Cover image of Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing

Rank #52 in Careers category

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Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing

Updated 3 days ago

Rank #52 in Careers category

Business News
Read more

Copyblogger FM is a weekly, short-form broadcast hosted by Sonia Simone. Each week, she and a cast of rotating experts analyze the week in content marketing, copywriting, email marketing, conversion optimization, mindset, and much more.

Read more

Copyblogger FM is a weekly, short-form broadcast hosted by Sonia Simone. Each week, she and a cast of rotating experts analyze the week in content marketing, copywriting, email marketing, conversion optimization, mindset, and much more.

iTunes Ratings

265 Ratings
Average Ratings

Nice tone, very informative

By Byrd4I - Jan 13 2018
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Always a pleasure to listen to this podcast.


By Ehab Mohsen - Apr 17 2017
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this podcast is gold ... every episode.

iTunes Ratings

265 Ratings
Average Ratings

Nice tone, very informative

By Byrd4I - Jan 13 2018
Read more
Always a pleasure to listen to this podcast.


By Ehab Mohsen - Apr 17 2017
Read more
this podcast is gold ... every episode.
Cover image of Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing

Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing

Updated 3 days ago

Rank #52 in Careers category

Read more

Copyblogger FM is a weekly, short-form broadcast hosted by Sonia Simone. Each week, she and a cast of rotating experts analyze the week in content marketing, copywriting, email marketing, conversion optimization, mindset, and much more.

Rank #1: 10 Quality Factors Search Engines Need to See on Your Site

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What do the search engines mean by a “high quality site”?

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While technical SEO still exists, a huge chunk of modern search engine optimization consists of “generating high-quality content.”

So what does that mean? When a search engine ‘bot looks at your site, what kinds of things is it looking for?

In this 23-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Some of the things (both simple and complicated) that can mess up your search rankings
  • Why you need to use professional-quality tools if you care about your web traffic
  • 10 factors that generate the “signals of quality” that search engines look for
  • Other ways to get discovered beyond the search engines

The specific quality factors I talk about include:

  1. Mostly original content (not scraped)
  2. A reasonable commitment to quality
  3. Freedom from stupid tactics like keyword stuffing
  4. Using the language of your audience (in other words, keyword research)
  5. Usefulness
  6. Truth
  7. Creativity and interest
  8. Smart content promotion
  9. Good links
  10. Breadth, depth, and richness — showing you actually know the topic

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes

The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by for all the details
  • Sean Jackson’s post on OCDC (optimizing content for discovery and conversion)
  • Follow the link in this post to pick up my ebook on content promotion (it’s free with registration)
  • Good tools include reliable site monitoring to keep malware and hackers away. We like Sucuri
  • A post I wrote about the right way to think about Google
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments!

The Transcript

10 Quality Factors Search Engines Need to See on Your Site

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the all new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those of you who are selling physical products, digital downloads, or membership programs. If you re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why more than 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. You can check it out by going to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress. That s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Hey there, good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the Chief Content Officer for Rainmaker Digital and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get extra links, extra resources, and the complete show archive by going to Copyblogger.FM.

SEO for the Rest of Us

It is March already, and this month on the Copyblogger blog we’re going to be talking quite a bit about SEO, search engine optimization. The art of getting found by the search engines and more important, getting found by people who use search engines. I try to never talk about SEO without introducing the subject by saying there are so many people who know a lot more about the technical side of SEO than I do. Many, many, many people. We’re going to be inviting some of those people, some SEO heavy hitters, to the Copyblogger blog this month. They’re going to be talking about some of the more advanced scenarios, some of the more technical considerations of search engine optimization.

Today, I am not going to talk about that, because I’m not qualified to talk about that. Instead I’m going to talk about, I guess you could call it SEO for the rest of us. The kinds of best practices, solid business advice that normal businesses, especially smaller businesses that don’t have massive websites or massive budgets, things that we can do, good best practices that we can use, to improve our chances of getting found in the search engines, and just as important, not to waste money on things that don’t work well, things that are outdated, or something that’s being sold to us by somebody who’s really not fantastically great at SEO themselves.

If you are trying to rank for the keyword weight loss, or something along those lines, something ultra competitive, if you have a massive site, a very database rich site, lots of queries, lots of data, lots of things going on, this podcast might be a little bit beyond your ken. Although, I do think that there are going to be some things you’re going to find useful here for how to structure your content, because that’s the part that I do know something about. Just to put the thing as crudely as possible, a search engine will rank your site well, in other words it will come in toward the top of the search engine’s results page, if it feels that your site is generating signals of high quality.

Some of the Things (Both Simple and Complicated) that can Mess Up Your Search Rankings

There are two approaches to search engine optimization. You can try to figure out what the algorithms are looking for today. That, of course, could change tomorrow. Then you can try to figure out how to generate a signal that matches what the algorithm is looking for. Or, you can create a site that is high quality. Immediately, all the SEOs are going to be yelling and rightly so, because that is really putting it overly simply. However, for a smaller business, for an individual website, for somebody who has a blog who’s just trying to get some search traffic on some keywords that are not ferociously competitive, it’s a thing. Creating a site that actually is good is a thing and it helps.

I’m going to talk about some of what goes into that in this podcast and also in my Copyblogger post on the same topic. Now I’m not going to tell you that gaming the search engines never works, because that’s not true. It certainly has worked, it still works in some cases. The thing I will say is that I have been in this business for quite a while now, a good chunk of years. I have noticed that the ones who really crow about the results they get from being fairly creepy and fairly spammy and the ones who are really condescending about how well their creepy spam fest is working are the ones that one day you just don’t hear from anymore, because all of their clients overnight lost their rankings.

Does a certain amount of tomfoolery still work? Yeah, it probably still works. The problem is, when it stops working it’s really irritating to try and figure out why and fix it. I ignore those kind of tactics. I don’t have the bandwidth to keep up with them. It’s not what I’m good at. What I look at are essentially content fundamentals. For me, that’s really where the success is. That’s where I really see results.

Let’s start talking about specific recommendations. The first one is make sure your site isn’t borked. In other words, make sure that there is not something technical going on on your site that is messing you up. There are any number of things that you can do to mess things up.

For example, you can buy links and get caught, that will mess you up. You can also have, and this is a bit embarrassing when it happens, you can have some code on your website that tells search engine bots not to crawl the site, or not to index the site. In other words, not to analyze it, or if they do analyze it, don’t report it in the search engine s results page. It’s a little thing on your site called the robots.txt file. I’ll give you a link that’ll show you what to look for, what not to look for.

It seems a bit silly, but sometimes, for example, somebody might have been working on your site, set one of these parameters to don’t index the page because I’m working on it and I don’t want it to index right now. Then you wonder why you’re not getting rankings. It’s just ’cause somebody forgot to turn that off. These are things that can happen. Small things, but a small thing with technology will bork it up just as bad as a major problem.

Why You Need to Use Professional-Quality Tools if You Care about Your Web Traffic

To that end, I really recommend if you care about your website, if you care about how much traffic you get, if you care about your search engine rankings, you have to use a reasonably professional grade class of tools. In other words, you’re going to use a premium WordPress theme. You’re going to use real hosting, you’re not going to use like the $2 a month stuff. You’re going to pay for site monitoring to make sure that some weirdo hasn’t hacked your site without you realizing it. You’re going to use tools, professional grade tools. These are not necessarily ultra crazy expensive. I’m not talking about something that’s going to cost you $1,000 a month, but I am saying a moderate professional investment.

If your site is teeming with malware, then your customers are not going to want to go through, Google is going to have a little warning on the search engine s results page that’s going to say, “This site seems to have something yucky going on,” and other bad things will happen. You have to take reasonably good care. The most common problem that I hear from people about or that I hear about when I talk to people at conferences is a site that got borked by a bad SEO. This is a thing that can happen. Somebody comes in whose sales ability is a ten and whose actual technical SEO ability is like a 1.2 and implements all kinds of shenanigans and problems happen. Again, that’s not a bash on SEOs. It is a bash on terrible SEOs. Just like every other profession, there are plenty of them out there.

If somebody who comes in, they don’t know what they’re doing, they either buy a lot of really bad links or they stuff your content with a lot of keywords and tell you that they’re SEOing your content. Somehow, SEOing as a verb can be a red flag. I’ve seen that not work well, or people who make a lot of technical behind the scenes changes that instead of making your site cleaner and simpler for the search engines to analyze, which is an important part of technical SEO, they’ve made things complicated or confusing because they’re trying to play games.

I do not know of a remedy for a bad SEO who’s come and messed things up for you, other than to hire a really good SEO to come in and fix it. That person is not going to be the most budget person. I’m not going to say they’re going to be a fortune, but don’t expect to be a cheap fix and do not expect it to be an instant fix, unless you do have something silly like you’re robot’s text is set to no index or something.

Most SEO problems, if they’re real problems, take time to get corrected. If you’re using somebody’s time who’s very good at their job, then that’s going to cost money as well. Hopefully no such terrors have visited you, and we can talk about creating a quality site. And more to the point, what does a search engine mean when it’s looking for a high quality site?

10 Factors that Generate the Signals of Quality that Search Engines Look for

I’m just going to give you a little bit of a laundry list of some of the things that these algorithms are looking for that shows the search engines that your site is better than somebody else who’s writing about the same topics. Your content needs to be original. It’s content that you created, it’s not something that you scraped. People get hysterically worried about the duplicate content penalty, which is not exactly a thing. It’s okay if there is some content on your website that also appears in other places on the web. There are ways to finesse that and manage it, but your site’s not going to get dinged by Google if you have some content that also appears elsewhere.

Much of your content should be original. If you do have something that is original but also appears in other places, then you need to follow some basic, decent SEO practices and help the search engines recognize that yours is the one that they should consider to be the real one, this is the real post. The second factor is a reasonable commitment to quality. What I’m saying is not that all of your content should be able to be republished in The New Yorker at any moment, but that if you would like to rank for a particular term, a particular phrase, you have to be creating better content around that phrase than other people who are writing about it.

The more competitive your keyword phrase is, or your phrases are, the more amazing your content is going to have to be. That’s just logical. Your content is going to be free of foolishness like stuffing it with keywords in a extremely outdated attempt to fool the search engines into thinking it’s super, super relevant. You don’t ever want content that’s had something done to it in the name of SEO that makes it weird or awkward for a person to read. That, for me, is my most important north star, my most important rule of thumb. The content has to work for human users first and foremost and then you tweak it lightly, lightly so that the algorithms can find you and efficiently understand what your site’s doing.

A good site, a high quality site from the point of view of a search engine is going to use language that is related, that mirrors the kind of language that users enter into the search engine when they’re looking for something. That’s what keyword research is all about. It is very simply using the language that your audience is using to write about and think about the topic. It’s not any more exotic than that.

How does your intended audience think about this? What kinds of specific words do they use when they have a question about your topic? For this reason you can get into some issues with your search traffic if you use a lot of cutesy, in-terms, things you made up, for concepts that nobody else really shares with you. That can work well if you get a big enough audience for it. I’ve seen some marketers, and it’s kind of good from an audience building perspective, they have this whole private language that they use around their stuff. That’s fine, but make sure there’s some normal human speech in there as well.

High quality sites are useful. They answer questions that people are searching for. They are true. They’re not fake news, they’re not … Has fake news been doing well in search engine results? Yes it has. Is that going to keep being true? Probably not. It is a problem that is being worked on. Please publish information that is true, that is useful, that is helpful. If all we want to be is true, useful and helpful, we might as well all go work for Wikipedia, right?

Useful is not enough. It has to be interesting. The reason it has to be interesting is not that the bots that conduct these crawls and analyze content get bored easily. It’s because content that is interesting to people gets people to generate those signals of quality. Those are things like links, spending a lot of time on your website, sharing them. If your content is useful and interesting, it’s going to generate those signals of quality. And PS, special bonus, those signals of quality tend to get your content in front of more people. It’s building your authority with search engines, but just as important and really more important, it’s getting your content in front of people who could benefit from it, which is the point, right? It is the point of the exercise.

One thing I want to talk about is I think sometimes we definitely fall into this trap of thinking that if the content is good, so we made it interesting, we made it true, we made it useful, and so we’re going to publish it and then through some kind of magical event, Google is going to know that it’s good and reward it with a good ranking. That’s not really how it works. We have to publicize our content in order for people to start looking at it and generating the signals of quality. It has to be good first, because if you publicize crappy content you’re not going to get what you want. That means we have to start thinking about things like developing our professional network, about cultivating a community of publishers in our topic, about supporting each other’s work. All those good things.

I have a whole ebook on content promotion that will help you with that if that concept stresses you out. The ultimate signal of quality at this point is still links, as far as I know. Real links from real people, not links from weird sites that nobody’s ever heard of, but solid links from credible websites created by people who know what they’re talking about. Those are still the strongest signal. You get that signal by creating something worth linking to. Incidentally, I just talked about that community of publishers in your topic, give links to people who are producing good stuff on your site. Link to people who are good. It’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do for your audience, it’s the right thing to do just in general. Be part of the community. Don’t imagine that this whole thing takes place in some kind of isolation ward, because it doesn’t.

The final thing I’ll talk about in terms of quality signals is really the breadth of your site, the richness of your site. We are not in the world anymore where one really well optimized web page will tend to rank. It can for a specific enough set of keywords, but by and large your site needs to have some richness. It needs to have a good volume of content that addresses your topic in different ways, in important ways. That’s why one of the more useful things you can do, especially when you’re launching a site, but really anytime when you want to just give your site some vitamins in terms of getting more attention, is to put together a cornerstone of the most useful, the most interesting kinds of content, the how-to content, answering the most important questions, that just essential knowledge cornerstone.

Other Ways to Get Discovered Beyond the Search Engines

If you can get 10 posts, 12 posts, 20 posts written about key topics in what you write about and get them published, that really helps. Again, it helps the bots, the algorithms, understand that you know about the topic, that you have a lot to say about it and you really have something to offer the searcher. That’s what they’re looking for. The final thing I’ll say is just keep in mind that Google is not the only game. For one, people do actually use other search engines. Google has a very large share of search traffic, but it doesn’t have all of it. More to the point, people discover sites and they discover content in multiple ways.

One of my business partners, Sean Jackson, wrote a post about this on Copyblogger. The way that he refers to it is OCDC, which is optimizing content for discovery and conversion. I have to admit that around the digital office the phrase OCDC makes some of our rather OCD people twitch a little bit. The point is we don’t live in the world of, Hire the right SEO, buy the right links, make certain technical tweaks and then you’re going to get traffic and you’re going to make a lot of money. That’s not the world we’re in anymore. The world we live in today is about people finding you from all over the place. More to the point, they find you from all over the place and they come across you again and again. You keep crossing their path.

They might see you from a search in a search engine, but they also might see you on social. They might see your social advertising. They might see a Facebook ad that you ran. Then they might get a recommendation, a referral from a friend. All of these things add up and work together to create a path that leads people to you and so it’s not just ranking the search engines and then a miracle happens. It’s more complex than that. The nice part about that is, you can be working on the whole path while your search game is being built. Over time, search is going to become an important part of it but it probably won’t be the whole thing. Really summing it up, the best practice in search engine optimization is to create content that deserves to be found.

I will repeat that because it is important. The best practice is to create content that deserves to be found. Then you figure out the path to getting found. The search path, the social path, what have you, and you make the tweaks, you make the changes that are going to make it easier to do that, that are going to smooth that path out a little bit and make it a little easier to see you in this vast forest of content. SEO techniques that help you do that or that are harmonious with that goal of creating content that deserves to be found are probably going to serve you well.

SEO techniques that you would never in a million years do if you weren’t trying to rank, those are the ones you really have to look at and ask yourself, “Is this a good use of my time? Is this a good use of my money? Is there any way in which what I’m doing is compromising my larger goal?” That’s what you want to stay away from. I hope you will tune in this month for SEO month. It’s going to be, of course, very content focused, but we’re also going to have some more technical people who understand lots of things I couldn’t begin to explain to you. I think it’s going to be fun and interesting and can’t wait to see you there. Take care.

Feb 19 2018
23 mins

Rank #2: 3 Skills to Master to Become a Marketing Badass this Year

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Most of us won’t make a living making “pure art” that only serves our creative expression. But you won’t make a reasonable living writing cynical garbage, either.

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Hope your new year is going well! Brian Clark and I have had some great conversations about what we want to write and teach in the new year, and it boils down to two words: killer and poet.

In this 16-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why it’s a silly (and expensive) mistake to try to promote a business with cheap, crummy content
  • Why we think 2018 will be the year of the Word Nerd
  • The key element to content strategy today (and yesterday, and probably tomorrow)
  • How (and why) to get over your fear of the “A-word”
  • Why a technology-first approach can actually kill your content strategy

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

Jul 09 2018
15 mins

Rank #3: 3 Almost Magical Headline Ingredients for More Traffic, Engagement, and Shares

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Want to do a little bit of work and see really good results with your content? Make some time to learn about crafting great headlines.

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Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

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Copyblogger has long been known for its articles about headlines, and today I’m going to share three “nearly magic” ingredients that will start getting your content more engagement and shares.

In this 20-minute episode, I talk about:

  • How to avoid the “all hat, no cattle” headline
  • The keys to using benefits to make a compelling promise
  • How to use numbers in your headlines without degenerating into the dreaded “listicle”
  • Using headline formulas without descending into the land of cheese
  • What you should do if you use the word “secret” in your headline

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The Show Notes

Jun 17 2019
19 mins

Rank #4: Advice for Poets, Advice for Killers

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William Maynard of the Bates agency once wrote that “… most good copywriters fall into two categories. Poets. And killers. Poets see an ad as an end. Killers as a means to an end.”

