Content Marketing: Is your design killing your content?

The primary design task of any newsletter, website or blog, is to ensure the content is as readable as possible. The design should work like a picture frame and enhance, not hide, your work.

content marketing design

I was on a site earlier, where the design was so loud and busy, that it was hard to find the actual content. When trying to read the content, the rest of the site was so distracting that I left after just 30 seconds or so.

Most newsletters are just as bad. Instead of focusing on the message, they’re packed with distractions. Lots of different font sizes, colours, options, boxes and buttons — all getting in the way and breaking the reading experience. As a result, their actual content gets very little attention… and the newsletter providers wonder why their readership isn’t growing.

The poor readability epidemic

Unreadable design is such a huge problem now, that there are apps that try to combat it. Readability is maybe the best known.

Take a look at the design you use for your newsletter, website and / or blog. If the content is playing second fiddle to the design, change the design. After all, it’s your content that people come to you for and your content, which builds your relationship with your readers.

A quick tip: Clear, big fonts and lots of white space work better than almost anything, when it comes to making your content stand out.

The thing about remarkable work

… is that it is risky, courageous and challenging. That’s what makes remarkable work stand out. It’s also why remarkable work attracts so much word of mouth publicity.

Those who want to attract word of mouth, must pay the admission price in advance. They need to do work, which is worthy of being remarked on or talked about. They need to embrace the risk, summon the courage and rise to the challenge.

Where to begin?

Ask yourself the following question, then take as long as you need to write your answer down:

If people were already talking about my business to their friends, what would I like them to be saying?

Once you’ve come up with your answer, think about it for a while. Next, commit to making the improvements to your business, which would motivate people to say those things about you.

Be the author of your word of mouth referrals

The most successful business owners already do this. They are the authors of what people say about their business.

How?

By creating amazing customer experiences, which people feel they HAVE to share.

To age online or not to age: That is the question!

JimHomePage

Yesterday, I had some new photos taken for use on my blogs and social networking accounts. I asked the photographer to take honest photos… photos that reflected exactly what she saw. I’m happy with the end result. It’s me.

Honest photos?

Not everyone uses a recent or even accurate photo online. It’s understandable too. Whenever I change my photo, at least one person will feel compelled to criticise how I look. Here’s why people criticise you and how to deal with it!

It’s a great idea to use a complimentary photo you feel comfortable with. However, the photo should accurately reflect who you are and what you actually look like. If not, you could find it hurts you and your business, when people see the real you and wonder what else you’re hiding from them.

This reminds me of a recent story I heard from my friend Kelly in California. Whilst extreme, it’s something I have experienced to a lesser degree many, many times.

Picture this

Kelly is an attorney and recently visited a new client for the first time. When she arrived at his offices, she introduced herself to the receptionist and explained she had a 9:30am appointment with the CEO.

Kelly was taken to the meeting room, where a man in his 60’s was already sitting. This seemed odd as there was supposed to be just the CEO and herself attending. She was then stunned, when the guy in the room introduced himself as the CEO. He looked nothing like his photo on the company website, which was at least 10 or 15 years out of date.

She told me that her first thought was: ‘I wonder what else he will hide from me?’

To age online or not to age online, that is the question!

Thanks to photo editing software, we can instantly lose our wrinkles. However, we don’t have to. The decision is always ours. If we choose to, we can use kind but honest photos and change them every year or two, so we age online just as we do offline.

…. or we can stay eternally young online and fool ourselves into believing that no one will notice, when they meet us.

Is that ladder you’re climbing leaning against the wrong wall?

After 3 years of hard work, she achieved it.

Yet, she wasn’t happy.

I was emailed last week, by someone whose primary goal for her blog was to get a minimum of 1000 visitors a day, for 30 consecutive days. She achieved this goal after years of hard work, writing content and marketing her blog.

Why so unhappy?

She reached her traffic milestone and realised that she wasn’t in the traffic business. She owns a translations business. What she needs is for her site to generate regular, high quality leads and inquiries for her business, which it is failing to do. Instead, she is attracting zero value, drive-by traffic from Google and social networks.

It’s easy to get seduced by the wrong numbers — especially online. Before you invest years of your time working hard to achieve a marketing goal, make sure it’s a goal that is in line with your overall business objectives.

Otherwise you risk wasting years climbing a very long ladder, which is leaning against the wrong wall.

Your headlines are promises, which your content needs to deliver

content marketing r

Using sensational headlines to trick people into open emails or read content, is a super-fast way to lose the trust and respect of your marketplace.

People hate being taken for a fool

If the content of a blog post, article, free download or newsletter, etc., fails to deliver on the promise of its sensational headline, the author has just broken a promise to the reader.

Headlines and titles are important. A great headline will attract attention and encourage people to start reading. However, the headline needs to accurately reflect what the content delivers. Otherwise, any success gained from getting more traffic will soon be lost, as people realise they were duped.

People respect honesty

With Content Marketing, using honest, well crafted headlines is the only way to attract and retain the attention of your marketplace.

