesting. If your target audience is people with celiac disease and you put a recipe for really good gluten-free baguettes in front of them, they’ll find you.

But a good content creator doesn’t stop there. We look for angles. Fascination elements. (You can learn more about fascination in Brian’s podcast interview with Sally Hogshead, published earlier today.)

A strong writing voice will elevate content from “moderately useful” to “must-read.” So will a compelling metaphor that makes the content easier to understand. And storytelling is the big gun — the one that makes your content unforgettable.

This is where the art comes in — and why writers who have the combination of killer and poet are the ones who enjoy the most success. The killer knows what kinds of content to create to move toward certain outcomes. But it’s the poet who creates something worth the audience’s time and attention.

Pro tip: Make time to write purely for pleasure. Screenplays, poetry, fiction — whatever way you like to play with words. Writers who know how to play with language also know how to fascinate.

#4. What’s the strategic goal?

Creating content just to get traffic and make advertisers happy is the hardest way to make a living on the web — and one you should get away from as quickly as you can.

Content marketing is a different game. It doesn’t just attract eyeballs; it exists to support a business — to attract new prospects, and educate and nurture them until they’re ready to buy.

Different types of content serve different purposes. Some content exists to find people who don’t know you yet. Others, to strengthen your relationship with your audience. And some content addresses objections and educates prospects on why you’re the best choice to solve their problem.

Even good writers can have a tendency to throw a bunch of content against the wall and see what sticks. That’s not a smart use of your time. Understand content strategy and why you’re creating every piece of content you write or record.

Pro tip: Take advantage of the excellent free resources that are available on content strategy. We happen to be pretty proud of ours — why not swing by and scoop up our free marketing course and library. Two books by Brian Clark — A Content Marketing Strategy that Works and How to Create Content that Converts — will be especially helpful to you as you work through your content strategy.

You can get the complete marketing library here.

#5. Make it scannable

Once you have something worth reading — that solves a worthwhile problem, is expressed in an interesting way, and has the spark of poetry to make it memorable — you’ll want to wrap it up in a way that’s pleasurable to consume.

Long walls of gray, tiny type are not pleasurable to consume. Neither are videos or audio with awful sound quality.

Sleek presentation and formatting won’t save mediocre content — nothing can do that. (Not even a terrific headline.) But they’ll make good content much more enjoyable for the audience.

Pro tip: Pamela Wilson wrote up an excellent, succinct guide to presenting text content in a way that’s more appealing to your audience — without dumbing it down in any way.

#6. Promotion still matters

Once you have something worth your audience’s time, it’s time to think about promoting it. Content promotion is a big topic — I wrote a whole ebook on it.

In the brief space we have here, I’ll just encourage you to take content promotion seriously. Develop a network of publishers in your topic, cultivate a reputation as someone who creates epic material, and remember that nothing sells itself. Even great content benefits from a bit of a push.

Pro tip: You actually should read my ebook on this; it will help you. It’s called Effective Content Promotion, and it’s also in that free members-only marketing library.

7. What’s the next step for the reader?

The tough part about content is, you’re only as good as your last great post.

So if you do the first six steps perfectly, and end up with a nice audience of fascinated readers who want to know more, you need to have thought through precisely what you want them to do next.

Usually, the right answer is to send them to even more smart, worthwhile content in the form of an email autoresponder.

But your call to action might be different. Your desired action might be to subscribe to a page, to register to vote, to get out and take a walk, to give our kids a hug, or just to click through to some more great content.

The important thing is to decide, before you publish and promote, what that next step for the audience is.

Pro tip: Clear, straightforward calls to action are a hallmark of the professional copywriter. Get very good at them.

What to do next

If there’s any doubt in your mind about what you should do next, let me take care of that for you. Go snag all of our free marketing education. You’ve got a comprehensive library of ebooks, so you can instantly delve into solutions to your most pressing marketing problems. That’s paired with a marketing course, delivered by email, that will keep you sharpening your skills.

Go grab all of the good stuff here.

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Heather aka Molly.

About the author

Sonia Simone

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

The post The 7 Keys to List Posts that Are Worth Writing (and Reading) appeared first on Copyblogger.


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5 Content Marketing Links Worth Clicking

The Lede | copyblogger.com

This week on The Lede

  • 7 Lessons Apple Can Teach Us About Persuasive Content
  • You Need to Master the Rules Before You Can Reinvent (or Break) Them
  • Entreproducer Q&A No. 1: Your Content Marketing Questions Answered
  • 10 Lessons Journalists Can Teach Content Marketers
  • A Massive List of Common Misconceptions

Want to grab even more useful links (beyond those that make The Lede)? Follow @copyblogger on Twitter.


7 Lessons Apple Can Teach Us About Writing Persuasive Content

Ms. Duistermaat has distilled (what I consider to be) the occasional genius of Apple Inc.’s copywriting into a handful of useable tips. You may not have the cash reserves of the little company from Cupertino, but you can learn to write the kind of copy that converts, persuades, and helps to build a business.


You Need to Master the Rules Before You Can Reinvent (or Break) Them

“When you’re 16, you think you can take on the world. And sometimes you’re right.” Bono (as The Fly) uttered that statement almost 20 years ago. It’s true, but there’s a downside. Youth — whether in the sense of age or experience — often calls to cast off “the rules.” Sometimes, this sheer bravado can work in our favor, but more often, it’s a perfect recipe for failure. If you know nothing of the game you’re playing, how can you know anything of how to innovate within it?


