Does Google’s Buying Spree Mean the Robot Apocalypse Is Near?

Think the robot apocalypse might be near? Think again. Although Google made headlines for snapping up eight robotics companies in the second half of 2013, and again for dropping a reported $400 million on artificial-intelligence startup DeepMind last week, one entrepreneur with a deep background in robotics says we’re a long way from being subjugated by intelligent machines.

“Generally it’s best to keep our expectations about such technology fairly conservative,” says Tandy Trower, the founder and chief executive of Seattle-based Hoaloha Robotics, whose mission is to create robot companions for the elderly.

And Trower knows from robots. Before striking out on his own in 2009, he founded Microsoft’s robotics group under the watchful eye of Bill Gates. But when Steve Ballmer, who replaced Gates as CEO, said he wasn’t interested in pursuing health-care applications, Trower felt he couldn’t turn his back on the possibility of improving people’s lives.

“Our mission is to deliver a companion robot that will assist this growing population of people who face the challenges of aging, disability and disease,” Trower says. “We don’t see ourselves in the role of replacing human care at all, but rather we hope to bridge the gap between the growing number of people who need support and the shrinking number of people who can provide it.”

But the Hoaloha robot, he estimates, won’t hit the market for at least another two years. In the meantime, components will continue to get cheaper, which will make it easier to hit the price range of $5,000 to $10,000 that he figures would put his robot within reach for consumers. “But I wouldn’t expect any dramatic leaps in terms of robots in the home or artificial intelligence,” Trower says. “It will be more of a progression in terms of the things we’re already using.”

In essence, that means algorithms designed to achieve specific tasks — not holistic, human-like thinking and imagining. Consider a calculator, Trower says. Even a basic desktop calculator can do calculations faster and more accurately than most people. But, unlike a human being, it has no perception of what it’s doing. The same holds true for IBM’s Jeopardy-winning Watson.

Related: Why You Should Revolt Against the ‘Robot Uprising’

The two areas in which the robotics industry has done a poor job, says Trower, are in providing real benefits to consumers at a feasible price and in providing an appealing way for users to interact with the technology. He mentions the trumpet-playing robot that Toyota introduced several years ago. Although the technical achievement was impressive, it lacked a user interface. How does it translate to changing regular people’s lives? he asked himself.

Despite his skepticism, Trower himself is trying to bring robots to the masses. In his conception, Hoaloha’s robot will be capable of moving on its own, understanding its environment — at least more than a Roomba does — and interacting with its owner on a level far beyond Siri’s.

But with the promise of a friendly robot sidekick comes the need to avoid making a real-world Clippy the paperclip, Microsoft Word’s erstwhile office assistant that drove users crazy and which Time named one of the 50 worst inventions. “If you don’t do it right, it can be tremendously annoying,” Trower admits.

For all of these reasons, people fearing a robot takeover can rest a little easier, though techno-utopians dreaming of the Singularity may be disappointed.

“The idea that we’re on the cusp of the age where we can either merge with machines or accept them as our peers — I don’t see that happening in the short term,” Trower says. “We still have a long way to go.”

Related: Google Snaps Up Company Whose Robots Remind People of ‘Terminator’ Movies

Brian Patrick Eha is an assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com.

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Prince Targets His Biggest Fans in New Copyright Suit

Prince Targets His Biggest Fans in New Copyright Suit

The question of artistic ownership has long vexed the recording artist Prince — who once changed his name to an unpronounceable ‘Love Symbol’ as a result of trademark disputes with his record label.

Now, the notoriously litigious star is taking aim at a rather unexpected group of defendants in a copyright suit filed last week: his own fans.

Prince is demanding $1 million each from 22 different website owners and Facebook users whom he alleges have shared bootleg footage of his concerts.

While only two defendants were referenced by name, others were mentioned in court papers by the names of their blogs. With titles like PurpleHouse2 and PurpleKissTwo, it is likely that some of the defendants — who allegedly shared live concert footage that in some cases dates back to 1983 — are among the artist’s biggest fans.

This isn’t Prince’s first attempt at clamping down on the online piracy of his works. In 2007, the singer unsuccessfully threatened legal action against YouTube, eBay and torrent sharing site The Pirate Bay for copyright violations. This time, however, he has bypassed the sites to target the bloggers and social media users themselves.

Related: Legal Basics: What You Need to Know About the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Geoff Weiss is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Grab New Rainmaker in iTunes …

Image of New Rainmaker in iTunes

A big “thank you” to everyone who listened in on the first episode of New Rainmaker, and for all the positive comments!

Since so many have asked for it, I wanted to let you know that New Rainmaker has landed in iTunes. As you can see in the image, we’re the #1 Business podcast — gotta say thank you again for that!

Now, those who subscribe by email get the audio, plus they’ll also get transcripts, written reports, videos, and webinars. But if you want to start with just the audio, iTunes is the way to go.

After you listen to Episode One, please consider leaving a rating or comment for the show. Ratings and comments are the main way that iTunes empowers listeners to “vote” for the shows they like.

It really helps, so thank you (one more time) in advance. :)

See you next week for episode two …

About the author

Brian Clark

Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on .

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How to Write a Magnetic Headline (in Under 15 Minutes)

The most important element for getting a blog post read is the headline.

But you can’t just use any headline. You need a magnetic headline — one that makes an irresistible promise to readers.

In the first episode The Lede, Copyblogger’s new regular podcast, Demian Farnworth and I deliver a series of actionable tips and advice that you can implement immediately to become a better headline writer … right now.

And you may be surprised that what we discuss is far more science than art.

In this episode, the first in our series on the 11 essential ingredients of a blog post, we discuss:

  • Why making a promise in your headline is so important … and how to do it.
  • How to incorporate the 4 U’s into your headline
  • David Ogilvy’s immortal advice on what headlines work best
  • Why specific is better than vague (and what that looks like)
  • Best practices for actually writing headlines
  • Why you must understand your audience and your product
  • Eugene Schwartz’s five stages of market sophistication
  • Our disciplined individual processes for headline writing
  • How to use templates to write better headlines

Listen to The Lede …

To listen, you can either hit the flash audio player below, or browse the links to find your preferred format …

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Click here to read the transcript

Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

The Lede Podcast: Learn How to Write a Magnetic Headline (in Under 15 Minutes)

Jerod Morris: Hey everybody and welcome to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing brought to you by Copyblogger Media. I’m Jerod Morris, the Director of Content for Copyblogger Media, and here is what you can expect from this show:

  • We’re going to be posting new episodes every other Friday.
  • You can listen at copyblogger.com, you can download the MP3, or you can go to copyblogger.com/lede and subscribe via iTunes.
  • And episodes will be posted in easily digestible 10-15 minute chunks, always including specific tips, tricks, and hacks that you can take and implement immediately.

Basically if you want to get a content marketing education during your drive to work, while you’re working out, or while you’re walking your dog, this podcast is the way to do it.

To begin, we’re going to discuss copywriting. And here to help with that today is my co-host Demian Farnworth, Copyblogger’s Chief Copywriter. Now before we jump right into today’s topic, make sure you go check out the infographic that we published on January 2nd, designed by Copyblogger’s über-talented Lead Designer Rafal Tomal. Go to copyblogger.com/ingredients to view it now. The infographic shows the 11 essential elements that every blog post needs.

In our first series here on The Lede, Demian and I are going to break down each one of these elements one by one. We’ll start today discussing how to craft magnetic headlines.

So Demian, let me turn it over to you now. What do you think is the most essential element for a magnetic headline?

Demian Farnworth: I think the most essential element of a magnetic headline is, of course, making a promise of some kind of benefit. And whenever we talk about copywriting, I usually talk about formulas that are used.

One of the formulas that I like a lot in creating content, particularly sales letters and blog posts, is the Four P’s. The Four P’s are Promise, Paint the picture, Proof, and then Push. But it’s that first part, that promise part, that we’re talking about right now when we talk about a headline. So you want to make a promise or some kind of benefit in the headline.

And, of course, you have to know who your audience is in order to make an appropriate promise for that particular reader to capture their attention. That’s what you’re trying to do is capture someone’s attention, so you do that with a promise that relates to them.

Speaking of formulas for writing headlines, one of my favorite and probably best used is what they call the Four U’s. That amounts to a headline that is Ultra-specific, that is Unique, that is Urgent, and one that is Useful.

So, for example, say we want to write an article about how to wash dishes. So you’re a making a promise, and the promise is you’re going to show someone how to wash dishes. But you’re not making a very unique, ultra-specific, or urgent headline. So you could change that by saying “How to Wash Dishes with Vinegar.” You’ve added an element of uniqueness. That’s not something that’s possibly as well known.

But you want to take it a step forward and make it urgent. You can say “How to Wash Dishes Using Vinegar Before You Get Cholera.” Now you’ve put some urgency on there, with the threat of death or threat of major illness.

And then finally, if you wanted to make it ultra-specific so it’s useful, you would say “4 Ways to Wash Dishes with Vinegar Before You Get Cholera.” So now you have an ultra-specific, unique, urgent, and useful headline.

The goal is to get as many of those U’s into your headline as possible. It’s not always possible to get all four, like sometimes you might not be able to squeeze an urgent in there, but if you can get three of them in there, that’s great.

One common question that I always get when I talk about the Four U’s, and particularly about urgency, is “How do you make something urgent?” There are two ways that you can do that. One is to put a deadline on it, so as if say, “Hey, order this dishwashing guide, limited quantities,” that sort of thing. “Before we run out of copies, before the deadline ends.” That sort of thing is urgent. And the other piece of urgency is the idea that something bad is going to happen to you if you don’t act now, or you’re going to miss out on something good. So that’s the Four U’s.

Jerod: Yeah and I think your advice really echoes the advice of one of the more renowned and respected voices on headlines which is David Ogilvy, someone that we’ve written about a lot on Copyblogger. And his quote in the book Ogilvy on Advertising is “The headlines which work best are those that promise the reader a benefit.” It’s one of the more easy things to remember about headlines, and it’s one of the most oft-overlooked because you see headlines a lot of times that try to be cute or that try to involve clever wordplay or try to be purposefully vague, thinking that they might draw more clicks. But what draws the most clicks and gets the most conversions are headlines that promise a benefit.

And again, to echo what you said, specific is better than vague. I thought a great example of this was a headline that Sonia had on her post at the end of 2013 which was “The New Year’s Writing Resolution You Can Actually Keep”. There are so many reasons why I like this headline.

For one, it’s specific. She doesn’t just say the “New Year’s resolution you can keep,” it’s the writing resolution. Who is our audience? Our audience is writers, and so she’s got that in there, the writing resolution, to help separate it from all the other resolutions you’re going to see.

And then, of course, the promise. We always think about resolutions, and of course we always think about “Oh, people don’t keep their resolutions” and that’s a big theme around the end of the year. Well, this is the resolution you can actually keep, so there’s a specific promise and a specific benefit that you know when you come to this post that you’re going to get.

So, we’ve talked now about some of the elements that a headline needs to have. What are some of your tips or best practices for actually writing the headline?

Demian: Yes that’s a good question. The process begins with understanding who your reader is, and understanding who your audience, is and understanding the market in which you are writing that headline because it helps you if you’re familiar with all the other headlines that are being written out there. If you’re not familiar with the other products, with the other blog posts, you’re more than likely going to write something that’s been written before. You’re going to write something that’s not going to stand out. So first you have to have a firm understanding of who your reader is, you have to have a firm understanding of your product, and you have to have a firm understanding of your market.

Eugene Schwartz, he talks about this in his book Breakthrough Advertising, that there are five stages of market sophistication. The first stage is where there is zero market saturation, so it’s a new product, it’s fresh. So you’ll be able to write fresh. You could write a headline like “Build Muscles Anywhere” and you could get away with that. But clearly we can’t do that in this market because we’re over-saturated with that stuff, so you have to move to the second stage, which says to take your promise to the next level. This involves being specific, so you would say “Build Muscles on Almost Every Inch of Your Body.”

That particular market is still over-saturated, so you’d go to a third stage, which says you’d lead with the mechanism and then make the promise second because with those first two, we’re making the promise prominent. Now we’re going to make the promise secondary and talk more about the mechanism. So sticking with our muscle metaphor, we would say, “This 15-Minute Chair Routine Builds Muscle on Almost Every Inch of Your Body.” As you can tell, they’re getting more inflated in the promises that they’re making. There’s more words there. They’re being way more specific.

But still yet, you have two more stages to go to, which you take the mechanism to, like now you’re hitting the ceiling of believability. And you’d say, “Now I’ll build muscle tone in less than seven minutes a day.” And so you’re really kind of bumping up against the ceiling of credibility in order to get people’s attention.

So the final stage is where the market has been saturated, it’s been glutted with all these ideas and people are sick and tired of hearing about all your different new-fangled exercise programs. So then you just kind of cut to the chase, and you would identify specifically with the consumer and say something like, “Why Some Men are So Skinny.” And so you’ve not really been talking about fitness, you’re not even really talking about how to build muscle, you’re just talking about the inherent problem. So you’re not making a promise, but you’ve gone all the way to just talking about the problem.

I like to work through those five stages when I’m thinking about a headline and thinking about the market that I’m in and try to create something, figure out what stage I’m in. Because most content that we talk about, we’re at stages between probably two and five for most things. There are very few markets that are fresh and that are new, so you have to begin in at least stage two if not three.

Jerod: And very rarely are you going to work through all five of those stages just in your head and come up with that perfect headline the first time.

Probably the biggest lesson that I’ve learned about headline writing, and if I can impart one lesson for everybody to take away it is that writing headlines is as much about effort and sweat as it is about inspiration and Eureka! moments.

My process for writing headlines is that I love to take our PDF, How To Write Magnetic Headlines, which has template after template after template that are proven to have worked, and I look at those for inspiration and then literally spend 15-20 minutes, minimum, with a scratch piece of paper or just an open Microsoft Word document writing out headlines. I can’t remember the last time that the first headline that I came up with was the one I used … because I’m pretty sure it’s never happened.

That’s just like the ball of clay, where all you do is you get your keywords in there, you kind of figure out what your benefit is going to be, what the promise is. And then it’s about “Okay what’s the best way to word that?” … “What’s the best way to structure it?” What are some of these other proven ways that people have done this? And how do I take a proven way, match it up with the audience, and get it to sound the best? And that’s not just going to happen in your head, so don’t be intimidated.

I guess I always thought that these great headlines, people just conjured them up and they’re just brilliant. Probably what’s more the case is they’re just putting in more effort, more work, getting more iterations of it, and having more to choose from. And that helps you to find the best one.

So with that said, Demian, if you have any final thoughts, we’ll get ready to close up here with the first episode.

Demian: Well I’ll just add a piggyback on what you said about the magnetic headlines PDF. Going through something like that, where you have formulas or templates that you use, will help you, will force you, because I found, at least in my experience and found out with a lot of people that I’ve mentored, that when they sit down to write like say 20 headlines, they have an idea of the headline they want to write, then they’ll just write 20 variations of that headline.

And so they’re not straying very far away from the path … where what you need to do in order to land upon that killer headline is think wildly differently from each headline that you’re writing. It’s okay to make two or three variations of one, but go at a completely different direction. That’s what those templates help you do: they help you think about different areas.

I use John Caples’ book, Tested Advertising Methods, and he’s got 39 templates in the chapter in there. And invariably, I always come upon a better one. Like you said, it will never be the first idea that I had, but I’ll come across one that just is a fit. This is the way I need to talk about this particular one, and that’s the one that will work. So using those templates forces you to think further than you would if you just did it by yourself.

Jerod: Yep. And, of course, don’t forget to A/B test. If you have a couple that you like, use Twitter to test them out. Put them out there, see which ones get more clicks. You can use Google+ for the same thing.

We will put the link in the show notes to the magnetic headlines PDF that we have at Copyblogger. It’s such a great resource with template after template that you can use.

Everybody, thank you very much for listening. Again, this is Jerod Morris here with Demian Farnworth. We will be back with more useful content marketing advice on the next episode of The Lede.

*Credits: Both the intro (“Bridge to Nowhere” by Sam Roberts Band) and outro songs (“Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart) are graciously provided by express written consent from the rights owners.

About the author

Jerod Morris

Jerod Morris is the Director of Content for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter, , or at JerodMorris.com.

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Tech Giants Throw More Money Than Ever at Washington Lobbyists

Tech giants like Google and Facebook are meddling more and more in the political sphere as a new report indicates that lobby expenditures by the sector have reached an all-time high.

With their sights aimed squarely at Washington’s power set, firms poured a combined $61.2 million into lobby spending in 2013 — up 16 percent over 2012.

Though that may sound like a hefty sum, investment in lobbying can pay off in invaluable ways. For instance, by cozying up to the Obama administration and regulators during a two-year federal antitrust probe, Google emerged practically unscathed.

Another provocative issue in 2013 upon which lobby funds were focused was high-skilled work visas. Despite $14.7 million in campaign donations, congress ultimately killed the STEM Jobs Act, which sought to transfer the 55,000 visas reserved for underrepresented countries to high-skilled immigrants with graduate degrees from American universities.

AT&T led the pack last year with roughly $16 million in lobby spending, trailed by Google ($14.1 million), Verizon ($13.4 million) and IBM ($7.1 million). Additionally, Facebook has notably ramped up its presence in Washington over the past two years, with expenditures rocketing to 61 percent in 2013 for a total of $6.4 million. 

Related: A Look Inside Washington D.C.’s Startup Scene

Geoff Weiss is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Uncommon Wisdom for the Entrepreneurial Generation

Uncommon Wisdom for the Entrepreneurial Generation

I just heard from a reader who went to a good school, got a degree, sent out zillions of resumes and couldn’t get a single interview, let alone a job. She’s tried everything she could think of over the years to no avail. Her conclusion? College was a waste. There were no jobs.

Guess what she got her degree in? History. There’s not exactly a hot job market for history majors, now is there?

Funny thing is, my story isn’t much different from hers – except for one key decision that dramatically changed the outcome.  