And David Ogilvy famously added,”If you are both killer and poet, you get rich.”

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We’ve talked before about the Killer and the Poet — and how you can learn to boost the qualities you might be lacking.

In today’s 21-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why it’s so useful to have that mix of killer and poet in our content
  • The key difference between persuasion that works today and the copy from traditional direct response
  • The specific “tricks of the trade” to look for when you’re reading writing books

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by for all the details.
  • Copyblogger s Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful program that helps writers attract better clients — and more of them. New students will be able to sign up for a limited time soon. Add your name to join the waitlist and to get all of the details when they re available.
  • Whatever you want to work on in your writing, you’ll probably find a good reference on our summer reading list of writing books over on Copyblogger
  • My earlier podcast with additional thoughts on Killers and Poets
  • My Copyblogger post on The Killer and the Poet
  • Joanna Wiebe and Lance Jones’ site Copy Hackers has lots of terrific resources to improve your Killer abilities
  • Bob Bly’s Copywriter’s Handbook is a solid choice for fundamental copywriting techniques

And, of course, I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments!

Nov 13 2017
21 mins

Rank #5: 5 Rules of Thumb to Relieve SEO-Induced Stress

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Does search engine optimization seem depressingly hard to stay on top of? Things do move quickly, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it drive you nuts.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

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Over the past 10 years, Brian Clark has drummed some important things into my head about what we should (and shouldn’t) do to keep Google and the other search engines happy. I’ve boiled them down to five fairly simple rules.

In this 15-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Why we don’t have to accept Google-induced stress disorder
  • How to formulate an evergreen search strategy, even though the rules of search change constantly
  • The question you must answer right away if your livelihood depends on your search engine ranking
  • Why you don’t “deserve” a search engine ranking (even if you follow the rules)
  • Who you should be working on making happy (it isn’t Google)

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by for all the details.
  • This podcast is based on my Copyblogger post, The Right Way to Think about Google
  • Google isn’t the only giant company you need to be wary of overrelying on: The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Digital Business
  • Brian Clark’s 2013 post on Google Authorship — note the important question he asks and answers in the middle of the post — “So what happens if it never happens?”
  • We gathered some of our longtime recommendations on SEO copywriting in an ebook, free with MyCopyblogger registration
  • Lately I’ve been spending more time on LinkedIn @soniasimone — feel free to drop me a question or note there, or right here in the comments
Jun 11 2018
15 mins

Rank #6: 5 Essential Copywriting Techniques from Copyblogger

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If marketing or content strategy plays any role in your professional life, you need to understand copywriting. Here are five of our most important bits of advice for writing that persuades.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

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Persuasive copywriting is a big part of what Copyblogger is all about.

In this episode, I pull a few posts out of our archive, to focus on some of the most important elements of good copywriting. I’ll also give you a quick tip from each one right in the podcast … but to get the most out of this, you’ll want to read through the posts as well.

In this 18-minute episode, I talk about:

  • When to bring in a professional writer
  • Where to find a highly qualified writer if you’re looking for one
  • Why headlines matter so much — and how to get a lot better at them
  • How to keep attention in the few seconds after the click
  • Writing numbered list posts that won’t make you barf
  • The roles of emotion and logic in decision making (and persuasion)
  • The quickest way to make persuasive copy work better

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Sonia Simone: So glad to see you again, and welcome back to CopybloggerFM, the content marketing podcast.

CopybloggerFM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone, I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I hang out with the folks doing the real work over on the Copyblogger blog.

Note: See the show notes for all the links!

When to hire a writer

5 Situations that Demand You Hire a Professional Copywriter

I wrote this post for two reasons — one, if you’re, let’s say, a business owner who’s good at writing, to let you know when you should bring in a pro. And two, if you are a pro, this is a piece you can send to clients or potential clients to let them know just why it is you charge money for what you do.

If you do need a pro, you may or may not know that Copyblogger actually has a certification program for content marketers. Their work is reviewed in-depth

So, if you are a writer or if you want to be a better writer, particularly for web copy, today I’m going to cover five points of focus for you.

#1: Get great at headlines

Copyblogger as a blog was known for headline advice from the very, very early days, for one reason: If the headline is weak, your content won’t get shared which means it won’t get consumed which means it won’t help you accomplish your goals.

When Brian started writing about that on Copyblogger, the environment was different. We didn’t have Buzzfeed, and overall we didn’t have the level of sophistication about the importance of headlines.

It’s so much more important now. You’re competing with a lot of people who are pros at headlines, and you have to be able to compete on that playing field.

We have a free ebook for you in the member library, go to MENU > FREE! MY COPYBLOGGER on the site.

It’s free, you should go get it, and you should spend the time between now and the next podcast practicing headlines. Even if you’re already great.

I’ll give you two to get started but don’t shortchange yourself, go grab the ebook.

  • Make your headlines clear. Cleverness, puns, and confusion won’t get clicks.
  • Make sure the person can see a benefit of clicking. Sometimes it’s dumb, like “Which of the 7 Dwarfs are you,” and sometimes it’s smart, like 10 Ways to Build Authority as an Online Writer. But let people know that the content on the other side of the click will be worth their time and attention.

Bonus third point: Actually make the content worth their time and attention. Don’t put great headlines on crummy content that fails to deliver on the promise.

#2: Start strong

This has always been important advice, but it’s extra important now because people’s attention spans are so fragile and finite today.

Brian Clark has a dandy classic Copyblogger post with five strong, proven ways to get the party started quickly. You’ll be able to use them again and again, and you’ll start seeing them in the content that captures your attention.

My #1 tip on this is, on the Copyblogger blog, we use a More tag. That means you get a teaser, then you click the “More” link to read the full post.

Whether or not you use this on your own site — put an imaginary “More” tag on your content after the first few lines. Be honest with yourself — would you click? What could you do to create a stronger desire there?

#3: Don’t fear the numbers

A lot of good writers shy away from the proven techniques like the numbered list post, which is now called by the most horrible noun ever coined, the Listicle.

Please can we stop using that word ever. It’s writer abuse.

But, numbered list posts can be some of your strongest work, and they still do get more shares and reads. I wrote a post on this, but I’ll give you just one tip from that post:

Don’t start with an arbitrary number and then find points to fill in. Instead, write out what’s important to know about the topic, then assign the number.

If it turns out to be a weird number, like 17 or 6, that can be great. Excellent professional copywriters know that weird numbers often work better to capture attention. “10” is boring. “13” is interesting. “25” is boring. “27” is interesting. It feels less padded, less arbitrary.

Also, make your last number a call to action that moves to whatever your goal is for the post.

#4: Emotion, then logic

Good persuasion always combines emotion and logic. You need to get into the emotional benefits of doing what you’re trying to persuade them to do, then justify it with logic.

This is old-timey copywriter stuff, again. The interesting thing is, it’s very much validated by neuroscience. We actually, physiologically do make decisions first with what we think of as “emotions.” But if we can’t give ourselves logical reasons — justifications — to move forward, there’s a real possibility we’ll balk, because that creates fear and uncertainty.

Again, I’ve got two posts for you with some more details.

#5: Call to Action

This one is a favorite of mine because it’s so fast to fix, and it can make such a difference.

If you want your audience to do something, tell them exactly what to do. Clearly, simply, and succinctly.

Again, sometimes good writers will shy away from this because it “sounds like an infomercial.” It sounds commercial because when you’re paying millions of dollars for infomercial spot, you have to make sales.

You don’t have to be cheesy, but you do need to be direct. Don’t hint around and let them connect that last dot. Ask for what you want.

And yes, we have a post for that! It’s called How to Be a Copywriting Genius: The Brilliantly Sneaky Tip You Must Learn.

And on that note, it’s time for me to make an “Ask” — it really helps the show when you give it a review or a star rating on iTunes, so if you’re an iTunes listener and you feel moved to show us some love there, that really helps us. And a big thank you to everyone who has already left us reviews and ratings, it’s so appreciated.

See you next week!

Oct 22 2018
17 mins

Rank #7: How to Write an Epic Blog Post, Part 1: Thinking and Research

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New series! Part one: How to prepare to write an epic blog post or other piece of remarkable content.

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What’s the best antidote to the glut of content?

Better content. Much better content.

This episode is the start of a three-part series on how to write a genuinely remarkable piece of content.

In this 18-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Digging to uncover the transformation (for yourself and for the world) that you want to create with this piece of content
  • Taking research (way) beyond the basics
  • How to refine and re-refine your idea
  • When to “go shopping in your own closet” for a post
  • Getting unique quotes from experts in your topic

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The Show Notes

Jun 24 2019
17 mins

Rank #8: Real Talk about Generating High-Quality Content

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Thoughts on how to create really good content … without a huge team or an unlimited budget

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Content strategist Ronell Smith joins us this week to talk about how to tackle high-quality content … even if you don’t have all the time and money in the world.

In this 29-minute episode, I chat with Ronell about:

  • Where to put your time and energy in the quest for “great content”
  • Ronell’s somewhat surprising definition of content
  • Why chasing too many trends in your topic can damage your authority
  • A “negative” content habit that can have very positive results

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Jan 21 2019
29 mins

Rank #9: The 7 Things Writers Need to Make a (Good) Living

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Ever been frustrated by the daunting task of making a (really good) living as a writer? I have some thoughts on what it takes …

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Your friends and family might think you’re nuts for pursuing it, but it’s more possible than ever to make a good living as a writer — but (in my opinion), you need a few things to make it happen.

In this 16-minute episode, I talk about:

  • The squishy-but-real foundation of any writing career
  • Balancing the desire to make art with the needs of serving clients and audiences
  • Writing confidence (and humility)
  • The kinds of training to seek out to improve your income
  • The “butt in chair” factor
  • The key thing you have to be willing to do
  • Finding your community of support

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

The 7 Things Writers Need to Make a (Good) Living

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Well hello there, it is awesome to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone, I’m the Chief Content Officer for Rainmaker Digital and I like to hang out with the folks who the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get extra links, extra resources, show notes, and the complete show archive by pointing to Copyblogger.FM in your browser.

Today I wanted to update a piece of content that I wrote a couple of years ago that I really liked and I thought it turned out well, I thought it gave useful advice, and I wanted to just give you an updated version of it. It’s all about making a living as a professional writer. It starts with, if you like to write, if writing is a passion or an interest of yours, you were probably told at one point or maybe multiple points of your life that it’s just not practical to be a professional writer, that writers don’t make a good living. But, that’s not really true, and it’s especially not really true anymore, because the web runs on writing. All of that text that’s published on websites, all of those podcasts, any kind of decent video, all of that relies on good writing to make it work.

Now, we both know that not all writing is well paid, it’s regrettable that a lot of my dear friends who are journalists are having a tough time with more traditional outlets. If writing is your thing, it can be a great way to make a living, if you are willing to kind of embrace a couple of things and adopt a couple of things and learn a few things that may be new to you. I’m going to talk about my take on the seven things that writers need to make a living.

The Squishy-But-Real Foundation of any Writing Career

The first one is going to sound kind of squishy and hippie-dippie, not a major surprise to anybody who listens to me regularly, but I actually think it’s really a true thing that you need, which is you have to love the craft, you have to love the language. You have to care about words and you have to care about getting it right. Professional writers care about language. It just goes with the territory.

If you don’t get a little twitchy when you see bad writing, or bad usage, it’s hard to successfully make that transition to being a paid writer, much less a well-paid writer. Now, I will say you need love, but it’s not necessarily fun. If you go to your computer, or your tablet, or what have you, with a certain amount of un-fun feelings, that’s actually quite normal, probably the case for more pro writers I know than not. It’s not fun every day, but you do have to have a love for it that kind of transcends that not-fun moment.

Balancing the Desire to Make Art with the Needs of Serving Clients and Audiences

The second thing you need if you’re going to make a living writing is you have to have an attitude of service, because you’re going to be writing for clients and you’re going to be writing for the audiences of those clients. Or alternately you’ll write for your own business, but for the audience that supports that business. You’re serving the audience that’s going to read the content, listen to the content, what have you, and you’re serving the business that pays those bills.

Now, it can be art and I think you should always strive for it to be art, but it’s not really self-expression. It’s selective self-expression at best. So, if that bugs you, then something that helps me to think about, it might help you, is that a great deal of the greatest art in history was made for patrons. When we are making something for someone else, that does not mean it has to be crummy, or cynical, or poorly crafted, or anything of the kind. It can be amazing, but you have to approach it from an attitude of service.

Writing Confidence (and Humility)

The third thing that you are going to need is a good dose of confidence, of professional confidence. Actually, better than confidence, I like my colleague Jerod Morris’s term, “primility,” which is pride combined with humility. You have to have some confidence, you have to have some pride just in doing the work. In the amount of time that you have spent putting sentences together, putting paragraphs together, thinking about the words, thinking about the music of the language, thinking about structure, and clarity, and all that stuff that writers think about.

You have to be able to have some confidence and pride in that. The flip side of that coin is you will never ever stop learning this craft, you will never completely master it. There is an element of humility there, and it’s a very wise thing to cultivate that humility and realize that there’s always more that you can learn.

The Kinds of Training to Seek Out to Improve Your Income

The fourth part is where it can get somewhat non-obvious, that is that it takes training. You have the wordsmith part of being a professional writer, that’s the craft of writing, making good sentences, that kind of stuff. You also have, honestly no matter what kind of writing you’re doing, there’s a marketing component. If you want to get paid, you have to be able to persuade. Even if you’re writing fiction, you’re going to have to market that fiction, you’re going to have to find the audience for it.

Well paid writers understand the strategy of writing that makes things happen, whether it’s for fiction writers and of course we primarily talk about commercial writers at Copyblogger, fiction writers write to create strong emotional states and create kind of a transported world that people can go to. Persuasive writers write words that make people want to go do a thing, make them want to buy a product, make them want to sign up for an email list, all of that stuff.

If you want to be a well-paid writer and you are interested in going in the commercial direction, you have to get some decent training on things like copywriting, on persuasive writing, on using writing to sell, on writing with different commercial strategic goals in mind, that kind of thing. Obviously, Copyblogger has a ton of resources for you on that, just starting out with the blog and lots and lots of professional writers read our blog for which we are terribly, terribly grateful. We also have a whole free e-library with books all about content strategy and you can just go grab that for free.

Copyblogger is known for content strategy and writing advice, but did you know that we certify content marketers? If you have a great writing voice and are willing to learn rock solid content strategy, check out the opportunity to be a Copyblogger certified as a content marketer, by going to Don’t delay, because our enrollment period opens in mid September, 2018. That’s

The Butt in Chair Factor

The fifth thing every professional writer needs is discipline, is that ability to get the butt into the chair and get the work done. There’s not really any way around it, right? You can create hacks and habits that will help you get it done, but you can’t be a professional writer unless you can put the time in to put the words together. I am a giant fan of creating small habits and then rolling those up into bigger habits.

I’ve written about that a few times, I’ve podcasted about it a few times. And so, if that’s what it takes and your discipline is not where you’d like it to be, I tend to have all kinds of resources here on the podcast about that, because I have a hard time with it. So I have lots of advice to share with you about how I work with that, but you do have to make the time to put the words together and craft them well.

The Key Thing You Have to be Willing to Do

The sixth thing that you’re going to need, and I touched on it a little bit earlier, if you want to make a good living as a writer, no matter what kind of writing you’re going to do, you have to be willing to be a marketer as well. The word fairies, the writing fairies are not going to fly in through the window and give you a giant grant to just kind of write whatever you feel like. It’s not going to happen, and you know it, and I know it. You might as well kind of take control of your own thing and be willing to learn more about how to get people interested in what you’re writing, and how to do the kind of writing people want to pay for.

On one level, that’s very obvious and very self-evident and yet, so many really capable writers that I know just prefer not to do it. I think that they prefer not to do it, because they feel like it’s not what good writers do, right? Like, good writers don’t do any marketing, good writers don’t write commercial material, good writers are above all of that. I would encourage you to do what you need to do to work through that idea.

There are a lot of ways that you can care about your craft and do really excellent work and do the kind of work people want to pay for, but you have to be willing to do it. It’s actually quite interesting. There’s a kind of a science, it’s a soft science, but there is a science to communicating with an intention to persuade, and communicating with an intention to do all the different strategies of content marketing. The kinds of things you write to get attention when we’re in a very crowded sort of a verbal environment on the web, and then the kinds of things that you write to educate somebody about a product or a service, and the kinds of techniques that you use when it’s time to maybe sell something.

It’s a whole new set of things to learn, and they’re all quite interesting, and they can all be done in ways that are not cheesy, or creepy, or dopey. I would really encourage you to pursue that if you’ve been a little reluctant. Again, we have like a million things for you to look at on Copyblogger and I have a couple of posts that have some ideas for you along those lines. Again, you can find them in the show notes by going to Copyblogger.FM.

Finding Your Community of Support

Then, the final thing that I really want to encourage you to pursue, if you want to make a living as a writer, if maybe you are a professional writer and you would really like to make a better living as a writer, which I’m all about that, I support that, I think it’s a good goal, is you need to get some support in place. You need to get some other people who understand this peculiar way that you have chosen to make a living and can help you out with the tough times and encourage you when things go well. I think so often we turn to our families, we turn to our significant other, or our parents, or whoever it is, and we kind of expect them to be that support crew for us.