Entreproducer Q&A No. 1: Your Content Marketing Questions Answered

Brian Clark and I asked the Entreproducer audience to give us their best questions, and they delivered. Check out our answers in this first of several Q&A epsiodes (and sign up for the email list to get the coming episodes).


10 Lessons Journalists Can Teach Content Marketers

For all the hits that “old school” journalism takes from bleeding-edge digital media types, I say it’s time to shut up, sit down, and learn a thing or two from our predecessors. Digital content is maturing quickly, but the basic journalistic practices of building credibility through fact-checking, research, follow up, and good writing should be returned to again and again. Whether you’re an individual blogger, or running a growing digital media empire, temper your pride from time to time and turn back to the basics of your craft.


A Massive List of Common Misconceptions

Think of this Wikipedia article as a glass of cold water for those staring into the desert of the blank screen. Get out of your own head for a moment, click that link, and see where it takes you … and your content.

Miss anything on Copyblogger this week?

About the Author: Robert Bruce is VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media, as well as its Resident Recluse. Get more from him via Twitter or Google+.

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For What It’s Worth, The House Thinks The Government Shouldn’t Control The Internet

Does the government want to regulate the Internet? It really depends on who you ask. Internet freedom fighters say legislation like SOPA and CISPA are thinly veiled attempts to regulate the Internet. The government, however, claims that it’s strictly taking a hands-off approach.

The House reaffirmed its hands-off approach in legislation it passed yesterday evening. The bill, H.R. 1580, is titled “To affirm the policy of the United States regarding Internet governance.” If you couldn’t tell from the title, it’s simply a resolution saying that the United States will continue supporting the multi-stakeholder approach in regards to Internet development.

It’s encouraging then that the bill was passed unanimously. Of course, no congressman would be caught dead voting against the bill as it would suggest that they were in favor of some rather unpopular suggestions made during a U.N. meeting on Internet governance late last year.

The bill’s sponsor, Greg Walden, praised the multi-stakeholder approach to the Internet on the House floor last night, and confirmed that the bill is meant to send a message to other governments:

“Government’s hands-off approach has enabled the Internet’s rapid growth and made it a powerful engine of social and economic freedom. This bipartisan bill is designed to combat recent efforts by some in the international community to regulate the Internet, which can jeopardize not only its vibrancy, but also the benefits that it brings to the entire world.”

Now, this is a good thing. It’s nice to see that at least the House is all for an Internet free from government control, but it’s unfortunate that the House sees a difference between control and intervention. SOPA, PIPA and CISPA wouldn’t hand over control of the Internet to the government, but it would give the government untold powers to intervene.

It’s much the same argument that countries like Saudi Arabia and China made during the ITU conference last year. They weren’t arguing that the Internet be placed entirely under their control. Instead, they argued that they should be given power over their corner of the Internet to intervene when things got out of control. Granted, CISPA and SOPA were never advocating something like the Great Firewall of China, but they could spiral into something similar if allowed to take effect.

In short, the Internet is a precious resource that has flourished thanks to the current multi-stakeholder model. It’s encouraging to see the U.S. government continue to recognize this, but it’s high time the U.S. government also recognize that its attempts to regulate the Internet would violate the very resolution the House passed last night.

[h/t: The Hill]


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5 Content Marketing Links Worth Reading

The Lede | copyblogger.com

This week on The Lede

  • The One Tool that Will Make You Better at Everything
  • Is Audio The Next Big Thing In Digital Marketing?
  • 4 Reasons Content is the Startup of the Future
  • A “Revolutionary” Marketing Strategy
  • Thomas Edison, Power-Napper

Want to grab even more useful links (beyond those that make The Lede)? Follow @copyblogger on Twitter.


The One Tool that Will Make You Better at Everything

At a glance, this looked to me like a headline veering into hyperbole, but I was wrong. It’s great advice, and the kissing cousin of the all-powerful tool of any great human being — the ability to listen. Want to find out what it is?


Is Audio The Next Big Thing In Digital Marketing?

Brian Clark and I have this audio vs. video conversation every few months. As far as marketing is concerned, you can do great work with either, of course. But, I’m one who’s all in on audio, I like to take these little podcasts with me (in my pocket), without being asked to watch a screen for 10, 20, or 120 minutes. Soon as one of these brilliant developers figures out a way to make audio subscriptions brain-dead easy, I think it’s game over …


4 Reasons Content is the Startup of the Future

I am (obviously) not a VC. But it’s always been a bit confusing to me why those folks have tended to shy away from content companies. Even if you haven’t built a home run like Mr. Goldberg has, he makes a few strong arguments for why content makes for a stable, and potentially very profitable investment. Copyblogger (a multi-million dollar software and education company) was, after all, founded on an initial schedule of just two blog posts a week.


A “Revolutionary” Marketing Strategy

Without diving too deeply, Mr. Sheridan lays out a wonderful and — particularly for experts in almost any field — supremely workable content marketing strategy in this short article. If you really know your sh*t, there’s a great chance that your prospects and customers want to know it too. Take a few days to plan the scope of your attack, then stick to it. Then prosper.


Thomas Edison, Power-Napper

I can’t be held responsible for the fallout of you getting caught napping on the job. I can, however, offer you a great excuse for that moment when you find yourself staring up at your boss in a partial dream-state haze, “You know Thomas Edison napped regularly, right?” Don’t have a boss? Sleep tight.

Miss anything on Copyblogger this week?

About the Author: Robert Bruce is VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media, as well as its Resident Recluse. Get more from him via Twitter or Google+.

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