It builds trust. It earns credibility. It’s worthy of you and your business.

Content Marketing: More about Content, than Marketing

content marketing, writing, material, information

Do you use content marketing as a way to generate sales or inquiries for your business? If you do and like most people, you’re not happy with your results, you may find the answer you need right here in this post.

Here’s what I believe to be the primary mistake people make with content marketing, and how you can avoid it.

Focusing too much on the marketing

The main focus of most content marketing articles and guides, is the marketing part.

  • How to promote your blog, podcast, video etc.
  • How to motivate people to forward your newsletter to their friends.
  • How to get more people to share your content on social networks.
  • How to make your content rank highly on search engines.

In short: How to increase the number of people who see your content.

Marketing gives your content a push. It doesn’t give it legs

The challenge with that approach is that it presupposes that churning out content is enough… so long as you market the crap out of it. This is 100% incorrect.

The most successful people, who use content to market their products or services, actually do very little marketing of their content. Like me, they write, hit publish and then share their work on whatever social networks they use. It takes around 2 minutes if you do it manually.

  • If the content is useful enough, lots of people read it through, then a subset email you or call you. Others share it.
  • If the content isn’t useful enough, few people read it, even fewer get in touch with you or share it.

The key thing is the content. That’s what gives the; newsletter, article, blog post, video or podcast, legs. It’s what causes the reader to connect with you or ignore you. It’s what builds a tribe around your work or means you have to start from scratch each time. It’s what positions you as an expert or yet another purveyor of generic information.

Yes, the marketing is important

However, it’s by far the least important part. If you’re writing content, sharing it with your networks and not seeing much response, it’s the content you need to focus on.

It could be any number of things related to the content, which means it’s failing to engage and motivate people.

Writing with passion, clarity and brevity on your chosen subject, is something you can become very good at, relatively quickly.

It means being willing to practice. It means writing often. It means being prepared to adjust your style. However, you can do it and it’s well worth the time and effort involved.

This will help

This explains how I manage to publish lots of useful information, (I published 50 posts last month across 2 sites) and how you can improve the quality and quantity of your writing: How to write great content, every day.

How to immediately get more Word of Mouth sales leads… for free!

steaks missed

If you want people to talk about your business online, the process is pretty straightforward.

  • Do something worth talking about.
  • Make it as easy as possible for people to share it.
  • And if you want people to know it’s YOUR business that’s being talked about, get YOUR name into the story.

It’s that final step, which I want to share with you today.

Steak out

I took the photo above, in a great village pub and restaurant. It’s a list of steaks they offer, which apparently always includes some unusual (worthy of sharing) steaks.

I decided to share their steak menu to my Instagram account. As I pointed my phone at it, one of the regular customers told me that people often took photos of the menu.

Take another look at that photo: Have you spotted something missing, which means they are gaining nothing from all the photos being shared about their amazing steaks?

The name of that pub and their website is missing from the steak menu.

A missed opportunity

So, they have created a visual story worth sharing, but when people share the visual, the venue isn’t included in the share.

  • No one knows the name of the pub, from the photo’s being shared on social networks.
  • Because there’s no website on the menu board, you can’t find the place either, if you want to try one of their steaks.
  • No name. No website. No phone number. No Word of Mouth (or Word of Mouse) referrals from all those social networking shares of their menu.

The answer?

Make sure your website and (or) company name is visible on any element of your business, which people are likely to share online.

Then your business gets shared, along with the story.

Your immediate attention is not required

Look at the updates below and consider how many of them need your immediate, urgent (as in drop everything) attention:

  • Geeta just sent a tweet to you.
  • Terry just liked your Instagram photo.
  • Mary just added you on Google+.
  • Jose just left a comment on your blog.
  • Jon has just invited you to like his new Facebook page.
  • Gill just added you to a list.
  • Ali just sent you a text message.
  • Tony just invited you to join him on Linkedin.
  • Maria just commented on your Facebook post.
  • Lee just favourited your tweet.
  • Louis just IM’d you.

Even though these are non critical events (they would have called you), most of us have our devices set up to notify us instantly, whenever they happen.

The endless stream of interruptions controls our focus, breaks our concentration, eats into our precious time and lowers our productivity. (Here are some ideas to improve your productivity.)

Unless you provide an emergency service…

Consider turning off your notifications, until you are ready for them.

Check them when you have a break. Check them when it suits you and your work flow.

Be deliberate, regarding where you invest your time, focus and energy. Don’t surrender them to instant updates. Your immediate attention is seldom, if ever, required.

Is Google’s SEO loophole hurting your business too? Here’s how to check

google problem

Google has opened the door to an aggressive SEO tactic, Negative Backlink SEO.

Here’s what it is, how it works, how to tell if you’re being targeted and how to stop it hurting your business!

Negative backlink SEO

Google now proactively punishes sites, which are linked to from sites with a bad reputation. Previously, Google only punished you, if you linked from your site to a ‘bad neighbourhood’. This included link farms, article directories, link exchange portals, etc.