Back in the dark ages, I graduated with a degree in physics. After six months living back home with my folks and working part-time as a bank vault attendant for minimum wage, I quit, went to grad school, got a master’s degree in electrical engineering, caught the tech boom, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Likewise, I used to have a girlfriend with an art history degree. Couldn’t get a job. After beating her head against a wall for a few years, she went back to school, got an MA in education, and has worked as a teacher (and painter, on the side) ever since.

Related: What Makes Great Entrepreneurs Tick

The point is, college didn’t fail that reader. Neither did the job market. The problem is that she wanted to do what she wanted to do, regardless of the realities of supply and demand in that particular field. And when that didn’t work, she blamed the system.  

What she did next is even more interesting. She started her own business, which also flopped. Now she sells trinkets on Etsy and lives with relatives. And her chances of ever becoming gainfully employed, let alone having a fulfilling career, are woefully slim.

Unfortunately, this poor reader’s story is playing out all across the millennial generation. What’s really sad is it doesn’t have to be that way. The problem is that those of you entering the workforce these days have been sold a bill of goods, although not in the way you might think.

The problem isn’t college or the job market. The problem is you’ve been coddled into believing you’re entitled to a well-paying job in your field of choice. And when the harsh realities of the working world stick a pin in that bubble, you go to Utopia Plan B: the entrepreneurial route.

After all, you’ve been told over and over that you are the entrepreneurial generation, right? Unfortunately, if you didn’t have the good sense to segue into a more marketable field, you probably don’t have the business savvy to do your own thing, either. So you make a few bucks selling stuff online and go live with mom and dad.

I know that sounds harsh, but everyone’s been blowing so much smoke up your you-know-what for so long that somebody has to give it to you straight. And if you don’t want to become one of the record number of unemployed young adults living at home, here’s some uncommon wisdom to help you make something of your life.  

Related: The Key to Success? Relationships.

It comes from Jazz great Miles Davis, who once said, “When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that makes it good or bad.”

That’s the lesson that made all the difference in my career and, even though I’m a baby boomer, it just so happens to be the same lesson that Gen Yers need to hear, as well.

Regardless of what anyone’s told you, the truth is this: Your generation is no different than any other. You’re not special, you’re not entitled to anything you didn’t earn, and the laws of economics don’t just apply to capital markets; they apply to you too.

And, aside from the enormous quantities of Kool-Aid you’ve been made to drink, you’re going to have to work your way out of your situation the same way we all have. Not by feeling sorry for yourself or blaming anyone else, but by coming up with the right next move.

As for what that might be, I would start by getting advice from some really smart people. No, not virtual avatars that call themselves social media gurus and CEOs when, in reality, they’re living in their parents’ basement and tweeting in their pajamas. I’m talking about real people who’ve worked hard for a living and actually accomplished things in their lives.

What you want to figure out is two things. First, you want to find a career that sounds interesting, hopefully in an exciting, growing field. Don’t worry about whether it’s the perfect fit for you. You can use it as a stepping-stone to all that good stuff later.

Then figure out your next step to help you land a good job in the field. Maybe you’ll have to go back to school and get a more marketable degree.

In any case, and contrary to popular wisdom, I highly recommend getting a real job and learning how the business world works before striking out on your own. Besides, you’ll gain far more exposure to opportunities out in the real world than you will living in one of your parent’s bedrooms. You can trust me on that.  

Related: 9 Ways to Make Gobs of Money — Seriously

Steve Tobak is managing partner of Invisor Consulting — a Silicon Valley-based management and strategy consulting firm — and a former senior executive of the technology industry

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What Do You Stand For?

Image of The Copyblogger Essay Contest Winners Poster

Editor’s note: This essay is one of three Second Prize winners of the Copyblogger Media Essay contest, for which writers had 250 words to discuss why it’s essential to be an online authority.

I was cleaning out my attic and came across a great reminder of my early high school days: a homework assignment called “My friend the Axolotl.”

Back then it was considered “character building” to accumulate knowledge and to find my own answers to questions.

So as I sat there in the faint light of my dusty attic reading about all things axolotl, I started to remember the hours I spent trawling for axolotl information in the nature books at home and the local library.

Nowadays kids have the same kinds of assignments but they don’t have the same kind of approach.

Instead of asking “which book is best for axolotls?” they simply Google “axolotl” and now ask “Which of the 600,000 entries should I click on?”

Online access means that kids now have a mind-blowing quantity of knowledge that often paralyzes decisions and inhibits actions.

Not surprisingly, that’s also the fundamental issue my clients have.

We, who have an online-based business, need to accept that too much knowledge (like “recreational drugs” and slow drivers in the highway fast lane) is here to stay. It’s not something we will ever control or see decline because of some law or rule.

What we need to do is adjust our attitudes and position ourselves away from “knowing something” to a higher position of being an authority, “being known for something.”

It’s the stand we take that makes us so compelling and gives us real impact online.


As a Second Prize winner, Mark received a one-year membership to Authority. Previously, Grand Prize winner Anthony Sills received a lifetime Authority membership plus a ticket to Authority Intensive, the live content marketing experience we are hosting this May. You can read Anthony’s winning essay here.

And if you want more insight on how 270+ essays were whittled down to five winners, watch the Essay Contest Wrap-Up Hangout with Demian and Jerod. They highlight the specific elements of the winning essays that separated them from the pack.

About the Author: Mark Wayland’s sales consulting firm enables managers to improve their relationships with their sales team. He held prior positions as the Group Training Manager at Pfizer Australia, as a sales representative, and way back before that a high school science teacher. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn.

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This WordPress Theme is a Perfect Fit for My Personal Site … Here’s Why it May Work for Yours Too

For the first time, I am the master of my domain. And by that I mean: I finally own jerodmorris.com.

From the time I became seriously web-aware, about six years ago, my name-specific domain has always been taken. Only non-.com, hyphenated, or add-my-middle-initial versions have been available.

Call me a narcissist domain snob, but yuck. Maybe you can relate?

Then I found out that jerodmorris.com would be coming open. You better believe I was there at 12:01 a.m. on the expiry date ready to pounce.

Finally, I felt both emboldened and excited to start carving out my own little corner of the web. I just needed to find myself the perfect WordPress theme.

Here is the 411 on that decision …

Framing the decision

One of the great perks of working for Copyblogger is having the entire library of StudioPress child themes for Genesis at my beck and call.

After testing out five or six different child themes on a different side-project site, I finally settled on Agency Pro for the visual punch and simple layout it gave me.

But I wanted a different feel for my personal site.

I liked how Agency Pro actually made my other site seem larger than life while focusing attention on the live broadcast and podcast, which are the site’s main features. But I want the focus of jerodmorris.com to be on my written words.

I want it to be a place where anyone who is interested can get to know me, and what’s important to me, and what I have to say on those subjects.

And I want the flexibility to host a podcast and an email newsletter, but without any clutter that might distract from the intimacy of the relationship I hope to develop with whatever audience I’m fortunate enough to build there.

So, yes, I have some pretty clear and specific demands.

Which is why I chose the 411 Pro Theme.

The 411 on 411 Pro

I tested out a number of different themes before choosing 411 Pro. Let me count down a few of the reasons why I settled on it.

1. The background image

One of my favorite pictures is a photo my dad snapped 14-15 years ago when we were hiking in the Rocky Mountains. I knew I wanted to use it.

So I wanted a theme built to accommodate a high-res background picture in a way that a) did not obscure the image with content and/or widgets, and b) would be mobile responsive.

411 Pro does this effortlessly. It’s as simple as uploading the image on the theme customization page and … well, that’s it.

You can see the stunning results.

2. The welcome message

I actually hadn’t considered this until I saw the theme demo, but then I loved it: welcoming readers to your site when they visit your homepage … but not with an annoying pop-up window.

411 Pro comes equipped with a “Welcome Message” widget that you can easily populate with text and an image to give a quick, virtual “Howdy” to your readers … plus maybe a credential or two so that they are compelled to care about what you have to say.

3. The minimalist “sidebar” widgets

You may have noticed that 411 Pro does not have a traditional sidebar. I like this. It keeps the page uncluttered, thus focusing eyes on the content. Such a setup also allows my favorite part of the background image to stand out proudly.

But fear not; you don’t lose all of the positives that a sidebar can provide.

The included widget for social media buttons is easy to configure and displays your selected social media accounts stylishly in the upper right corner of the page. (It’s also easy to alter the colors of the buttons.)

And the included “Click Here” widget allows you to easily configure a call-to-action button that sits proudly and ready to be clicked down in the lower right hand corner of the site.

It’s the best of both worlds: minimalism to keep readers’ eyes where you want them and subtle reminders of the ways readers can connect with you.

4. Mobile responsiveness

I already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating: the HTML5-powered 411 Pro is mobile responsive.

So even me, an idiot when it comes to HTML and CSS, can have a site that looks spectacular no matter what device it is viewed on. And I can get it this way, literally, right out of the box.

So can you.

But wait, there’s … less?

Keep in mind that I didn’t use some special secret version of 411 Pro reserved only for Copyblogger employees. I used the exact same theme you would download upon purchasing.

You just add your background image, set up your widgets, alter a few colors here and there … and then start creating content.

If you’re anything like me, the best part of a site design (or redesign) is when it’s over. Because that’s when the writing can begin (or resume). I can’t remember a simpler site setup than I had with this one.

Less time for a better look? That’s one of the great benefits of 411 Pro.

Should you even bother?

Now here is the $64,000 question.

Hopefully I’ve made the case that 411 Pro is a smart choice for a personal blog-based website. But what’s in it for you? Is this an endeavor that you should devoting your valuable time to?

I don’t know.

As Shanice Cameron writes in this useful post on why she changed the name of her blog and business, you have to figure out your goals first.

I know mine.

My personal website has no immediate business purpose, insofar as I have no revenue-generating goals for it. I plan to use it as my own personal R&D sandbox for content I create here at Copyblogger, plus it will be a fun diversion.

And if I can pick up some subscribers and develop an audience along the way, that would be quite exciting. You know, the Brian Gardner model. :-)

And those goals, I’m sure, will evolve over time. Your goals will be unique to you.

Maybe you want to set up a personal site to write about topics that would not be appropriate on your business site(s). Or maybe the simplicity of the theme, and the ability to grab attention with a compelling image, would work for your business site.

Maybe you combine the two. Or perhaps you look at 411 Pro and see a completely different vision. Go for it!

The benefit of a theme like 411 Pro is that it is spatially efficient and induces razor-sharp focus on your content. It’s the perfect fit for me. Go take the demo for a spin, you may realize it’s a perfect fit for you too.

About the author

Jerod Morris

Jerod Morris is the Director of Content for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter, , or at JerodMorris.com.

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Target Is Newest Retailer to Drop Part-Time Health Coverage

In the news, retailing giant Target just can’t seem to catch a break.

Target announced this week that it will stop providing health care coverage for part-time employees who work less than 32 hours a week beginning April 1. Instead, the workers no longer under the company plan will receive a single $500 cash payment and benefits counseling. 

Some 360,000 people, or about 10 percent of Target employees, participate in the part-time plan that is offered.

In a blog post on the company website, Target’s Executive Vice President of Human Resources Jodee Kozlak said of the changes, “our decision to discontinue this benefit comes after careful consideration of the impact to our stores’ part-time team members and to Target, the new options available for our part-time team, and the historically low number of team members who elected to enroll in the part-time plan.”

Related: 37 South Korean Bank Execs Offer to Resign Over Breach. Should Target Execs Follow Suit?

Kozlak went on to say that employees who work 20 to 31 hours a week still qualify for the company’s 401(k) plan, and remain eligible for life insurance, dental, disability and vacation benefits. 

This statement preceded an announcement on Wednesday that Target was laying off 475 employees. Additionally, Target is still addressing the holiday data security breach that affected 70 million customers.

Target, of course, is not the only company to discontinue part-time healthcare with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which requires companies to offer coverage for workers who put in 30 or more hours a week. Forever 21, Trader Joe’s and The Home Depot have all made similar changes. 

Related: Target’s Security Breach Stresses the Need for Better Cyber Security

Nina Zipkin is an editorial assistant at Entrepreneur.com.

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This Entrepreneur Shows How to Paint a Picture of Success

When entrepreneurs embark on their journey, they start with a blank canvas: There is no manual for building their dream. Along the way, they’re bound to hit some bumps — and when they do, it’s important they visualize the picture of success. For Erik Wahl, he takes it one step further and actually paints his success.

As a business strategist and an artist, Wahl combines his two passions to demonstrate the journey for his entrepreneurship endeavor, while also providing motivation to others. 

Taking the stage at Entrepreneur’s 2014 Growth Conference in New Orleans, he left the crowd captivated painting iconic pieces like the Statue of Liberty and Einstein in a matter of minutes.  Wahl not only takes people on his journey, while his paint strokes create a vibrant image but also inspires businesspeople to think about innovation, taking success to the next level and living the dream.

Here are a few of the takeaways:

Related: Franchising for Entrepreneurs: An Entrepreneur Growth Conference Panel Preview

Don’t follow the breadcrumbs of others. Sometimes it pays to take a risk and take ownership of an action. “Look for ways to de-familiarize the ordinary,” says Wahl.

Wahl encompasses this belief with his own personal tale. Seven years ago, Wahl decided to go against the grain and get creative in marketing his artwork: He stopped displaying his work at galleries and selling his items. Instead, in an effort to raise demand and money, he focused on charity events and corporate conferences. It paid off. Last year, singer Pink ended up paying $10,000 for one of his Marilyn Monroe paintings, leading the media to take notice.

Focus, commit and most importantly adapt.  While being focused and committed helps a business stay afloat in the day-to-day activities, the ability to adapt in a creative manner can take a business to the next level.

Wahl recalls a famous quote by iconic entrepreneur Einstein, “Imagination is even more important than knowledge.” And when it comes to long-term vision, Wahl believes this statement can help entrepreneurs stay in front of their competitors. 

But often founders don’t believe they have that “outside-of-the-box” mindset. Not the case, Wahl explains. Innovation, differentiation and creativity has been wrongly diagnosed as being a genetic trait: That we are either born with or without,” he says. “It is practice, a discipline skill that everyone has access to tap into.”

By ditching a paint-by-number mentality and instead thinking of your endeavor as one that is a blank canvas, unlimited possibilities will arise.

Related: Why Companies Are Hiring Artists for Their Meetings

Fear kills performance. Wahl explains that we were raised and trained to be logical: taught to always think of one answer, have one response.  This mentality transcends to leadership positions, causing stagnation for innovation. Instead of jumping at the change to be creative, leaders freeze with fear and revert back to what they have always been done, always been taught.

This kind of mindset is no longer sufficient, as the global competitive landscape is rapidly changing, says Wahl. Entrepreneurs need to “unthink” this mentality. They need creativity, not rigidness.  Founders can do this by building an emotional connection to the audience.

Amplify to scale: To grow your company, humanize your brand and get the audience engaged by making them an active participant. By building a tribe of loyal followers, you gain the best and most affordable source of marketing, Wahl says.

For instance, at the Entrepreneur Growth Conference, Wahl is not selling or auctioning off any of the paintings he created during the presentation. Instead, he has created a gamification strategy, one that has a virility and social component. Wahl decided to hide all the pictures in the New Orleans area and had geo-tagging, allowing conference participants to go on a sort of treasure hunt searching for these art pieces while also providing a word-of-mouth strategy.

Related: Artists Are Job-Creating Entrepreneurs, Too

Andrea Huspeni is an article editor at Entrepreneur. 

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8 Myths of the Zombie Content Apocalypse

Image of zombies

You’ve seen the conversation and heard the wild conjecture about the content apocalypse.

Let’s be honest. Marketing zombies caused this problem.

That’s right, you heard me. Marketing zombies.

Their undead shuffling has spammed the world with a ceaseless stream of bad posts, bad emails, bad white papers, and bad videos. Perfectly good marketers and writers have been bitten, turning into undead content machines, oozing black goop all over the interwebs.

You can see their moans all over Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

But the content apocalypse is just a cautionary horror story shared by marketers who are sick and tired of seeing their friends turn into zombies.

Here are eight of the most common myths shared by the zombie-fearing, spam-coated digerati:

1. People are sick of content

Myth: The undead shuffle will turn people away from the horror show, forever swearing off all content.

Research shows that increasing smartphone and tablet use is translating into demand for more media viewing choices. People want new, fresh content developed specifically for the evolving media devices they are using. (Hat tip to Shel Holtz.)

2. Google will punish all content creators

Myth: The mighty anti-venom created by Google in the form of Penguin and Panda updates will become so strong that all blogs will die!

Far from it.

The more natural and unique your content is, the more likely normal people will enjoy it. And as a result, so will Google.

Many of Google’s updates seek to reward well-referred, natural content while eliminating link schemes and duplicate content.

3. We can’t get away from content zombies

Myth: The plague of marketing zombies will forever clog our Internet pipes. There’s no way we can send magic clubs into the ethernet and hit them all in the head!

The Copyblogger team (and extended family of writers) never subscribes to violence. We do, however, encourage unsubscribing from content marketing zombies. Try it, you might find your social network experiences are more enjoyable.

4. The zombie moans are too loud

Myth: Our content can’t ever beat out the noise created by the marketing zombies!

Some of this is caused by people who have had success, but are no longer being read. Others perpetuate this myth after a short attempt at creating content.

The content zombies have attacked and are moaning out the same content! It’s time to fight back and differentiate!

Differentiating content that stands out requires a few distinct skill sets:

  • Creative approaches to media production
  • Strong headline writing
  • New takes on topics
  • Experience-based usefulness

These all work to make content special.

5. Only a superhero can beat the zombies

Myth: Without a well-known social personality producing content, we can’t rise above the moans!

Ok, this one’s definitely not true.

Influencer myths would have you believe that without a well-known blogger or established personality, you cannot create new content that will be read. Or, if you have one and they depart, you will sink into the zombie ooze.

In reality, readerships tend to be blood loyal to useful and entertaining content presented with undying consistency.

Readers share content and socially validate it with their friends and with search engines. If you have an established readership and you continue to produce great quality content without X personality, your content will still rise to the top.