I think that is tricky and often, it just doesn’t work, because you have to recognize that what you have chosen to spend your life doing is peculiar. Unless those people are peculiar in the same way, they’re going to have a very hard time getting it. They’re going to be worried about you, they’re going to tell you that making a living writing is just not really in the realm of the practical. It’s not really fair or reasonable to expect people who are not writers, who don’t make a living as creatives, to support you as you’re trying to figure it out and you’re trying to kind of do new things with it.

Find a community, again, I mean, it can be as simple as just talk with the folks who comment on the Copyblogger blog, and go to their blogs, and make connections there. You can come to the Authority community, there’s a whole thriving community of content marketers there who get what you’re doing and may have some advice for you, as well as encouragement when things are … when you’re having a tough day.

But, get that community of support. I think it’s one of the most important factors in helping you get through the bumps. There’s always bumps in the road. Anytime you do something that most people don’t do, you’re going to encounter problems, and hurdles, and frustrations. And if you have other people who have kind of been down the same path, it’s so, so helpful. It just really makes a world of difference.

So, that’s what I’ve got for you today, my take on the seven things that writers need to make a living and not just to make a living, but also to make a good living. If you have additional thoughts, if you think I’ve missed one, or maybe there’s one of these that’s really been powerful for you, I always love when you come by and leave me a comment, let me know your thoughts. Again, you can just go to Copyblogger.FM and let me know what’s on your mind. Thank you so much for your time and attention and I’ll catch you next week. Take care.

Sep 04 2018
15 mins

Rank #10: 7 Ways to Boost Your Creativity

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There’s so much content marketing out there that’s perfectly ok … but it lacks creative spark. Here are some ways you can get more vitality into your blog posts, videos, and podcasts.

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When we write, day-in and day-out, it’s easy for things to get a little stale.

In this 16-minute episode, I talk about some of the techniques and approaches we use at Copyblogger to keep the creative flame burning. Specifically:

  1. Tell quick stories
  2. Find striking metaphors or analogies
  3. Mix the senses
  4. Maybe you’re funny?
  5. Practice your voice (social media works!)
  6. Escape your echo chamber
  7. Fire off The Godin Hack

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The Transcript

7 Ways to Boost Your Creativity

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the all new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those of you who are selling physical products, digital downloads, or membership programs. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why more than 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. You can check it out by going to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress. That s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Hey there. It is good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get extra links, extra resources, and the complete show archive by pointing your browser to Copyblogger.FM.

Today I want to talk about some ways you can bring a little more creative spark to your content. Maybe you’re producing content. It’s technically good. It’s useful. It’s structurally sound. It’s well written in terms of grammar and usage, but it’s too similar to too many other things, and it just doesn’t have that kind of juice to it. It doesn’t have that creative edge that you need to have if your content is going to work in today’s super competitive environment.

I pulled together seven techniques or approaches you can use to just get a little more life into your content and to bring that something extra, that something special to what you are creating, whether it’s writing, videos, podcasts. It works for any of these.

Tell Quick Stories

The first one is the most powerful one, but in a lot of ways, it’s the hardest one to bring in, and that is to tell a good story. You can tell a good story right off the bat, or you can lead into it. They’re both very, very powerful. Your ability to tell a quick, relevant, punchy little story is something that can do more for your content than probably anything else you’ll ever learn how to do. If you want to get some ideas about how to tell these quick, effective stories, look at jokes. Look at the way that jokes are constructed and the way that they’re told, especially fast jokes, quick jokes.

You also want to keep an eye out for good stories. If you read popular nonfiction, popular nonfiction is full of good stories. It’s just required now for that genre. Keep an eye out for how they’re told, and when you find one when you’re reading, take notes about it, really look at it. How does it establish the characters of the story? You cannot have a story without some kind of character, at least one interesting character. How does it establish the conflict in the story, the thing that keeps the story interesting and compelling? And then what’s the punchline? What’s the moral of the story? What’s the point of telling the story in the first place, and how is that delivered? How is it shown? How is it illustrated? How is it highlighted?

I did write about this for Copyblogger, so I will get you a link in the show notes, with just some kind of specific craft tips for how stories actually get constructed. I think a lot of people think that storytelling is an innate talent, and some people for sure seem to be very good at it, but it is something that can be learned.

Find Striking Metaphors or Analogies

The second way that you can put some more creative life into your content is to keep an eye out for interesting metaphors or analogies, comparing one thing to something that it is not very much like on the surface. The more different the two are, the more energy it creates, and the more interest, the more texture it lends to the content.

Now, metaphors and analogies, as you can imagine, often combine nicely with story. You can tell a quick story, even a two or three sentence story, about something completely off topic, completely different to what you typically write about. Maybe you’re going to tell a story about the lifecycle of a particular kind of moth, and that brings you around. The punchline of that story makes a point in your primary topic, and then you elaborate a little bit about why that is.

These kinds of metaphors and analogies really bring life, really bring something fresh to content. Again, Brian Clark actually wrote about this quite recently on Copyblogger, so I will go ahead and give you a link in the show notes.

Mix the Senses

The third thing that you can do, and this takes advantage of the actual wiring of the brain, is that when we have memories or experiences that involve multiple senses, they make a stronger impression. They’re more vivid, and they’re much more memorable, in fact, if you need to learn something, anything. You need to learn Spanish verbs, or you need to learn the periodic table of the elements, or whatever it might be, if you could combine multiple senses so that you think of copper as being green and smelling like bleach, you will remember it more effectively than if you’re just memorizing a two letter symbol for the element and its atomic weight. That’s why post images matter, because they immediately give you a visual element that combines with text to create a multi-sense experience that makes the content more engaging and more memorable.

Beyond just try and find some good post images, in your writing, and again this applies to spoken word writing, like you have in a podcast, or video tutorials, whatever it might be, work hard to think about invoking specific images. Do things like describe smells, describe sounds. Obviously in a podcast or a video, you may be able to introduce interesting sounds as part of the texture of that content. Talk about colors in your writing. A single color word can create a visual impression very, very economically.

You don’t want to go overboard. You don’t want to have, “It was a dark and stormy night” flowery descriptions all over the place, because those get boring very quickly. But weaving in some of this multi-sensory texture into your writing will really help your words make an impression.

Maybe You re Funny?

The fourth one is a little tricky, but I’m going to include it anyway, which is maybe you’re funny. I say it that way, because everybody says, when they’re talking about writing or content marketing, usually the common advice is, “Well, don’t use humor, because humor is very subjective.” What that actually means is it’s very possible you are not in fact at all funny. Just because you think you are funny does not mean you are funny. If you are, like people often laugh when you say things, and those people, you don’t pay them, they don’t work for you, being funny works really, really well.

Obviously the humor has to suit the audience, so if you are writing content for attorneys, you’re going to need a very, very dry kind of a touch, just that little bit of a raised eyebrow. The word “arch” will help you when you’re thinking about the right tone if you’re going to work in a little bit of humor to make your content a little more memorable. If you’re writing for engineers, think about The Far Side, the great, the great, comic strip of engineers and scientists with an absurd, educated, slightly surreal, and then just slightly goofy kind of combination. It’s a classic piece of American humor, and it works really well with engineers and scientists.

I am not brave enough to go out with very much content that is supposed to be funny the whole way through, because when you bomb, it’s really painful. Much safer is when it doesn’t have to be funny, when it’s just an aside. It’s a way of putting things, it’s a little wry observation, and somebody can smile, or they can not smile, and it works great either way. That’s what I would suggest. If you include some of that, just some kind of wry observations, some little asides without it being overwhelming, that goes a long way, again, to making the voice of that content more distinctive.

Practice Your Voice (Social Media Works!)

My fifth point is to talk about voice, and in a way, I was wrong about story being the most difficult. This one is probably the most difficult. You get a writing voice by doing a lot of writing, and if you do enough writing, then you can’t help but acquire a voice. You will have a voice. You will have a way that you tend to frame things, a kind of range of words that you tend to gravitate toward.

Something that a lot of people might not think of is that social media is hugely helpful in developing your writing voice, because it gives you a place to put a lot of words together in front of other people and see how they come across. Are you making your point? Are you making people smile? Are you making people angry? Are you making people think? Social media can be a really, really good proving ground for writers, which is why there are so many writers on Twitter, even while all the normal people think it’s a horrible place and can’t understand why anyone would ever go there.

When I say that social media is a good place to develop your voice, it’s not about sloppiness. It’s not about that excessive informality that you get very often on social media, or being too lazy to type out the entire word “you.” It’s three letters, I mean seriously? It’s really about getting comfortable with communicating with text, communicating in writing, and getting to a point where you can be relaxed and confident when you have something to say. Social media actually, oddly enough, can really help you with this.

If you are spending some time on Twitter, or on Facebook, or LinkedIn, or wherever you like to be, think about how you’re using language, and maybe make an effort to use all the prompts that are talked about in this podcast, and use your language more creatively and more compellingly, and see how it goes. Social media’s a great place to test these things out.

Escape Your Echo Chamber

My sixth tip, this is almost .. you almost cannot do without this one, is you’ve got to get out of your echo chamber. If you are a writer, go do something that’s not writing. Join a hiking club, or a sketch group, or try skydiving, or do something that’s not about writing, whatever sounds fun, and whatever has absolutely nothing to do with content marketing.

You also want to read outside the topic you write about. You want to read about biographies, or adventure, or romance novels. I don’t care. What is important about this is that it has nothing to do with what you’re spending all day every day writing about, because you’re going to get very boring very fast when the only thing that you think about is your content marketing topic.

Fire Off the Godin Hack

My final tip for you is what I call the Godin Hack, the Seth Godin Hack. In other words, I pretty much stole this technique wholesale from Seth Godin’s blog back in the day when I started my blog. I actually used this very explicitly on my other podcast, Confessions of a Pink Haired Marketer, which I think will rise from its state of slumber at some point soon, and that is things I love, and things I hate.

In other words, you go around through the world doing your thing, going to work, getting to work, taking a lunch break, etc., and you encounter things you love, and you encounter things you hate. And you’re thinking about this all day long. You’re thinking, “I hate that. I love that. I love that. Oh, I really hate that.” You want to capture those, because any post written around those things is almost guaranteed to be interesting, because you’re building on a foundation of an emotional response and a connection, and emotional responses are interesting. Look around for the things you love, the things you hate.

Seth Godin has this way of walking around through the world, and maybe he’ll see a sign in a coffee shop, and he’ll write a two paragraph long post about why it’s a great piece of marketing, or why it’s a horrible piece of marketing. If you think about the world in that way, it applies to the things that are relevant to your topic, and also it applies to all those things that are outside of your echo chamber.

Keep a list. Capture this stuff when you see it, so that you’ll have ideas for either more interesting whole pieces of content, more interesting blog posts, more interesting podcast episodes, or you just need an interesting analogy. You need an interesting example. You need to tell an interesting story. That’s where you’re going to find it, is by capturing these little scraps of things, small observations, as you go around your life doing what you do.

That’s it, seven creative prompts for you that will help you just get more spark, more life into content that works, that is certainly effective and useful but just might need a little more vitality.

If you have not checked out our Content Excellence Challenge posts yet, every month of the year this year, we’re putting up two creative prompts for you. One has to do with your skill, your ability as a writer, with developing you as a writer, and one has to do with making you more productive, with helping you get more writing done, more content created. Both of the prompts this month are directly related to ways that you can get more creativity, more spark, more vitality into your content, make it more interesting, and that’s going to make it more competitive, and more useful.

Check those out if you haven’t already. They typically will run up the first week of every month. April’s challenges are up Thursday from last week. And as always, of course, I will give you a link in the show notes. That’s it for this week. Thank you so much, and I’ll catch you next time.

Aug 13 2018
16 mins

Rank #11: The ‘Obligatory’ Structure of Effective Content

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Fiction needs what editor Shawn Coyne calls “obligatory scenes” — the elements that satisfy audience expectations and make the book a must-read. Do those elements exist for content? And if so … what are they?

Today, Sonia Simone gives her thoughts on the “must-include” elements of a solid content marketing program.

In this 28-minute episode, Sonia talks about:

  • Why it can actually boost your creativity to work within a structure
  • How structure can help take the pressure off of “writer anxiety”
  • The content type that attracts a lot more traffic
  • Why it’s a mistake to stop at getting a lot more traffic
  • The elements that make content interesting
  • The 4 Deadly I’s that will murder your conversion

Remember to drop us examples of these “obligatory” content types in the comments below! I’d love to see what you’ve got going on.

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

The ‘Obligatory’ Structure of Effective Content

Sonia Simone: This episode of Copyblogger FM is brought to you by Digital Commerce Summit. We’ll be telling you more about this amazing live event later in the show, but check out Rainmaker.FM/Summit for all the details. That’s Rainmaker.FM/Summit.

This episode is brought to you by Acuity Scheduling. Acuity Scheduling makes scheduling meetings online easy. Clients can view your real-time availability, self-book appointments with you, fill out forms, and even pay you online. To learn more and get a free 45-day trial, visit That’s

Hey there. It is good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant.

My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get additional links and resources at the show notes, which you can find at Copyblogger.FM, along with the complete show archive.

This week I am reading a book by Shawn Coyne, business partner and longtime friend of Steven Pressfield, the heavy-hitting book and story editor. He has a new book out called The Story Grid based on his very interesting blog and very interesting podcast of the same name.

Why It Can Actually Boost Your Creativity to Work within a Structure

Coyne’s book is all about structure. I’m really interested in writing structure, and the reason is, I have seen over the many years that I have been putting words together that structure is really what makes writing work. It’s what gets what’s in your head, the emotions that are in your head or the ideas or the points of view, and puts them into a shape that someone else can get them into their head.

Structure really is what makes it all work. I’m always interested in a big book on structure. This is probably one of the bigger books on structure since Robert McKee‘s book, Story, which is required reading for screenwriters, but actually also very interesting for anybody creating content or other kinds of persuasive and interesting material for the web.

One of the things that I think Shawn Coyne adds to the conversation is he talks a lot about genre. And genre, of course, more traditionally means things like is it a mystery novel, is it a romance, it is science fiction, is it fantasy. He makes the argument, and I think his argument makes sense, that pretty much any kind of commercial writing will fall into a genre.

Some of them we think of as being genre, like science fiction, and some of them we think of as being non-genre, like literary fiction or serious historical fiction or nonfiction journalism. He makes the point that all of these fall into the category of genre. Because for him, a genre is very simply a promise made to the audience — a certain set of expectations that is set with the audience so that they can pick up the kind of work that they’re in the mood to consume at that time.

He includes realism as a genre, and it’s a component of genre. He breaks down different components. There are soft genres, funny genres. There are hyper-realistic genres, and then there are more fabulist fantasy kind of genres.

Every once in a while, a writer will open up something new. I think you could make the argument that George R. R. Martin really created something that was new. Or if not created, popularized something new by taking fantasy and combining it with a brutal, very gritty realism. George R. R. Martin’s stories, as over the top and violent as they are, you can see some parallels with actual history from the Middle Ages. It’s kind of, what if fantasy novels were as violent and difficult and bleak as some of the worst periods of the Middle Ages were? And you get George R. R. Martin.

These are ideas around fiction, around novels and short stories and plays, so why mention them in the context of content and content marketing? It really comes down to audience expectations. I think that’s where Coyne has really zeroed in on something here that merits a closer look: setting and meeting, hopefully meeting in a really compelling way, a set of audience expectations for the kind of content you’re creating, whether it’s a short story or a novel or a blog post or a tutorial video.

How Structure Can Help Take the Pressure Off of Writer Anxiety

The first alarm bell that gets rung, or the first question that gets raised where people are a little uncomfortable, is this idea that if I have to shoehorn what I’m doing into a genre, then doesn’t that destroy my creativity? Before we get started, I want to address this. In my experience writing fiction, writing nonfiction, writing content — constraints do not diminish creativity. In fact, typically constraints will advance your creativity.

What this kind of structure does, when you understand the structure of what you are trying to create — the effect that you’re trying to create for a specific audience with a certain set of expectations — when you can see the structure, it’s actually very liberating, because if there are problems, you can get to the point where you understand that it’s a structural problem. It’s not because you are an essential failure as a human being. And as writers, we do tend to go there fairly quickly.

I thought Coyne had a rather interesting quote on that: “You as the writer are not the problem. The problem is the problem.” In other words, your content, taking it back to content marketing, is not working not because you’re a failure as a human being, or all the places we go in the dark hours of the night. It’s that the structure is off, or the execution has not hit the mark. And both of those are things that can be addressed and improved.

If you’re going to write a murder mystery and nobody got killed in this murder mystery, that wouldn’t be very much fun, assuming your audience is older than about 7 or 8 years old. Trying to write a mystery story where there’s no discovery of a body is leaving something out of the equation, and the expectations are going to be disappointed.

From there comes this idea — it’s certainly not unique to Shawn Coyne, but he talks about it a lot — of the obligatory scenes. I would have, if I were him, given this a more palatable name. Because as soon as we have this idea of an obligatory scene or an obligatory content type, we immediately rebel. It’s like, “I don’t work for you. I don’t have to write your obligatory scenes.” It’s loaded. Let’s try and unload that, and try and look at it dispassionately.

The concept behind these is simply that if your piece of work doesn’t contain this material, then the audience expectations are not met, and the audience leaves your content disappointed. When we are talking about content that supports business or a project or a nonprofit, or tries to get people to take some form of action, this kind of content also has what we could call obligatory scenes. It’s all about meeting the expectations of your audience and moving them where you want them to go.

