Writing – Why Are Moments of Inspiration so Elusive

Some white clouds in a blue skyWe need to find inspiration to write. There are plenty of tools, exercises and methodologies out there to help us to generate ideas. Many of these are great and once you find the ones that suit your style then you can have an endless supply of ideas. My concern in this post is mainly about those sparks of genius that often come at the most inappropriate of times, when we are least prepared for them:

When you are rushing out of the door, going through your “leaving the house” routine. Locking everything up and recapping the mental check-list of everything you need to achieve before you can return home.

In those moments when you are trying to get a few more minutes sleep after having been woken up to let the dog out, deal with a restless child or answer the door/phone to a very inconsiderate person!

It is that grey area between being awake and being asleep which most often undoes me. As we move forward in this technological age our preparedness is much less likely to be lacking but even so, the will to capture that thought for prosperity still seems to elude us. I don’t know how many times I’ve had one of those moments and have thought to myself “Ah good idea, I must remember that for later” and then I promptly continue on with my allotted task totally forgetting all about my moment of inspiration. Of course that moment of inspiration does not remain forgotten it just becomes ephemeral and very annoyingly lives just outside your field of vision.

Elizabeth Gilbert – author of Eat, Pray, Love – gave an amazing talk about nurturing your creativity for Ted 2009, it is well worth a watch. I do not necessarily agree with all of her views but it is always interesting to listen to other peoples views on subjects in order to challenge your own.

It is difficult to catch an elusive thought, to make it concrete. This Native American Proverb goes a long way to explain why that is the case:

Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.

So the answer to the conundrum is that you have to stop and interact with the thought whatever excuses your busy mind might be giving you. Just stop, grab the nearest writing tool and make some notes. Doing it in that moment will save you both time and heartache in the long run. Those elusive thoughts that remain just out of reach cause an uncomfortable feeling. Having them lurking in the background also makes us less focused and unable to concentrate. I have spent endless amounts of time attempting to recall particular trains of thought to no avail when a couple of minutes jotting down the thoughts would have avoided the entire issue!

Or maybe it is just me, maybe I’m the only one! Do you have the same problem and what action do you take to avoid it?

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Devious Link Building or Just Normal Business Practice

SEO - Ethical Backlinks - Indigo GirlDevious link building or just normal business practice –  A little bit of background to start with, I run two businesses an ethical online marketing agency and a social enterprise which is a training business. Online marketing and training are two highly competitive market places to be in. Have I ever needed to stoop to underhanded tactics in order to get ahead in either of my businesses? No I have not. I did however work in the financial services industry for almost 20 years so I am not naive. I am fairly well acquainted with shady business practices and doing anything to get the competitive advantage.

I should state very clearly from the outset that any SEO is manipulation of sorts because you are actively trying to improve the websites rankings and therefore traffic by optimizing the site itself and the links that point to it. In SEO terms there are perceived to be gradients of manipulation:

  • White Hat – as ethical as possible – marketing of the site using ethical means. Delivering quality content readable to the human eye.
  • Grey Hat –  uses some forms of marketing tactic that could be questionable but have not yet been banned by the search engines
  • Black Hat – uses exploits or loop holes in order to trick search engine algorithm to get the competitive advantage in SERPs

I keep a watching brief on what is going on in my industries. When it comes to the marketing agency, one aspect of this means keeping abreast of new trends in SEO and specifically link building. A watching brief on all aspects means looking what is emerging in the White Hat, Grey Hat and Black Hat spheres.

Link building and how the search engines view and weigh the links change through time so the art of link building is an ever changing one. White Hat tactics involve obtaining links as naturally as possible over an extended period of time. This way of doing it tends to build a more robust profile because it does not generally take into account whether or not the link that you are obtaining has “the right” attributes i.e PageRank, nofollow, domain type, domain age and so on. If you give too much attention to obtaining specific types of link your link profile can become skewed and detrimentally impact your SERPs – yes catch my drift – too many spectacular links can be a bad thing just the same as a slew of spammy links is a bad thing!

So what sort of practice am I talking about when I say devious link building well one example would be a strategy that has been out there for a while that could provide you with competitor links to your product:

  • Build a review site about your competitor.
  • Make sure that the reviews that you post to it are flattering.
  • Your competitor’s reputation monitoring will pick the site up and will most likely lead to them linking to the site.
  • Once the site is old enough and the posts archived you then redirect the domain  to your main site providing you with links from your competitor(s).

This should be classed as a questionable business practice as well as a Black Hat/Grey Hat tactic. The review to start with is a fake and there is deception involved. This could get you into all sorts of trouble from a reputational stand point if it ever got out. It is also something that might be investigated by various agencies should an allegation or complaint be made to them.

