Midnight Quills

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No more clickbait

Enough Clickbait

Earlier this year, I read an article that declared Mamamia, one of Australia’s most popular social media-based websites, was moving away from using Clickbait headlines.

Ignore it, it's just clickbait

You know the ones:

  • This person didn’t look like they could sing, but then..
  • A kid stood up, but you won’t believe what happened when…
  • They started to do this, but my mind was blown when…

That last one is pretty much the worst of the worst. The moment I see anything to do with minds being blown, I just automatically know I’m going to be disappointed.

However, all of these styles, and more, are clickbait headlines. They’re designed to grab a person’s curiousity and get them clicking through to the article to find out the rest of the story.

And it works. It still works. For a while after I read that article about Mamamia killing their Clickbait articles, I thought it was starting to flow across everyone, but just recently I’ve been noticing a renewed rush of these sorts of headlines popping up all around the place.

Is it really that effective, though? Some of these articles have gone viral, but have they gone viral because of the headline, or because of the content?

Remember a few years ago, when the video of Susan Boyle’s audition for – one of those reality TV shows – absolutely smashed the internet? It was the perfect clickbait video, wasn’t it? This awkward, unemployed, single forty-something woman walks out on stage on a reality TV show, and completely destroys what everyone is thinking of her the moment she opens her mouth and starts singing I Dreamed a Dream. So far in my life, that’s the most ‘mind-blowing’ thing I’ve still seen online.

They laughed when she said she wanted to be a professional singer, but it blew their minds when she started to sing…

Susan Boyle - Let's face it, who expected this woman to have the voice that she did?

Let’s face it, who expected this woman to have the voice that she did?

It wasn’t the headline that made that video viral. That video went viral because of the content. When people clicked through and actually watched this woman singing a song that absolutely epitomized the very reason she was there, they couldn’t help but react. They shared it because of the content.

Good content will attract people, almost regardless of the headline.

Not completely. I’m certainly not saying pay no attention to your headline whatsoever. It needs to be good, it needs to be eye-catching, but it needs to be honest. It needs to give a clear idea of what a person’s going to see when they click the link, otherwise, it just leads to disappointment and a feeling of betrayal.

I want to just look at this from a slightly different angle, if I can. In my sales career, there was one article I remember reading which had more influence over any other training or coaching that I ever received. While I can’t seem to find it online anymore, the headline was, Why sell ice to eskimos, when you can sell life jackets to drowning men?

Why would you sell ice to eskimos when you can sell lifejackets to drowning men?

Why would you sell ice to eskimos when you can sell lifejackets to drowning men?

The premise of this article was that genuine sales is about providing people something that they actually need. Sure, you might be able to sell ice to eskimos, but eventually they’re going to realize that they didn’t need to buy ice, and probably experience buyer’s remorse. Next time you come to them offering something, they’re going to be much more cagey and suspicious. Not only that, but they’re probably likely to tell others about that negative experience, and as we’ve all heard, people talk a lot more about their negative experiences than the positive ones.

On the other hand, if you are selling life jackets to drowning men, then you’re offering something that they need, at a time they need it, when it’s most beneficial for them. Your sales strategy isn’t about making another dollar, it’s about providing something to your client that they need and will benefit them. It means that next time you come to them, they remember you positively, because you provided them with a positive experience. It means that on those far fewer occasions that they talk about a positive experience, they’re talking about you.

Clickbait headlines hide sub-par content.

The reason I don’t click on these links anymore, is because on the vast majority of occasions I’ve actually succumbed to my curiousity, I’ve ended up disappointed. I click through to be promised something mind blowing, or at least interesting, only to be let down.

Actually, no, when you advertise one thing and give me something else, I am mad...

Actually, no, when you advertise one thing and give me something else, I am mad…

Why are you not doing that with your blog articles or online content? Clickbait is the “ice to eskimos” sales style. It’s about what you’re getting out of it – once the person’s clicked, you don’t care what they think. You’ve walked away with the dollars and that’s the most important thing.

The reality is, that if you’re providing great content, then you don’t need a Clickbait title. Get people sharing your content because they found something really worth sharing. Social Media pretty much ignores the rule of people speaking less on a positive experience; it’s where people click share because they found something awesome. You’ll find yourself respected and valued far more, because you’re providing something people find value in.