Since the expression obligatory scenes is getting a little bit weird and awkward, I’m just going to talk about pages or elements of your website. Now, I’m not going to throw every one of them in here. There are a couple I’m not going to go into in detail. For example, your About page. Please put an About page on your website, and please tell me something about you, the creator of the content, on the About page. I can give you a link with more on that.

Again, that idea of the obligatory scene or the obligatory element — when your site doesn’t have it, your audience wastes all kinds of time looking for it. I can’t even tell you how often I find interesting content that’s been shared on social or I find it through a search. And I can’t find who wrote it, and I can’t get some information about that person and their context. This really diminishes the experience of the content. So the About page I would say is an obligatory element. I will just give you a link to that. I won’t go into it in depth here, because I’ve covered it elsewhere.

I’m going to paint this one in somewhat broad strokes today. We talk a lot about more specifics on this kind of content on the Copyblogger blog. That is definitely the place you want to be if you want to dive deeper into specific kinds of content.

But the first one, broad brush, that I’m going to talk about today is audience attracting content. A lot of the educational sites about how to blog or how to create content — a lot of the sites, a lot of the tutorials — begin and end with this: how to create content that gets people’s attention.

If your site is supported primarily by advertising, this might be all of your content. Advertising is a really brutal way to make a living on the web, but if you are a nail polish blogger or you are a Let s Play Minecraft gaming YouTube channel, it’s probably the model that is the model you have.

The Content Type That Attracts a Lot More Traffic

Whether you’re a nail polish blogger or you are a copyblogger, your content has to capture people’s attention. If we can’t capture attention in the midst of all this noise and all this clutter that people are facing and all this distraction, then we can’t go anywhere else.

That’s why it’s always upfront of any copyrighting formula. In fact, last week when we talked about traditional copyrighting tactics, those folks really know how to nail this one, because they’re paying for the right to put their content in front of your eyes. They’re paying for a piece of direct mail or they’re paying for an ad. So headlines, packaging, intriguing ideas — all of these are ways to boost the audience attraction factor for your content.

Now, there are a couple of ways you can blow it. One of them is that you can just copycat what somebody else is doing. You can just be kind of a weak version of Buzzfeed, or a weak version of Copyblogger, or a weak version of The Bloggess, or whatever it is. You can be a pale copy of somebody else’s vibrant and interesting work.

Another way you can get this wrong is you can be a train wreck. So you can get a lot of attention for being a disaster and a lot of attention for being outrageously foolish. But again, unless you are on a straight advertising model — so you’re somebody like the YouTuber PewDiePie, this is his model. If you’re not on a pure advertising model, where you just get paid if people pay attention to you, the train wreck will not translate into business for you.

Why It’s a Mistake to Stop at Getting a Lot More Traffic

The third way you can get it wrong is you can stop here. You can stop at gaining attention and say, “Well, I’ve got all this traffic, so my blog is successful.” But it isn’t successful until they start to take the next steps. Right now, I’m going to take a very quick break, but we’ll be right back with Copyblogger FM. And I will let you know about a content type, and obligatory content type if you like, that doesn’t just get the attention, but it is what leads to that next step. I’ll talk to you about that in just a moment after the break.

This episode is sponsored by Acuity Scheduling. You know how challenging the back and forth of booking appointments and meetings can be. I don’t know if your email inbox is anything like mine, but sometimes, it can be truly scary. And you can miss out on a client or you can miss out on an important opportunity because you’ve lost track of some crazy, impossible email chain. Would it be kind of awesome if you never had to ask, “What time works for you?” again?

Acuity Scheduling makes the whole process of scheduling your appointments so much simpler. It works with your existing Gmail calendar, Office 365 calendar, iCloud, or Outlook. Clients can view your availability and they can self-book their appointments, they can complete onboarding forms, and they can actually even submit payment, so you can get back to doing what you do best. Acuity helps you avoid no-shows with automatic text reminders and email reminders. It’s simple to use, and they offer really phenomenal customer support as well.

Go to to start booking all of your meetings with zero hassle right now. Now, the paid plans for Acuity start at $10 a month, but Copyblogger FM listeners can get a free 45-day trial of Acuity Scheduling — that’s a month and a half for free — just by using when you sign up. Just to repeat, that’s I just want to thank them for their support of this podcast, Copyblogger FM.

Jerod Morris: Hey, Jerod Morris here. If you know anything about Rainmaker Digital and Copyblogger, you may know that we produce incredible live events. Well, some would say that we produce incredible live events as an excuse to throw great parties, but that’s another story. We’ve got another one coming up this October in Denver. It’s called Digital Commerce Summit, and it is entirely focused on giving you the smartest ways to create and sell digital products and services. To get all the details and the very best deal on tickets, head over to Rainmaker.FM/Summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/Summit.

Sonia Simone: Awesome. Welcome back. We were talking about attention content being what we could call an obligatory form of content. You have to have content on your site that attracts audience attention, or you can’t get anything else to work.

If advertising is not your business model — and often, even if advertising is your only business model — you can go further than just attention content with a second kind of content that we like to call authority, the authority content type.

This is where you show off your ability to help your audience. This comes in a lot of different forms, so typically, a really robust content strategy will include authority content that is free. You could include content also that is free paywall content, and what that means is you don’t have to exchange any money to get it, but you do have to exchange a valid email address for a digital download. Or something we find tends to work a little bit better, membership to a free site, a library type of site, or an archive, if you will.

In some businesses, you have premium content. You have content that exists just for your customers, and that can be content they can pay for. It can be content that is a bonus to something that they paid for, so sometimes the content is the product, and sometimes the content serves the product.

Of course, these come at all levels as well. We’ve got entry-level price points, under-$10 kind of price points. We have a bread-and-butter price point. What that is depends on your volume of customers. And then it’s great if we have a premium price point as well. It just depends on your business model.

Authority content can serve as attraction content as well. Those two can definitely overlap. You can have audience attraction content that also establishes your authority, and some blogs create a lot of this. Copyblogger creates a lot of this kind of content that serves the dual function. It really depends on your business model.

The Elements That Make Content Interesting

The thing that differentiates this from attention content — attention content is interesting, fascinating, if we’re going to use Sally Hogshead‘s term. Authority content is interesting/fascinating and it’s useful. And it is useful in service of something your audience cares about. Not necessarily something that you think is a priority, but relevance and what’s interesting and what’s useful. Those value judgments come from the audience. You are only there to facilitate that and uncover what they’re going to find useful and interesting.

How do we get to interesting? Of course, on Copyblogger, we talk about this almost obsessively. How to create this authority content type, content that is both interesting and useful. But I can give you a few rules of thumb. Authority content becomes interesting, compelling content when it is relevant to my problems as an audience member — when it is addressing something that I am bothered with, bothered by — and it helps give me some solutions and approaches and techniques that I can use to get a handle on the problems that bug me. So, relevant to my problems.

The other thing that makes authority content interesting is when the personality and the values of the content resonate with me. Now, this is going to vary. A personality that works for one set of people is going to completely turn off a different set of people. You can have the exact same advice that’s seasoned differently and appeals to vastly different audiences. We see this all the time. And you especially see it in the big topics — business, fitness and weight loss, parenting.

It often boils down to very solid core principles — they don’t change that much — but delivered with very different seasoning, different values, different tone, different personality. Content that’s delivered without personality is not what people want, unless it’s the only place they can get it. Unless you’re Wikipedia, it’s just not appealing. It loses out on the interesting factor. It might be useful, but if it’s useful and not interesting, it won’t get consumed and it won’t benefit your business.

Finally, authority content is more interesting when it’s packaged to be readily consumable. That’s everything from keeping the language very clean and readable and accessible. It’s about being visually appealing on the page, formatted well on the page. It’s about having a headline that grabs our attention. All of these are about packaging your interesting, useful content to make it just very user friendly and something that people enjoy reading, listening to, watching, what have you.

Just like the attention content type, authority content can go wrong. There are some things that you can do that will derail your efforts. The biggest one is to be boring, to just not stand out, to not be creating something that has a strong voice and resonates with some strong opinions, some clearly defined values. You can do it wrong by delivering it to the wrong audience. You’ll especially see this with poorly designed Facebook ads or other social platform ads. If you serve the piece of content to an audience for whom the content is not relevant, it’s not going to do you any good.

Arrogant content, in my experience, depending on your audience — there are audiences that will respond to it. Most of the time it falls flat, and you get a lot of people with pins come to poke holes in your pomposity. Of course, inept content. If you’re not good at the topic, it’s going to fall apart. You have to know what you’re talking about, and you have to be able to teach it so that people get a good result from it.

Just like the attention content, one of the mistakes people make with the authority content is they stop here. They think, “Well, I have lots of authority. Not only am I getting plenty of traffic, but people really recognize that I know what I’m talking about on this topic, and I’m helping people.” And content creators think they’re done. But there is another obligatory element, and if you don’t have it, your business is not going to do what it ought to do.

That element is action, getting the audience to do the thing they’re here to do. Also known as the whole selling part. If you establish plenty of traffic because you’ve got good attraction content and you’re delivering it well, you might be using some social platform advertising, or you might have a strong SEO presence. You’ve got lots of traffic, and that traffic believes that you know what you’re talking about — you’ve delivered your content with authority.

If you just wait around for people at this point to ask to give you money, it’s going to be a really long wait. We come to the action portion of our content strategy, of our obligatory content elements.

This element of content marketing and copyrighting, it’s very much a craft rather than an art. I would say 80 percent craft, 20 percent art. There is a certain art to it, but it’s very learnable, and it’s very much based on techniques and best practices and testing. So things like your call to action, all of your copyrighting and conversion techniques, conversion psychology. And most important of all, seeing what works and doing more of that and less of what doesn’t work.

Action — this step, this obligatory content type — works a lot better when you put it in the right context. The right context is that context of authority and sustained attention. So not only have you captured their attention in the first place, but you have sustained it over time, which is one of the reasons why that authority content has to be interesting.

Action content is very much about copyrighting technique. We do have lots and lots of materials for you. If you go to the show notes, I will give you some links to some of those. And just like we did before, there are some ways that it goes wrong.

The 4 Deadly I’s That Will Murder Your Conversion

Looking through this, I found four deadly I s. These are not the kind of eyes that look at you. These are the kind of I s that are a capital letter.

The first one is incongruent. And this often happens when you’re not comfortable with selling, which is you have a certain kind of a tone, a certain set of values when you’re establishing authority. And then it goes out the window and you turn into ShamWow guy when it comes time for your sales page.

Sometimes this is because you hired somebody, and that person did not take the extra step of making the tone congruent with your other content. Sometimes it just happens because you’re nervous and you’re putting on something that doesn’t feel natural to you. But either way, if your action content is not aligned with the rest of your content, you’re going to create a trust problem. Because it just feels like you’re pulling the rug out from people.

Any time you have a trust problem, you will not get the result you are looking for. People will not sign up to be on your email list, they will not buy the product. They will not become your client and work with you. They will not eat the vegetables you want them to eat, or take the action that you want them to take.

The flip side of the first deadly I — the second deadly I is ineffective action content or wimpy action content. This also comes when you’re uncomfortable with selling. You’re so worried about being too salesy that you’re just a complete marshmallow, and you do this kind of scuffling your foot on the ground and saying, “I don’t know, I have a thing. It’s OK if you want it. If you don’t want it, I totally understand why. And I don’t want to pressure you, but whatever, it’s there if you’re into it.” At this point, it doesn’t sound like you believe in your own solution.

You have to convey that you actually believe in the thing that you’re asking people to do. If you’re that insecure about it, then you’re making it sound like it isn’t very good. We have to find that balance.

The third deadly I is illogical, and that just means that you haven’t made your case. You haven’t presented enough evidence. You haven’t given us enough benefits and features. You haven’t explained the solution clearly enough so that the person can visualize it. You haven’t really made the persuasion case yet.

A lot of people will come to this point because they’re trying to make their sales material short, and short does not work if people have incomplete information. It has to be logical. The case has to follow. You can format it so it’s easy to skim, so the person can find the information they care about. But you have to make the entire case so people have all the evidence they need to make that decision to move forward.

The final deadly I is probably the most dangerous, which is that the offer is irrelevant. This is the wrong offer for this person. I say that it’s dangerous only in that it’s almost impossible for you to sell something to somebody if that offer is not right for them. If it doesn’t solve a problem they care about — if they are a Taco Bell consumer and you are offering a premium steakhouse price point — it ain’t going to happen. It’s not the right offer for them. It’s not what they’re looking for, and whether they can or they can’t is not relevant. They won’t.

You have to be sure you’re making the right offer for the right person. And in a lot of businesses, we have offerings that are good for some segments of our audience and not for others, and a lot of businesses will have multiple products because we have different people who come to us at different places. And that’s totally cool. It doesn’t mean that an irrelevant offer is bad. It just is not the right fit for that particular person. It might be highly relevant and useful for somebody else. But of course, if it’s not relevant for anybody, you’re not going to sell anything, which is a bummer.

Those are three — I would say three and a half, if we include the About page — obligatory content types. Three As, three and a half As. Now, as it happens, we have seven As. We have a free ebook written by Brian Clark, who is the founder of Copyblogger. He is our CEO at Rainmaker Digital. And he put together a content marketing strategy. In fact, the book is called A Content Marketing Strategy That Works.

It really creates not only these three As — and he talks about them from his point of view, and he also offers some checklists and some things that you can go through, some exercises. He also includes the context, because if these obligatory content types are not put in the right context, they will not tend to be as effective as you want them to be.

You can download that for free over at My Copyblogger. You can always find that at Just look for the education section that says “Free My Copyblogger.” Get signed up for that. You get instant access to a massive content marketing library, and I’ll give you a direct link to that ebook.

That’s it for today. I hope that this was useful to you. I would love to hear about how you are using these content types on your site. If you are into it, why don’t you drop me one link, or you can totally do three links, that’s cool with me, in the comments of this episode over at Copyblogger.FM. Let me know is this action content, is this authority content, or is it attention content. Or is it a blend of two or three of the elements.

I would just be really curious to see how this looks in your business. I always like to look at this stuff. I’m a giant geek for this kind of material. Hope this has been useful to you, and I would love to see you in the comments. Catch you there.

Oct 03 2016
31 mins

Rank #12: The Double-Edged Sword that Can Make (or Break) Your Content

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There’s an incredibly useful tool that can actually sabotage your content … if you don’t use it correctly.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

Start getting more from your site today!

Note: If you want to know more about the upcoming Creative Content Foundations class, get on over to this page and let us know how to get you by email:

Creative Content Foundations interest list

There’s a double-edged sword that can either help us create remarkably robust content — or stop it in its tracks.

It’s technology-assisted strategy. Now, don’t get me wrong, the strategic and analytical tools available today are amazing. We just need to make sure they’re serving us, and not the other way around.

In this 18-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Two ways of thinking about strategy that can both mess you up
  • How analytical and strategic tools can help us serve our audiences better
  • What companies can do to be smarter about how they’re using content strategy tech
  • What writers can do to be part of smarter content organizations

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes

The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by for all the details.
  • Here’s where you can find out more about the upcoming Creative Content Foundations course
  • My recent post on why the content marketing “playbook” doesn’t work the same way it used to
  • My post on content shock
  • This year’s killer and poet post that Brian Clark and I wrote for Copyblogger
  • My podcast episode on killers and poets
  • Feel free to say hi or ask a question over on LinkedIn @soniasimone — or I always enjoy hearing from you right here in the comments
Mar 26 2018
17 mins

Rank #13: 3 Tips Now to Build a Strong Foundation in 2018

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January is the traditional month to work on goals for the new year, but there’s a lot to be said for starting in December.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

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Today, in the middle of a month that can often be hectic and chaotic, I thought I’d talk about three things to noodle on for the upcoming work. Nothing you have to do tons of homework on, just some thoughts to start playing around with.

In this 16-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Some advantages to playing with goals and dreams in December
  • Things to look for (and stay away from) when you’re trying to improve your creative productivity
  • Developing the processes that make writing content as automatic as brushing your teeth
  • How to “connect the dots” and see how your work fits into a larger context

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

Dec 11 2017
16 mins

Rank #14: Creative Strategies for Content Writers

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This week, I talk with copywriter and content creator Kaleigh Moore about her tips for staying productive and creative.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

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Content marketing isn’t an easy game — and when you create content for clients, you need to develop strong skills and habits to keep the creativity flowing.

In this 21-minute episode, I talk with writer Kaleigh Moore about her favorite tips for generating ideas and getting a high volume of quality work done.

We talk about:

  • Her favorite resource for the blog topics that people will actually want to read
  • Finding and shaping a brand voice for your clients
  • Kaleigh’s tips for structuring longer content to keep readers engaged
  • How to prep to write a great piece of content

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

Download MP3 Subscribe by RSS Subscribe in iTunes

The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by for all the details.
  • You can learn more about Kaleigh at her blog.
  • Kaleigh’s tips on structuring content like a pro.
  • I’m always happy to see your questions or thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — or right here in the comments!

The Transcript

Creative Strategies for Content Writers

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those of you who are selling physical products, digital downloads, or membership programs.

If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why more than 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. You can check it out by going to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Hey there. It is so good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant.

My name is Sonia Simone. I am the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hangout with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always get additional links, additional resources by putting Copyblogger.FM into your browser.

I am very pleased today to be joined by Kaleigh Moore. Kaleigh, how are you doing today?

Kaleigh Moore: I’m doing well. Thank you.

Sonia Simone: I’m really pleased that you could join us. We just had an interesting email conversation with my team about some of the things that you’re doing with content and content marketing. I thought people would love to know more about it.

Let’s just get started by letting us know who you are, what you do, what kind of clients you work with, that kind of thing.