In one case, I have a client who lost a well-known personality last year. We continued with blue chip writers who delivered pragmatic, useful intelligence week in and week out. Over the course of one calendar year, traffic literally quintupled.

Don’t believe the hype … you can beat the content zombies!

6. You have to pay to exterminate content zombies

Myth: Native advertising is the only way to rise above the content noise.

Native advertising seems to be the way most corporate types move so they can become heard above the zombie din. In truth, consumers are confused by sponsored content.

When it comes down to determining effectiveness, one study shows that sponsored content only works when it has context for the reader. Paying doesn’t get you more results unless the content is specifically engineered to serve the reader.

By the way, content that is not native advertising also falls to the wayside if it is not entertaining or useful. Notice the pattern that is emerging?

Bad content fails, sponsored or not.

7. The black ooze prevents content from producing results

Myth: Customers won’t use our content to buy because they don’t trust it … thanks to all of the free black zombie ooze on the interwebs!

The more strategic your marketing program is in its design, from usefulness to value, the more impact it will have. Create “Rainmaker content” and your business will see outcomes. Create “me too” content, like spammy blog posts, and watch the black ooze pour out of your social media accounts while the red ink seeps from the bottom line.

8. Once a zombie, always a zombie

Myth: Once you become a content zombie, you are forever infected and can never come back to humanity.

Whether it was Mark Schaefer’s originating content shock post, Shel Holtz’s passionate defense of content marketing, or our own Sonia Simone’s measured response, everyone focused on encouraging content creators to develop stronger, more differentiated products.

It’s never too late to improve content quality and stand out.

Are you running from the ooze, too? Let us know in the comments …

Image credit: Zombie Walk by Ciao Schiavo.

About the Author: Geoff Livingston is an author, public speaker and strategist who helps companies and nonprofits develop outstanding marketing programs. He brings people together, virtually and physically for business and change.

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The New Rainmaker: Why the Key to Business Success is Media, Not Marketing

If you’ve been following Copyblogger for any length of time, you know we’ve been teaching people online marketing for over eight years. Specifically, something that is now known as content marketing.

The key point being that this type of marketing is different from traditional marketing, but it accomplishes what marketing is supposed to do. And it’s the differences that cause so many people to struggle with it.

At this point, I’ve come to the conclusion that the terminology is part of the problem.

First of all, there’s the word content. What a horrible term to characterize what are essentially creative works — whether articles, audio, movies, books, or music. It’s all technically “content” … like something that fills a bucket.

Apparently, the Louvre in Paris is filled with “content” that just so happens to be surrounded by frames. Let’s face it — it’s a bad term that’s unfortunately what we have to work with.

Media not Marketing

But worse, I think, is the word marketing itself. Again, what we’re talking about here does what marketing is supposed to do, but it operates in a way where people actually want it instead of wanting to avoid it.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my 15-year entrepreneurial journey lately. And I remember that I was completely clueless about marketing when I started publishing online in 1998. Never took a class, never read a book … not a clue as to how traditional marketing worked.

I wasn’t even interested in marketing … and that turned out to be a huge blessing.

What was fascinating to me was media. That’s what I wanted to be involved in … and finally, thanks to the Internet, no one could tell me no.

This focus on media, rather than marketing, is the key difference between “content” that fills a web page and the creative output that counterintuitively works as online marketing. This is what makes you a new breed of business rainmaker.

Introducing New Rainmaker

New Rainmaker is our new (and free) educational resource for 2014. It reflects this “media-first” perspective, and it’s our hope that it helps content marketing veterans and newcomers alike.

It acknowledges all the mistakes I made along the way. But ultimately, you’ll understand what worked, and why.

It’s not accurate to call it a podcast, at least not in the sense you’re used to. Plus, beyond audio lessons, interviews, and transcripts, it also involves free reports, video presentations, webinars, and stuff we haven’t thought of yet.

The best I can say at this point is check it out. We’re kicking things off with the first audio lesson, complete with transcript for those who’d rather read.

In the quick 22-minute opening episode you’ll discover:

  • The two business fundamentals I learned as an unhappy attorney
  • Why you don’t need privilege or sales skills to make it rain
  • The true nature of the commercial Internet
  • That the fundamentals of human nature haven’t changed (and what has)
  • The problem with “content marketing”
  • How to create marketing people actually want
  • What a personal media brand is, and why you want one

Sign up for free over here, and let us know what you think.

About the author

Brian Clark

Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on .

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Killer Productivity ‘Hacks’ From Entrepreneurs Like Richard Branson (Infographic)

We all wish we had more hours in the day. The most successful entrepreneurs have developed their own ways for getting the most out of the business day — which can sometimes extend to 4:00 a.m., at least for 85 Broads Business Leader Sallie Krawcheck.

LinkedIn has collected some of the best productivity hacks of their most influential users, from Richard Branson’s advice about cell phone usage — “manage your mobile, don’t let your mobile manage you” — to how to save money on business travel (CBS News’ travel detective Peter Greenberg says to purchase your tickets at 1 a.m. on Wednesdays for best buys).

The infographic below highlights some of the best tips that were shared.

Try putting some of these to the test, and let us know in the comments what strategies you use to get your best work done.  

Click to Enlarge+

Killer Productivity 'Hacks' From Entrepreneurs Like Richard Branson (Infographic) 

Nina Zipkin is an editorial assistant at Entrepreneur.com.

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GoDaddy Begins Aggressive International Expansion in Latin America

Mid-January blues got you thinking about launching your next business someplace warm and tropical? 

If you launch in Latin America, you can now use GoDaddy to help get your online presence established. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based website domain registrar today launched its entire suite of products in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, including both Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese services and customer support. 

GoDaddy was for a long time known as that tech company with the provocative Super Bowl ads, but it has been making a concerted push to become the go-to service provider for small business owners to set up and promote their online presence

Related: New GoDaddy CEO’s Growth Strategy

GoDaddy’s target customer is entrepreneurs with between one and five employees. 

Rafael Fernandez MacGregor, a former Microsoft executive and a Mexican national, will be in charge of the Latin American expansion for GoDaddy and based in Mexico City. 

Today’s announcement is the beginning of an aggressive international growth phase for GoDaddy. The tech-company plans to be in 60 markets, 52 countries, and 30 languages in the next year and a half. 

Related: In Major Hiring Push, Web Hosting Powerhouse Go Daddy to Expand Its Services

Catherine Clifford is a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Striving for Authority

Image of Seth Godin for Authority Intensive

Everyone wants to play.

That kid selling cookies (or is it chocolates) is busy raising money for his basketball team (or maybe a trip to Cuba, I didn’t hear it clearly). All I know is that these cookies aren’t the real thing, they’re not Girl Scout Cookies (capitalize them please) and they’re not Thin Mints®.

That email, the one that just came in over the transom, it wants me to buy some miracle potion that’s going to make my hair grow. But of course, I’ve never heard of this person, and it cost her nothing to send me this spam.

Delete.

We opened up the world of media to anyone who wants to talk, connect or sell. We gave everyone free stamps, free paper, a free broadcast license.

And so I can watch a YouTube video that explains, in detail, how I can make a million dollars in a week if I’ll just send in some money (I think I can guess that this is precisely how you’re supposed to make a million dollars via this method, but that’s a topic for a different post). YouTube is filled with spam and scams and junk, and so is every nook and cranny of the internet.

Hence the need for authority.

Authority is recognizability and trustability.

My neighbor has authority, at least when he’s talking about what’s going on with our block. The local weatherman, by dint of his being hired by someone with an FCC license, has authority, but not about investments, just about the weather.

Obvious, of course.

What’s not obvious is the discipline necessary to earn authority. Now that you can’t be given it, now that you can’t take, now that you have to EARN it, it seems to me that many of us have forgotten that there’s a cost to earning something.

At every step along the way, you’ll feel pressure to stop earning and start taking. To include a few more links. To make a few more bold claims. To sell some ads, to shade some truth, to close the sale. Second prize is a set of steak knives, after all …

But the longer you wait, and the more generous you are, the more your authority is worth. And authority compounds. Walter Cronkite had authority, far more than Ed McMahon, because Ed was happy to put his name on this or that along the way.

Authority comes from consistent generosity, from truth telling, and from empathy. It comes from showing up. It comes from telling your truth and consistently sharing your point of view.

Hence my headline. Authority comes from trying. From striving to get there, by refusing to compromise on the things that matter.

Editor’s Note …

We are thrilled that Seth Godin will be keynoting our content marketing and networking event — Authority Intensive — taking place May 7-9, 2014, in Denver, Colorado. See you there?

About the Author: Seth Godin is the author of 17 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and most of all, changing everything.

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Matt Cutts Declares Guest Blogging “Done” … Are We All Screwed?

Guest Blogging is Not Dead

Matt Cutts went Richard Sherman on guest blogging today.

The gist of his personal blog post — entitled “The decay and fall of guest blogging” — is this:

Guest blogging was once an authentic way to reach people, but now it’s spammy, so we should all expect Google to start spanking sites that publish guest blogs.

In his words:

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.

We publish articles from guest contributors here at Copyblogger. You may too on your site. You’ve probably written a guest blog post, or two, or ten. Are you screwed? Are we all?

No. But don’t take it from me.

Guest blogging is not done

Take it from the CEO, who tweeted this not long after Cutts’ blog post started making its way through the Twittersphere:

If you were running your site like a true media production, this whole “no guest blogging” thing would be even sillier to you.

— Brian Clark (@brianclark) January 20, 2014

He then expounded:

@MichelleDLowery There is no way @mattcutts is talking about online magazines with multiple contributors.

— Brian Clark (@brianclark) January 20, 2014

@MichelleDLowery My point being, treat it like a magazine, with quality standards, and you’re fine. cc: @mattcutts

— Brian Clark (@brianclark) January 20, 2014

And finally, the ultimate lesson in all of this:

@joehall I agree with you. But why change the type of site you create because @mattcutts said something? Build quality no matter what.

— Brian Clark (@brianclark) January 20, 2014

Build quality no matter what

Google fails as a search engine if it starts penalizing sites that deliver quality content just because that content happens to be in the form of a guest post. And we all fail as publishers if we follow a strategy of chasing hypothetical algorithm changes.

Quality will always win.

Guest blogging is not “done,” dead, or destitute. Have standards, do right by your audience, and play to win in the long term.

In short, don’t act like a spammer. And I think you know what that means.

Follow this simple rule, and you’re not screwed if you publish content from outside contributors. And you’re not screwed if you contribute to other sites.

Unless they suck. Unless they are the spammers. Then, yes, you’re screwed … but you didn’t need to hear from Matt Cutts to know that.

Update: Cutts clarifies

Matt updated his post with this:

Added: It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful.

I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.

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Report: Andreessen Horowitz to Raise Another $1.5 Billion

The California-headquartered venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz — whose portfolio includes AirBNB, Pinterest, Skype, Twitter and more — is in the midst of raising a colossal $1.5 billion for its fourth fund in a total of six years, according to a report by Fortune.

In 2012, the company also raised $1.5 billion, comprising $900 million in early-stage investments and a $600 million “parallel fund” for bigger opportunities. The new fund will reportedly include $1 billion in early-stage investments and a $500 million parallel fund.

Sources told Fortune that the fund is already oversubscribed and therefore unlikely to accept new partners.

A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment.

Related: Meet the Top 5 Angel Investors of 2013 (Infographic)

Geoff Weiss is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Is This the Year Fast-Food Pizza Disappears?

Is This the Year Fast-Food Pizza Disappears?

2014 may be the end of pizza chains as we know them, as veteran fast-food chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut attempt to compete with fast-casual rookies by upping their quality and atmosphere.

Domino’s will remodel all of its restaurants to fit the “Pizza Theatre” prototype by 2017, the company announced on Wednesday. The new design would feature more open space and lower counters, with pizza-making at the front of the store – changes reminiscent of fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle-backed Pizzeria Locale that advertise their fast, high-quality options.

“Consumers have told us they’d like our stores to be more inviting,” says Tim McIntyre, Domino’s vice president of communications. “They’d like to see their pizzas being made. They’d like the opportunity to sit and enjoy their pizzas fresh from the oven.”

The changes promise to be expensive, with franchisees shouldering the cost of the redesigns. Updates will reportedly range between $40,000 and $55,000 per store. 

Related: Chipotle, Subway Want a Slice of the Fast-Casual Pizza Business

Domino’s is not the only company scrambling to get on the fast-casual pizza bandwagon. Pizza Hut announced Thursday that it would be releasing a new version of its hand-tossed pizza that emphasizes the new pie’s lighter, airier crust.

“It took a lot of hard work to get us to a position where we feel we have the best Hand-Tossed product available today,” Pizza Hut chief marketing officer Carrie Walsh said in a statement. “The recipe for this pizza is a game changer for the industry and the preparation by our team members to make each Hand-Tossed pizza one-of-a-kind leads the way in the pizza category.”

Earlier this week, Pizza Hut announced that new stores would be serving pizza by the slice and feature deck ovens and a wide open dining environment. These adjustments, like Domino’s store redesign, hit on aspects of fast-casual pizzerias – wide open eating areas, emphasis on the pizza making process – while keeping customer favorites and keep delivery and service time low.

“Most of our stores in the U.S. feature a design that was introduced in 1997 – we need to bring them up to date,” says Domino’s McIntyre. However, with Domino’s and Pizza Hut attempting out out-class each other this week, it’s clear that the pressure is also on the veteran chains to contend with their more upscale, fast-casual competition.  

Related: Goodbye Bacon, Hello Health Food: 6 Restaurant Trends for 2014

Newcomers have so far defined the fast-casual market. Chipotle, which has become the go-to reference for fast-casual burritos, recently financed Pizza Locale in Denver. PizzaREv, a fast-casual build-your-own-pizza concept backed by Buffalo Wild Wings, announced its first major wave of expansion in five states this week. In the coming year, the co-founders of California Pizza Kitchen plan to debut a fast-casual concept, as does the Italian brand Fazoli’s.

The dressing up of fast-food chains has a long history prior to the recent pizza trend. Classic fast-food burger giants like McDonald’s and Burger King now compete with chains such as Bareburger and b.good. Instead of uniform, cheap costs, these chains emphasize terms such as “artisan,” “organic” and “family farms.”  In the face of such competition, many chains have increasingly emphasized issues of health and sustainability in marketing. Even 7-Eleven has redesigned certain stores, added healthy snacks and started selling fine wine.

However, in the world of pizza, restaurants’ efforts may all be for nothing. Large national pizza chains don’t get credit from consumers for food quality and fresh ingredients, according to a late December Technomic report. If upgrading the appearance of stores doesn’t change customers’ perceptions, franchisees could end up spending thousands for a new look that customers just don’t buy.  

Related: Pizza Hut Wants a Bite of the By-the-Slice Business

Kate Taylor is a staff writer for Entrepreneur.com.

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Thank You, Dr. King

Image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each of us would do well in our lifetimes to inspire one other person.

I mean truly inspire: to provide real hope where none previously existed and help turn that hope into positive action, maybe even positive change, that may otherwise never happen.

It’s so much harder than it sounds.

What, then, do we say about a man who inspired not just one person, but an entire generation of people?

And generations beyond that?

And who will inspire generations beyond this?

On this day, we say thank you … to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose dreams, words, and actions remain as inspiring today as they were five decades ago.

Here are Dr. King’s final public words, delivered at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee:

These words live on, as do so many of his others, and serve as the narration to a legacy few other men in history have had the courage and indomitable will to build.

Today we celebrate that legacy, the legacy that Dr. King left behind without ever fully leaving.

For he was true to what he said on paper, and he was true to what he said out loud. And so his words live on, some of the most meaningful in history — an everlasting testament to one of the most meaningful and inspirational lives that has ever been lived.

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25 Wacky Interview Questions That Work

25 Wacky Interview Questions That Work

The best interview questions provide insight into a potential hire’s thought process, critical thinking skills and overall personality, instead of just a rehearsed list of achievements accomplished and lessons learned.

Rate-your-company startup Glassdoor recently compiled a list of the top 25 oddball questions that businesses like Yahoo, Airbnb and UrbanOutfitters routinely ask interviewees.

“It’s helpful for both job seekers and employers to familiarize themselves with the downright weird interview questions that are being used to identify great candidates,” says Scott Dobroski, Glassdoor’s community expert.

From the employer’s side, Dobroski says, unexpected questions are a good tactic for forcing job candidates to think on their feet.

And for potential hires? It’s a chance to think outside the box because a bad response is often the expected response. One of Dobroski’s favorite questions on the list this year comes from the American Heart Association, which asks interviewees: What is the color of money?

“The worst answer you can give is either,’ I don’t know,’ or ‘Green,’” he says. “It’s OK to answer a question with a question, or ask for a clarification.” For example, “‘Are you talking about the color of money in the UK? India? In Bitcoins?’ In this case, there’s obviously not one correct reply.”

Here are 25 oddball questions that companies are asking to freshen up the interview process.

1. “If you could throw a parade of any caliber through the Zappos office, what type of parade would it be?” – The Zappos Family, Customer Loyalty Team Member interview. 

2. “How lucky are you and why?” – Airbnb, Content Manager interview. 

3. “If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?” – Apple, Specialist interview. 

4. “If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?” – Red Frog Events, Event Coordinator interview. 

5. “Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?” – Dell, Account Manager interview. 

6. “If you were on an island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?” –Yahoo, Search Quality Analyst interview. 

7. “If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?” – Bed Bath & Beyond, Sales Associate interview. 

8. “Do you believe in Bigfoot?” – Norwegian Cruise Line, Casino Marketing Coordinator interview.

9.”Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?” – Xerox, Client Manager interview. 

10.”What is your least favorite thing about humanity?” – ZocDoc, Operations Associate interview.  

11. “How would you use Yelp to find the number of businesses in the U.S.?” — Factual, Software Engineer interview. 

12. “How honest are you?” — Allied Telesis, Executive Assistant interview.