I am putting this post out there because I get asked about link building so often, it is always one of the hottest topics in online marketing. There is so much misinformation out there that I thought it would be good to get a debate going over which strategies have worked for you and which ones have not?

I am going to open a thread over on the Business Marketing Answers Forums so that we can start a healthy discussion going. It does not matter which sphere your tactics fall into but it would be great to see some really good empirical evidence to show what strategies really do work and which ones have gotten you penalized in the search engines eyes.

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How to Get More Traffic – Customer Insight

how to get targeted traffic from customer insight

Targeted traffic is extremely important for conversion rates. To satisfy the needs of the traffic that you are targeting you have to carry out some customer analysis.

Think of it this way it’s like the lyrics of your favorite song. Isn’t truly compelling content the content that speaks to you personally? Whether the content garners a positive or negative response from the customer, gripping content is a must for a successful blog or website.

So is your content enthralling? Well that is a matter of perspective. We all view things from different angles. This in itself poses a bit of a problem because you cannot write content that will compel or be attractive to everyone.  There is a significant correlation between the customer that you are trying to attract and the type of content that you should be posting on your website or blog.

In order to work out what the most attractive content to your customer is, you need to gain customer insight. You do this by working out who your customer actually is and then you can start tailoring your content to their needs. Working out who your customer is can seem a little daunting but it needn’t pose too much of a challenge. You have to find out who they are or you cannot write for them. This does not cause an issue if you are writing for family, friends or a community that you are immersed in but how do you write for a customer whose community you are not immersed in?

There are some fairly simple types of research that you can carry out to identify who your customer is and what makes them tick. You should carry out the research with at least following questions in mind or make a list of questions that are more relevant to you. The important thing is that you should be actively researching:

  • What is the profile of my customer? e.g. location, gender, age, culture, values and beliefs, education, income and so on.

  • What are their needs and wants? e.g. the issues that your customer is looking to resolve by visiting your site or blog.
  • Who else is active in the same niche? e.g. what other sites, forums and communities are there around, what are their traffic levels, what is their content like, how is their site presented and how do they compare to you?

The third item in the list might surprise you but if the targeted website traffic that you are trying to attract is going to a competitor’s site rather than yours then there must be something there that attracts them and you need to work out what that is.

Next time we are going to look at some of the free tools that are available to help you carry out customer analytics and I will provide you with a worksheet that you can use to start building both customer and competitor profiles.

See previous post here.

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Are You Publishing Too Soon?

Have you ever looked back on an article or a post the day after you have hit the publish button and thought “arghh I wish I had not published that”.

It is something that most of us have experienced as writers at sometime or another. The problem is very common because we get emotionally invested in our writing (which is a good thing). We want to share our thoughts with people as soon as possible once we have expressed them in writing. The excitement or heat of the moment makes us hit that publish button when in fact what we should do is put the article on the back burner for at least a few hours.

The reflection and editing process is very important to the quality of the finished article. Reflection and editing should not be done during the creative process of writing as they are analytical skills. They need to be treated as distinct and separate phases of the process. Giving your subconscious mind a period of time to process what you have written, reflect upon it and make improvements to it will make an enormous difference to your writing.

Maximizing the quality of your work whilst balancing your schedule can be quite tricky. Your writing process for short articles or posts should go something like this:

  • First Draft – Written with no editing. Written at speed to get all your thoughts onto the page.
  • Edit – This can take place from a few hours to a few days later (some writers leave it for months) depending on your schedule.
  • Second Draft – Written based on your editing.
  • Edit – This should be the final edit when writing a short article or post. It may not even be required a qick once over is often enough.

Sometimes of course the problem is the other way around. If you are very anxious about your writing you may get into an endless editing loop. This can result in just as many issues. For this problem you really just have to take the leap of faith and limit yourself to the above process. If you leave adequate time between your first draft and editing it ready for the second you will find that everything is much smoother.

Quick tip: If you cannot stop yourself from publishing as soon as you get your writing on the page, write your first draft on paper. This will help to enforce the process until you get into a routine.

Give it a go, experiment with with different reflection periods until you are happy with the process and be sure to let me know how you get on!

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How to Get More Traffic – Are we Boring Our Readers!

Question Do You Bore Your ReadersAs a teacher and a writer one of the hardest things to convey is the importance of writing with your customer in mind. When I started this blog to accompany the forthcoming Business Marketing Answers forums I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to carry out a little research. I really wanted to see how much writing style really matters when it comes to generating targeted traffic in this new age of information overload. What do you think I discovered?

