The Art of Successful Writing


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It’s All About the Reader Experience

From as far back as my childhood days in elementary school, I clearly recall my fascination with words. Our teachers would speak with determined reference to the ways in which we needed to express on any number of levels through the many complexities of the English language.

Of course, in our very early elementary school teachings, those lessons were fairly simple in terms of what children that age could reasonably understand, absorb and apply both orally and in writing. Our preliminary task was to learn to speak the language and learn how to print, neatly and with deliberate and neat penmanship. Those words that we related to the most and were most often used in our day to day conversation were an early focus in class.

With each passing year, the importance of learning how to speak, read and write the English language became of greater importance, more and more complex. Grasping the spelling and meaning of each word was increasingly important, as was an understanding of just how complex the language really was. And then came the revelations of thesaurus content wherein lay a whole other dimension of the language through synonyms.

Well into the mid-secondary school period, we became more and more deeply engaged with the language through our studies. Written assignments became a routine part of our daily learning experience. Our teachers used the assignment process as a means to gauge our individual knowledge, understanding, and application of the language. I remember very early on feeling a sense of wonderment for the language, our language that was used in every conceivable aspect of people’s lives whether for personal reading, eventual writing as a profession, vocational requirement or creative endeavor.

Once into my secondary school years, I became increasingly aware of just how complex the English language was. We began to study not only advanced spelling of much more complex words and sentence structures but also a more in-depth study of the grammatical aspects of the language. This was pretty heavy stuff and for many, English Literature was tedious, boring, confusing and confounding. Many of my friends would question why we needed to know all that stuff, to begin with.

Well, when we eventually delved into the study of historical masters of the language, both structurally and creatively speaking, even more of the class began to wander their attentions to idle scribbling in their notebooks and banal daydreaming to while away the hours. Many would frequently check the big clock on the classroom wall, counting the minutes down to recess, a break from all of the mundane study sessions.

I look back on those days with a clear recollection of my own curiosity, no, fascination, with learning the English language, reading assignments and writing book reviews. The first time I held a novel in my hands was a milestone I will never forget. It was like diving into deep, darkened waters to unchartered depths of exploration and discovery for me. I kept those thoughts to myself because, quite frankly, kids in the day thought that anyone who was engrossed in reading studies was a ‘geek’, unusual to say the least.

Early into my high school days I began to have a sense that, even though I did not have a clear idea of what career direction I wanted to take, somehow I envisioned it having a lot to do with writing, communications, anything along those lines that would be an essential part of how I would make a living.

The study of poetry was for many an abstract, a nonsensical journey into waters that most students felt that they would never ply. What application could there possibly be through the use of poetic verse in our daily lives, right? Yet soon, I would develop an inspired thirst for the study of poetry. It led me to an appreciation for uniquely creative word, phrase and sentence composition that took a tremendous amount of focus to write effectively. Years later I would develop a lifelong passion for writing poetry.

I soon developed an even greater appreciation of how content development, in general, would form the basis, the foundation for more comprehensive writing applications that I would use throughout my entire career. My parents recognized my innate sense of excitement reading, especially fictional novels that I brought home from the library. One day mom brought home a box set of Hardy Boys mystery novels, hardbound and engagingly illustrated on the front cover.

I quickly became hooked on those Hardy Boy classics and read them repeatedly. My home library collection grew with each new publication and soon I would be into Nancy Drew mysteries and more. I would be fixated hour after hour, consumed by the gripping storylines, the suspense and wondering at the final outcome of each story, not wanting to put the books down when called for dinner. I would often read late into the night on weekends.

I loved the way the author developed his or her characters; their unique appearance and personalities, their voice, beliefs, interests, likes and dislikes, and their role in the story. And then there were the physical settings that surrounded individual scenes which rounded out the story. It all played out in my mind as a cinematic scene in a motion picture at the town theatre.

I recall punctuation being one of the more challenging elements of writing that I found difficult to grasp. I had an uncle who was a well-known journalist in both the newsprint and radio media. He was an artist and created the most incredible sketches with a graphite pencil that I have seen to this day. I began to read his newspaper articles, primarily editorial and sports columns but he later ventured in the most impassioned way into the political commentary and critique arena. He had a tremendous thirst for stirring things up and politics was just the thing. He struck out with a more unconventional and often controversial voice that had many readers incensed but truly got their attention and response. Those were my early lessons in reader engagement.