13. “How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the U.S. each year?” — Goldman Sachs, Programmer Analyst interview. 

14. “Can you instruct someone how to make an origami ‘cootie catcher’ with just words?”  – LivingSocial, Consumer Advocate interview. 

15.”If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children?” – McKinsey & Company, Associate interview. 

16. “You’re a new addition to the crayon box, what color would you be and why?” — Urban Outfitters Sales Associate interview. 

17. “How does the internet work?” – Akamai, Director interview. 

18. “If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?” –SinglePlatform, Inside Sales Consultant interview. 

19. “What’s the color of money?” – American Heart Association, Project Manager interview. 

20. “What was the last gift you gave someone?” – Gallup, Data Analyst interview.

21. “What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?” – Applebee’s, Bartender/Neighborhood Expert Server interview. 

22. “How many snow shovels sold in the U.S. last year?” – TASER, Leadership Development Program interview.

23. “It’s Thursday; we’re staffing you on a telecommunications project in Calgary, Canada on Monday. Your flight and hotel are booked; your visa is ready. What are the top five things you do before you leave?” – ThoughtWorks, Junior Consultant interview. 

24. “Describe to me the process and benefits of wearing a seatbelt.” – Active Network, Client Applications Specialist interview. 

25. “Have you ever been on a boat?” – Applied Systems, Graphic Designer interview. 

Laura Entis is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Uh, Did Your Refrigerator Just Send Me an Internet Virus?

What if, someday, hackers could use devices like your TV or your refrigerator to send malicious emails that infect other internet-connected devices all over the world? Well, buckle up, because that “someday” is today.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based security firm Proofpoint, Inc. uncovered what it calls an “Internet of Things”-based cyber attack involving household devices. The attack was global, Proofpoint says, and targeted 100,000 everyday consumer gadgets, essentially turning them into bots that sent more than 750,000 malicious emails.

Instead of hacking into traditional computers, this attack targeted devices such as home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions and at least one “smart” refrigerator. The attack occurred between December 23, 2013 and January 6, 2014.

Related: The Connected Home: A Huge Opportunity But Slow to Catch On

“No more than 10 emails were initiated from any single IP address, making the attack difficult to block based on location — and in many cases, the devices had not been subject to a sophisticated compromise,” Proofpoint says. “Instead, misconfiguration and the use of default passwords left the devices completely exposed on public networks, available for takeover and use.”

One big problem is that many of the smart home devices come ready-to-use right out of the box. They’re so easy to use, many people don’t think about creating a password or changing the factory-provided password. Failing to set your own password makes internet-connected devices easy prey for hackers.

Related: Your Password Is 123456? Wow. Seriously?

Jason Fell is the managing editor of Entrepreneur.com.

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A Sobering Reminder That Authority Can Change the Course of History

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Editor’s note: This essay is one of three Second Prize winners of the Copyblogger Media Essay contest, for which writers had 250 words to discuss why it’s essential to be an online authority.

Wayne Wheeler knows a thing or two about authority.

Essentially erased from the public conscious, Wheeler led the Anti-Saloon League, an advocacy group that made possible the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

Though he never cast a single vote for the amendment or its ratification, Wayne Wheeler used his authority to enact Prohibition.

How did he establish this authority? It started with content marketing.

A man ahead of his time

By 1913 the ASL was printing “more than 40 tons of prohibitionist propaganda each month,” according to historian Daniel Okrent. This provided Wheeler with the scale that most pre-internet marketers lacked.

Wheeler might not have been the original content marketer, but he was a stunningly effective one.

Authority and singular focus allowed Wheeler to stand out among myriad competing voices.

Online marketers and entrepreneurs face the same issues today.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Small groups of every ilk try to change the conversation. Only the authoritative, focused, unique voices can find a space among the masses.

Those with influence, built with authority, determine the course of history. Wheeler used his to constitutionally outlaw alcoholic beverages.

Times haven’t changed much since the early 20th century. The means of distribution might have, but the general rules remain the same.

The value of authority increases exponentially amid the millions of voices on the internet. Affordable tools and free social media remove barriers to entry.

The only way to stand out, as Wheeler did, is to establish authority and gain influence.

Failure means screaming for relevancy among the masses.


As a Second Prize winner, Joe received a one-year membership to Authority. Previously, Grand Prize winner Anthony Sills received a lifetime Authority membership plus a ticket to Authority Intensive, the live content marketing experience we are hosting this May. You can read Anthony’s winning essay here.

And if you want more insight on how 270+ essays were whittled down to five winners, watch the Essay Contest Wrap-Up Hangout with Demian and Jerod. They highlight the specific elements of the winning essays that separated them from the pack.

About the Author: Joe Pawlikowski is the SEO marketing team leader at PushFire, a Houston-based internet marketing agency. In his spare time he reads, plays baseball, blogs at JoePawl.com, and can be found a-Twittering at @joepawl.

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Save $100 on SMX West in San Jose this March

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Search Marketing Expo — affectionately known as SMX — returns to San Jose this March 11-13.

Our own Brian Clark will be speaking and Google’s search chief Amit Singhal is keynoting — just two highlights of three days of sessions, keynotes, and clinics on paid search, SEO, social media marketing, mobile search and more.

Check out the full agenda here, with thirty new sessions plus brand new social media boot camp and digital marketing summit tracks.

Sign up today to snag the early bird rates, and while you’re at it, save yourself $100 with our discount code smx100copy.

SMX West is programmed by the editors of Search Engine Land, the blog that professional marketers count on for news, in-depth analysis, and how-to advice for all disciplines of search and internet marketing. We’ve consistently found it a high-value experience for our audience, which is why once again we’re a marketing partner for the show in 2014.

About the author

Sonia Simone

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

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E-Reading Startup Oyster Raises $14 Million

E-Reading Startup Oyster Raises $14 Million

After tendering $14 million in a new round of financing, investors are hoping that e-reading startup Oyster will harvest a pearl.

The company, which launched out of New York last fall, employs a business model similar to Netflix, offering customers unlimited access to over 100,000 e-books for a monthly subscription fee of $9.95.

With this latest fundraising round led by Highland Capital Partners and additional capital from an existing investor, the Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, the company’s total funds are now upwards of $17 million, reports The New York Times.

Oyster’s co-founder and chief executive, Eric Stromberg, told the Times that the funds would aid in a significant expansion effort to platforms beyond its existing iPhone and iPad apps.

Related: Fundraising 101: Words of Advice From One Founder to Another

And at the same time that it’s seeking to add more platforms and users, Oyster is also pursuing more publishers to add to its arsenal of book titles. While it has already signed HarperCollins and Houghton Mifflin, notes the Times, the company’s pitch to skeptical publishers for an all-you-can-read business model is that it “will draw in more readers, eventually expanding the universe of book customers.”

Oyster currently competes with Scribd, which launched in 2007 and has raised a reported $25 million in venture capital.

And to distinguish itself from the collection of 300,000 titles available to Kindle owners via Amazon’s Lending Library, Oyster has implemented “lightweight community features” within its app, noted TechCrunch, including the ability to share and receive book recommendations from friends.

Related: We Test It: Scribd’s All-You-Can Read Digital Buffet

Geoff Weiss is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Plush Sentence: Beanie Babies Founder Avoids Jail Time

Plush Sentence: Beanie Babies Founder Avoids Jail Time

The mastermind behind Beanie Babies — a collectible toy line that spawned a billion dollar empire in the 90′s — will not serve time for having stuffed funds into an undeclared Swiss bank account that reportedly netted him $25 million.

Ty Warner, 69, was sentenced this morning by a federal judge in Chicago to two years probation and 500 hours community service. While prosecutors were seeking at least one year behind bars, the judge cited Warner’s extensive charity work in reasoning that “society will be best served to allow him to continue his good works,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

After having pleaded guilty last fall, Warner coughed up record sums as part of the deal — $53.6 million in penalties and $27 million in back taxes — which amounts to the largest fine ever paid for such a crime. And Warner’s marks one of the highest profile cases in an ongoing government crackdown regarding undeclared offshore accounts, said the Journal.

While Warner expressed “shame and embarrassment” for his actions before the sentencing, the judge “devoted most of the twenty minutes he spent explaining his sentence praising Warner’s charitable work,” according to Fox News. For instance, after getting lost driving in California once, Warner “pulled over to a parking lot fundraiser and told a woman with a kidney ailment that he would pay her $20,000 medical bill.”

Related: Set Boundaries for Accountability and Other Must-Read Business Tips

Geoff Weiss is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Why You Can’t Resist Persuasive Techniques (Even When You Spot Them)

image of woman with an orange

I am such a sucker.

Every year around the same time, the catalog comes in the mail. And every year, I think “maybe I’ll skip ordering this year. Maybe I’ll take a break.”

And then, I make the fatal mistake. I decide to take a peek inside.

And before I know it, I’m placing an order for the most expensive oranges I’ll eat all year. I cannot resist.

Even though I understand full well all the persuasion techniques they employ to make their product irresistible, I cave.

Robert Cialdini would be proud, because they follow the concepts in his classic book, Influence, to the letter.

Here’s what makes HoneyBell oranges so irresistible (besides the taste):

1. Liking: we buy from people we find agreeable

When you peel back the catalog cover, you’re met with a headline that introduces an engaging story about how this particular strain of orange was discovered.

It’s descriptive, folksy, and uses humor. It sounds like you’re hearing a story told by a likable friend.

2. Authority: we respect and respond to those in charge

The story gives you the impression that the HoneyBell was discovered by the company sending the catalog. Is that true?

Who knows, but they tell the story best and quickly establish that their authority with this fruit goes back to 1945.

3. Reciprocity: we’re driven to pay back “debts”

If you’ve ordered from them before, the HoneyBell folks make sure you get your catalog in plenty of time so you won’t miss the ordering window for the next year.

They also send a free plastic “bib” with every order to protect your clothing from the overflow of juice.

And sometimes they even include a “juice straw” that you can use to pierce the fruit and draw the juice out directly.

All these free gifts make you feel grateful — and slightly indebted to them — which motivates you to place your order year after year.

4. Commitment: we strive to make our actions and decisions consistent

Sorting through the mailer, you find an order form that is pre-filled with the names, addresses, and items you purchased last year.

Want to delight your family members with HoneyBells again? (Better yet, want to upgrade your order?) They make it easy. Last year’s orders beckon like a voice from the past, “You did this once. Do it again. It’s easy!”

5. Social proof: we feel safer about buying something others have tried

Just in case you’re not convinced, the HoneyBell catalog is sprinkled with testimonials in every available nook and cranny.

Customers send candid shots of themselves eating their oranges, bibs on.

The latest catalog features a photo of a black Labrador Retriever in a bib, with a straw in its mouth that’s stuck in an orange. Who can resist that?

6. Scarcity: we want things more when their availability is limited

Here’s the clincher: Florida HoneyBells are only available once a year for a few weeks.

This might be the most persuasive technique of all: if you don’t order now for next year, you’ll have to wait two years before you can have these oranges again.

Making oranges out of lemons

When I come across a campaign I admire, I imagine what it must have been like to plan and implement that campaign.

Here’s what I think happened at the meeting with the ad agency that produced the HoneyBell campaign.

Client: “We have these oranges that are so juicy they make a mess when you eat them. But they’re not round and pretty -— they have a weird bulge on one end. And they’re only available once a year. Oh, and we can’t ship them until after the major year-end holidays are over.”

Ad agency: “No problem. We’ll send out plastic bibs with every order, call them “bells,” and we’ll tell people that their holiday gift will be appreciated even more because it will arrive after the holiday rush.”

Sometimes legendary campaigns are born out of necessity.

How about you?

Are you ever influenced by these persuasive techniques, even though you understand what’s happening?

Do you find yourself picking apart campaigns, trying to figure out which elements came together to make them work? (If not, try it; it’s a great way to learn.)

As for me, it’s now the second week in January … so if it takes me a while to respond to your comments below, come looking for me. I’ll be the one with the orange juice dribbling down my chin. :-)

About the Author: Pamela Wilson shows you how to combine strategic marketing and great design to create a memorable brand at Big Brand System. Have you seen her free Brown Bag Webinars?

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How to Build an Audience with Story (From America’s Greatest Living Playwright)

Image of Stadium Crowd

There’s been a fevered interest in the art of storytelling among the business crowd the last few years.

The masters and the hacks alike are thumping from every available pulpit that storytelling is the most powerful device on earth in regard to human influence.

We are told that story — applied to salesmanship, preaching, advertising, conversation, marketing, songwriting, and blogging — contains the power to deliver the world to the deft storyteller’s door.

This is correct. The writer runs this show.

But what is a well-told story? How do we know we’re getting down to the true thing?

Libraries are filled with books on the craft. You can (and should) read everything from Aristotle to McKee to get your chops. Today — however — let’s get into a simple note or two from the pen of a contemporary legend.

David Mamet, America’s greatest living playwright, has forgotten more about all this than you or I will probably ever know.

A few years ago, a memo surfaced, written by Mamet to the clan of writers working on his then television show, The Unit. This little “memo,” as Movieline states, is actually more a master class in writing and storytelling.

Let’s let Mamet take us to school, shall we?

Information is … information

The audience will not tune in to watch information. You wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. No one would or will. The audience will only tune in and stay tuned in to watch drama. ~ David Mamet

50,000 people were waiting. Untold thousands would watch online in the hours and days ahead.

He walked onto the dark stage in faded jeans and running shoes at 10 am sharp. In his right hand was a simple clicker that moved the images behind him as he spoke.

For two hours, the audience laughed, roared, and gasped as the unassuming everyman showed them exactly what they wanted. And then gave it to them, in spades.

Steve Jobs ran one of the greatest theater companies on earth.

Who cares about drama? I’m in business

If the scene bores you when you read it, rest assured it will bore the actors, and will, then, bore the audience, and we’re all going to be back in the breadline. ~ David Mamet

Read Mamet’s first quote again, about what the audience will or will not tune in to watch (or read, or listen to).

The Information Age is coming to a close. It is crumbling around the ancient foundation of the human desperation for meaningful story, unadorned truth, and compelling drama that holds a mirror to life.

Information is simultaneously too much and not enough. Information is impotent to reach the hearts and minds of those who want to run with your idea, product, or service.

Story, on the other hand, is virile, rare, unforgettable. And when well-crafted, more true than the mere statement of plain facts.

This world is far too noisy to care about your mediocre information (as if it ever did). You, me, Mamet … we all eat or starve in direct proportion to how good — and utterly truthful — a story we tell.

How do you build an audience with story? It’s about media not marketing, baby.

About the author

Robert Bruce

Robert Bruce is VP of Media for Copyblogger Media, as well as its Resident Recluse.

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Google to Acquire Connected-Home Startup Nest for $3.2 Billion

Today is a big day for the founders of Nest Labs. Tech giant Google announced that it has agreed to buy the Palo Alto, Calif.-based creator of the Nest smart thermostat for $3.2 billion in cash

In addition to the Nest smart thermostat, the company sells the Nest Protect, a smart smoke alarm.

Nest was founded in 2010 and launched the following year. The company had raised a total of $230 million in funding, with Google Ventures leading Nest’s Series B round in August 2011 as well as its Series C in 2012.

“Nest’s product line obviously caught the attention of Google and I’m betting that there’s a lot of cool stuff we could do together, but nothing to share today,” Nest co-founder Matt Rogers said on the Nest blog.

Nest says it has more than 300 employees in three countrie,s as well as a network of more than 25,000 certified professionals who help install Nest in the U.S. and Canada.

“This decision wasn’t made on a whim,” Nest co-founder and chief executive Tony Fadell wrote in a separate blog post. “I know that joining Google will be an easy transition because we’re partnering with a company that gets what we do and who we are at Nest – and wants us to stay that way.”

Nest will continue to operate under Fadell and with its own distinct brand identity, Google said. The deal is expected to close in the next few months but, of course, is subject to customary closing conditions.

Related: The Connected Home: A Huge Opportunity But Slow to Catch On

Jason Fell is the managing editor of Entrepreneur.com.

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Remember ‘Draw Something’? Its Founder Is Now Writing Something — A Screenplay.

The creator of Draw Something is longing to write something.

Charles Forman, 33, who founded the video game company OMGPop and struck gold with its Pictionary-like Draw Something app in 2012, is pursuing a different sort of dream these days: screenwriting.

After Forman sold his company to Zynga (of FarmVille fame) last March for a reported $180 million, he found himself asking the very question that any triumphant entrepreneur might ponder after effectively cashing in: What’s next?

In an email to Valleywag, Forman explained that he’s completed a film treatment about the unintended consequences of civilian drones. Stranger, though, is that he has offered to send the script to just about anybody on the Internet and given out his phone number so people can share their thoughts. “If you are at all interested,” Forman writes in his blog, “email me at: charles@setpixel.com, and I’ll send it to you. You can even call me with your feedback: 917-696-5465.”

“Good feedback reinforces that my idea is great, and that I made the right choice to make this seminal movie,” he explained.

That’s not to say that the writing process didn’t come without its own laundry list of setbacks. In the blog post, Forman details the varied and extravagant diversions that his writers’ block triggered, including: cleaning his entire apartment, planning a month-long trip to Bangkok (where he didn’t write a single word), having all of his wisdom teeth removed and contemplating the inadequacies of screenwriting software.

“If I suck at screenwriting,” he concluded, “at least I can fall back on writing a book about screenwriting.”

Related: Why Zynga Burst OMGPOP’s Balloon

Geoff Weiss is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Here’s How Jon Morrow Writes

Image of The Writer Files Logo

Pat was alarmed when her son wasn’t crawling by age one. So, like any good mother, she took him to see the doctor.

After a long examination, the doctor diagnosed baby Jon with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). That meant instead of getting stronger as he aged, Jon would get weaker. Eventually he would get pneumonia and die.

The doctor, who said he was being generous, gave him until two years old to live.

Pat, however, would have none of that.

She — and a cadre of medical staff, family, and friends — fought to keep him alive.

Jon did get pneumonia. 16 times. But because of their hard work, he survived, and at 31 Jon is one of the oldest people alive with SMA.