Kaleigh Moore: Sure. I am a freelance copywriter or content writer, whichever you like to call it. I’ve been doing this full time for about a little over three years now. And the niche that I focus in is the e-commerce and software-as-a-service world.

Some of the people I work with on a regular basis are folks like Campaign Monitor or Kissmetrics. Or a lot of e-commerce platforms, so like BigCommerce, places like that.

What I do for them is I create blog content. So they’ll give me a topic or I’ll maybe pitch one to them, and then I’ll hash out a really in-depth and interesting piece of content for them.

Sonia Simone: Cool. How did you strike on that as your area of specialty? What led to that?

Kaleigh Moore: I had a background in e-commerce. I owned my own store selling jewelry online for about five years. I had some hands-on experience in that world, which made it really relevant to share my expertise and write about those types of topics.

The software one, I just fell into. It s kind of serendipitous the way it happened. I was speaking with somebody on Twitter, who happened to work for a software company. She was the content manager there. She and I just built up a relationship back and forth.

And so organically we were talking one day, and I was telling her about the freelance writing work I was doing on the side. And she said, “Oh, we actually have an opportunity. We’re looking for some freelancers to bring on as well, so would you like to work with us and see if it’s a good fit?”

That’s just the first introduction I got to that type of customer, and so referrals grew organically from there.

Sonia Simone: Wow. That’s awesome. I thought you had — I really like your blog. I think it’s really interesting.

I really like some of the ideas you have around — as you know, content marketing and blogging in particular can be intimidating, because I think people have a hard time knowing what to write about. They have a hard time feeling confident that what they’re writing about is interesting.

I just thought maybe I would throw a couple questions at you. I know one of your specialties is just brainstorming blog topics that somebody actually would want to read. I wondered if you could share some insights with us about, when it’s time for you to sit down and maybe come up with some pitches for a client, what’s your process?

How Kaleigh Preps to Write a Great Piece of Content

Kaleigh Moore: Of course, the first thing I always ask is, What’s your target audience, and what are your goals for the type of content that we’re going to be creating?

Those are, of course, always the foundation of creating a good piece of content. Making sure that you’re writing for the right person and in the right voice that they need to hear as well.

Topic wise, we go through a couple of different things. We look at what content is already out there, because of course you don’t want to be saying the same thing everybody else has already covered. We look for, well what are some new things that are happening — or maybe, what are some past topics from your blog that have performed really well — to find out what people want to read about and what they enjoy sharing.

That’s another thing we look at: What are the pieces of content that are getting the most social shares or the most engagement — comments on Facebook, things like that? And just bringing all those elements together to start with some titles that sound interesting. And then building off of that from here, building out the outline, and really constructing something that’s new and interesting. And bring something new to conversations that are already happening but has a unique angle.

Sonia Simone: Right. Talk about that a little bit — just conversations that are already happening.

I think that’s so interesting, because I think a lot of times folks fall into one or two traps. They either write about things nobody cares about, just things that are not on anybody’s mind. Or then, of course, the other side of that is the it’s so tried and true.

I see this a lot. You see the same — almost to the same headline — blog post come out on 10 or 12 or 20 different blogs in the same category. And why somebody is going to read yours? What on earth are you doing that s different here?

How do you navigate that — that tension, if you want to call it that. Or do you have any tips for that different, but not too different?

Kaleigh s Favorite Resources for the Blog Topics that People Will Actually Want to Read

Kaleigh Moore: Yeah. I think an interesting way to, at least the way I approach articles, is a rhetorical standpoint. A lot of the people are churning out these pieces of content that are all about the same topics.

Like marketing automation, for one example, is something we’re seeing a lot about. Just tons and tons of posts. But we’re not seeing a lot of original content about these types of things. So kind of trying to take a unique spin on it.

Some places I go for ideas are unconventional I think. And maybe I’m not talking to enough people, but going to the forums and seeing what kind of questions are being asked around these topics, and then addressing those questions within the content. Places like Or Facebook groups who are for groups of marketers. Or Skype channels, or places like even Reddit.

Just going through channels and seeing what are the types of questions that are being asked, and how can we create something that tackles those questions. But it’s also conversational, and interesting to read, and not super scientific to where it’s really dull and tough to wade through.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s funny because I think we’ve been saying that for a long time. And yet I think at lot of people don’t do it, is that just simple social media, just listening.

I think so many people are really quick to get into the conversation. Which is great, conversation is good. But there’s so much you can do just from listening to the conversation. I think sometimes, especially folks who are social media savvy, they just want to jump in and participate.

Kaleigh Moore: Yeah. For sure, I see that all the time.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. All right, good. Well, let’s talk about I think one of the most interesting things for folks like you.

I did this for quite a while as my career. People who write for somebody else, either in a company or freelance — and a lot of times a lot of writers will go back and forth on those.

You’ve got the brand voice, and then you’ve got the customer language, and then you have your writing voice. You come to the game with a writing voice.

When you’re writing for a new client, first how do you find that brand voice for the client? Are there some steps you go through? How much do you work with a client to maybe shape that voice, and then what do you do if you feel like the brand voice for the customer, for your client, is really not hitting it when it comes to their customers. It’s really not resonant.

Finding and Shaping a Brand Voice for Your Clients

Kaleigh Moore: Well, there’s two ways I’ve seen this go. One is I will start working with a new client and they have everything covered. They have a style guide. Here’s our writing voice. Here’s some examples you need to familiar yourself with. In that instance, it’s really just a matter of shaping my writing voice to make it sound like they want it.

They are very clear about what they want. They’ve got everything spelled out, and it’s really just dive right in and write in this style. Just mirror what we’re already doing.

In the cases where they don’t exactly know, I think you have to work through again some of those very preliminary questions about: Who are your audience, and what is your brand persona? Who are you as a company? What is the best, most relevant type of voice for the customer you’re trying to target?

If you’re a law firm or you’re a doctor’s office, obviously it’s going to be very formal and grounded and very serious. If you’re a brand with a little bit more personality, you can experiment with different quirky tones and really conversational content.

And it’s a learning experience at first. You might find that people really enjoy reading that conversational tone, and you can let your own writing voice shine in those instances. In some cases you find that’s just, it’s not really what the customer is looking for, and it feels out of place. So you have to tone it back a little bit.

It’s tough. You really just have to trial and error for those instances where they’re not sure yet.

I’ve personally found that a lot of the time people really do crave that conversational, fun writing voice. Because so much of what we’re seeing is just stale and very formal, and it’s not that engaging when you’re reading it. I tend to lean a little bit more that way, because I have seen it before to well for other clients.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. I think it’s a bit of a revolution.

And I was battling this a little bit with organizations I was in. They have what we think of as a corporate voice. And trying to get them to understand that that may not be really all that resonant for their customers. And if it’s not resonant for the customers, it’s not going to really give you the results you want.

Kaleigh Moore: Very true. Yeah, it’s hard. Because in some situations, the companies need that formality to build their ethos and authority as a very secure company and that people can trust. It’s just not that interesting to read, so you have to strike that balance between fun and your life, I guess.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, for sure. You have some clients you do quite a bit of blog content for. I think, for me, I don’t necessarily have an easy time always knowing which to write about.

Do you have any tricks — any, Oh boy, I just did a big push for this client, and I produced a lot of work I was proud of. And now it’s a new month and I ve got to do it again.

Do you have any tricks?

Kaleigh Moore: I really like going into the Slack channels that I’m part of and, again, just seeing what people are asking questions about, what people are talking about. That’s usually a good kick-starter for getting some ideas.

I also like looking at the new things that are coming out in the news articles about changes in marketing technology. Those are always quickly changing, and new topics to talk about there.

Again, just going to the forums and the places where there’s a ton of content being shared all the time. Looking at which things are getting a lot of engagement, where people are commenting and sharing. Those obviously jump out as the topics that people are really interested in, because they’re taking the time to comment on those.

Thinking about, What’s a unique way I can build something off of this conversation thread?

Sonia Simone: Now, do you take sort of a new, like a breaking-news approach. Like, Okay, a lot of people are confused about how to do this automation, so here’s a tutorial. Or do you come at it with more of a feature-article idea, where using more analogies or storytelling — or what’s your approach usually?

Kaleigh Moore: It depends on the client. Some of my clients really like the step by step with lots of examples, where you have screenshots of how to work through a process from start to finish. And then in other instances, it’s much more high level. They want some statistics that indicate a trend or make some point and then build a story around that, rather than really getting super in-depth with things.

It depends on the medium, but definitely a little bit of both.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. Make it useful and make it interesting. It has to be both.

Well, I know you have — and I think every working, busy professional writer does have a lot of thoughts on structure. Partly because it’s just how we stay sane and how we know we can keep producing good content for our clients. I know you have some thoughts on structuring especially the long content.

Long-form content — it’s great for copywriters, because you can charge good money for all those words. It’s great for clients because it can be really nice for search engine rankings to have a little bit of the more meaty, the more long-form content in there.

Do you want to share your pro tips on structuring that content?

Kaleigh s Tips for Structuring Longer Content to Keep Readers Engaged

Kaleigh Moore: Yeah. When I ve written for places that are really known for their authority, for their long, in-depth content, I’ve noticed some commonalities between the way that they structure their content.

And there’s three major things that I try to keep in mind when I’m creating the outline for those types of posts.

The intro is always — and I see this on the Copyblogger blog as well. It’s always short sentences. It really gets the reader into a slow reading process, where they’re really just slowly being lured in. And it’s interesting. It’s one sentence at a time.

You’re not presenting this big chunk of text right off the bat. It just naturally gets the person moving down the page. It’s very conversational. There might be a little bit of snarky humor sometimes. It feels good to read. It’s very easy reading.

I always try to keep the intro in that form. Where it’s fun, it answers a question. It previews what’s coming, but it’s also very conversational, very natural feeling as you’re reading through it. It leads you through nicely.

The middle is where you really dive in with tons of research and examples and screenshots. Maybe a couple GIFs, however you decided to say that. Big debate, I know.

Typically I’ll find myself spending anywhere from four to eight hours working on the middle section, just making it really in-depth. If they want a walkthrough, doing it start to finish Here’s all the steps you need to complete a process.

Really presenting examples to back up a question I’ve asked in the beginning. Or answer that question. Or indicate why something is worth nothing, worth paying attention to if it’s a trend or something like that. Really spending a lot of time on making the core of the article just extremely value-packed for the reader.

The ending is really just a quick wrap-up, where you’re reminding the reader of all the topics and the points that you made within. Just a quick bullet list, or something like that.

It’s about the conversational open, the really meaty middle section, and then just a quick recap at the end. Across the board, I’ve seen that that structure seems to do really well. So that’s what I stick to.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s one thing when you have that many words. You have to have a decent skeleton to hang it all on, or else it can become just not interesting, which is no fun.

I always like to ask people this when I do an interview podcast. Which is, of course, Copyblogger has lots of readers, and Copyblogger FM has lots of listeners who are professional content creators.

Some of them are freelancers, some of them are working in organizations, and some of them have their own companies. If you had a piece of advice for these writers, maybe to make their content more compelling, more effective, what do you think it might be?

Kaleigh Moore: I would say probably just spend a little more time on it. It’s so easy to churn out a thousand words and call it good. But the content that does really well, and stands the test of time, and does all the wonderful things you wanted to for search engine rankings and things like that are the posts that take a long time to put together. Whether it’s research, whether it’s actually writing.

Those really thoughtful pieces of content are what I’ve seen do really well. So spending a little bit more time, even if it a little painful to crank out a higher volume of words or it costs a little more to pay somebody to do that.

Those pieces are extremely valuable, and they can help you position yourself as a thought leader. They can answer questions better that your customers might be facing. They’re just more valuable in the long run, so I would love to see more of that in the content world.

Sonia Simone: I know, me too. I’d rather see you take four times as long on one piece of content than four little pieces of the me-too stuff that we all see.

Kaleigh Moore: Yes, absolutely.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. Because it doesn’t do you that much good.

Kaleigh Moore: It doesn’t. It’s quick and easy to write, and sometimes you can make a quick point in those post. But you’re not getting anything really packed with value or that’s going to change somebody’s mind about something.

Sonia Simone: Right, exactly. I like that.

All right, fantastic. How can people find out more about what you do? I really like, you give lots of really cool tips on your blog. So where can people find you?

Kaleigh Moore: I am at And my first name is difficult to spell, so I’ll make sure that I get that correct spelling to you.

I’m also on Twitter @kaleighf. Also difficult to spell, but yes. Twitter is where I spend a lot of my time, so that’s a great place to connect if people are interested in doing so.

Sonia Simone: Yeah. It’s a funny thing. You notice that writers love it. Everybody else is like, I don’t get why people with these Twitter. And writers are like, Twitter is the best one. That s the most fun place.

Kaleigh Moore: It is. I love it. And like you said, I see lot of other writers spending time there. It’s a good place to be.

Sonia Simone: It’s a great place to be. All right.

Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you dropping by and sharing some pro knowledge with us. And I will talk to you soon.

Kaleigh Moore: Okay. Thank you so much.

Sonia Simone: Thank you so much.

Mar 20 2017
21 mins

Rank #15: The 4 Pillars Every Online Business Is Built On

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Ever thought about launching an online course … or some other digital product or service? Here are the four most important elements you need to put into play.

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Whether you’re starting out or a you’re digital commerce veteran, there are some fundamental pieces that need to be in play before you can profitably launch a new product or service.

Free webinar

Brian Clark’s free webinar on online courses will be held on December 12, 2016, at 3:00 PM Eastern Time. You can click here to get signed up.

In this 15-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Two ways to build your audience for your blog or podcast in the early days
  • The right time to get an email list in place
  • How to figure out what you’ll talk about
  • The profitable tension that will be with you for the length of your business
  • How to avoid making expensive mistakes
  • A cool free resource to help you plan a successful launch for your online course

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

The 4 Pillars Every Online Business Is Built On

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by StudioPress, the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins. Built on the Genesis Framework, StudioPress delivers state of the art SEO tools, beautiful and fully responsive design, air tight security, instant updates, and much more. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level and see for yourself why more than 190,000 website owners trust StudioPress, go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress. That’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Well hey there, it is excellent to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices — along with the occasional rant. My name is Sonia Simone, I’m the Chief Content Officer for Rainmaker Digital. I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always find show notes with additional links and resources by going to Copyblogger.FM, as well as the complete archive for the show.

If you’ve been reading Copyblogger, you might have noticed we’ve been talking a lot about online courses. We’ve been talking a lot about that for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a really awesome business model. Two, Brian Clark has a new course that he’s going to be offering about how to put one together for yourself.

Last week, I wrote a post about my own journey going from a normal employed person to freelance writer, and then to course creator. Some of the bumps and lumps along the way, as well as some of the things that I’ve found useful and helpful. I thought that I would use this podcast to talk about a couple of things that you want to get into place if you’re thinking about launching an online course.

Actually, if you’re thinking about launching any kind of digital business. These all would work for anything from a course to even a coaching program or an e-book — anything along those lines. There are four big components to that, and then we have a very cool free resource that Brian is going to be putting together for you that I’ll let you know about at the end of the episode.

Two Ways to Build Your Audience for Your Blog or Your Podcast in the Early Days

First and foremost, if you are putting any kind of digital business together — or frankly just any kind of business together — you need to pull together an audience. Everything good comes from the audience. That’s whether you’re online, whether you’re offline, whether you’re running a business on the Mars colony of the future. It doesn’t matter what the setting is, nothing gets sold until you’ve pulled together some people who are willing and able to buy. It’s not that complicated.

If you haven’t yet, this is the time to start your blog or to start your podcast — or to start both. You might not know the final topic, and you might not have the final positioning in place. In fact, you probably won’t. The best answers to those questions tend to emerge as you do it, as you work. You want to take your best guess, and you want to start getting your work out there. There’s really no substitute for getting your thoughts, your articulation, what you believe, and how you help people out into the world so you can get feedback and so you can see what you have to offer works in the real world with real people.

Real world time. Harsh reality time. This is going to grow slowly at first, unless you are already famous for something. In 2016 — we’re almost at 2017 — there are two cornerstone strategies or primary strategies that people use to get the ball rolling and get a little bit more momentum. The first is guest posting. In other words, publishing some really good stuff on somebody else’s site. What that does for you — it improves your publisher network, for one thing, because you’re publishing content on somebody’s site. You can choose somebody who has a bigger audience than you do. It actually also works pretty well to place some guest posts on sites that have about the same size audience you do, but different people.

It’s great for your professional networking. Of course it’s going to build your audience, because you have more people you’re getting your ideas and articulations in front of. It’s really cool for developing ideas, because sometimes you’ll place a guest post with an idea that’s a little bit out of the wheelhouse of your primary site. It’s a very cool place to play around with ideas. It does have search engine benefits. I state that last because it’s the least important. It is nice to get high quality real links from another site. That is helpful.

The other primary way people are pulling an audience together around a site that you control — that means your blog or your podcast on your own domain. Even if your podcast is hosted on iTunes, things should be pointing back to a site that you control. The other way people are building traffic is to buy it. Particularly one of the social sites. Particularly on Facebook. Buying traffic is tried and true. This is always a strategy that just depends on how expensive traffic is with your particular venue at that particular moment.

Your main benefit with this is to grow your audience, but you can also do some interesting things, testing some ideas out. You can test headlines, you can test product ideas, content ideas and things like that by buying advertising. I would not spend a trillion dollars on this. But if you have a small discretionary budget that you might be able to throw at it, it’s not a bad investment to make as long as you keep it fairly small and use it to experiment and supplement, rather than trying to base a whole business model on it. At least at the beginning.