If you want to see great content created for your website and business, then contact me and we can discuss the options available to you!

Is SEO the right tool for your website?

Is SEO really the tool for you?

The email I received includes a paragraph that reads as follows:

 

“We are also experts at SEO and the ideal solution when it comes to getting websites ranking on page one of Google, we have achieved page one results for clients in a wide range of industries, no matter what business you are in, we can help you get to the top of Google.”

 

It sounds so great. You’re offered the top ranking on a Google search, or at least page one. It comes with promises of more calls, more sales, and more traffic to your website. Promises. Promises. Promises.

How do they do it though?

I spent five years working as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for an international recruitment company. Our aim was to be the number one ranking in Google searches across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and more. In those five years, we worked with three different SEO/Digital Marketing agencies who all promised us great results, and who all, ultimately, let us down. Sure, they managed to get us to number 1 here and there, but it was for obscure keywords that brought minimal traffic to the website.

SEO company frustration

Dealing with SEO companies brought about as much frustration as it did results.

The worst thing, though, was how difficult it was to actually get a response from them as to exactly what they were doing as part of this SEO strategy. We were paying a regular retainer which provided promises and a report every month to show what movement had been obtained in each of the keywords we were targeting, and what we’d find with those reports, was that on average, we would probably stay about the same. Moving up a few ranks in one area undoubtedly left us lagging somewhere else.

It took me some time to discover that the majority of this weekly retainer was being spent in creating backlinks.

You see, out of all of the key things that Google’s search algorithm uses to calculate page rankings, really the only thing that an external company can provide you with, are backlinks. These are links that use the keywords you’re targeting to link back to the specific page on your website where you want visitors to land.

For example: Let’s say I’ve created a tennis equipment website, and I’ve contacted one of these SEO agencies asking for them to get me to the top of Google when people are searching for tennis equipment. One of the main things they’re going to do, is have people write articles about tennis, which have a link back to my website that specifically uses the words “tennis equipment.” The theory being that with enough backlinks, Google will start to recognize my page as an authority on Tennis Equipment, and will therefore push me to the top of the search rankings.

The problem is, that my page isn’t necessarily the best authority on Tennis Equipment, and Google knows that, because none of the three hundred pages where these articles have been posted are recognized as any sort of authority on tennis either.

Because that is what Google is after. Authority. The brains trust at the Good Ship Google has two aims:

  • First: To get you to spend money on Adwords. It’s their major revenue stream.
  • Second: To provide people searching with the best results possible.
Google is looking for authority pages

The aim for Google and other search engines, is to provide the best knowledge resource for any given query.

SEO companies, in the meantime, have a single, slightly different aim: to get you to pay them to circumnavigate whatever rules Google has put into place to fulfill that second aim I just mentioned, to provide the best and most accurate results possible. An SEO company doesn’t care that my site isn’t the most comprehensive tennis equipment site around, they care about convincing me that if I pay them enough money, they can make Google think that I’m the most comprehensive tennis equipment website around.

Which brings us to the difference between an SEO company, and a Content Marketing Expert.

Instead of doing what they can to make Google believe my site is the best tennis equipment site around, a Content Marketing Expert comes in and says, “Let’s make this site the best tennis equipment site around!”

Do you see the difference there? One is trying to manipulate their way around the rules that Google (and Yahoo and Bing) have put in place, while the other is using those rules to provide a great result.

Put another way, one is working against Google, the other is working with them.

Why are you butting heads with Google?

Why butt heads with Google’s search formula, when you can work with it to provide the best results?

Do you realize that it’s a lot easier to work together than against someone?

I’ve had plenty of conversations with SEO companies where I’ve been told that Google have changed their formula again, and this is why our keywords had dropped. SEO companies are constantly working against Google, and in turn, Google is constantly working against them. Google keeps updating their formula to tighten all the loopholes that these people are working to exploit.

Why work against them when you can just as easily work with them? Why spend so much time, effort, and money in pretending to be an authority on your subject, when you could put that time, effort and money into actually being the authority on your subject?

This is why Content Marketing is so important.