As you can imagine, Jon is infused with his mother’s warrior spirit.

The warrior with a strong voice

Jon graduated high school at 16 with honors. He nailed a 3.921 GPA in college (though he confesses he wishes he hadn’t). He’s asked for $500,000 in seed money to start a software company. Brokered million dollar home sales.

Because he can only move the muscles of his face, he gets things done with his voice … and his voice alone.

Jon is best known, however, for blogging. Viral content, to be precise.

He got his start with On Moneymaking, a site he grew to respectable heights before it leveled off. He then watched it rocket again when he published a guest article on Penelope Trunk’s blog.

That exposure eventually led to a gig as Associate Editor here at Copyblogger.

From there, Jon launched Partnering Profits, Guestblogging, and he is the founder and CEO of Boost Blog Traffic. He’s also written some crazy popular articles on sites like Problogger and Copyblogger.

Jon’s mission is pretty simple: empower the little guy and gal to earn a living from their blog.

Jon writes:

By the time we’re done, you won’t be a spectator in the battle for attention, squeaking out your posts and praying for a couple of retweets.

You’ll be a warrior, armored with marketing know-how, brandishing your perfectly-crafted content, sending spammers scampering by the thousands as you claim your rightful spot at the top of the web.

Thankfully Mr. Morrow took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his weird pre-writing ritual, the secret to climbing to the top of any field, why his disability has been both a curse and a blessing, and the special tools he uses to write.

About the writer …

Who are you and what do you do?

Did you have to start with the hard questions?! You couldn’t do an easy one first?!

I’m Jon Morrow. The last time I checked, I’m the CEO of Boost Blog Traffic, LLC.

What is your area of expertise as a writer?

I’m a blogger. More specifically, I’m known for writing viral blog posts.

Where can we find your writing?

The writer’s productivity …

How much time, per day, do you read or do research?

Well, I read 2-3 hours per day, but every moment of my life is “research.” I use all of it.

Before you begin to write, do you have any pre-game rituals or practices?

I often read Stephen King for 5-10 minutes. Out loud.

Weird, I know, but it’s better than insisting on carrying around miniature pairs of doll underwear like James Joyce. Or refusing to wash your clothes like Beethoven.

Do you prefer any particular music (or silence) while you write?

Silence. Good writing has a rhythm. If I listen to music, it makes it harder for me to “hear” the words.

How many hours a day do you spend writing (excluding email, social media, etc.)? What is your most productive time of day?

(sigh) Not enough.

One of the unfortunate side effects of becoming a fancy-pants CEO is I have a lot less time to write than I used to. Where I used to spend 5-6 hours a day writing, I’m lucky if I get 1-2 now.

Not that I’m complaining. Being the CEO also pays a hell of a lot better. :-)

In general, my most productive times a day are between 10 AM and 12 PM, and between 8 PM and 10 PM. I don’t know why. Those are just times when my creativity seems to light up.

A side note: because I know that’s when I’m most creative, I’ve asked my staff to never schedule meetings during those times. Instead, I spend the time working on a blog post, writing sales copy, or creating instructional videos.

Do you write every day or adhere to any particular system?

I used to be more rigid than I am now.

For years, I wrote a minimum of 2,000 words a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. I never, ever took a day off. Not Christmas. Not my birthday. Not even when I was sick.

Is that extreme? Yes, I suppose, but I wanted to be the best.

Point to the top person in any field, and you’ll find someone who went to extremes to get where they are. So, I did too.

It’s no coincidence that’s when I created my best work.

Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?

I believe it exists, yes, but it’s never happened to me.

Sometimes I get burned out on a particular topic, but I’ve never reached a point where I couldn’t write anything at all. That would be horrifying.

The writer’s creativity …

Define creativity.

Creativity (n): a word people use when they want to sound smart talking about a really abstract subject.

Me? I prefer to avoid abstractions.

Who are your favorite authors, online or off?

Stephen King is my favorite. I also love Seth Godin, Jim Butcher, Robert McCammon, Chip and Dan Heath, Brandon Sanderson, Steven Pressfield, Neil Gaiman, Dan Kennedy, Jeffery Deaver, Gary Bencivenga, Lee Child, David Wong, and countless others.

I’m kind of a bookworm.

Can you share a best-loved quote?

Here are a whole bunch of my favorite quotes.

How would you like to grow creatively as a writer?

I’d like to go beyond being just a “blogging authority” and write about some mass-market topics. Maybe self-improvement and/or entrepreneurship.

That way, I get the chance to screw up millions of people, instead of just a few hundred thousand. ;-)

Who or what is your Muse at the moment (i.e. specific creative inspirations)?

David Wong. Don’t ask.

What makes a writer great?

A gazillion different little things.

If I had to choose one though, it would be empathy. If you can’t ride in the reader’s skin, you’ll never be a great writer.

The writer’s work flow …

What hardware or typewriter model do you presently use?

I have a few different PCs.

(And yes, I said PCs. In my opinion, Apple is nothing more than a Steve Jobs cult, and I refuse to be converted. And yes, I know that means I’m going straight to hell.)

The one I use the most is a Dell laptop with an i5 processor. Nothing fancy.

The fancy part is my VXI TalkPro UC2 microphone and my prototype lip-operated mouse. High-tech, baby!

What software do you use most for writing and general workflow?

Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Microsoft Word for writing. I’m a fan of Trello for workflow.

Do you have any tricks for beating procrastination? Do you adhere to deadlines?

Remember the scene in Fight Club where Tyler puts a gun to a guy’s head who wants to become a veterinarian, and he tells him he’s going to hunt him down and shoot him if he doesn’t enroll in veterinarian school?

Best. Procrastination. Beater. Ever.

The secret to being productive is finding metaphorical guns to put to your head. One of the best ones for me is I rarely do anything until someone has already paid for it. That makes me obligated to finish, so I do.

How do you stay organized (methods, systems, or “mad science”)?

I employ a professional nag … err … Executive Assistant. Her name is Marsha Stopa.

(PS: She’s going to kill me for calling her a nag. Goodbye cruel world.)

How do you relax at the end of a hard day?

Like most people.

I read books, watch movies, play video games, talk to friends, and lots of other normal stuff. No worshiping Satan or microwaving kittens. Sorry to disappoint you.

A few questions just for the fun of it …

Who (or what) has been your greatest teacher?

My disability has taught me more than anyone. It’s been just as much of a gift as a curse. Really.

What do you see as your greatest success in life?

Just being alive, dude. At 31 years old, I’m one of the oldest people in the world with Type II spinal muscular atrophy.

What’s your biggest aggravation at the moment (writing related or otherwise)?

Payroll.

Why, oh why, can’t people work for free?

AND WHAT’S THIS I HEAR ABOUT HAVING TO PAY THE GOVERNMENT TAXES?

*whine*

Choose one author, living or dead, that you would like to have dinner with.

Since we’re talking fantasy, I would choose myself. Here’s why:

If I were able to have dinner with myself, that would mean somebody managed to clone me and there are now two Jon Morrows in the world. I would strap a bomb to his chest and get him to do all the work while I sit at the beach and read and wink at girls.

(On second thought, the other me would probably have the same plan, and we would end up coercing each other to do even more work than we did before. Damn. Never mind.)

If you could take a vacation tomorrow to anywhere in the world, where would you go (cost or responsibilities are no object)?

Nowhere. I’ve spent the last three years traveling, and I’m freaking sick of it.

Can you offer any advice to fellow writers that you might offer yourself, if you could go back in time and “do it all over?”

Here’s the thing about that question:

The most valuable things I could tell a beginning writer wouldn’t make any sense, because knowledge is viewed through the lens of experience. Without that experience, the knowledge is worthless.

So, I’d tell them to gain experience. In other words: write, a lot.

Please tell our readers where they can connect with you online.

And finally, the writer’s desk …

Every serious writer builds a shrine of some sort, whether it be picking the perfect table at a coffee shop, or carving out a quiet nook in your home, with which you hope to entertain the Muse.

Jon Morrow is no different.

Thank you for sharing a snapshot of your amazing open-air writer’s lair, Jon!

Image of Jon Morrow's Desk

And thank you for sharing The Writer Files …

More Q&As are in the works from writers who inspire us, and if you care to sift through our archives, you can find more inspiration here.

If you’ve already subscribed to Copyblogger via email or RSS, the next installment will be delivered to you just like the rest of our daily content. If not, go ahead and subscribe right now so you don’t miss a thing.

Now set some ambitious deadlines and get back to work! See you out there.

About the author

Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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Surviving “Content Shock” and the Impending Content Marketing Collapse

image of cartoon

I’ll admit it. I was tempted to call this one “Is Content Marketing Dead?”

But you’re too smart to fall for that and would have (justifiably) mocked me for it. Which would be embarrassing.

Within the content marketing echo chamber community, you might have seen some concern about the idea of “Content Shock” — the notion that as content marketing becomes more and more popular, we’ll eventually face a kind of “Content Cliff.” A period where content collapses in on itself as audiences max out on their ability to consume it.

(Here’s Mark Schaefer’s article that kicked things off, if you’d like to take a look.)

The article makes some fair points. You and I both know that there is a hell of a lot of content out there. And at some point, presumably mainstream employers will require their employees to spend at least an hour or two a day doing some form of work, sandwiched between their primary activities of Liking half-viewed BuzzFeed articles, leaving racist comments on YouTube, and launching fruitless searches for naked Miley Cyrus pictures. (Damn that firewall.)

I’m not worried about it. And here’s why.

I hate “content marketing”

No, not the activity. The activity is actually fun, interesting, and effective.

But I hate the term. Because it’s mushy, and it means too many things.

“Content” is what we read, listen to, and watch on the web. And TV. And cable. And radio. And Netflix. And our phones. And whatever Philip K. Dick-esque device Google will be implanting in our brains next year.

“Content marketing” is kind of like saying “ASCII marketing.” It’s so all-encompassing that it doesn’t mean anything.

Yes, there is too much of some types of content

We’re all familiar with the most overproduced form of content. It’s mass-produced, formulaic, and often cynical. It’s “content” the same way that Keeping Up with the Kardashians is “entertainment.”

Some call it page-view journalism. I like to call it Content Regurgitated as Product. Perhaps we can call it CRaP for short.

(If you want a look behind the scenes at how CRaP is made, take a look at Ryan Holiday’s depressing but instructive book Trust Me I’m Lying.)

Now I’m not saying that everything published on HuffPo, BuzzFeed, and the dozens of lesser content gulags is CRaP. They do have some writers who care about what they’re publishing, and who try hard to get the facts right.

But, well, they have some of the other as well.

Then there’s Convertising

Then there’s the whole question of content that’s really just great advertising.

I still love the Rainbow Oreo. It’s sort of content, because it was cool enough to share (widely). But when it comes down to it, it’s an ad that got shared because it was terrific.

That Ben & Jerry’s tweet? Absolutely excellent ad. Thumbs up. But it’s not the same kind of content we talk about here on Copyblogger.

Like other traditional advertising, these can be delightfully entertaining (at least when they’re done this well), but their business usefulness is questionable. They probably raise product awareness — but who didn’t already know about Oreos or Ben & Jerry’s?

I like these and I hope companies continue to make them. They’re fun little diversions. But when you and I talk about content, we’re talking about a different animal.

Rainmaker Content

When we talk about content on Copyblogger, we mean something you might call Rainmaker Content. In other words, content created to “make it rain” — to serve a business purpose in attracting a larger prospect base, bringing in leads, nurturing and educating those leads, and paving the way for a sale.

Rainmaker content:

  • Solves real audience problems,
  • Reflects the character, passion, and knowledge of an authoritative person,
  • Finds a fresh approach to the topic (especially if it’s a popular topic), and
  • Is interesting and easy to read.

Think about most of what you click on that’s shared on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Was it worth your time to read? Barely. Do you need any more of it? Not really.

Now contrast that with:

Rainmaker content is real-world content. It has to be interesting. It needs to creatively differentiate itself from what’s come before. It’s always a good idea to promote it intelligently.

And it has to solve a real audience problem. (Other than the problem of, “I’m bored at work.”)

There is no glut of quality content

Mark Schaefer’s “Content Shock” article includes a handsome chart showing that a lot of content is being created — quite possibly more content than there are human beings to consume it.

But we are a long way from the day when too much high-quality, Rainmaker-style content is being created.

To repeat myself, there is not a glut of content that is useful, passionate, individual, and interesting.

If we start to get close, I promise Copyblogger will publish some posts and we’ll try to figure our way out of it. (Hint: It will involve finding fresh angles to overcrowded topics, and getting better at promoting your best stuff.)

That day is not today.

Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose had an amusing take on the “Content Shock” alarmism in their podcast last week:

Robert: Are we in trouble with content marketing? Does [Schaefer] have a point at all with what he’s saying?

Joe: No.

(both laugh)

They go on to agree that Mark Schaefer is a bright guy — but that this article leapt to an alarmist unsupportable conclusion.

Robert Rose had a nice, succinct quote near the end of that segment that I think sums up the most important thing to remember:

Great content wins. End of story.

About the author

Sonia Simone

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

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10 Tips on How to Be a Better Entrepreneur in 2014

10 Tips on How to Be a Better Entrepreneur in 2014

Image credit: Flickr | overseastom

The start of a new year is a great time to put our work habits under a microscope, toss the ideas that haven’t been working and put new action into play. Each year has its lessons, so it’s always good to reflect on what you’ve learned and optimize the knowledge for the coming year.

Below are 10 tips on how entrepreneurs can start 2014 on the right foot.

1. Confront and work on your challenge areas. Knowing your strengths is easy. Facing and fixing your weaknesses can sometimes create inaction in all of us. But to grow, it is important to make this change.

There are a billion “I can’t” reasons and most are founded on nothing but fear — many times we are simply standing in our own way.

Related: New Year’s Resolutions from 10 Young Entrepreneurs

Use 2014 to pinpoint and build up the areas that are challenging you. Classes are great, but as entrepreneurs we need action now. Be proactive by turning to the internet. Look for information, articles, mentors and online tutorials for help.

2. Blend work-life and personal life. Professional life and personal life can be horrible counter weights to each other, creating an imbalance. Scrap the balancing act. Focus on what you’re passionate about and maintain your intention to have more of it in your life.

For 2014, look for quick and convenient ways to blend personal life and professional life into a healthier lifestyle that works better for you, the people you love and your job. Honestly, if you add value it doesn’t matter how the job gets done.

3. Let apps do the hard work. What’s taking up your time? There’s probably an app for it. Let it do the work. For instance, Cardmunch is awesome. It automatically converts business cards into contacts with a click of a button. Or 1Password stores all your logins and passwords in a safe, easy to access place. If you find a task taking up too much time, see if there is a tool that can make your life easier.

Related: 5 Habits of Productivity App Super Users

4. Give a little help. When someone hands me a business card I make a note of how I can help that person. I like to connect people and have always valued when it’s done for me, so I try to give back when relevant. It could be as easy as connecting them with a colleague or sending a book or digital article relevant to a conversation.

5. Play tag. Another business card tip? “Tag” business cards when you receive them. Immediately jot down tags, or notes, to help you remember what the business card doesn’t tell you, such as their interests, goals, alma mater or a mutual contact, among other details. Act fast, while the light bulbs are coming on in your head and be succinct.

6. Have the difficult conversations. A friend and advisor told me something a few years ago that has really stuck with me. He said, “The person who can’t have the difficult conversations won’t be around long.” What a profound, true statement that is — both personally and professionally.

Have the difficult conversations in 2014: at work and at home, with others and yourself. If you approach these conversations in the right way, you’re likely to learn and grow in the long run.

Related: Business Lessons That Can Help You Succeed at 2014 Resolutions

7. Make a game out of KPI (Key Performance Indicator). In everything you do this year, find the KPIs by looking for the things that signal success or failure.

Make a game out of KPI and have fun. For example, when we make a big announcement at my accounting app company Sage One, we try to beat the high score for opened emails, clicks and trials.

8. Have a two-minute rule for no-brainer tasks. Save your perfectionist and OCD tendencies for the important stuff. I like to blaze through the mindless tasks first thing in the morning when I am planning my day and setting daily goals. When things pop up and take two minutes or less, I like to figure them out immediately.

The time to kick the OCD into high gear and give proper attention is when focusing on higher priorities and early-stage ideas. Otherwise, they will die on the vine.

9. The visual bypass. What is the best way to receive buy-in on ideas to ensure they reach market? Who knows: I still haven’t figured it out yet.

But lately I’ve found I saved a lot of time by presenting my ideas visually. Aside from it saving time, telling your story, plan or strategy visually creates more groupthink within the team. How so? A visual of an idea with succinct requirements tends to be shared more across groups, thereby, increasing early-stage comprehension of a new idea or project. This is always a good signal that you’re on the right path, and it accelerates the validation from important stakeholders — a key requirement for any idea to gain early traction.

My go-to tool is Omnigraffle. It’s great for mapping the journey of our customer and finding areas where we can improve.

10. Take an improv class. I took a weekly improv class for six months. I can’t tell you how much this helped me professionally by allowing me to be myself more, took away my jitters and taught me the ever-important fearlessness to fail.

Improv is challenging, but you’re with a tight-knit group, and the teacher creates a comfortable environment for true participation. 

Lawton Ursrey is product marketing manager of Sage One, an online accounting application for small businesses, and founder of Indie Peace, an organic cotton apparel brand that’s grown and sewn in the USA. 

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How’s Your Heart Rate? The Most and Least Stressful Jobs of 2014

Work is part of life, but stress doesn’t have to be.

Job-search website CareerCast.com released its rankings of the most and least stressful jobs of 2014. The rankings take into account the physical demands of a job, the environmental conditions, whether a person’s own life is in danger, whether a person’s job requires him or her to take responsibility for the lives of others and the degree of involvement a person has with the public.

Related: 10 Easy Ways to Minimize Stress

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two most stressful jobs are related to the military. Other jobs that topped the stress ranking include firefighter and airline pilot.