My only issue with paid traffic is that the platforms for it tend to be volatile, they change. For a while, AdWords was great, it was fantastic. It was a great way to grow a business. Then they got very expensive and they also got very erratic. They would pull people’s accounts for strange reasons that they couldn’t articulate. Right now Facebook is a great game to play, but again, Facebook can be erratic. They can just decide they don’t like your advertising and pull it overnight. That’s why I say it’s not something you want to build your business on 100%, but it can be great fuel for the fire.

The Right Time to Get an Email List in Place

All right, so that’s the first element that we want to put into play if you’re thinking about creating a digital business, or maybe going in a new direction with a digital business, or launching a new product. The audience is the first thing that needs to be in place. Directly behind that is what we call, “the list.” Normally that’s an email list. In other words, a way for you to communicate with that audience on your own terms. This is not a Facebook page. Why? You can post to Facebook and it’s only going to reach a very modest portion of that audience, and not necessarily a portion that you have selected. Your list is typically your email list. I really recommend starting it as early in the game as you possibly can.

Back in the day when I was trying to start my freelance business before I actually quit my day job — and I mean well before, like a year before — I started an email list. I added a simple autoresponder to it. What that let me do, was it let me capture every drop of attention that I got in those early days. There was one memorable and awesome time when Seth Godin linked to me and I got a ton of traffic. The only reason that traffic really benefited me was that some of those people signed up for my email list. In fact, I’m sure that there are people who signed up for that email list that I still know today, that that’s how we found one another.

Do not try to do it yourself on this. In other words, don’t try to put something together like a home-grown server, or even worse, send it out of Gmail or Outlook. Begin as much as you can as you mean to go on, and that means you want to get a service that handles this for you. A bulk email service. They handle things like managing spam filters and all of that good stuff. When I say, “You need an email list and you want to get it going early,” I’m not talking about buying email addresses, which is, by and large, a really bad idea. I want you to be earning that attention by having a confirmed opt-in list.

In other words, you have something interesting that people want to hear about, and they sign up for your email list in order to hear more about it. We have lots and lots of strategies for you on that if you go to and you look at the free education tab. We have a book on email marketing that will walk you through all the strategies. Even better, that is free. How cool is that?

How to Figure out What You’ll Talk About

All right, so the first thing you need to have in play is you have to have an audience. Then you need a list so you can contact that audience. The third thing that you need to put into play is a topic. What is your business about? What do you help people with? This comes from an intersection of what you’re good at and what the audience cares about. Your topic needs to solve some kind of meaningful problem. This is one where people get really messed up, because they solve the problems they think should be solved. They come up with product ideas or content ideas about what they think people should be learning, or think people should do differently. It’s a great way to waste so much time, money, and energy.

You have to focus on the problems that are meaningful to the audience, not necessarily the problems you think they ought to be solving. This is one of those eternal tensions, because it is about you, and it’s not about you. Those are both 100 percent true. This tension exists as long as you’re in business. You can’t come down on an either/or, or it just doesn’t work. If it’s all about them and it’s not about you at all, things get very generic very quickly. It has to be about who you serve, and then how can you help that audience in a way that’s distinct to you. That’s distinct from other people who might serve a similar role.

Now, you may have a very strong idea before you begin of what topic you’re going to talk about. In my experience, it doesn’t matter how strong your certainty is about what you’re going to talk about, you’re going to find out what you talk about by putting your work out there. By putting blog posts up and putting podcasts up. What you want to do is watch what gets traction. It’s interesting how often that surprises you.

There’s what you think is interesting about you, and then there’s what everybody else thinks is interesting about you. You want to watch what’s going on. You want to watch what people respond to. You also want to watch what seems to be going on in the world around you. I would never tell you to follow trends in a slavish way, but you need to be able to see them as they emerge in order to stay relevant and in order to stay current. It’s not the same thing as just following every single little fad, but you do want to see where things are going and the shape of the environment, so you can respond to it in a meaningful way.

How to Avoid Making Expensive Mistakes

The first element was the audience. The second element was the list. The third element is the topic. The fourth element for you to get something out into the world is actually the offer. It’s the thing you’re going to put out that you’re going to exchange something for. At the beginning actually, you make an offer of something interesting to exchange for people’s email addresses. It could be an email course, it could be an e-book, it could be all kinds of things. Then obviously, at some point, if you are running a business, you make an offer of a product or a service that you get paid for. The most important thing here is to start with small projects. Start with things that are not a massive investment of your time and energy. We talk about this so often on Copyblogger.

E-books are definitely a tried and true initial project. Minimum Viable Product is sometimes a term that -people use. It could be a workshop. It could be a single, live session. It could be a content series — either a paid series or a free series. What you want to do is pay close attention to the questions that those small projects are throwing off. It’s in the questions that you will get the really killer product ideas. It’s in the questions that you will get the idea for a really significant offer that changes other people’s lives. Of course, when you change a lot of other people’s lives, that’s when your business starts to change your life for the better.

That’s it, in a nutshell. In some ways it might seem very basic. However, I will remind you that this is a game, like little league versus major league baseball. What changes isn’t the rules. What changes is the level of execution. Item one is audience. Item two is the list — your communication with that audience, how you talk to them. Number three is the topic, what are you going to talk about. Then, number four is the offer, what can you put in front of that audience that’s compelling, that solves a meaningful problem, and that they will pay you for.

How can you put that offer together in a way that’s a no-brainer for that audience. It has so much value and it’s so relevant to what they care about, that the price that you’re asking is very congruent and feels very natural. That’s how you create a marketable offer. Easy to say, but sometimes not so easy to do.

A Cool Free Resource to Help You Plan a Successful Launch for Your Online Course

I mentioned that we had a cool, free thing for you, and we do, which is Brian Clark is going to be leading a free workshop. A free webinar on digital courses. He is going to get into some of the specifics on how to specifically structure an online course in a way that is profitable and marketable. He’s just going to get into some of those first steps where you’re putting the course together, you’re planning the course in a way that makes it very easy to turn around and put that offer together that is compelling, and that does offer a meaningful transformation to your audience in a way that they find easy to pay for.

That webinar is December 12. It’s at 3:00 p.m., Eastern U.S. time. To the best of my knowledge, there will be a recording, assuming no technical problems happen. If that time of day is a disaster for you, I’m sure that they’re working something out so that you can get a replay. You can go to Copyblogger.FM and pick up a link for that. You can also go to the Copyblogger blog, and any of the posts we ran last week will have links. It’s a nice, big blue button where you can get registered for the free webinar. Again, it’s Wednesday, December 12th.

I’m planning on going. Brian has really interesting insights about how courses work and what makes people buy them. He’s been thinking about it a lot. I had the opportunity to talk with him a little bit about some of his refinement of his thinking about how to structure courses and how to structure the marketability of courses. It’s going to be well worth your time. Hope you’re able to make it.

Even if digital courses are not your thing, hopefully the topics we talked about today will help you with whatever it might be. Whether you’re launching something new, starting something from scratch, or coming up with a different angle on what you’ve already got going. These are always pillars of what makes an offer work. That’s it for today. Thank you, as always, for your time and attention. I’ll catch you next week.

Dec 05 2016
17 mins

Rank #16: 5 Quick Wins for Content Marketers

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Content marketing is a long game … but that doesn’t mean we can’t create some quick wins.

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Strategic content marketing is all about long-term results — but there’s actually a lot you can do to create some momentum right away.

In this 19-minute episode, Sonia talks about:

  • The fastest way I know to create lots and lots of short, valuable, audience-friendly blog posts
  • Leveraging your contact list for some quick, high-value content
  • The technique I swiped from Seth Godin for creating juicy, engaging content from your everyday life
  • An efficient (and fun) process to improve a skill as quickly as possible
  • An ultra simple framework to use when you’re asking for the sale

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

5 Quick Wins for Content Marketers

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: This episode is brought to you by Acuity Scheduling. Acuity Scheduling makes scheduling meetings online easy. Clients can view your real-time availability, self-book appointments with you, fill out forms, and even pay you online. To learn more and get a free 45-day trial, visit

Hey there. Good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant.

My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always check the show notes for links, additional resources, free stuff, all that good stuff, as well as the complete show archive by going to Copyblogger.FM.

It’s very excellent to see you again. I thought about doing a spooky Halloween post for this podcast, but I thought it would be actually more fun to do something pragmatic and practical. The thing I want to talk about today is some content marketing quick wins.

I want to talk about quick wins for content marketing precisely because we don’t get a lot of them. Content marketing is a long game. We say it all the time. I say it all the time. It’s something that you do have to put some strategy into, some effort into. It pays off, that patient work. But, frankly, sometimes you would just like to get something happening sooner, rather than later.

I thought about some quick wins that you can set up in your content that will help get you results sooner rather than later, while you’re waiting for that big payoff of creating that wonderful authority with your audience and all that good stuff.

Before I get started with specific suggestions, I want to give you a meta-suggestion, which is: If you want efficiency in your content — if you want to be able to create content efficiently, consistently, have it not take your entire life to write a blog post or record a podcast — you really need to set up some processes. Probably these should be processes that are absolutely, specifically tailored to you. Your strengths, your weaknesses, what you do have access to, what you don’t have access to.

Check the show notes for a couple of options for ways to set up content processes for yourself. We’ve got a free one, which comes in the form of a post by Pamela Wilson about how to produce one really excellent piece of content per week. Pamela, as it happens, has also written a book, and that has a little bit more of a thorough explanation about how you can set up processes for yourself. It’s still really reasonable. You can get it on Amazon or anywhere that you get books, and it comes in a Kindle version and a physical version.

Let’s jump into some quick win strategies for your content marketing. Many of these I have swiped and/or adapted from other people. Any time that I have done that and I can remember the person who inspired it, I will give you their name.

The Fastest Way Sonia Knows to Create Lots and Lots of Short, Valuable, Audience-Friendly Blog Posts

That first name is Marcus Sheridan. Calls himself The Sales Lion. Marcus has a technique that he’s written about and that he teaches when he gives talks. I think it’s really solid. That is to go through your organization.

In his organization, he was selling a physical thing, which is a swimming pool, and he had salespeople. He had people whose job it was to talk to customers about building swimming pools.

What he did for his business and what you can do for your project, is he went through his salespeople’s emails, and he looked for every single question anybody had ever had about installing a swimming pool. Then every one of those questions became a blog post, and he answered the question.

This is obviously a massive effort, if you’re going to do it on that scale. I think he must have had hundreds and hundreds of little pieces of content there, but in your environment that might look different. You may not have salespeople.

These may be questions that you’ve seen on social media or questions that you’ve gotten in your inbox. They can be questions that you have seen people post on Facebook groups in your topic. Those questions may not have even been directed at you.

But come up with a list of questions — whether it’s 20 questions, 50 questions, 100 questions, or more — that you can answer about your topic, and make each one of them a small, self-contained piece of content. Typically those would be blog posts.

The reason this is a quick win is because you don’t have a lot of decision making. You don’t have to sit around and think about what angle you’re going to take on it, what your positioning s going to be? You’re just answering a whole bunch of questions.

The problem set is nicely defined, and you’ll probably find, if you know your topic — and most of you do — that answering questions is fairly easy. You know the answers to these questions. If you don’t know them, you can look them up. You know where to find the answers.

Getting the kind of high volume of very useful, very audience-focused content like this onto your site does all kinds of great things for your site’s usability. It gives people who land on your site lots to browse, look at. Obviously it’s going to answer their questions, so it’s going to move them forward with what you want them to do next.

And for almost any site, this will have some benefit with search engines. We don’t do things for search engines as a primary tactic, unless that’s specifically what you’re going for. You’ve hired a well-qualified SEO to work on your site’s search engine optimization.

This is the kind of technique that’s great for customers. It’s great for your audience, and it typically will have very nice side benefits, side advantages, for your search engine presence. It’s just the kind of content that search engines find very appealing and very useful.

Leveraging Your Contact List for Some Quick, High-Value Content

Quick win number two: When you are stuck for ideas about content, when you are stuck for things to write about and you already have lots of questions and answers on your site, one great quick win is the interview Q&A or a series of interview Q&As.

You can do these as podcasts, the way that we have done many times on Copyblogger FM. You could also simply do them as emailing questions to somebody in your topic and letting them email you back the answers. Again, these are highly useful, interesting pieces of content.

You can always try to go after an influencer in your topic. It’s a great way to get to know an influencer better and a great way to get on their radar. But you can also do this with people in your topic who are in a similar position that you are in terms of the size of your audiences. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and insights and expertise in front of their audience and their thoughts and expertise in front of your audience. It’s a great way to make the pie bigger for both of you.

Sometimes people set these up as massive projects, where they have five questions and they send them out to maybe 100 people. They’re looking to get maybe 30 or 40 answers back, because, of course, not everybody will get back to you. You can also just do this as a one-shot or a smaller project as well. The scope is totally up to you, but it’s always worth doing, and it always generates a nice quick win.

The Technique Sonia Swiped from Seth Godin for Creating Juicy, Engaging Content from Your Everyday Life

The third quick win is one that I stole from Seth Godin, and I stole it through observation. I’m not sure if he’s ever explicitly talked about creating content this way, but something that I noticed on his blog is that he often creates a piece of content — a quick, focused piece of content — by going around in the world and noticing something that he really thinks is cool and that really illustrates one of the principles that he talks about.

Alternately, he see something that he thinks is not cool, and he doesn’t think it’s a good thing. He thinks it’s a bad idea. He doesn’t think it’s effective, or he doesn’t think it’s ethical, and he talks about why.

I have abbreviated this to “Things I love/Things I hate.” I have made ample use of these, particularly on the sister podcast to this one, and it’s a great way to come up with a quick idea that’s going to be a juicy, interesting idea, because it’s got some passion around it.

You have strong feelings about the topic, and you’re going to express them clearly in a way that lets people know who you are and what you’re knowledgeable about. It’s a great way to focus your attention, and it’s always a good way to focus audience attention. Because, when you’re talking about things you just can’t stand, that’s just inherently interesting.

We’re going to pause here for just a moment, take a quick break for a sponsored message. When we come back, we’re going to talk about some ways that you can get better at what you do quickly. Not necessarily quick content wins, like you’re going to post something on your blog very quickly, but how you can most efficiently get better at what you want to get better at.

We’re also going to talk about a quick win that you can use to actually make some money. To make an offer and get some revenue.

This episode is sponsored by Acuity Scheduling. You know how challenging the back and forth of booking appoints and meetings can be. Some of you may know that, right now, I am in a different time zone from most of the folks that I’m interviewing. Trying to do the back and forth of setting up podcast interviews, meetings, or other kinds of conversations when we’re talking about multiple countries, multiple time zones — it gets really tricky.

What if you never had to ask, “What time works for you?” again?

Well, Acuity Scheduling makes the whole process of scheduling appointments easy. It works with your existing Google, Office 365, iCloud, or Outlook calendar. Clients can view your availability and self-book appointments. They can complete onboarding forms. And they can even submit payment, so you can get back to running your business. It helps you avoid no-shows with automatic text and email reminders, it’s simple to use, and they offer phenomenal customer support.

Go to to start booking all of your meetings with zero hassle right now. The paid plans start at $10 a month, but Copyblogger FM listeners can actually access a free 45-day trial of Acuity Scheduling’s stress-free schedule management. That’s a month and a half for free just by using when you sign up. I just want to thank them and give them a shout-out of their support of Copyblogger FM.

Hey there. Welcome back. All right, so I talked about a quick, efficient technique to get better at something that you’re not good at. I am writing a whole post for this over on for the blog. So take a look over there, and you’ll see an expanded version of this technique.

An Efficient (and Fun) Process to Improve a Skill as Quickly as Possible

I wanted to touch on it for you here, because it really is one of the fastest ways that you can get really good at something that you might not be wonderful at right now. That is the self-directed 30-day challenge. I’ll give you an example of how this can work.

Let’s say that you write good content, and you know that it’s interesting. You know it has a good voice. It’s got good personality, and you know it’s about topics that the audience finds useful. But you’re not getting as many shares as you would like. The content’s not getting shared in social media, and the emails are not getting opened as often as you would like if you distribute that content on an email feed.

The problem is probably your headlines. In that case, very commonly the problem is going to be that the headline is not compelling that person to click through and see what’s going on or to click through and share it.

Once you’ve identified the problem, here’s my favorite way to go about becoming a headline ninja. For 30 days — maybe you start today or maybe you look at your calendar and decide you’re going to start Wednesday, or you’re going to start in a couple of days — make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row, but for 30 days straight, you’re going to work on headlines. What the nature of that work is is going to be up to you.

Your first day might be spent reading the Copyblogger free book on headlines, on crafting really effective headlines to get the click and get the share. You’re going to read through and make some notes about things that you want to practice.

Then, on day two, you’re going to take one section of that ebook, and you’re going to practice it. You’re going to practice coming up with headlines that put a strong benefit front and center. Then, on day three, you’re going to practice number-based headlines. You’re going to come up with taking some of your existing headlines that maybe weren’t so exciting and reworking them so they have a number in them. You get the idea.

For 30 days straight, you are going to work, actively work, on becoming more masterful at headlines for your content. Now, at the end of the 30 days, are your headlines going to be better? Yeah, your headlines are going to be miles better. Even more so if you’ve taken advantage of your 30-day challenge. Which you will, because over 30 days, you’re going to be scratching your head somewhat for things to work on. Not every day is all that fun to write 30 headlines just for something.