But why listen to me? I have a not-so-hidden motive in convincing you to follow the path of Content Marketing over SEO strategies. It’s my business. I write for a living, providing great content for websites who want to improve their own rankings, get more traffic, receive more calls and drive more sales. That’s my bread and butter. So why should you listen to me?

No one’s saying you have to, but next time in, I’ll be writing in more detail about Content Marketing, and exactly what it is that people like myself actually do to help you reach those goals. Sign up to my email list below to make sure you’re notified when it’s posted!

Of course, if you want to get started before then, contact me today and we can discuss your individual requirements. Unlike the struggles I had with SEO companies, you’ll be consulted and included as we build a strategy together, and you’ll know exactly what it is you’re actually paying for as we go forward.

Why Your Business Website needs a writer

Why You Need A Writer

You know you need a website, and so you’ve gone out and spent the money to get one created. It looks great, and you’re really happy with the colours, the style, the layout, the graphics, it’s all fantastic.

Then what?

Next step, is of course, to actually get people seeing the website, so you start promoting it on your advertising materials, you’ve gotten your business cards redone so that they have the web address on there as well, it’s all great, but you’re preaching to the choir, you’re marketing to people who already know you exist. You want your website to bring in new customers as well, though.

That’s when you get a phone call or an email from someone promising something called Search Engine Optimization, and offering miraculous guarantees of being number one in Google searches, it all sounds spectacular. That’s just what you need, right?

Realistically, probably not.

Building a website is like building a house, and there’s three aspects that you need to blend together to create a great, engaging website: design, structure and content. A great website puts the right amount of time and focus into each of these aspects.

Design is the exterior appearance. You want your website to look fantastic when people are driving past on the street, don’t you? It’s all those external pieces, the way it looks on the surface.

Structure is the internal walls. Once you’re inside, how is it all laid out? It’s how you get from one room to another.

Content, though, is the furniture. It’s what actually makes this a place where you want to stop and sit down. This is what keeps people inside once they’ve walked through the door; it makes this an attractive place to be, rather than simply an attractice place to look at.

Too many businesses, though, go out and get a beautiful, architect-designed house that’s unique and noticeable, only to then drop into Fantastic Furniture and fill the house with the first $100 items of furniture they can find.\

Sure, it’s functional, and even livable; but realistically, it feels incomplete and unsatisfactory. After putting in the time and effort to get a beautiful house built, isn’t it missing something until you’ve hired an interior decorator to come through and craft the inside of the house? Isn’t that what really makes it a home?

The same goes for your website.

With all that in mind, let’s look at three reasons why you should have a professional writer on your team to create content.

Your Website is there to Build Relationships

Once upon a time, a website was a digital billboard for your business. All you needed to do was make it look good, put your contact information on there, and there you go! Set and forget, right?

Gone are the days where a website was a digital billboard for your website.

That’s not the case anymore.

Around ten years ago, the Internet started turning social. Websites aren’t just a digital billboard for people to find out how to get in touch with you. Your website is now a lounge room that you’re inviting your customers into. It’s a place where you can sit down and chat to them for a while about what solutions you can actually provide for them.

You want to make sure that lounge room is furnished as nicely as possible.

Provide your customers with solutions

The days have gone when I find a leaking tap in my house and go straight the Yellow Pages for a plumber. These days, my first stop is going to be online to see what the problems might be, and whether I can fix it myself.

The internet provides people with the option to seek solutions to the problems they have.

Whilst this may sound counterproductive to your business requirements by helping me to do things myself, remember, you’re building relationships here. The coffee that we had in the point above, means that when I have a problem, I’m going to give you a call because we already have an established relationship. It doesn’t matter that the relationship’s only been through your website and email newsletters, I know who you are, I’ve developed a level of trust with you, so why would I take a chance on someone else?

Quality reigns over quantity

I maintain a number of websites, and I therefore regularly get both phone calls and emails from people working for SEO companies making all sorts of promises to get my site to number 1 on Google for any keywords I want.

I’ve worked with these companies in the past, and they basically run with two primary means of attack in their area. Lots of keywords, and lots of backlinks to your website. You provide them with a list of search terms that you want to be number one for, and their aim is to make sure those words appear all over your website in just the right places, and all over the internet, all with a link back to your site. In the process of this, the actual quality of the content is irrelevant, which is how I once ended up receiving web content encouraging people to work in New Zealand because, and I quote, “working in a third world country can be highly rewarding.”