Overall, it takes a bit more time in the classroom to nail a job in the less stressful category, CareerCast.com notes. The least stressful job is an audiologist, followed by a number of professions geared toward improving appearance: hair stylist, jeweler and seamstress or tailor.

Related: How to Manage the Stress of Uncertainty

If you are looking to revamp your professional life, be sure to take into account your own threshold for and desire of stress on a daily basis. Here are the top 10 most and least stressful jobs of 2014.

Most Stressful Jobs (Ranked high to low)
1. Enlisted Military Personnel
2. Military General
3. Firefighter
4. Airline Pilot
5. Event Coordinator
6. Public Relations Executive
7. Senior Corporate Executive
8. Newspaper Reporter
9. Police Officer
10. Taxi Driver

Least Stressful Jobs (Ranked low to high)
1. Audiologist
2. Hair Stylist
3. Jeweler
4. Tenured University Professor
5. Seamstress or tailor
6. Dietitian
7. Medical Records Technician
8. Librarian
9. Multimedia Artist
10. Drill-press operator

Catherine Clifford is a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Finally … Site Analytics for Plain Folks

Image of vintage schoolhouse

Analytics.

It’s a strange, four-syllable word that causes some people strange fits.

You can’t really turn around without running into it in some form (metrics, reports, data, dashboards) or someone telling you how insanely important it is.

There’s no shortage of site analytics tools — starting with the most popular, Google Analytics (GA). These tools can measure the routine (traffic, clickthroughs, page views) to the complex (visitor flow, channel acquisition, reverse goal path conversion).

And if you are like me, this stuff overwhelms you.

Only minutes inside Google Analytics and I tuck tail, close tab, and head back to Word … where life is simple.

But there’s a problem with this attitude …

You and I need solid data to make wise decisions … and analytics is the only way we can get it.

So, what is someone without a strong analytics background to do?

Easy.

Join us this Thursday, January 16, at 1:00 p.m. EST when Tony Clark (Chief Operations Officer, Copyblogger Media) and Sonia Simone talk on “Site Analytics Made Simple(r).”

In this hour-long call you’ll learn:

  • Why content creators should have a basic understanding of web analytics
  • What tools you must use (forget about the rest and focus on these)
  • The essential metrics you should measure to get the best performance out of your content
  • What to do with the information once you have it

We’ll also leave plenty of time for your questions.

This is an hour designed to help you grow your web traffic, capture more followers, and sell more product with site analytics. And it’s free for Authority members (you’ll still need to register, though).

For everyone else … well, you need to join Authority if you want in. Learn how to do that here.

(Oh … and if that’s not enough data geekery for you, the following week we’ll be holding a live Analytics Q&A with our Executive VP of Operations, Jessica Commins. Bring your analytics questions — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and we’ll get ‘em answered.)

About the author

Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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The Simple Difference Between Being Heard and Being Ignored Online

Image of The Copyblogger Essay Contest Winners Poster

Editor’s note: This essay is one of three Second Prize winners of the Copyblogger Media Essay contest, for which writers had 250 words to discuss why it’s essential to be an online authority.

“Nick, your shoes are untied.”

We are taking a break at 12,000 feet on the Incan trail to Machu Picchu. It’s day two of a four day hike, rainy, and there’s a woman in my group who points out the obvious at every possible turn.

“Thanks Sharon. My shoes are untied because I’m resting.”

“Don’t forget to retie them! Also, your pants are soaked!”

Did I mention it was raining?

Meanwhile, our guide, Eddy, spoke good but broken English. Eddy saved his advice for when it counted.

How to be heard

Eddy would point down, “Slippery.”

I looked down to see some disguised loose rocks. A misguided step could send you on an altogether different kind of trip.

On the trail, Eddy’s single words became beacons while Sharon’s rambling sentences were lost on the group.

This is the power of authority and why you must have it if you intend to guide your audience.

How to be heard online

In the online world, there are millions of Sharons (no offense if your name happens to be Sharon).

These people shout the obvious, tell you what you already know, or retell you what someone else has already told you.

The world ignores Sharons.

Online authorities cause people to stop what they are doing and listen. Their tweets and posts stand out as golden artifacts in a field of gray ruins.

As an online influencer you must be constantly building authority so people don’t overlook your advice.

That last blog post you wrote: Is it a Sharon or an Eddy?


As a Second Prize winner, Nick received a one-year membership to Authority. Previously, Grand Prize winner Anthony Sills received a lifetime Authority membership plus a ticket to Authority Intensive, the content marketing experience we are hosting this May. You can read Anthony’s winning essay here.

And if you want more insight on how 270+ essays were whittled down to five winners, watch the Essay Contest Wrap-Up Hangout with Demian and Jerod. They highlight the specific elements of the winning essays that separated them from the pack.

About the Author: Nick Evans creates recipes and teaches kitchen confidence at Macheesmo. You can find him sharing Eddies on Twitter @macheesmo.

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The 10 Hottest Housing Markets for 2014

The 10 Hottest Housing Markets for 2014

According to real-estate firm Zillow, Salt Lake City is the place to be for great real-estate deals in 2014. The capital of Utah tops the firm’s predictions for the hottest housing markets in the nation for the upcoming year. Seattle, Miami, San Diego and Boston also made the list.

To determine which markets will be buzzing in 2014, Zillow combined data on unemployment rates, population growth and the Zillow Home Value Forecast. ‘Hot’ markets boasted lower than average unemployment, population growth greater than 2 percent during the past two years and are forecasted to have home value growth of more than 2 percent during the next 12 months.

Related: Zillow Buys Rival StreetEasy to Corner the New York City Market

While in every housing market on the list home prices are forecasted to continue to increase, values are not predicted to rise as rapidly as they did in 2013 (in which, according to Zillow, home prices increased by roughly 5 percent nationwide and more than 20 percent in some local markets). “This year, home value gains will slow down significantly because of higher mortgage rates, more expensive home prices, and more supply created by fewer underwater homeowners and new construction,” the firm predicted.

For a full list of Zillow’s top 10 picks for the hottest housing markets this year, check out the slideshow below. (Note: The figures that follow are taken from Zillow’s Home Value Index for January 9, 2014).

Read More: The 10 Hottest Housing Markets for 2014 »

Or view as a single page View As Slideshow

10) Boston

prc.sph.umich.edu

Median home value: $411,100

Increase in home values last year: 10.9 percent

1-year forecasted increase: 3.3 percent 

9) Portland, Ore.

techonomy.com

Median home value: $285,000

Increase in home values last year: 10.9 percent

1-year forecasted increase: 4.0 percent

8) San Diego

draftmag.com

Median home value: $470,600

Increase in home values last year: 17.6 percent

1-year forecasted increase: 6.7 percent

7) Jacksonville, Fla

nearwonders.com

Median home value: $111,900

Increase in home values last year: 13.7%

1-year forecasted increase: 6.0%

6) Raleigh, N.C.

raleigh4u.com

Median home value: $183,500

Increase in home values last year: 6.6 percent

1-year forecasted increase: 3.6 percent

5) Miami

ourist-destinations.com

Median home value: $259,000

Increase in home values last year: 27.3%

1-year forecasted increase: 10.2%

4) San Jose, Calif.

frontdoor.com

Median home value: $646,700

Increase in home values last year: 18 percent

1-year forecasted increase: 5.1 percent

Austin, Texas

strengthsinternational.com

Median home value: $300,990

Increase in home values last year: Data not immediately available

1-year forecasted increase: Data not immediately available

2) Seattle

hrainc.net

Median home value: $432,900

Increase in home values last year: 10.3 percent

1-year forecasted increase: 5.5 percent

1) Salt Lake City

strengthsinternational.com/

Median home value: $256,800

Increase in home values last year: 11.8 percent

1-year forecasted increase: 5.9 percent

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Timberlake, Diddy Throw Down in Artisanal Tequila Battle

A battle is brewing south of the border care of two musicians-turned-moguls, who have just announced ventures with leading global liquor houses to co-create high-end tequila brands.

Justin Timberlake, who founded his own tequila line called 901 (for the area code of his hometown, Memphis) in 2009, will team up with the Beam Inc.-owned Sauza Tequila house to launch a “super-premium” beverage called Sauza 901 early this year, the company said.

An 80-proof, 750 ml bottle will be priced at $29.99 and feature co-branded packaging, according to Beam. While the launch begins in the states, it will gradually roll out to international markets–given Timberlake’s global appeal and Beam’s expansive reach.

The brand will also have a presence on Timberlake’s current world tour, The 20/20 Experience, with a Sauza 901 bar at every show.

Related: Bottoms Up! Here’s what every online alcohol startup needs to know.

Timberlake’s deal comes fresh off the announcement yesterday that Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs–another star who has made a splash in the cocktail industry–is aiming to follow up the success of his seven-year-old Ciroc vodka range by expanding into the tequila category, too.

Combs and his Ciroc partner, Diageo, have agreed to make a 50/50 purchase of the “ultra-premium” tequila brand DeLeon–which has “a loyal following in Hollywood and the U.S. music industry,” Diageo said.

DeLeon markets five variants of tequila whose prices range from $120 to over $1,000 per bottle. The brand is distributed in roughly 20 states.

“Celebration is a cornerstone of all my businesses, and this joint venture is a natural extension of that portfolio,” Combs said in a statement.

The mood around tequila today is celebratory indeed. Imports of Mexico’s native spirit have grown 72% since 2002 at an average rate of 5.5% per year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

While “value” and “premium” brands serve as the “backbone of the U.S. market,” the Council said, “the fastest growth has been in high-end and super premium brands”–like Sauza 901 and DeLeon.

And Timberlake and Combs are not alone. Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney founded the ultra-premium Casmigos Tequila brand with Rande Gerber earlier this year. 

Related: This Is Why Social Media and Drinking Alcohol Don’t Mix (Infographic)

Geoff Weiss is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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Copyblogger is Eight Today (Time for a Facelift)!

Time flies when you’re having fun, but it’s true … Copyblogger is 8 years old today.

And as we all know, that’s pushing 60 in Internet years. So, we do what any aging icon does.

That’s right — a facelift. Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like anaesthesia, scalpel incisions, and bruised facial swelling (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Actually, Copyblogger has undergone many redesigns over the years. Design is a big part of who we are as a company, so we pride ourselves on keeping our sites looking fresh.

But there have been two unwavering things that have been part of the Copyblogger look since day one. These two branding elements have been much too dear to ever change.

Yep, they’re gone.

1. Red

Red and black, plus copious amounts of white space, have been the Copyblogger colors since 2006. We’ve toned down the red in recent years, but it’s remained a foundational color.

Meanwhile, our product sites have all gravitated toward blue. Last fall I decided that Copyblogger should adopt the same coloring for a consistent brand experience along with StudioPress, Synthesis, Scribe, and this new thing.

That prompted me to state in a thundering voice (this is the best part of my job), “Make it so.”

Shockingly, Rafal decided to listen to me. And so it is.

Some things remain the same: MyCopyblogger and Authority are still red, to differentiate those areas that require registration or payment. In essence, everything that is “gated” is red, while the publicly-available areas of the site are the new blue.

2. American Typewriter

The other thing that had never changed since the beginning was the Copyblogger logo. It’s always been very simple — just the neologism itself displayed in a particular font called American Typewriter.

It was a good fit for a site about copywriting applied to blogging, as Copyblogger began. But it’s a multimedia world and we’re a multimedia girl (so to speak), and we decided to go just a tad more modern.

Still simple. Still clean. But much more representative of what a modern content marketing publication should look like.

Hopefully you’re digging it as much as we are. Or maybe not.

What’s that … You Hate It?

Now, don’t think we’re naive over here. Some of you hate this. You think this is the worst, dumbest, most shockingly asinine thing ever, and you’re going to tell us so.

Comments are open.

But if you really hate change, stay tuned. Just wait until you see what we do later this year. ;)

About the author

Brian Clark

Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on .

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8 Smart Ways to Combine Blogging with Email Marketing for Best-Selling Results

peanut butter and chocolate

Your blogging and email marketing efforts are like chocolate and peanut butter.

The nutty crunch of peanut butter and the sweet bliss of chocolate are each great solo. But when combined, you get Reese’s Peanut Butter cups — the #1 selling candy in the United States.

You can get that same kind of best-selling synergy with a content marketing strategy that smartly combines blogging and email marketing.

Because while your blog is the best avenue for getting attention online, establishing your authority, and getting found in the search engines … email communication helps you connect on a more intimate level, build trust with your audience, and gives you a tool for making relevant offers to your audience.

And together, their power is multiplied.

But wait … do you really need both?

In a word, yes.

But don’t just take my word for it.

When asked about whether content marketers should still be using email newsletters in conjunction with their blogs, Sonia Simone (the Content Marketing Know-It-All) said:

Email marketing and a blog serve different purposes, and a smart content marketing program will usually include both.

If you have a blog (and by this point, we certainly hope you do), you need to make sure your blog is working together with your email marketing efforts to serve your audience and get you closer to your content marketing goals.

You can use your blog to promote your email list, and vice versa, but only if you have a symbiotic relationship between the two.

Of course, your blog posts and email updates should always be relevant and useful for your audience. And you must make sure your blog posts and your emails are readable on all devices, including cell phones and tablets.

Once these givens are in place, you can make your business unstoppable by using blogging and email marketing cooperatively in the following eight ways:

1. Make blog posts your cookies

Your job is to train people to open (and regularly read) your emails. Combining your blog content with your email campaigns is a great way to do that.

Remember Sonia’s now-classic advice that you should treat your customers like dogs and give them regular cookies?

Here’s the secret: great blog posts make the world’s best cookies. So when you’ve put up a new post, send it out to your list.

Consider these options for sharing your blog content with your email list:

  • Use your email marketing tool to push your new blog posts out to your list automatically. Feedblitz, AWeber, and MailChimp all offer RSS campaign functionality that lets you handle this process. Just set it and forget it, then publish blog posts to your heart’s content.
  • When you publish a new post, manually send an email broadcast to your list that includes a teaser sentence or two about your post. Always include a link back to the blog post on your site.
  • Share the whole blog post via an individual email to your list, and link back to the post at the end. If you want to encourage conversation, ask people to comment by saying “Join the conversation on the blog” or something similar.
  • Send out a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly newsletter that includes links to your best blog posts.

2. Create FAQ autoresponders

Create a collection of insanely useful lessons or answers to frequently asked questions, and then put them into an email autoresponder series.

In your autoresponders, include lots of links back to your foundation blog content.

And if you want to get really fancy, you can even create content categories that correspond with you autoresponders and link to those categories.

3. Don’t forget your footer!

In the footer of your blog posts, add an opt-in offer of some sort.

Prompt your readers to sign up to get free updates from your blog, receive a free piece of premium content, or get your content-rich monthly newsletter.

4. Schedule for content synergy

Create editorial calendars for your blog and your email marketing campaigns that share common themes and work together.

If you write a cooking blog, and your July theme (according to your editorial calendar) is kitchen gear and gadgets, then make sure your July blog posts and monthly newsletter both talk about gadgets.

Your goal is to publish a clear, coherent message for your audience, and that includes all the tools in your content marketing toolbox.

5. Feature your guest blog posts.

During the month of my book launch in 2012, I published a whole slew of guest posts. In that month’s newsletter for my list, I published a big collection of links to those guest posts.

Doing this gave me a chance to feature my writing on other sites, and it introduced new websites to my audience members who were looking for new and useful blogs to read.

6. Allow yourself to reintroduce … yourself

Right before you launch a new product, you can reinvigorate your list by sending a couple of pieces of smart, well-positioned content that is related to the topic of your product.

This is an especially good move if you haven’t been communicating with your list on a regular basis.

7. Offer free updates conspicuously

Create a “Free Updates” page for your website that allows people to easily sign up for your list and get a free ebook, video, or other piece of premium content.

Then link to that page in the navigation bar of your site and make it visible on every page of your site — you never know what page or post of your site a reader might discover first.

8. Take full advantage of social media

Use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to further your content marketing goals, not just as fun distractions that make you feel like you’re being productive.

Make sure you’re driving traffic from social networking platforms back to your content and onto your email list. Social networking can be a huge asset for your business, but only if you stay focused on your goal.

Quick case study: how to execute smart pre-launch coordination of emails and blog posts

Naomi Dunford and Dave Navarro of IttyBiz.com used a smart technique soon before opening registration for their latest program, “Big Launch.”

Just before opening their shopping cart, they warmed their list by sending out a series of emails answering commonly asked questions about launching.

The emails (which took content directly from blog posts of the same name) proved their authority on the topic and alerted their subscribers that something big was about to happen.

As a subscriber on IttyBiz’s list, I can report that I paid attention.

I hadn’t heard from IttyBiz for a while, so when they sent me a whole bunch of incredibly useful, substantial emails four days in a row, I made sure to read them.

It didn’t even cross my mind to unsubscribe from their list when there was a temporary uptick in the amount of email they were sending out. I was just happy to get my questions answered.

I’m also delighted that every part of the launch Q&A series is also on the IttyBiz blog, so I can bookmark it, pin it, share it on Facebook, and refer back to it whenever I want to without having to dig back through my email folders.

And their product, Big Launch? You can bet I bought it. I know and trust the folks at IttyBiz, and I was completely wowed by their pre-launch content. It was a no-brainer.

Score one for the combination of email marketing and blog content!

Quick case study: how to create insanely useful autoresponders

The folks behind Once a Month Meals know that it’s tough to consistently create healthy, inexpensive meals for your family. Their solution is to spend one marathon day every month doing all the cooking you need for 30 days’ worth of meals.

Once a Month Meals has now turned their advice into a smart business model, too. For a small monthly fee, they send you customizable recipes, grocery lists, and directions for your big cooking day.

But here’s the really smart part:

When you sign up for their service, you get a series of emails called the “Once a Month Meals Secret Handbook.” This series of daily emails is a step-by-step guide to achieving a successful cooking day. The emails are chock full of useful information about when to grocery shop, how to prep, and how to get big grocery savings.

The best part? Every email includes tons of links back to the Once a Month Meals blog for more information.

They have created a brilliant way to feature their cornerstone content and provide valuable, relevant information exactly when their customers need it most.