One of the things you’ll do in your 30-day challenge is you’re going to go back to your existing content, and you’re going to make those headlines better. In the process of doing that, you will have materially improved your site. You will have materially improved the chance that, when somebody comes to a page from social or from search, that they’re going to share it. And you’re going to have a skill that you can take forward with you for the rest of your career as a content marketer.

It’s not instant. Thirty days is not instant. But you’re going to start seeing benefits literally from day one, and then just snowballing and snowballing all the way through day 30 and beyond. If you want to master a new technique, a new habit, anything like that, try one of these 30-day challenges for yourself and see just how far you can get in 30 days.

Then, finally, I promised you a quick win that had a paycheck at the end of it. I’m going to walk you through — I’ve walked through this before a couple of places — a quick way to make an offer. In other words, you’re going to make an offer for a product, for a service. Maybe it’s an ebook, maybe it’s an affiliate offer, and somebody is going to pay you for it. You’re going to get a couple of dollars.

You can also do this with other calls to action, like signing up for your email list. It works really well for any time you’re asking your audience to do something for you.

This particular one is swiped from John Carlton. John Carlton is a very accomplished traditional copywriter. I can almost promise you that John Carlton swiped it from somebody else. I don’t know who. It’s not exactly a unique formula.

What it is is simply a distillation of what happens when you make an effective offer. In other words, an effective piece of communication that gets somebody to do something. It has four steps.

An Ultra-Simple Framework to Use When You re Asking for the Sale

Step number one is let people know who you are. Who is the person who is making this offer? I think even if your audience knows you quite well, it’s probably a good idea to remind them who you are, what do you stand for, what’s your qualification for making this offer?

What is it about you that you know something special that allows you to create this ebook or this course? Who are you? What’s the context of who’s making the offer, and why is that person qualified to help?

If this was an affiliate offer, this would be the time that you would introduce the person who actually created the thing that you’re going to sell. You would give the context of, “I’m making an affiliate offer for my friend who has created a course for you, and this is why I think this friend is so qualified to be able to teach you what you want to know.” Step one is “Who are you?”

Step two is “Here’s what I’ve got.” Here’s what the thing is. Here’s what the offer is. It’s a course. It’s a SAS app. It’s an ebook. It’s a WordPress plugin. Whatever it might be, “Here’s the thing that’s going to be offered for sale. Here’s what it consists of.”

Step three follows very quickly on step two, which is, “Here’s what it’s going to do for you.” This product, this service, this course, this plugin, this app is going to give you these things. It’s going to do this for you. These are what are called the copywriting benefits. These are the things that you get, that your client gets, out of spending the money.

Then, step four is “And here’s what to do next.” You just spell out absolutely clearly what the person does next to move forward. Do they go to an order page? Do they enter their credit card information? Do they enter their PayPal information?

What is it that they have to do in order to move forward with the thing that you’re asking them for? Be very clear and as succinct as you can while keeping clarity. In other words, make it short, to the point, very clear. Not clever, not silly, not jokey. Very clear.

That one-two-three-four punch is something that you could use right now. You could use it today, if you have an email list for example, and you have something that you do have available. Let’s say you have an ebook. You could go right now into your email program and type up an email that hits these four elements, click send, and you will make some revenue.

“Here’s who I am.” In other words, “Why I’m qualified to help. Here’s what I’ve got for you. Here’s what it does for you, and here’s what to do next.”

This is just the shell, the bones, of an effective offer. Everything else we do, all of the money-back guarantees and telling stories and case studies, all that technique of copywriting, serves this bone structure — one, two, three, four — of making an offer.

“Here’s who I am. Here’s what I’ve got. Here’s what it’s going to do for you, and here’s what you should do next.”

If you’re looking for a quick win that has some dollars or euros attached to the end of it, give this one a try. You can give it a try literally today. Certainly this week. Let us know how it works for you.

That’s it for this week. It’s a quick episode with five quick wins. Thank you, as always, for your time and attention. You know how much I appreciate that. We’ll catch you next week. This is Copyblogger FM.

Oct 31 2016
21 mins

Rank #17: 5 Mindset Habits that Actually Work

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There’s so much mindset advice out there to make you more successful … but is it doing you more harm than good?

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A lot of advice about business and success focuses on mindset — those mental habits we can adopt to make ourselves more productive and effective.

In my experience (and my reading of the research), some of them are useful, and some are completely counterproductive.

In this 20-minute episode, I talk about five practices that I’ve seen actually work:

  • Affirming your value (this is a completely different practice from self-help affirmations)
  • Adopting and practicing a growth mindset
  • Growing your network and asking for help
  • Seeing that success is possible for people like you (finding role models and community)
  • Flipping the switch that doesn’t want you to be uncomfortable

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

5 Mindset Habits that Actually Work

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those of you who are selling physical products, digital downloads, or membership programs.

If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why more than 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. You can check it out by going to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Hey there, good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant.

My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. If you want extra links, extra resources, or the complete show archive, you can just head on over to Copyblogger.FM.

So it’s been a little while since we’ve talked about entrepreneurial mindset or success mindset. And I have been reading Oliver Burkeman’s book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, which I could not resist. When I saw the title I had to pick it up.

It gave an interesting springboard, because there’s a lot of advice about how you should think. Or what kinds of mental habits you should adopt if want to be more successful. If you want to have a better career, launch a business, or improve your business. A lot of the standard advice, a lot of the typical advice is not only not supported by the evidence, in some cases it’s actually countered by the evidence.

So Burkeman’s book talks a little bit about that. It’s a good read. You might want to pick it up.

I’m going to talk about a few things that he brought up in his book. A few things that I’ve seen the research on that I think are pretty compelling, and then a couple of things that I have noticed tend to work well for a lot of people. They might work well for you too.

The Research on How Conflicting Affirmations Can Make You Less Successful

So one of Burkeman’s things that he writes about is some interesting research that was done on affirmations. Affirmations are the Stuart Smalley thing. You know, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough. Gosh darn it, people like me.” Those are affirmations. Statements, positive statements about what you want to be that may not be aligned with how you actually see yourself today.

And the theory was that you would say these things to yourself and you would convince yourself that they were true. That’s not supported by the research so much. In fact, there’s some interesting findings that if your affirmations are really divergent from how you see yourself, they’ll actually make you less successful at the kind of tasks that researchers assigned grad students and psychology experiments.

So they seem to work better for people who already pretty much believe in themselves, which you could sort of argue makes them a complete waste of time. So just telling yourself, “I am successful, I am wealthy,” etc., doesn’t really seem to work particularly well.

Closely related to that is visualization, or sometimes called creative visualization, where you spend a lot of emotional energy vividly picturing the scene that you’re going to be part of. So you’re going to picture yourself with all the things that you want — the material things, the freedom, the relationships, the tiny fit body, whatever you might want.

Just by itself, if you just do visualizations it appears to make you less likely to do what you’re trying to do, not more likely. For a funny reason that is often mentioned by people who talk about visualizations, which is, your brain kind of already thinks you did it. So if you visualize, for example, drinking water when you’re thirsty, you’ll get less thirsty, which is kind of peculiar, and you’ll drink less water when offered water.

So visualization all by itself appears to move you the wrong direction. However, I do think there is some places for it. And I’m going to talk about what those are in a few minutes.

The first thing we’re going to talk about is a couple of techniques, mental habits, that the research, at least as it stands at this point, does suggest are effective in helping you do more of the things you want to do. And maybe even fewer of the things you don’t want to do.

Affirming Your Value (This Is a Completely Different Practice from Self-Help Affirmations)

The first one is called values affirmations, so it gets confusing because it shares that noun with the old self-help affirmations. Values affirmations — I’ve talked about them before, and I’ve written about them as well — are statements of your values, the things that make you who you are, your beliefs. Things like integrity, faith, justice, fairness, or freedom. These kinds of abstract nouns that are really about ideas and beliefs.

If you connect yourself with what those are, maybe pick a handful — five or six — that are really your guiding values and then write short writings about them, a paragraph or two. That has very good science behind it in making you more effective. So making you more confident, making you better able to power through difficulty, helping you to beat the odds.

For example, if you’re in a scenario where a lot of people who look like you or come from the background you do don’t do well, and you do this exercise, you’re much more likely to be the one that’s successful. To be in the successful minority rather than the unsuccessful majority.

Lots of experiments done on that. lots of grad students, lots of researchers writing papers that suggest that that quick exercise. It does not have to take very long at all, and you don’t have to do it endlessly. You don’t have to do it every day. But if you do this once in a while, it has quite a good track record.

Adopting and Practicing a Growth Mindset

The other one that has quite a good track record is Carol Dweck’s growth mindset, her observation about growth mindset, that she lays out in her book Mindset. I consider it a total must-read. And growth mindset is simply looking at difficulties, problems, obstacles, things you did not do well at, and saying, “Okay, well I’m not good at that yet. Clearly I need more work. A better kind of practice, more volume of practice. Maybe I need a teacher, maybe I need a model.” As opposed to fixed mindset, which is when you encounter an obstacle or an error, you say, “Clearly I’m no good at that.”

It really turns out there are very few things that are innately given to you as a gift, and that you can’t make better with practice. You’re never going to be the right height to play basketball in the NBA if you didn’t get the right genes.

But making art, making writing, making a business, working with people — these are all learnable skills. And it’s really about how much time, effort, and sincere, deliberate practice are you putting in.

Some of these things do come more easily to some people than others. A lot of times, it’s just an accident of your history. Maybe when you were a kid, you might not even remember this. You used to love to write stories, or you were just really interested in diagramming sentences, or something funny like that. And you got really good at it, because you did a lot of it.

You don’t even remember anymore, that was so long ago. But now you feel like you have a gift. “Oh, I have a gift. I’ve just always been good at that and never really had to work at it.” At some point in your history you probably did work at it. But it may very well be that when you were doing that, it felt like play. And that’s my favorite tip for doing more of that kind of work: Try and make it into a game.

So values affirmations and growth mindset are both well supported by evidence. We’ve got wonderful researchers out there doing all kinds of experiments. Again, roping graduate students into doing all kinds of peculiar things and then writing down what happens.

Here are some other things that I have seen work well with people I work with, with people I teach, and I can recommend with some confidence based on my observations.

Growing Your Network and Asking for Help

The first one is, if you aren’t where you want to be today, I would very strongly recommend you expand your network of people doing what you want to do and that you get into the habit of asking for help. Now, like everything else, there’s a way to go too far with things. So you can ask for so much help that you’re not standing on your own feet. You’re not doing your own work.

But a lot of us I think err way far the other direction. We never ask for help. This, by the way, is very much a sign that you might have some fixed-mindset stuff going on. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for help in something, then it’s really hard for you to figure out what specific kinds of practice to do to get better.

Again, you can play chopsticks for an hour a day for 40 years, and you’re never going to become a concert pianist. When you have a good, rich network of compatriots, of colleagues, of people who are engaged in the same kind of work you’re engaged in. And some of them are maybe a little more successful than you right now, and some are a little less successful — and trust me, over time these things ebb and flow. Make some connections with some people and ask people to give you a hand.

Ask people to look at something you’ve written. Ask people to take a look at your website. It’s so hard to see our own stuff. So learning to ask for help can be a major, real life-changing kind of habit to build.

The other thing that I have noticed is, you’re never going to do the thing you want to do if deep down you don’t really think it’s possible for you. And again, this goes right back to growth versus fixed mindset. But it can be very strong if your identity is “I’m not the kind of person who is good at that.” And this could be an internal thing about the values of your family, it could be an external thing about how society sees you.

You have to know it’s possible before you can do it. And that’s where I think it’s quite possible that the people who do well with visualizations and affirmations, that may be why. Because they needed some kind of message that it was possible and people like them were permitted, allowed, to have the thing that they wanted to have.

So it’s possible that visualizations and affirmations may be quite helpful for that. But there are some other things that I think might work faster and better. First one being, going back to the last point, having a community.

Seeing that Success Is Possible for People Like You (Finding Role Models and Community)

If you have a community of people that includes lots of people who look like you, that come from your background, or they have the limitations that you might have, the constraints that you might have, maybe the assets that you have as well. If you are in a community of people doing the thing, you will see that it is possible for people who are a lot like you to be successful. And that will allow you to take the kinds of actions you need to take.

So community, again, is so tremendously helpful. And reaching out to that community and saying, “Does anybody know how I could get started with this?”

The writer Barbara Sher, who I think has really interesting ideas, talks about idea parties, where you get people together. Just people who want to do stuff, who have dreams and think about things. We’re not talking about a community of Nobel Prize winners. Just regular people.

And they get together and they talk about, “You know, I’ve always wanted to be a professional illustrator, does anybody know how you get started with that?” And somebody says, “My cousin’s a professional illustrator. Let me connect you and figure that out.”

So again, it’s going to the community and asking for help. So useful. And you never know who’s going to have that little piece that’s been the thing that’s been getting you stuck.

It’s also really important to have models. People who, from your self-identity of what’s holding you back, people who share that constraint, who are successful anyway. So whatever it is that’s on your mind, that you feel possibly entirely correctly. I mean, there are things, right? There are things in our society where it’s easier for some people to do things than other people.

Whatever you believe is holding you back, correct or not correct, find some models of people who share your trait and succeeded anyway. And then do what you can to make a connection with that person. That connection may just be following their work for a while. But you never know, you may in fact create a friendship there at some point.

Find the models who do what you want to do from the background and the point of view that you have. There are seven billion people on the planet, and I bet somewhere there’s somebody who has your constraint, who has done what you’re trying to do.

And one little side point on those visualizations, picturing that future in your mind, picturing what you want. I find that this is much more useful if you visualize exactly where it is you’re going. So “My business is going to look like this. I’m going to have this many employees. I’m going to have this much revenue. I’m going to have this much free time.”

And then you pair that time and energy with looking at where you are right now and noticing what doesn’t match. “Right now my business has one employee — me. And it has $30 a year in revenue, and I have no free time at all.” So you notice where you are, and you visualize where you want to go.

That I believe gets you out of that complacency that visualization can sometimes create, where your brain thinks you’re already there. You’re showing your brain, “We’re not there yet. Here’s where we are today, here’s where we want to go. Let’s notice the difference, and let that spark some ideas about what we should do right now.”

And that idea is not at all mine. It comes from somebody named Robert Fritz from his book The Path of Least Resistance. He calls that the pivotal technique.

Flipping the Switch that Doesn t Want You to Be Uncomfortable

The final mindset shift that I’ll share with you today — or mental habit or way of thinking — is something that Burkeman talks about quite a bit in his very interesting book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.

You have to turn that switch in your mind that doesn’t want to be uncomfortable. So you have to remember that it’s totally okay not to be comfortable every second of the day. And that’s really what Burkeman’s book is about.

If you think that every moment of your life has to be bliss, and that’s how you pursue happiness, you’re just going to not feel good. Because it’s not a natural state. It’s not how human life exists. We have light and shadows. Everybody’s life, no matter how wonderful, has light and shadows. You have to learn to be comfortable with the shadows, to be in the shadows, and say, “Okay, these are the shadows.”

So some of the things that you can do to get more comfortable with this. Read Burkeman’s book if you feel like that would be important to you, cause he has concrete suggestions. Mindfulness practice, very useful for this, because it’s really all about noticing “I feel good right now, hearing that bird singing really made me feel happy.” “I feel horrible right now, because my left knee is cramping up and it hurts.” “I feel mad at myself right now, because I can’t focus on my mindfulness practice. I keep thinking about how irritated I am at my work situation.”

You’re just noticing things come and go, and that noticing starts to loosen up that tight grip that we have on “I hate it like this, I hate it like this.” And you just say, “Hm, yup, I hate it like this. I always hate it when it’s like this. That’s interesting. Oh, look, another thought.”

It just loosens that tight grip. And that’s all it is. You don’t have to be somebody who’s constantly taking ice-cold showers and doing brutal workouts that make you injured, and all the other things that sometimes people recommend to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

There are a lot of practices you can do without hurting yourself. That just get you into a state where you realize that sometimes things feel bad and sometimes things feel horrible. And this is part of all human life, all human existence. You could just be with it, and let it be what it is, and then let it move along when it’s ready. And that really works better than trying to hammer away any kind of grief or sorrow, self-doubt, impostor syndrome — all those uncomfortable feelings.

If you can just learn to say, “Oh yeah, that’s impostor syndrome. I feel that a lot when I start something new.” “Hi impostor syndrome, good to see you again.” If you can get there, and a lot times it’s a question of really just making a decision that you’re going to try to adopt that mindset, it can make all the difference. Because you will not get better at the thing you’re working on unless you can become comfortable with something you’re not too comfortable with.

The 5 Ways to Be More Happy and Successful

So that’s what I’ve got for you. By my count, it’s five different things you can try to be more happy and successful. The values affirmations, the statements and the writing about what you believe, looking into and working harder on your growth mindset, growing your network and asking for help, understanding and seeing that it’s possible for people like you, and then flipping the switch that refuses to be uncomfortable.

Those five things — from my point of view, from my experience, from my teaching, from my own path, and from my reading in psychology experiments — are five things that seem to me to have proven the test of time. That have really shown themselves to be genuinely useful.

I do have some links for you on some more thoughts on different techniques, different things you can try. And I would love to know what’s worked for you. So if you come on over to Copyblogger.FM, you can leave me a comment and let me know what might have worked well for you.

Haven’t made this reminder in a while, but just always good to remind folks. In the spirit of asking my community for help, star ratings and reviews on iTunes are super helpful to the podcast. They help us find new listeners, and they really help us grow and make more connections.