I decided that there was only one way for me to test my hypothesis over a relatively short period of time. I would have to write 2 sets of articles for the blog in 2 distinct styles and market them the same way to the same audience to see what response they got.

So I started the blog with 2 fairly heavyweight and technical articles:

Copywriting – 7 Reasons You Must Invest In Article Writing

Search Engine Optimization Why You Ought To Be On The Cutting Edge

I marketed the posts using Twitter, Facebook, Blog Frog, Stumble Upon, Digg and so on. I then posted 2 more much less formal articles in a totally different style:

How I Get The Creativity Of Writing Kick Started

My Top 5 Writing Companions

This time I wrote shorter posts in”how to” and “list” styles. I then marketed them in exactly the same way and waited with baited breath to see what would happen.

Can you guess which posts got more views and a slew of comments? Not that hard really, it was of course the more informal posts. Why is this important? Well to connect with your audience you need to communicate with them in a style that they appreciate and enjoy! Who wants to be bored rigid?

We now know that it is the case that we have to tailor our writing to our audience and of course make sure that we are actually targeting that audience. How do we do that? We have to get to know who our readers are! Get some tips on customer analysis here.

In the mean time why don’t you share your views below on how you tailor your style and what difference do you find it makes?

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My Top 5 Writing Companions

Organization and being able to access information as quickly as possible is very important to me. Multitasking whether it’s because you have multiple businesses, multiple clients, multiple responsibilities, all of the above can be tricky. I am always on the lookout for tools that will help me make the best use of my time. All of the tools listed below are free. I have them bookmarked to my writing tool-bar and they are my constant companions whilst I write (all other than the first one):

Image of Dark Room screenDark Room

If I get out of the routine of avoiding distractions such as Twitter, email and Skype this is the first application that I turn to. It’s a bit like putting yourself on the naughty step! This application literally stops you getting distracted by blacking out your screen leaving you with a no frills text editor. Staring at this screen soon gets you back into a routine…

Picture of the google reader icon

Google Reader

Every feed that I subscribe to whether it is a news feed, a Twitter search or a blog feed goes into one main Google reader account. Each feed is fed directly into folders that sort them by topic or by client. I review Google  reader once a day or for client folders when I am next working on their portfolio.

Evernote Application Icon

Evernote

This application acts as my digital compendium (swipe file) of documents, webpages, notes, business cards, articles and so on. I do have manual files as well but you cannot carry those around with you to work on the fly. With Evernote you can tag everything for easy searching. Evernote indexes all the images that you send to it and makes them fully searchable. I have not found a device that I cannot use it on yet!

Onelook Dictionary IconOneLook Dictionary

A totally awesome online dictionary that lets you search for words and phrases using a whole variety of search variables. Ways of searching that you couldn’t even imagine and they search it all against 1052 dictionaries.

Onelook Dictionary IconOneLook Reverse Dictionary

Ever trip on a word? You know what you want to say but the word has vanished and your mind has gone blank. This will solve your problem. You just put in the meaning you want in the search box and it returns all the words that match that description. Pure genius!

This is also a great tool for looking for topic and content idea generation. Say you want to write an article about forest mushrooms. You just search using this term and it will return all words associated with forest mushrooms for you to pick and choose from.

Well those are the application that I cannot do without they are invaluable. I am sure that there are alternatives out there but these are the ones that seem to fit me best. I suspect that there are many alternatives to Evernote out there now but I simply have not had the time to investigate, what do you use?



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How I Get The Creativity of Writing Kick Started

Sometimes it can be really difficult to get into a writing frame of mind. Particularly because we have so many distractions around us.

Being creative is much easier if it is done first thing in your daily routine. Your mind will not have had much time to fill up with distractions especially if you do not connect in anyway to social media before you begin the process. You need to find a routine that suits you. One that you can actually do on a daily basis so that it does become part of your routine. Here is how my writing day starts:

1. Large cup of coffee, replace with the beverage of your choice!

2. Music – headphones go on.

3. My morning pages – morning pages are just a method of carrying out a brain dump so that your mind is totally clear. I alternate between using a journal for this and a great free website 750 words.

4. Set a timer for 30 minutes:-

Draft Article

Edit yesterday’s article and post to its destination

Organize research for next article

5. Break

6. Get on with your next task of the day!

The research for the next article is usually just bringing together all the material that you have collected into one source file. This makes you reread all the information discarding all the superfluous bits that you are not going to use.

The reason that I do this is that you read the information when you found it, rereading it for a second time in context with all the other material will help your mind work on the content before you actually start writing the next day. This can avoid not knowing where to start!

This is my routine. Do you have a similar routine or do you approach it totally differently?