Wait, What?

This is not the content you want on your website. The end goal of these companies is to try and weasel away around Google’s formula for ranking websites to get you to the top. Google’s aim with their formula, though, is pretty simple: to provide people searching with the best websites for what they’re searching for. Why not just make your website the best one for what people are searching for, instead?

Google and SEO is a big topic, and I’ll be expanding on it in another entry very soon. Sign up for email alerts by entering your email address below to make sure you’re kept up to date!

So here’s the thing. You need an interior designer, perhaps more than you need an architect. You need a writer.

I’ve spoken to a number of people in the marketing business who have acknowledged a regular oversight in this area. What happens is that someone designs the website, and the content is left to the same people. It’s like letting the tradies pick the furniture for your house, not to criticize them, but everyone has their area of expertise. I wouldn’t go and try and build a house from the ground up with my own hands, because that’s not my area of expertise, either.

A good looking site will get people up the driveway and peeking inside, but what you need is for those people to actually open the door, come in and make themselves at home so that you can build a relationship with them.

When you’re ready to refurnish, contact me. I’ll work with you to discuss some of the best tactics that we can use to make sure that you’re getting the best out of your online marketing.

The Quest for a Barbecue

A Gumtree Quest for a Barbecue turns Awesome

Recently, a person I know was selling their barbecue on Gumtree. Lo’ and behold, it turned out that their buyer had a great sense of adventure (and of humour).

Is the barbecue still for sale?

It would seem the conversation started out reasonably normally, actually…

The skills required

Pray tell me, art thou a predator?

A horse and a half

‘Twouldst that I were able to attend this fine feast!

The gold

One must always have an incentive of gold or a lady to embark on a quest…

The quest

The quest doth begin to the road known as St Kilda…

Honeymoon - James Patterson

Reviewed: Honeymoon – James Patterson and Howard Roughen

Honeymoon

You can do worse than learn to write fiction from an author who has sold over 300 million books in his career.

That’s how I picked up Honeymoon from James Patterson. I subscribed to his video Masterclass about writing novels. In preparation for the course, I was informed that this book is the one that is used for a lot of the coursework from an example point of view, so I decided that before I went too far into the class, I should at least read the book.

I’d be interested to see where Patterson rates Honeymoon in the ranks of the myriad of novels that he has produced over the years. Being the first of his novels that I’ve read, I have to admit that while I was impressed, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the story itself.

Patterson’s style is something I’m not used to. When I looked at the table of contents and saw over a hundred chapters waiting for me, I was a little intimidated; I’d bought it as an ebook, so I was missing the context of how thick the actual book is to give me an idea of how long it was. I quickly discovered that the reason there were so many chapters was because each one was only a couple of pages in length.

My personal feeling is that Patterson relies on action and pace, rather than depth, to keep his readers engaged and interested. To his credit, it does work. As I was reading Honeymoon, I found myself continuing to turn the pages (so to speak) – and I think the short, sharp chapters help this. There are times, reading more “typical” novels, where time considerations come into play when you reach the end of a chapter. Reading Patterson’s work, you get to the end of one chapter and it’s really easy to say, “Just one more.”

While the pacing is fast and exciting, though, Patterson’s character depth in this novel leaves something to be desired. We are introduced to Nora Sinclair, one of the two lead characters, early as a gold-digging interior decorator who is somehow managing to maintain two relationships with well-to-do men in different cities, but thanks, in part, to the pacing of Patterson’s style, we never really get a real understanding of the motivation behind her actions. The male lead is the same, leaving the reader confused about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it for most of the story.

Ultimately, it feels somewhat rushed and not overly thought out. The characters feel half-created, and the plot itself is just a little bit too far beyond reality to have allowed me to get properly into it.

Reading a Patterson book is like being dropped onto a busy freeway, the pace is frenetic and your best option is just to stay focused and pay attention until you get to your destination. You don’t really have much chance to see what’s going on around you, but you get a good ride and reach your destination fairly quickly. Which is fine, except when, like me, you’re used to leisurely drives in the country with the top down, enjoying the scenery.

All up, 2.5/5 Quills.

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