Once a Month Meals is creating loyal customers — who will keep re-upping their subscriptions — with every email they send out.

Now … go take on the world with your own killer combination

Combining email marketing and blogging doesn’t have to be complicated.

Take a good look at your current content output, examine your content marketing goals, and consider your subscribers’ needs. Then come up with a coherent strategy for using your blog in conjunction with your blog posts.

In 2014, your job is to make it rain.

So use the start of this new year — the time of resolutions and building new habits — to revisit all your basic content marketing building blocks and make sure they’re all acting as powerful workhorses for you.

Make sure you’re not missing a single opportunity to provide valuable, relevant, ridiculously useful content to your audience in convenient ways that work for them.

In other words, take peanut butter and chocolate and turn them into something extraordinary that sells.

Then take your fabulous concoction and use it to create some good in the world. We’ll be here cheering for you.

About the Author: Beth Hayden is an online marketing consultant and author. Join Beth for her upcoming webinar, 5 Ways to Make Money from Your Email List to learn how to turn your growing community of subscribers into a substantial, ethical income stream.

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McAfee Founder Elated That Intel Is Renaming Security Products, Says It’s the ‘Worst Software on the Planet’

It’s not typical for a company’s founder to want his name cleared from the product he created. Then again, John McAfee isn’t your typical founder.

Intel is dropping the McAfee name from its security software, hoping to distance itself from the software’s controversial creator, who says the move has delighted him “beyond words.”

The announcement came Monday at CES in Las Vegas where Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said the company’s antivirus software will be rebranded “Intel Security.” He said the transition would occur over the next year.

Related: Intel Wants to Make Computers Think More Like Humans

Although the name is changing, the red shield logo, which Intel says signifies “the core values of security and protection,” will not.

John McAfee, who has had no official association with the software for more than a decade, said he was overjoyed by Intel’s decision.

“I am now everlastingly grateful to Intel for freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet,” the ever-colorful McAfee told the BBC. “These are not my words, but the words of millions of irate users. My elation at Intel’s decision is beyond words.”

Related: What You Can Learn From Michael Bay’s Embarrassing Presentation Mishap

In the past year and a half, McAfee has been involved in a series of bizarre incidents. He evaded police questioning in connection with the murder investigation of his neighbor in Belize only to be arrested in front of VICE’s cameras in Guatemala. McAfee also starred in a YouTube video where he trashed the antivirus software surrounded by women in lingerie, weapons and drugs.

Intel acquired the computer security company in 2010 in a deal worth $7.7 million.
 

Benjamin Kabin is a Brooklyn-based technology journalist who specializes in security, startups, venture capital and social media.

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San Francisco to Tax Google, Facebook for Using City Bus Stops

San Francisco to Tax Google, Facebook for Using City Bus Stops

Wi-Fi-equipped shuttle buses, which ferry tech employees from San Francisco to their jobs in Silicon Valley, are just one perk offered up by companies like Google, Yahoo, Apple and Facebook. For some locals, these buses have become a tangible symbol representing the aggressive wave of gentrification sweeping through large swathes of San Francisco and Oakland. Now, almost as if in response, the city of San Francisco has outlined plans to tax the tech companies if they want to continue offering their workers private transportation.

On Monday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced an 18-month pilot program where shuttle companies will be charged based on the number of stops they make in city bus zones, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

If the program passes (it needs the approval of the city transportation authority, and it looks like it will get it), shuttle operators will need a city permit to continue using public bus stops. At $1 per day per stop, the fees are intentionally low (they are limited by state law to only cover the costs of the pilot program). The mayor’s office estimates it will bring in $1.6 million in revenue, all of which will be used to pay for the program.

Related: Facebook’s Luxury Housing Complex Is a Great Way to Never Leave Work

Other requirements will also go into effect if the program passes: permit holders must yield to city buses, avoid certain streets, and provide ridership and location data for enforcement and program adjustments.

This deal between the city and tech companies including Google and Facebook has been in the works for some time, The Wall Street Journal reported, but a recent string of protests in the last month (including activists smashing a bus window in Oakland, and multiple instances of protesters physically blocking buses) have escalated the need for a new policy.

Proponents of the private buses say the buses cut emission levels and congestion, while critics and activists say they are just another example of the technology industry forcing San Francisco to offer up overly generous policies (including large tax breaks for companies like Zynga and Twitter).

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Weiner, whose district includes parts of the Mission — an increasingly trendy area of San Francisco, where some of the bus protests have taken place — warned that lashing out against tech workers was not the right approach to address the issue of gentrification. “We need to stop politicizing people’s ability to get to work,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wiener saying at a news conference to announce the pilot program.

Related: The 7 Hottest Startup Scences in the US (Infographic)
 

Laura Entis is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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How to Write 16 Knockout Articles When You Only Have One Wimpy Idea

Image of Overly manly man

Many of you have resolved to write more in 2014. Good.

Serious content creators know that each article they publish is a piece of a larger content marketing puzzle — one that expands a website into a knowledge hub that has authentic, useful information on a specific topic.

But as we all know, writing is often the easy part.

The whole coming-up-with-ideas part is what often knocks us out before the opening bell even rings.

It can be difficult to consistently write exceptional content that encourages viewers to stick around and learn about your unique selling proposition.

It’s time to get creative

For example, let’s pretend you’re the marketing director for a store that makes and sells boxing equipment.

You need to convey the passion, care, and expertise your company puts into creating its specialized gear, but the problem is that your message is only a couple paragraphs and around 200 words.

Your wimpy, single piece of content reads more like a press release or “About” page than a persuasive story that spreads across multiple blog posts.

You’re stuck with limited material when you need to develop many different articles that help boxers and boxing enthusiasts find your merchandise.

Instead of “throwing in the towel” and losing a marketing opportunity, view your situation from a creative perspective.

With that in mind, here are 16 ways a boxing equipment business, for example, can approach blog post writing.

Note that each idea below can be reused and applied to your niche to make your blog a fresh and valuable resource in your industry.

Focus on products

  1. The X Factor. Feature your individual products in separate blog posts, rather than merely listing that you sell gloves, bags, mouthpieces, tape, etc. What are their special benefits (not features)? What qualities make them the perfect purchase?
  2. Customer Testimonials. After you’ve posted articles that spotlight each of your products, create complementary posts with testimonials about those products. Link the new posts to relevant old posts.
  3. Reader Discounts. Show your appreciation for your blog readers by rewarding them with special offers or giveaways. As an incentive to subscribe to your website, you may also want to offer a freebie or discount on a physical product.
  4. Neighborly Love. If you don’t sell clothing and accessories, such as boxing trunks and water bottles, promote other businesses that do sell those items. Write posts about your favorite complementary stores and link to their websites to initiate camaraderie.

Share your business’ story

  1. Employee Profiles. Demonstrate that your team members are true boxing aficionados — people with relatable interests. You can structure these posts in a “Question & Answer” format to make them easy to read. What’s his or her daily role? How does his or her skill set contribute to the company’s overall objective?
  2. Behind the Scenes. Tell stories about day-to-day activities. They may seem mundane to you, but routines at your organization give insight into your operations. What’s it like to work at your company? What best practices differentiate you from competitors? Why do customers love your products?
  3. Philosophical Outlook. Use your blog to describe your mission statement in a personable way. The casual tone that is appropriate on your blog allows you to make professional jargon more understandable. Why do you make and sell boxing equipment? What problems do your products fix? Why is your quality unparalleled?
  4. Captivating Visuals. Show your products in action with individual photos, slideshows, and videos. This is especially useful if you are in an athletic or active industry like boxing. Images help potential customers get a sense of what it’s like to own your specific brand.

Discuss important events

  1. Journalism. Keep your content current by writing about local and national fights on a regular basis. You can make announcements about upcoming events and also write blog posts about their highlights and pitfalls after they’ve occurred.
  2. High-Profile Fights. Standard blog posts may be 300–500 words, but special occasions are a chance for you to produce longer articles closer to 1,000 words — the kind Google really loves. Provide comprehensive details and analysis.
  3. Field Reports. Do you have correspondents at a big fight or tournament? Is a trade show or conference nearby? Explain the principles you learn about your customers’ needs from associates who interact with a broader range of consumers.
  4. Training and Classes. Consider offering boxing training in your store, and use your blog to see if your customers would be interested. If that’s not a possibility, discuss the best classes in your area.

Educate and illuminate

  1. Exclusive Interviews. Since you don’t always need to bolster your company or products, look for ways to educate your audience. Ask professional boxers and trainers to share their wisdom with your readers.
  2. Insider Instructions. Continue educating with boxing tips and techniques. What are the best ways to treat wounds? How do you strengthen muscles for optimal performance? What types of foods should boxers eat?
  3. Reviews and Resources. You can review apps, websites, books, or magazine articles related to boxing. Are they helpful or a waste of time? Guide your customers to the right resources.
  4. Direct Correspondence. Listen to your customers’ questions. You probably don’t answer all of them on your website, so address them in blog posts. If you already have a thorough “Frequently Asked Questions” section, repurpose or update your text and publish it in a series.

Basically … build your own blogging arena

Content advances your business’s media brand.

It’s a platform that helps you expand the “know, like, and trust” factor that you need to satisfy before customers feel comfortable buying.

When you write blog posts with a focused editorial strategy, your website becomes a channel that broadcasts your news. It’s a media outlet that potential customers regularly visit to get the next installment of an unfolding, authoritative narrative.

Your readers focus their attention on your boxing ring and become interested in fighting the good fight with you.

How do you use blog posts to share your business’ unique story and attract customers?

Share in the comments below!

About the Author: Stefanie Flaxman is the creator of Revision Fairy. Get more from @RevisionFairy on Twitter and Google+.

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Announcing: Winners of the Email Subject Line Contest

You might remember that in December, we worked together with the team at MarketingExperiments.com to run an email subject line contest.

In order to preserve the integrity of the test, we didn’t announce any of the finalists before the test was run. But today we’re announcing all 10 finalists, as well as the final winner of the split test.

The quest? To find a subject line that would get their email opened — but also, acted on, in the form of a click through to the offer being made.

This was a real-world promotion for MarketingSherpa’s live Email Summit 2014 in Las Vegas. Five finalists were chosen from the Copyblogger audience, and five from the readers of the MarketingExperiments blog.

The prizes? The writer of the subject line that generated the most unique clickthroughs has won a complimentary ticket to Email Summit 2014. MarketingSherpa is also putting that talented winner up in the host hotel, the Aria Resort & Casino, for two nights.

And the writer of the subject line that got the highest open rate has won complimentary access to the MECLABS Email Messaging Online Course. (Clickthrough was MarketingSherpa’s primary KPI, or key performance indicator, but opens were a secondary KPI.)

How did we choose our finalists?

On the Copyblogger side, we had more than 300 entries to the contest, and the editorial team looked carefully at each one.

First, the ones we didn’t go with.

Based on our own experience and a mountain of research, we knew that “clever but unclear” would result in poor open rates. So even though “Meet The Guy We Gave $2000 To Write This Sentence at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014″ actually made Daniel over at MarketingExperiments laugh out loud, it didn’t make our final cut.

And what is it we want to be clear about? An important benefit of the offer, as well as concrete information about the offer deadline.

To follow spam laws (and preserve MarketingSherpa’s reputation) we didn’t include any that might be considered misleading. “You have won $10,000″ will always get opens — but that doesn’t make it a good email subject line.

And finally, MarketingSherpa was not able to consistently personalize across this entire list, so headers with personalization couldn’t be fairly tested and therefore were left out.

The finalist competitors indicated a clear benefit in the subject line, as well as being intriguing enough that we believed they had a good shot at that click.

The 5 runners-up from Copyblogger

We sent these 5 entries over to MarketingSherpa for the experiment.

FMH
Early Birds, save $300 when you register for the Email Summit by January 9, 2014!

Cheryl
What happens in Vegas…will improve your emails! Save $300 now.

Danielle
Your emails don’t work (We’ll tell you why)

Jim Shirley
Last Chance to Save $300 on Email Summit 2014

Ali Luke
(Open BEFORE Christmas) Email Summit 2014: discount ends Jan 9th

The additional 5 finalists from the MarketingExperiments blog

And here are the five runners-up from the MarketingExperiments side of the contest …

Eugene Nilus
[Email Summit 2014] Last Day of Early Bird Discount is…

Mike Schwenk
$300 Savings | Vegas | More ROI From Email In 2014

Joy Avila
Tick Tock — Email Summit 2014 discounted registration ends soon

Chris Allsop
Get the latest, proven strategies in email marketing — Email Summit 2014

Linda Jackson
What Happens In Vegas Shouldn’t Stay in Vegas – 2014 Email Summit — Bring it home!

Why clickthrough?

Some asked why MarketingSherpa was looking at clickthrough, rather than open rate. And the answer is the same one I pointed to in that “You have won $10,000″ example above.

The aim of your email subject header is to get the email opened, yes. But it’s to get it opened by the right people.

For the purposes of this promotion, email opens by people who have no interest in attending an in-person conference? Not useful.

Interesting, the winning subject line captured both the most clickthroughs and the most opens.

And that winner was …

The contest winner is Ali Luke!

Our winner was copywriter and writing teacher Ali Luke:

(Open BEFORE Christmas) Email Summit 2014: discount ends Jan 9th

Here’s how the other entries stacked up against the winner:

graph showing contest results

Our finalist Danielle also did well, in third place with:

Your emails don’t work (We’ll tell you why)

Congratulations to Ali for winning both prizes! And thanks for making Copyblogger look good in the contest. :D

You can dig into the contest results in more detail over at the MarketingExperiments blog: 2013 Subject Line Email Contest results.

Editor’s note: Some of the finalist names from the MarketingExperiments blog have been corrected.

About the author

Sonia Simone

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

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12 Strategies for Promoting Your YouTube Videos

In his book Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to YouTube for Business, marketing and public relations consultant Jason Rich show you how to master the secrets of successful “YouTubers” and put your brand, product or service in front of millions of potential viewers. In this edited excerpt, the author outlines 12 ways you can promote and market your small-business YouTube videos.

When it comes to marketing and promoting your small-business YouTube videos, follow these 12 basic strategies:

1. Start by using the tools available directly through YouTube. For example, provide a detailed and accurate title and description to each of your videos, and associate tags (keywords) that are directly relevant.

2. Use a call to action within your videos to encourage people to like, rate, comment on and share your videos.

3. Begin by promoting your videos to the people you know, including your real-life friends, relatives, customers and clients. Ask these people to watch your video(s) and share them with their online friends.

4. Take advantage of the power and capabilities of the online social networking sites to promote your videos. As a spokesperson for your company, for example, become active on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, as well as other relevant services. Be sure to create an online presence for your business on Facebook and/or Google+, and then use that presence to promote your videos.

5. Incorporate your videos into your own company’s website and blog.

6. Share links to your videos with your existing customers or clients via opt-in email.

7. Use public relations techniques, such as using press releases to contact bloggers, editors, reporters and producers in order to generate free media coverage for your videos in mainstream media, as well as in blogs that cater to your target audience.

8. Get your videos (and your YouTube Channel page) listed with the major search engines, including Google, Yahoo! and Bing, and then focus on SEO strategies to get the best possible listing placements.

9. Try to collaborate on videos with other companies that are already utilizing YouTube effectively and that are targeting the same audience, but that are not in direct competition with you. This will allow you to capture the attention of your collaborator’s viewers and subscribers.

10. Start promoting your YouTube channel within your company’s printed catalogs, brochures, and sales materials, as well as within its existing traditional advertising.

11. Consider paying for keyword advertising on Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Facebook. Google AdWords for Video is also a very cost-effective and powerful tool for promoting YouTube videos.

12. If you have the budget, hire a YouTube video marketing company to help you plan and implement an online promotional campaign for your videos.
 

Jason R. Rich, based in Foxboro, Mass., is author of more than 55 books on topics including ecommerce, online marketing, digital photography and interactive entertainment, as well as the Apple iPhone and iPad.

4 Ways to Maximize Your Loss Prevention Strategies

4 Ways to Maximize Your Loss Prevention Strategies

Most merchants take basic precautions to reduce theft in their stores: they train employees and install surveillance systems. But even with these steps, the National Retail Federation survey found that 96 percent of retailers have been a victim of organized retail crime.

That said, there’s always more you can and should do to make your store less attractive to thieves. Our experts suggest four, all maximizing the loss prevention technology and techniques you’re likely already using.

1. Have video surveillance footage you can use. Many merchants review video footage after a break-in or employee theft only to find that the camera has been turned off or the equipment is not in working order. “Put the main recording device in a locked cabinet and make sure all cords going to the recorder are secure as well,” says Steve White, corporate vice president, business development at Vector Security. He also suggests you change all default passwords for the video system so that footage cannot be erased.

Camera placement is just as important. Place cameras at the cash register and near high-theft items, but also near your store’s exit to capture people’s faces as they leave the store. Since the lighting will be behind them, you’ll have a better view, White says.

2. Smile for the camera. Robert A. Gardner, an independent Security advisor and ASIS International member, a trade organization for security professionals, says that since video technology is relatively inexpensive, many stores use closed circuit television in the stores to detect theft. However, while most install a couple of cameras and put the monitor behind the camera, he recommends placing a monitor near the front of the store as well. “When someone is walking into a store and they see themselves on television, they know that they are being watched and it is a physiological deterrent from doing anything illegal.”

3. Check the register. Be as concerned about overages in the register as you are about shortages. Although sometimes overages are simple mistakes, extra money in the register at the end of the day can indicate that employees are shortchanging customers when making change or over-charging for merchandise. An overage can happen when employees have built a bank of cash during the day and haven’t take their portion from the register, says Keith Aubele, president and chief executive officer of Retail Loss Prevention Group, Inc and ASIS International Retail Council chairman. He recommends tracking overages and shortages either manually or through software to identify any operational breakdowns. If you suspect a particular employee, carefully monitor that person through video surveillance using a camera angle that will show the register transaction.