Please use the comment section to add comments about my routine or your own.

For the tools that I use as I write see My Top 5 Writing Companions

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Search Engine Optimization Why You Ought To Be At Its Cutting Edge

descriptive works relating to online marketing SEO, social media, viralMarketing yourself, your product or your service is a vital part of any business. E-commerce can be a great way to enhance your revenue but due to the amount of people, vying for the same business it is vital that you understand and employ the latest trends in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or employ a specialist to do it for you.  Even if you are going to outsource your SEO needs, you will still need to arm yourself with the proper expertise and know which tools to employ in order to ensure that your site is a cut above the rest.

SEO is an on-going process and not just a one-time project. Every day, more and more sites become established on the internet. They optimize their sites in order to better their rankings in in the most widely used search engines. If you take your eye off the ball after the initial optimization of your website, it is likely that you will quickly lose any headway that you have made.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a term widely used. It is used to describe the process of optimization websites to make sure that they appear high up in the search engine rankings. This is required because the higher that you appear in the search engine rankings the more likely you are to achieve visitors to your site via the search engines.

Most people carry out searches using Google, Bing or Yahoo in order to find the information, product or services that they require. Most people only review the ten top search results, which appear on the first page. It is therefore vital that you make it onto the first page with your site if you want to generate significant traffic. Making it to the first page of a search engine is great and a real achievement but statistics show that the higher up the page you are the bigger proportion of clicks you will receive. You want to achieve high traffic volumes to your site because not every visitor will buy from you, therefore if you attract more traffic to your website your likelihood of making a sale will go up.

As a rule of thumb unless you are a very specialist site, selling a totally unique product or have a very high profile and reputable company then you will probably achieve in the region of one sale for every per 100 visitors to your site. Therefore, you can see the need for volume of traffic!

As I said before you do not have the opportunity to rest on your laurels as far as Search Engine Optimization is concerned. You have to grab hold of a top spot in the search engines and then you have to work to maintain your position. This means improving your site daily/weekly/monthly depending upon the competition levels for your keywords (the words that your website is tagged with that describe your product and the words that you think your customers would use as their search terms, do not panic there is software available to help analyse this).

Let us explore what Search Engine Optimization actually is, we know we have to do it in order to make our website successful but there are different ways of doing it, some ways will cause more harm than good to your site as the search engines are very fussy about how much and in what way you optimize your site.

In essence, Search Engine Optimization is a group of procedures used to maximize your sites effectiveness in attracting visitors. This is done by improving the aspects of your site that will move you up the search engine rankings (on-page optimization) as well as building links/secondary sites (off-page optimization) to improve your site reputation and ranking. Off-page Optimization is also a good way to raise public awareness of your site. Search Engine Optimization goes works best alongside an internet marketing campaign.

All good Search Engine Optimization starts with the on-page optimization and the starting point should always be identification of the keyword phrases that will be targeted to bring traffic to your site. This phase should not be skimped on and thorough investigation and testing must take place. Identifying the right keyword phrases makes or breaks a site. I cannot emphasize too much how much care needs to be taken at this stage. You will need about 10 good quality keywords to maximize traffic. Some of the things that you need to look at are that:

  1. The phrases are actually used in searches that relate to your product/service/information.
  2. These search terms are used by your prospective customers.
  3. That the terms provide adequate traffic to be viable.
  4. That the terms used convert to sales.

Once you have identified good quality keywords you will need to ensure that the content of your site includes your keywords. This may mean having to rewrite your sites content. Great care must be taken at this stage to ensure that you do not appear to be stuffing keywords into your content. The content must be written and flow naturally to include the keywords. Search Engines take a very dim view of keyword stuffing a balance must be found because the content must also be relevant to the keywords that you are going to use. You may also need to rewrite your sites contents so that you could get the right keyword phrases in your site without making it too commercial but light and informative. In order to get the balance right you have to follow basic guidelines but also be aware that the Search Engines often change their rules!

Off-page optimization can be just as tricky as on-page optimization. The Search Engines not only look at the content of your site to decide your relevance to a search term entered by your prospective customer but also by whether or not you have links to your site from other sites. The quality of links from other sites to your site can also determine how the Search Engines perceive your relevance. Going out and getting links in bulk is frowned upon by the search engine again as in your sites content these links must be natural and relevant to your sites content. Good quality links are very important in raising your rank in the Search Engines.

The internet is awash with guides and software to help you to optimize your website but you do need to be careful when optimizing your site to ensure that you do not employ methods that are frowned upon by the Search Engines.