So if you feel so moved, it makes a big difference to us, to me personally. And I am very grateful for all of you who do it. Thank you so much for your support.

Thanks so much, take care, catch you next time.

Apr 03 2017
21 mins

Rank #18: Make More Progress by Getting (Gently) Out of Your Comfort Zone

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What’s the best way to handle overwhelm, especially when it comes with a side of procrastination?

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Note: If you want to know more about the upcoming Creative Content Foundations class, you can drop your details here:

Creative Content Foundations interest list

Lots of us (most of us?) have big, challenging projects that we want to make happen. But dreaming and doing aren’t always the same.

In this 17-minute episode, I talk about:

  • Some thoughts on getting out of our comfort zone — without freaking out
  • The most helpful mindset for success
  • Why beating ourselves up can make us less productive
  • Why self care isn’t the same as self indulgence

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

Mar 19 2018
17 mins

Rank #19: Getting Your Big, Scary Projects Finished: A Conversation about Growing Gills

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A look into why it’s so hard to move forward with creative work

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This week I was so pleased to be able to connect with Jessica Abel, author of Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life.

In this 34-minute episode, Jessica and I talk about:

  • Business (especially digital and content-driven business) as creative work
  • How to move forward on that really big project (the one you care about so much it’s scary)
  • Idea debt: What it is, why it messes us up, how to deal with it
  • The distinction between creative process and creative projects, and why that matters
  • The four criteria to look at when you’re deciding on a big creative goal

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

Mar 11 2019
34 mins

Rank #20: Getting More Traffic, Links, and Shares to Your Content

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“Help! No one is reading my content!” We have some thoughts …

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Whether your site is big or small, we all want more engaged visitors who are reading, watching, and listening to our content.

In this 23-minute episode, Sonia talks about:

  • The smartest place (usually) to send paid traffic
  • How to generate the “signals of quality” that search engines use to rank good content
  • The keys to making content more shareable
  • Connecting your content with someone else’s audience
  • Why I’m not a fan of purging non-buyers from your email list

Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Getting More Traffic, Links, and Shares to Your Content

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Sonia Simone: This episode of Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I’ll tell you a little bit more about this complete solution for digital marketing and sales later, but you can check it out and take a free spin for yourself at

Well hello there. It is good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant.

My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always pick up additional links, additional free resources, and other cool things by visiting Copyblogger.FM. That’s also where you’ll find the complete archive for the show.

Today I thought I would talk about one of my favorite topics, and that is how to get more people to your content — how to get more traffic, how to get more likes, more shares, how to expand the size of your network, and how to get more people paying attention to the content that you’re writing or producing, either audio or visual.

Because if nobody can find it, nobody can act on it. Content marketing that doesn’t have any traffic also doesn’t have any effectiveness.

Today I’m going to talk about a couple of fairly tried-and-true ways to pick up traffic to get more attention to your content. But I also have a resource for you that spells out some additional strategies, because it’s a big topic, and there are multiple ways to do this.

Actually, before we start, I want to touch on that. Which is: If you only get traffic from one place, you’re putting yourself in a really vulnerable position. For example, there was a time when probably the easiest way to get traffic was to buy it in the form of Google AdWords, to use Google’s advertising platform to buy your traffic. It was very cost effective. It worked really well.

Then a couple of things happened. One, Google would occasionally just shut down somebody’s account for no discernible reason. There was something about it that felt hinky to Google, and they just pulled the plug on it, because they’re Google. And the other thing is that those ads quit being quite so cost effective and started to be actually pretty expensive. If your entire business had depended on being able to buy traffic cheaply from Google, you had a significant problem.

The strategies I’m talking about today, you’re probably not going to want to attack all of them at once, but you want to create a long-term plan for yourself to diversify your sources of attention. Make sure that there are lots of different ways people can find you, people can get to you. Some of them are going to work better than others. That’s just the nature of how things work. You really want to have a diverse profile for how people can find you, so that you don’t have unpleasant surprises with your project or with your business.

Let’s talk about that first source of traffic, which is paid traffic. Now this one waxes and wanes. As I mentioned, there was a time when Google was a great source of very reasonably priced traffic. That’s less true than it used to be, but right now there are some other options.

For example, Facebook has some very cost-effective traffic, and it’s crazy how well targeted it is. Is that going to last forever? Highly unlikely. Paid traffic, good sources of paid traffic, kind of come and go. Right now we’re having a good moment for paid traffic.

Some people are having really nice luck with LinkedIn Paid Traffic, although it is very expensive. For some businesses it is also very cost-effective, because the payout is really good. If you are in a time when paid traffic is working well and you have a good source, it’s a great thing. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to turn the faucet on and off by running more ads or fewer ads.

Paid traffic is one of those things that changes all the time. Andrea Vahl did a really good presentation for us at our live event in Denver on it, for those of you who saw her there.

The Smartest Place (Usually) to Send Paid Traffic

I won’t get into specifics about how to pull it off, because that’s going to change. But I will give you a kind of enduring principle for it. Which is, if you are going to pay for traffic, you’re going to do a pay-per-click advertising program of some kind, what normally works best — and, again, you always have to test when you’re paying for traffic. What normally works best is to send your traffic, the clicks from Facebook or Google or what have you, to strong content that has a call to action to join your email list.

One of the cool things about paid traffic is you can test, for example, which content works particularly well for you. What calls to action work particularly well for you, and then what kinds of offers do well with the traffic that you get? Do you have different offers for your Facebook traffic than your LinkedIn traffic? You probably would.

Paid traffic, when it’s working — and it is working right now — it’s a nice way to boost the signal. I wouldn’t rely on it 100 percent, because again it does wax and wane.

The other time-tested and nail-biting way to get traffic is our old friend SEO, search engine optimization. Almost everybody who’s online has thought about SEO at some point, which is the fine art of getting to a high spot on Google’s first page of the Google search engine results page. Yes, there are other search engines, but when we’re talking SEO, most of the time we are talking about Google.

It’s less technical than it used to be. I will give you kind of a principle for ranking well in search engines, which is that search engines are programmed to detect signals of quality, to detect signals that a piece of content is good.

How to Generate the Signals of Quality That Search Engines Use to Rank Good Content

The smartest way to play that game is to create content that generates these signals of quality by being good. If you have content that is useful, if you have content that is interesting, and if you have content that speaks to actual audience problems that they care about and solves them in a good way, you will throw off what are called signals of quality.

For example, people will link to you, because your content is good. People will spend more time on your site, because your content is good. People will do all the other things that generate signals of quality.

Volume is helpful. In other words, having a lot of content is helpful, at least today, but only if it’s good. A large volume of thin, weak content — Google kicked that to the curb years ago. Another thing that is helpful is to have a reasonably tight topic focus.

If you have a site about vegan nutrition, then it’s helpful if that’s mostly what you talk about. You talk about specific elements of vegan nutrition in different contexts, and you don’t spend a lot of time talking about the election or favorite distraction at the moment or other topics.

It doesn’t mean you never talk about other topics. It doesn’t mean that you don’t throw in some personal anecdotes or personal stories, things like that. But you’re not doing that for SEO purposes. If it’s too diffuse, the algorithms can sometimes have a hard time figuring out what your site is about.

When you think about ranking in search engines, think about a big useful robot who’s trying to understand your site. What could you do to the site that would help the big useful robot understand what it was about? That’s a useful way to think about it, because it is actually reality.

The algorithms behave just like a robot would. They are in some ways very sophisticated, and in other ways they’re still a bit primitive. Make it simple for the robot to understand what you’re doing. But always with search engine optimization, create content for audiences first, search engines only very distant second.

The Keys to Making Content More Shareable

One of the most important factors when you’re trying to optimize your content for search engines and other forms of sharing is, you want to make sure that your content is very shareable. This actually brings me to a concept that I talk about sometimes called the second customer.

Your customer is somebody who buys from you. That’s a client, a person who pays for your product or service. Simple, right? The second customer is a person who may not actually buy what you have. They may not be in the market for what you have, they may be too advanced, or they just may not be in the market for what you sell.

But they have an audience of people who pay attention to them, and they talk you up. This could be a big blogger, it could be something with a massive social media presence, but it can also just be somebody who has a lot of friends who are interested in the kind of topic that your business is around.

These are the people. They think what you’re doing is cool, they think the way that you are doing it is cool, and they will share your content like crazy, if you give them the opportunity.

Why Sonia s Not a Fan of Purging Non-Buyers from Your Email List

This is one reason that I happen to believe that purging your email list of people that you don’t think are clicking or that you don’t think are buying is not a good idea, because you do not know what’s hiding there in the behavior.

Email lists are not perfectly transparent. We don’t always see when somebody comes to our site. Maybe they picked up a link in their email box, and they said, Oh, Copyblogger. There’s a new Copyblogger post up. They may not click on the link. They may go right to the site. They may forward it to a friend, who ends up being an amazing customer. They may tell their own lists about it. They may talk you up on social media. They maybe using a different email address with their PayPal.

I’m not a fan of this idea of purging your email list of people who don’t click or don’t buy. You save a couple of cents on your email program, but I think what you potentially miss out on, even if you’re only missing out on a few people whose behavior you can’t see, I just don’t think the upside is there.

Checking in with my friends who are more knowledgeable than I am about the technology of email, I can’t find anybody who really believes that you get into more spam filters if you have kind of dead weight on your list, if you have people on your list who just aren’t engaged. The people I’m talking to don’t think that’s true, so that’s probably one of those topics of high controversy that we could have a conversation about.

The second customer is somebody who shares your material, may or may not be a buyer. What does it take to make that person happy? What does it take to make the influencers share your content?

First, of course, you know I’m going to say this: Your content has to be good. What does that mean? It means that your content has to be useful and it has to be interesting. It needs to be both. Your content solves some kind of useful problem that annoys people, and it does that in an engaging and interesting way with some personality. It’s lively, it’s easy to read, and it’s enjoyable to consume.

When you want to optimize sharing, you also want to make sure that your site has immediate appeal. That means it doesn’t look shady. Your web design’s not super dated. The colors are reasonably nice. The design is reasonably good. It does not have to win a design award, but it has to look reasonably good.

It also needs to be formatted well, so you haven’t created this wall of gray-on-gray text in a tiny little font that nobody can read. You’ve used things like subheads to break up your content and make it fresh, approachable, readable, and shareable.

We’re going to pause here for just a moment and hear a few words about the Rainmaker Platform.

This episode of Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I have to tell you, I have owned a digital business in one form or another for a long time. When I started out, I have to say, building a reasonably complex, functioning website was just hard. It was expensive. It took a lot longer than you wanted it to. And it didn’t necessarily work exactly the way that you hoped it would work when you rolled it out.

Those kinds of frustrations were exactly what led us to develop the Rainmaker Platform. We wanted to make it simple enough that you could make a fast start, but also robust enough that you could add that more complex functionality that can change things for a digital business.

I’m talking about elements like a membership community, multiple products, free and paid products, and email automation. We also threw in all of the things that tend to be a hassle to manage. Rainmaker Platform includes premium hosting, it includes all of your WordPress upgrades, and it includes some very serious security, as well as your business email. All of that is wrapped up in your choice of dozens of great-looking mobile-responsive design frameworks, which you can literally change anytime you like by clicking a button.

I have to say, right now Rainmaker Platform, which includes the premium hosting, includes all the features — the cool membership capability, the email automation, landing pages, podcasting tools, all the bells and whistles. Right now, Rainmaker Platform is a lower monthly fee than I was paying just for email on my old personal site.

I don t need any kind of expensive consulting to get it set up. I can just get started. That’s not an uncommon scenario. It all works together, which means it works. And as your sophistication as a business owner grows, the features are there to grow right with you.

You can get started at Rainmaker.FM/Platform. Right now you can get 14 days free to try it out and get a taste for how quickly you can get up and running with a truly powerful website for your business. You can get that rolling at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

Then, of course, you know your site has to be secure. If you have a problem with that and your site gets hacked, that really takes a toll on your shareability. People, obviously, they’re not going to want to share content from a site that’s been hacked, and you’ll have a little residue of unease around that for a while.

Obviously things happen, sites do get hacked. You just want to take it very seriously, take your site’s security very seriously to minimize the chance of that happening and to fix it very promptly if it does happen.

The overarching principle that makes the second customer share, that makes anybody share content, is that it makes them look like heroes for finding it. That goes back to the useful and interesting. If you publish something really cool and nifty, those influencers — that’s what they do, they go around on the web and they find things that are cool and nifty and share them. That person becomes a hero with their audience for sharing it.

Connecting Your Content with Someone Else s Audience

The second customer is sort of one angle on something that people call OPT, other people’s traffic, you could call it other people’s audience. That’s sitting down, if you are not getting the amount of people you want to get for your content — your written content, audio content, I don’t care what it is. You need to think about who else has the audience that you want.

Now some industries are what’s been called a non-zero-sum game. What that means is, nobody buys one diet book. The number of diet books that people buy is either zero or a whole bunch. People who buy diet books — diets don’t really work very well, so people buy one thinking, Well this one’s going to do it. And then it doesn’t do it, and then they buy another one.

Business books are this way, hopefully not for exactly the same reason, but because business is a complex topic. It’s a topic about really executing on the fundamentals, which I think you could also argue fitness and nutrition is also true of.

People need ongoing refreshment on the fundamentals. New ways of thinking about them, new takes on them, and just new inspiration to keep executing on the basics. Study guides, even — if you’re going to take a big test, if you’re going to take the LSAT or something like that, you probably pick up two or three or four study guides and then focus most of your time on the one you find the best. But you bought three or four.

There’s some industries in which it’s not a zero-sum game. You can have more than one winner. If that is your kind of business, then there will be other publishers in your topic, and you will have more success together than you will individually.

If you are a fitness blogger or a nutrition blogger, make lots of friends in your industry and be on one another s podcasts, hang out on one another’s Facebook pages, and create content for each other. Obviously among people who have the same philosophies you do, the same basic ethos of your topic that you do, more is better. You can go farther together than you can by yourself.

Sometimes, either for real reasons or for illusory reasons, we are playing a zero-sum game. If I’m going to get knee surgery, I’m going to use one surgeon, right? I’m not going to get knee surgery with this doctor and then just get knee surgery on the other knee with another doctor, because that was so much fun the first time.

Some things really are a zero-sum game. There is a winner and everybody else loses. Obviously, elections work this way. Sometimes it’s not a zero-sum game, but people think it is.

I remember I had a beauty blogger in one of our communities. She was really frustrated, because she couldn’t get anywhere to guest post, because other beauty bloggers were kind of jealous of their position and they didn’t want to share content with anybody else. They didn’t want to give anybody else space on their blog.

That is less true now. So the beauty YouTubers, the beauty bloggers, and the nail bloggers and YouTubers, they do kind of hang out on each other’s channels. At the time, the perception wasn’t there. The perception was that it was a zero-sum game, and she couldn’t get any traction with other beauty bloggers.

That’s when you ask yourself that question: Who else has the audience that I want? If you’re a beauty blogger, there’s all kinds of content creators that might want to talk with you, have you create a guest post, or have you on a podcast. Anything from parenting bloggers, to somebody blogging about career and professionalism, to somebody blogging about work life balance.

There’s all kinds of things. Those people have the audience you want, you just have to craft your content to build the bridge.

Those are some preliminary ideas for finding more traffic. You can pay for it, you can network for it — so you can go out to other people’s audiences, other blogs, other content publishers, also other big social media presences, like someone with a big Facebook page. You can use organic search. That one, again, a little bit like paid traffic, be careful about relying on organic search for all your traffic, because the algorithms do change and businesses do get left high and dry if 100 percent of your business is coming from search.

Other Tactics for Finding More Traffic

There are some other techniques and tactics that I have talked about. I actually have a free ebook. It’s called Effective Content Promotion. It talks about what I talked about today, but it also talks about things, like why you can get more traffic by making more enemies. It talks about using the power of community identity. We’ve been talking a lot about that on Copyblogger lately.

It gets into four ways that guest blogging can help you grow your audience, and guest blogging’s still very powerful. Sometimes people think it doesn’t work anymore, but actually, if you do it correctly and you understand why you’re doing it, it works very well. It does not work as a cheap SEO tactic, but it works very well when it’s done well as an audience-growing technique that also has SEO benefits.

In some ways, kind of the hardest part is finding other people in your network, finding people other content publishers — again, the people with the big Facebook group. And not only finding them, but making a meaningful connection to them. I also included a 10-point plan for connecting with influencers.

That really comes from my own observation and watching how people interact with me, how I have interacted with other people — people I have been able to reach, people I haven’t been able to reach — and just really sharing everything I’ve observed on that topic.

I think it’s tricky. It’s a little bit emotionally laden, because we admire people, and sometimes we get a little insecure about approaching them. But there really are some ways to do it that can be very effective, as well as a few ways to do it that are not so effective that we’ll talk about as well.

That ebook is called Effective Content Promotion. It is part of the free content marketing library at My Copyblogger. We have I don’t even remember how many, a whole bunch, like way over a dozen free ebooks for you on all different elements of content marketing strategy.

There is an ebook there on search engine optimization that I think you’ll find very helpful, as well things like content strategy, keyword research.

You can get access to the complete content marketing library by going to If you look on the education tab, there’s a little subsection there free, My Copyblogger. That’s where all of the cool free stuff is. You can get access to it right away, drop your email address in there, and we will get the whole library over to you, as well as some other stuff that I think you’re going to find useful.

That’s it for today. If you have a favorite traffic strategy, drop it in the comments. We would love to hear more about it. You can find those at Copyblogger.FM.

Nov 07 2016
23 mins

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