Now, you get punished if they link to you – even if you know nothing about it!

So, your competitors or anyone who would like to hurt your business, can do so simply by linking to your site from dubious sites or directories. They can do it anonymously too.

The move by Google is supposedly aimed at stopping websites from buying links or exchanging links, in order to boost their search rankings. Instead, it has created a huge headache and Google is showing no sign of relenting.

Are you being targeted?

The only way to know if your site is being targeted, is to monitor the sites that link to you. There are lots of tools to do this, some you pay for others are free.

If you use Google analytics, you can set up a Google Webmaster account for free and it will provide you with a list of all the links it can see, which point back to your site (backlinks). You can access Google Webmaster Tools here. The benefit of using Google’s solution is that it shows you what Google can see and as Google is the hub of the problem, this makes sense.

I have also found other backlink tools often inaccurate, when testing them. There are over 107,000 backlinks to Jims Marketing Blog, with most backlink apps and programs only able to find between 10% and 20% of them.

Fixing the problem

Technically, this should be pretty simple. You find the toxic links using Google Webmaster Tools, then send the links to Google, using their Disavow Tool You can find it here. Google then disavows (or accepts you show no responsibility) for those links and stops penalising you. You then ask Google to reconsider the penalty it applied to you and hope for the best. Here’s how Google’s Disavow Tool works.

In reality, this can be a massive pain in the ass. New, toxic backlinks can be added to your site at any time, meaning you need to remember to check for new links, regularly.

Also, if you’re new to this, it can be hard to tell a valuable link from a toxic link. Some toxic links come from URL’s that look pretty normal and some genuinely great links come from URL’s that seem dubious. So, be very careful what links you decide to ask Google to disavow. Whilst you can reverse the process, it’s best to be sure before you disavow anything.

You can also email the site owner, to ask if they will manually remove the link or links to your site. Obviously, your success will depend on whether the site owner wants to help or even if the site linking to you is still being actively managed.

Google is not the only game in town

Google has never changed the rules as often or as dramatically as it does today. As I wrote a few days ago, many small business owners are seeing Google search traffic drop like a stone. I received dozens of emails from people following that post, whose businesses are suffering seriously from these changes. It’s a very real problem. One that Google seems oblivious to.

Thankfully Google is not the only game in town. It is just one component of Internet marketing.

So, regardless of whether you are being punished by Negative Backlink SEO or any of the other 3 changes Google has made recently, I strongly recommend you diversify your Internet marketing.

You’re not scared: You just need the right strategy

We live in a golden age of marketing, with amazing opportunities for you to grow a hugely successful business. So, what are you doing with it all?

Today, you can share your ideas via blogs, email and social networks and build a community of people, who are interested in your work and what you have to say. Moreover, you can do it for peanuts. When done correctly, this generates regular inquiries from highly targeted prospective clients.

What an amazing opportunity.

What does the typical small business owner do?

They decide not to build a community around their own ideas, beliefs and thoughts. Instead, they create social networking accounts for their business, then mostly fill them with the thoughts, links and work of other people. They start a blog, but fill it with generic ‘me too’ content that tells us nothing about them, their beliefs or ideas.

Yes, they get follower numbers, but no community. In fact, most people that follow them will know very little about them or their business.

I was prompted to write this, after hearing some very strong words on the subject from marketing thought leader, Seth Godin. I provide a link to the audio below, so you can hear what he has to say, in context (it’s around 7 and a half minutes in).

No personality, invisible conduits

During the 15th episode of Seth Godin’s Start Up School podcast, Seth called those who regularly share his content and the content of other well known experts (rather than their own ideas): “No personality, invisible, conduits”.

Seth continues: “These people aren’t showing the guts to say, I have a point of view. I have something to say.”

That’s a little harsh and very different to my experience of business owners. Very few of whom are gutless.

It’s not guts that small business owners lack

I disagree with Seth’s belief that it’s fear, which primarily stops people from creating their own content.

I started what’s now called Content Marketing in 1998, with my marketing newsletter. Over the years, I have spoken with countless small business owners, about building their business via email, then via blogging and social networks.

Do you know what stops them?

Here’s a clue: It’s not fear!

In the majority of cases, they simply don’t know what to do or where to start. It’s a strategy they need.

They don’t want to waste time just adding to all the noise that’s already out there. They want results. Let’s not forget, business owners have already shown the courage to start their businesses, often leaving ‘safe’ careers to do so.

When business owners know what to do and they can clearly see the direct commercial benefit of sharing their own ideas, most will get straight to work on it. They are not gutless – certainly not those I work with.

So…

If you are not developing effective marketing assets online right now, stop what you are doing. Then, either learn how to build an effective content marketing strategy or hire someone who can show you exactly what you need to do.

Yes, feel free to share other people’s content, but remember to tell us who you are and what you think. It’s the latter, which creates community, builds relationships and drives marketing success online.