4. Keep saying “Hello.” Aubele says that many merchants don’t train their employees on how important “hello” can be in deterring theft. At a 2013 summit for the Loss Prevention Retail Council, shoplifters were interviewed and told members that they will leave a store and not steal items if store associates are active and engaged. “That is a very powerful statement coming from people who make their living by stealing merchandise,” says Aubele.

To ensure that your staff carries through with the welcome mat, he recommends reminding employees at team meetings and monitoring greetings through video as well as including it as part of employee evaluations. Make sure staffers know that interaction shouldn’t end at the initial greeting, Aubele says. It is essential that employees employ agressive hospitality and continue interacting with customers throughout their shopping experience. Encourage employees to ask customers if they need additional sizes or shopping help. In addition to just being good customer service, this sort of friendly engagement will reduce theft.
 

Jennifer Goforth Gregory has over 18 years professional writing experience and specializes in writing about small businesses. Her work has been published MSN Money, FOX Business and the Intuit Small Business Blog and American Express OPEN Forum.

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Why a Legendary Album and a Viral Hoax Should Inspire You to Create Content That’s Worth a Damn

image of Peter Green playing guitar

It’s the usual story.

A poor Jewish kid, guitar player from London’s East End. Black curly hair blossoming around his head. T-shirt tucked tightly into his flared jeans.

He’s leading one of the most popular bands of the late 60s. He’s touring the world, playing large concerts, making acclaimed records, dropping acid. He and his bandmates are living the life most musicians only dream of.

But not this kid.

He’s Peter Green. Anxious and unsettled. He’s got a vision for something substantial. Something different. Something that is “worth a damn.”

That something would ultimately be one of the greatest albums ever created.

It was because of Green’s intensity that B.B. King said Green was the only guitarist who gave him cold sweats when he played. And it was because of that intensity drummer Mick Fleetwood said, “We were all about following our friend and our musical mentor into the fire.”

We’ll get back to Peter Green and his legendary record in a minute.

The viral geniuses

But first, there’s this guy from Gawker.

He’s an editor. A mix between machine and magician because the headlines and articles he writes often get more page views in a month (30 million) than the rest of the writing staff of Gawker combined.

Month in, month out.

His secret? True, it starts with viral headlines — headlines that convince even the hardest of hearts to click. But it’s the stories he shares that are the key. He “understands the emotions that might compel someone to click on an item” and then share it.

This is the trick behind Upworthy, too.

Last summer Fast Company called it the “fastest-growing media site of all time.” It generated 8.7 million views in its first month. Monthly page views are now near 100 million, unbelievable for a site less than two years old.

Upworthy has taken a page from the playbooks of Buzzfeed and Gawker and upped the game. The site has nailed the science of curiosity-inducing headlines, though they say that is not their secret sauce. The content they share must pass these three tests:

  1. Is the content substantive, engaging, and maybe even entertaining?
  2. If 1 million people saw it, would the world be a better place?
  3. Does the content actually deliver on the promise of the headline?

At Upworthy paid curators comb the web looking for that super-sharable piece. Then they write 25 headlines, test them vigorously, and roll the post out.

It’s a successful formula for page views, but that’s not the only trick in the viral magician’s bag.

When lying goes viral

Some would call 2013 the year of the internet hoax.

Hoaxes were big, with the biggest being Elan Gale’s “argument” on Thanksgiving Day with cranky airplane passenger “Diane.” That crude, misoginystic exchange garnered 1.5 million page views and blew up his Twitter account.

Talk about putting your name on the map.

The sheer shock and audacity of that exchange kept us glued to his feed and to this article. (No doubt this was a superb example of internal cliffhangers.) We couldn’t keep our eyes away from that wreckage, even if we were completely disgusted and even if, in our hearts, we knew this couldn’t possibly be true.

What is wrong with us?

Nothing. We just love stories, whether they are true or not. We want to be entertained. Enthralled. We want to escape, which is why we float on the stream that is the Internet for most of the day.

But some argue that the stream has crested, and that change is in the air.

Should content marketers do viral?

As content marketers this excitement and attention makes us pay attention. We are asking ourselves: “What can I learn from Gawker? Buzzfeed? Upworthy? Even from an epic fake note-passing war on a delayed flight?”

Do we do the outrageous to get attention? Do we dish out eye candy to lure the eyeballs home?

We know this: online marketing is driven by content. But what kind of content?

Ezra Klein at the Wonkblog, commenting on Gawker’s viral genius, thinks we need to be thoughtful about our reaction to these examples. He shares four lessons traditional content marketers should learn from the popularity of being viral:

  1. Don’t ignore the traffic potential of social media sites.
  2. You can learn how to write for social media.
  3. Don’t be overly impressed by these page numbers.
  4. Re-package boring content to spread on the social web.

Number three should stand out to you like a Buddhist monk armed with an AK-47. Let’s explore it.

The problem with high page views

People live for the immediate, the now. But here’s the deal: people also want substance. They want solid solutions to their problems.

This is why Google rolled out in-depth article search results: to reward long-form content. And this is why Google rolled out Panda: to punish weak, shallow content.

High traffic is like a drug. You want more of it. And so you must push the edges. You must constantly innovate, which is risky and unsustainable.

Our Director of Content, Jerod Morris, knows high levels of traffic all too well.

His site Midwest Sports Fans jumped in traffic and notoriety after Jerod wrote a controversial article that ultimately landed him on ESPN. The only problem is he couldn’t flip that traffic into significant sustained revenue. Display advertising is a hard way to make a living (a point Ezra Klein also made on the Wonkblog).

Just ask Gawker. They’ve switched their business model to a proven one: affiliate marketing. Not unlike Maria Popova and her website Brain Pickings.

So where does that leave you? Somewhere between The New Yorker and Gawker.

Think: Copyblogger.

Back to Peter Green

Peter Green was losing his mind.

Loads of LSD probably had a lot to do with it, but drugs only elevated what he already felt: uncomfortable with stardom. At least the superficial part of it.

Yet, this can’t be missed: The album that followed Green’s anxiety was Then Played On, about which Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke said, “I think it’s one of the most beautiful records and exciting records ever made.”

Now that’s substance.

When it comes to your business, you need the intensity of a Peter Green. This is no different than Sonia’s G.A.S concept, Google’s emphasis on cornerstone content, and Beth Hayden’s argument that content marketing is a long game.

We don’t need to go overboard like Green (he never recovered), but we need to give the world something more than just the quick and dirty.

So create something worth a damn.

Provide real value to the segment of society that wants it right now. That needs it right now. These are the people who are looking to learn how to play chess, strengthen their core, climb out of debt, complete college, and find love that will last.

There is no shortage of needs and wants you can satisfy. We all long for something.

This is your next move

That doesn’t mean you abandon viral content. Better yet, you can mix the viral with the substantial. For example:

  • Hire a designer to create a cheat sheet for the 11 most common chess openings and allow people to embed, share, download, and print the poster. (We just did something similar.)
  • Record a handful of documentaries on people who’ve climbed out of debt using your techniques, then publish it on YouTube.
  • Publish an ebook on the habits of insanely successful college students and give it away.

But make the bulk of your content substantial.

See, when it comes to finding solutions to our problems we want something that is meaningful and practical. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional quick fix, but the bulk of your content should have long-term value.

This is nothing new to Copyblogger.

Our advice? Green himself summed it up in the first line of “Closing My Eyes,” the second track on Then Play On: “Now it’s the same as before.”

We’ve been preaching quality over quantity for years, and we have lots of resources to help you create substantial content.

Or you could grab this free series of seven ebooks on content marketing: How to Build the Audience That Builds Your Business.

They will give you a jump start on the only content marketing strategy that works: building something that is worth a damn.

The image atop the post shows Peter Green in March of 1970, roughly six months after the release of Then Play On. He would leave Fleetwood Mac in May. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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Stop Spending Time With Toxic People

Stop Spending Time With Toxic People

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In his book No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs, business coach and consultant Dan Kennedy reveals the steps behind making the most of your frantic, time-pressured days so you can turn time into money. In this edited excerpt, the author explains the people you spend time with affect your productivity and why you should carefully choose who to associate with.

One of the most significant things you can control is association — your choices of who you permit into your world, who you give time to or invest time with, and who you look to for ideas, information and education. The people around you rarely have a neutral effect. They either facilitate your accomplishment, they undermine it, or they sabotage it outright.

The first useful association tactic is the elimination of toxic people and saboteurs. It’s not an easy thing to face facts about a friend, family member, long-time employee or long-time vendor when they are, in some way, interfering with or disapproving of your accomplishment. It’s important to face these facts and to act on them because the more time you spend with people who are unhelpful, unsupportive, disrespectful, envious, resentful, dysfunctional or outright damaging to you, the less value all your time has.

These people don’t just harm the minutes you and they are in the same place. Few people can so perfectly compartmentalize that they can lock every thought, assertion and act of a toxic person in a little mind box and without leakage into other mind boxes. Paraphrasing a Chinese proverb (I found in a fortune cookie), if you lie down with mongrel dogs, even for a short nap, you wake up with fleas — and they ride with you wherever you go.

Ideas, beliefs, opinions and habits work just like that. Even if you’re associating only occasionally or briefly with someone who is intellectually or emotionally toxic or someone who is feckless and inept, it’s enough time for the fleas to leap from them to you, burrow in and be carried away by you to subtly affect your performance and productivity. If your creativity or constructive thinking or work performance is thus diminished, so is the value of your time.

People who are detrimental for you to associate with are not necessarily of evil intent. They may all be “good people,” but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you. Good chocolate cake is not good for a diabetic. In fact, it’s poison. Associating with somebody who is always pushing it to you, saying “Just have a tiny piece” is just as suicidal as baking it for yourself.

There are lots of ways a person can be toxic and poisonous to you. I’ve had clients describe how recurring disputes with a particular employee were mentally exhausting but couldn’t be helped because otherwise, that person was a great asset. The “otherwise” is a big problem. Many small businesses wind up with a ruthlessly defensive key person who goes into murder mode anytime an attempt is made to add a second person but is “otherwise” terrific.

There’s the “we tried that before” guy. If it were up to him, we’d light the place with candles because Edison would have been limited to one try. There’s the “constructive critic,” always making you feel inadequate or undeserving, in the guise of being a cautionary ally worrying over you stubbing a toe.

On the other hand, constructive association with creative, inspiring, encouraging people can do a great deal to bolster your performance, thus making your time more valuable. Each minute of your time is made more or less valuable by the condition of your mind, and it is constantly being conditioned by association.

The entrepreneur is particularly susceptible to gaining or losing power by association because he has so many diverse responsibilities and is often operating under pressure, duress and urgency. Playing this game in a compromised mental state, weakened or wounded by poor ideas and attitudes seeded into the mind by association, is extremely difficult. Playing it strengthened and empowered by rich ideas and attitudes seeded into the mind by association can make the difficult easy.

Simply put, you want to deliberately reduce and restrict the amount of your time left vulnerable to random thought or association, and deliberately, sharply reduce the amount of time given to association with people who won’t make any productive contribution and may do harm. Does that mean you can only spend time with people you are in complete philosophical agreement with? No. In fact, such isolationism can be dangerous. But it does mean you should avoid association with people who believe and promulgate beliefs diametrically opposed to “success orientation.”

You want to deliberately increase the amount of your time directed at chosen thinking and input, and constructive, productive association. You want to associate with strivers and achievers, with winners and champions. This is an uplifting force that translates into peak performance, which makes all your time more valuable.
 

Dan S. Kennedy is a strategic advisor, consultant, business coach, and author of the popular No B.S. book series. He directly influences more than one million business owners annually. 

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Want to Make a Successful YouTube Video? Read This.

Want to Make a Successful YouTube Video? Read This.

In his book Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to YouTube for Business, marketing and public relations consultant Jason Rich show you how to master the secrets of successful “YouTubers” and put your brand, product or service in front of millions of potential viewers. In this edited excerpt, the author outlines some common elements of successful, small-business focused videos.

No perfect formula exists for creating a successful YouTube video. What works for one company in order to reach a specific audience will not necessarily work for another. However, if you analyze other successful videos on YouTube, particularly videos produced by your competitors or that target the same audience you’re striving to reach, you’ll probably discover some common elements.

Many popular videos produced by small businesses and entrepreneurs typically have some or all of the following traits and production elements:

• The video is short and to the point. Try to keep your videos under three minutes in length.

• Within the first few seconds of the video, what the video is about and what it offers are quickly and clearly explained to the viewer.

• The video’s call to action is incorporated into the video near the very beginning, and then repeated several times within the video, including near the very end. The call to action begins by stating what reward the viewer receives for following through and completing the call to action.

• The video somehow incorporates contact information for the person or organization that created it. This can be done using voice-overs, statements by the people featured within your video, titles/captions, and/or annotations or links embedded within the video itself.

• The video is targeted to a very specific audience and has a specific goal or objective.

• The content of the video is somehow unique and tries to set itself apart from the other videos on YouTube.

• The video offers information that the viewer perceives as useful, informative, entertaining, highly engaging, educational or somehow directly relevant to what they’re looking for, want or need.

• In terms of production quality, the video is professional-looking and offers good quality sound.

• The video uses some type of background music.

• The video offers clearly defined and easy-to-understand information that the viewer doesn’t have to wait too long to receive. The information is not buried in clutter or hidden by eye candy or audio that can be distracting or confusing to the viewer. For example, animated shots or scene transitions are not overused, and the background music is set at a proper level and is appropriate to the content.

• The look and messaging within the video is consistent with the company’s brand and reputation.

• The title of the video is appropriate, descriptive and directly to the point. When someone sees the video’s title, they immediately have a good idea what the video is about and what they can expect from it. This is supported by a carefully worded description and accompanied by a carefully selected group of relevant tags and keywords.

With these common traits in mind, as you explore YouTube for yourself, you’ll easily discover very popular videos that follow none of these suggestions and offer a truly unique or vastly different approach. There are no hard-core rules to follow, because video production is a highly creative endeavor. Focus on originality and ways you can communicate your core message as quickly and easily as possible to your intended audience.
 

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Jason R. Rich, based in Foxboro, Mass., is author of more than 55 books on topics including ecommerce, online marketing, digital photography and interactive entertainment, as well as the Apple iPhone and iPad.

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How Online Authority Gave a Tiny Local Business Worldwide Reach

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Editor’s note: This essay is the First Prize winner of the Copyblogger Media Essay contest, for which writers had 250 words to discuss “why it’s essential to be an online authority.”

I was stuck — elbows deep in fabric with nothing but a torn pattern book and lingering words of cryptic quilting wisdom from my late great-aunt.

It was T-minus two hours until the baby shower and I was on the verge of showing up empty-handed.

My rescuer was Jenny Doan of Hamilton, Missouri (pop. 1,809).

Her quilt shop is a mere 1,200 miles from Upstate New York, where I sat that day with my laptop, being walked step-by-step through finishing my first quilt.

Small town, big audience

In 2008, Jenny’s kids bought her a quilting machine and showed her how to blog. Missouri Star Quilt Company was born.

At first, the shop wasn’t much different from the quilt shops you find in any small town, including the cute little shop five miles from me.

Today, Missouri Star Quilt Company has over 120,000 subscribers to Jenny’s online quilting tutorials. That’s everyone in her town … times 67.

Subscribers, thousands every day, thank her by buying fabric from her online shop.

Happy ending, right?

For me. For Jenny. But not for Judy.

Judy owns that cute shop in Upstate New York.

Judy is smart, has a great selection, and has an amazing eye for quilting. I asked her one day about putting her newsletter online. She replied that most of her customers don’t have computers.

She’s probably right.

The customers with computers, like me, are driving past her shop on their way home, where they order the same fabric from Jenny — 1,200 miles away.


As the First Prize winner, Abbey received received a lifetime membership to Authority. Previously, Grand Prize winner Anthony Sills received a ticket to Authority Intensive, the content marketing experience we are hosting this May. You can read Anthony’s winning essay here.

And if you want more insight on how we whittled 270+ essays down to five winners, watch the Essay Contest Wrap-Up Hangout with Demian and Jerod. We highlight the specific elements of the winning essays that separated them from the pack.

About the Author: Abbey Dieteman has been writing since 7th grade when she wrote a 30-page novella in an attempt to win a boy’s heart (it didn’t work). Today, she is a copywriter and co-founder of Dieteman Technology Consulting. She can be found on twitter at @dietemantech.

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11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs [Infographic]

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So. You think you’ve got yourself a good blog post.

You chose your writing style. You knocked out the first draft. You allowed it to sit for an hour or a day.

Now it’s time to edit that bad dog — ruthlessly. So that it has a fighting chance in the trenches.

You’ll want to pay attention to the details like avoiding goofy, but common, grammar mistakes. You’ll want to choose your words carefully so you say what you mean.

This will allow you to shed excess copy so that you have a lean, muscular article.

But you’re not done. You also must ensure that your blog post has all of the essential ingredients it needs.

Ingredients like these, as presented in this infographic by our lead designer Rafal Tomal. Print it, pin it, but whatever you do … use it.

Infographic 11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs

Want to publish this infographic on your own site?

Copy and paste this code into your blog post or web page:

Like this infographic? Get content marketing advice that works from Copyblogger.

Click to download a one-page PDF of these rules, suitable for printing and hanging near your workspace when you need to see it most.

Want more information on any of the 11 essential blog post ingredients? Use these links:

  1. Craft a magnetic headline.
  2. Open with a bang.
  3. Use persuasive words.
  4. Write damn good sentences.
  5. Insert killer bullet points.
  6. Create exquisite subheads.
  7. Tell a seductive story.
  8. Keep attention with internal cliffhangers.
  9. Choose an arresting image.
  10. Close with style.
  11. Be authentic.

This checklist of essential elements is to make your life simple because creating great content on a regular basis is hard work.

With each blog post you look at this list and say “Did I craft a magnetic headline? Did I open with a bang?” And so on.

The last thing you need is to wonder whether your article has everything it needs to satisfy your readers. Now you can evaluate your content at a glance and be sure it has every element it needs to deliver the results you need.

About the author

Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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