Search Engine Optimization is time consuming but the benefits are worth it. If you do not have the time to put aside each day/week/month to keep the process going; if you do not have the time to keep up to date with the Search Engines rules and regulations or if the process just bores you silly and you just won’t keep it up then you really need to look at getting a professional in to get the job done for you.

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Copywriting – 7 Reasons Why You Must Invest In Article Writing

Copywriting - page of a book communication highlightedBusiness has always been a cutthroat proposition, the advent of the internet means that we can now easily sell to more markets but that has also brought about increased competition in all market places that we enter. With E-commerce, our goal is to attract as much traffic to our websites as possible so that we can convert a proportion of those visitors to sales. In most market places conversion rates are fairly static so the easiest way to increase our sales is to increase the traffic to our website.

The only way to consistently increase traffic to our websites is to become highly ranked by the Search Engines. One of the best ways to achieve this is to write or have written quality copy. Article writing need not be an arduous task, initially one article written per day is enough to promote your website effectively. You can kill to birds with one stone by also using the research process for your articles to keep up to date with what is going on in your market place. If you really do not want to write yourself the process is easily outsourced and you will find that many Search Engine Optimization Services (SEO Services) provide this as part of their monthly maintenance packages.

Here are the 7 reasons that will persuade you that you must invest in copywriting:

1. You will reach a wider audience

Articles that represent you well and that are of good quality should undoubtedly be shared with a wider audience (poor quality articles will do your reputation more harm than good). Once you have a good article you should submit it to an article directory such as e-zine at the same time you could even do a quick “How To” guide to submit to ehow. Not only will these two actions gain you exposure to a bigger audience but you will also be able to include a link back to your website in the resources box. This tactic serves more than one purpose it will enhance your reputation, it will gain you a link back to your website and it can also directly increase the traffic to your website due to link popularity in the Search Engines as well as direct clicks from the resources box.

2. Use your articles to promote your website on related websites

Again you need a good quality article for this, look for good quality websites that are in a related niche to yours but that are not direct competitors to you. Approach them and ask if they would like you to write a unique article as a guest author for their site. If they agree send them an article on the proviso that they publish the article intact including your resource box which should include a link back to your website. Good quality advice/information is a prerequisite here and there should be no hard sell. This is an absolute winner for free advertising.

3.Use articles to gain higher rankings for your website in the search engines

Search Engines like fresh unique content on websites. Add a new article to your website every few days and optimize it for the keyword that it is targeting. The more good quality content that you have on your site that is directly related to your niche the better chance you will have to increase your rankings in the Search Engines. Remember as with everything else this should be done in moderation do not add a whole load of low quality articles all in one go, make sure you add well crafted optimized articles periodically.

4. Use articles to increase your link popularity

You can gain back links and some traffic by submitting articles from your website or fresh articles to blog carnivals, on-line document repositories, article directories and so on. Always ensure that you have a link back to your website included in a resource box or as a link from one of your keywords in the article (if allowed). The content of these articles should again not be a hard sell but informative to your prospective customers. Your links will build up naturally over time in this way and this is a perfectly acceptable for of improving your link popularity.

5.Use your articles to optimize your website

You can use your articles to make sure that your website is keyword rich which will help build the relevance of your website in the Search Engine’s eyes and this will help to increase your Search Engine ranking. As always the articles must be of good quality, be informative and not overly stuffed with keywords. Make sure that eventually you have articles that cover your main keywords as well as the secondary related keywords.

6. Use your articles to establish your reputation

Trust and reputation are very important in business. If your presence to your customers and prospective customers is on the internet then the best way to establish this is by providing a professional and helpful impression. This can be achieved easily by writing articles as long as they are of good quality, original content and relevant to your subject matter. Writing informative articles and keeping up to date with your niche will create a good impression and help to establish you as an expert in your field.

7. Open your articles up to discussion

Opening up your articles to discussion by submitting them to social networking sites or by including comment sections on your website will make your content more dynamic. Interacting with your customers or prospective customers in this way is a very useful way to obtain feedback to help improve your proposition. Allowing this interaction will also help to establish your credibility. Beware though that the content that you open up to this kind of process must be unique/original, informative and relevant or you may end up damaging your reputation rather than enhancing it! To avoid spam comments I would also suggest that you set it up so that comments are reviewed by you or your administrator for approval prior to posting.

More information on SEO

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Welcome

Welcome to Business Marketing Answers

This website is being developed to help businesses and individuals who embrace the internet as a resource but are finding it difficult to get answers to the one big question. How to get a true and lasting presence on the internet. Marketing your business online is about knowing how to get the message out to as many targeted people as possible.

Please check back soon, or subscribe to get notified when we launch.

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