The more I read Uncle Gord’s columns, the keener my interest for writing became. I was fascinated about how he developed his storylines, how he captured interest and attention through the words he fashioned, how he painted a picture through every story told. The tremendous power and effectiveness of his word and phrase use and his very sentence composition was a marvel. I even fascinated at how each and every paragraph transitioned so fluidly to the next.

As a teenager, I was beginning to have a strong sense of where my career direction was meant to be. I decided to go on to college and study journalism. My interest and apparent strength lay in the printed media. I would work for newspapers, reporting stories from out in the field about any number of interesting subjects. I would interview important and learned people in order to establish and support my storylines.

While my passion for writing continued to grow during my college studies, the romance with journalistic reporting lost its shine, its polish for me and I did not pursue completion of those studies nor that vocation in life. Still, I would eventually forge on to management roles with a Crown Corporation that would be the beginnings of a life-long career in property and facility management. It was during those thirty years as a professional in the real estate management industry that I would apply extensive written communications on a daily basis.

Once I experienced the managerial roles in the real property industry, it was then that I quickly became aware of just how important effective written, and oral, communications would be in the course of my daily management and reporting of property operations to our clients. I was required to communicate in a clear, concise, informative and persuasive way, with clients from all walks of life. I would address property issues through all matter of supportive external service providers of daily or periodic services to our clients from trades-related contractors to architects, engineers, lawyers and industry professionals.

The strict rule of thumb within that Crown Corporation and all of the subsequent private sector firms that I was engaged by was to provide factually sound, informative and engaging communications and written reports to all clients and stakeholders. My accuracy and effective ‘voice’ through my written communications had to be delivered with the utmost clarity, consultative expertise and meticulous in its execution every single time documents were distributed from my desk. Critical decision processes were imminent from my communications.

Anticipating the extent of my focus on the written word moving forward after secondary school, I undertook to study intense, in-depth elective and college courses in English, grammar, and business management and communications as a precursor to my successive management years in a career that truly demanded exceptional oral and written communications skills. There would be absolutely no room for contextual error when it came to professional communications whether oral or written.

I learned the fundamentals of a storyline and communications development right from the opening sentence to set the voice and tone of the piece and what the reader could expect throughout its message, to the main body of the content delivery and final paragraphs that drew informative recommendations and conclusions. The content that I wrote was very often extensive in nature and complexity and was ultimately eight to ten or more pages in length. Even at that length, I was to cover a high volume of information and client recommendations in a clear and concise manner. Brevity to the point of confusion was never an option on the table. A lot was at stake if my message was somehow misconstrued.

The Art of Reader Engagement

The strength in communicating in an ‘engaging’ way goes far beyond mere logistics and factually informative report writing. In addition to writing highly informative content, the reader’s attention easily becomes distracted, especially the longer the overall length and depth of a piece is. Writing in a conversational voice becomes an essential element of reader engagement more now than ever before.

People’s time is harried; condensed into split seconds of engagement or distraction. Get to the point and give the reader what they are looking for and the sooner the better. Cut out superfluous content that would otherwise be characterized as ‘fluff’. Cut to the chase and make your point, especially from a content marketing perspective! What people will engage in is informative content that identifies the very problem they are experiencing and how best to go about fixing that problem, making their lives better, easier, more efficient, more cost-effective and enjoyable.

We often view ‘art’ as an ‘expression’, a unique and creative oral, written or painted/sculpted delivery of one’s thoughts or ideas whether spoken, on paper or online, even physically formed in an artful way that brings a pleasurable, inspired audio or visual experience to its audience. The beauty of any art form is strictly in the eye of the beholder…or is it? Is the perception of art by design for the divine graces of the beholder or is it mere aggrandization of its creator?

The art of reader engagement is all about the reader experience.

Today, when appealing to the emotions of your intended reading audience in writing, the critical element that delivers ties that bind is forming a connection with our readers through their emotional response to our content. Speak to your audience in a conversational tone…share with your readers through your own voice rather than second or third person.

When you relay a story as part of your message delivery, infuse the human touches that your audience can directly relate to. Consider a love story unfolding in your novel. What is the lighting like? Is it overpowering, glaring, unromantic or gently subdued? Are your characters yelling out to each other from separate rooms or are they close, but a movement’s touching away? How are they breathing? What are they gazing at? Are they resisting or embracing the imminent connection? What is the tone of their voice in conversation? Is it a matter of fact, suggestive, evocative?

How do we know we are making that important connection?

As writers, much of what we write is intuitive, off the cuff, instinctive progressions of ideas and circumstance which tend to lead the story where it is willed to go. It may follow our intended path of logical direction and flow but it also may weave its own directions between points A to B as would feel most natural under the circumstances.

We are a curious lot as creatives. We write as it feels good to ourselves. We develop a smug reliance on our instincts for brilliant situational development and resolution. Nancy is falling in love with Tom and that is how the story will end…right? Well, not necessarily. Writing as creatives, we hunger for what lies outside the box, the surprise element, a long way from what may seem logical.

In the literal sense, an artist will begin their project with very little or no sense of what they are about to create and allow the construction to go where it will. Here is what I, as a creative, experience when writing poetry or prose:

  • I first develop a conceptual idea for each piece.
  • As with a storyline, I envision a beginning, middle and an end.
  • I begin to write my piece from that concept.
  • I always have that ending in mind yet most often new ideas form in my mind and the piece takes on an entirely different direction and meaning.
  • I structure or shape my ending, my close, based on a new and fluid conclusion to the piece as it has progressed.

During its writing, I read back every word, every line, and every stanza repeatedly. Is its progression fluid, is it clear and engaging? With each new line, I read back again, always repeating that analytical process. I am incessantly reading back through the eyes of my readers, always. It is the reader experience that is paramount. Am I evoking an emotional response? Is it appealing and compelling for its intended audience or would it better be expressed another way?

I obsess on whether the reader is tearing up or grinning from ear to ear. Am I just being a coy and manipulative ass or am I producing something truly meaningful and never self-serving? Now, self-serving is a whole other matter to address and even though one’s content should never be overtly that, there is a quiet sense, as a writer, of the desired self-fulfillment, always. Still, my content always aims to resonate with its intended reader…without exception.

Content Revisions

Regardless of the genre or intended audience, whether a fictional novel, a university dissertation, business communication, content marketing or advertising copy, the primary objective is to write content that fully resonates with the reader. It has to echo, in other words, the reader should be able to relate personally to the content. It should invoke an emotional response. Editing or revision of content brings that content to its most clear and concise delivery while still delivering an enriching experience for the reader. The ambiguous becomes more clear, more appealing and a more natural progression toward the conclusion of the chapter or piece overall.

Revision fine-tunes, makes greater sense, hones in on specifics, filtering out redundancy, superfluous wording, laying bare a truer and more assuming path for the reader to walk along. When describing an action or reaction, use specific description to clearly explain a character’s train of thought to substantiate their response.

As you write, place yourself squarely in the shoes of the character in the moment. Each of their actions or reactions must emulate their personality under a particular circumstance and how that might change during other extenuating circumstances. It has to fit. If your reader does a quick about face there is an immediate and confusing disconnect. As the architect of the story, we need to always be acutely aware of the logical action and reaction that fits each situation and its participants.

In the writing process, if I have done my job you should be sensing the emotions of the characters and in response, you may well feel emotions of your own whether empathy or sadness, supportive or standoffish. In the course of reading, we experience our own sense of emotional responses, some that are powerful enough that our general response to similar circumstances in real life may change in kind. If we are going to interject an out-of-character response in the story we better resolve that displaced response with reasoning accordingly.

What does a creative writer do?

When I say ‘creative writer’ I am doing so from a fictional perspective as well as in the sense of written communications business to business or other specific targeted audience. We are ‘creatives’ in the sense of how we develop our content or copy. We develop the words and message for our intended audience and purpose, right?

We create or write and then were reread over and over again. Then we revise our content or copy through a series of tweaks as we examine our words, under the microscope, from every angle. Does it suit? Does it appeal? Does it invoke the intended response? Does it compel the reader’s own response and/or desired action? We must always read through the eyes of our audience.

We must always be mindful that each and every reader has their own personality, their own belief structure, their own likes, dislikes and reactions to what they see, what they hear and feel when they are reading. Our content should always compliment the reader’s intelligence and innate sensibilities, their potential personality, sense of humor and logic, wit and fancy.

Revisions are for the benefit of the reader and rightly so. Anticipate the changes being made during the editing process and how that might alter the reactions and responses of your readers in kind. Anticipate your readers’ perspective from various angles. As a writer, gauge your own responses as you read back your content and ask yourself how your varied and diverse readership would react in kind.

Build on your story through anticipation

Whether writing your first novel, business communication or advertising copy, it is essential that you write and revise through the anticipation of what it is your readers will be anticipating as they read progressively through your content and how they will react or respond. From a content marketing and advertising copy perspective, register a problem that you know your targeted audience is experiencing, build on the emotions being felt about that problem and show your audience how you can help them overcome that problem.

The approach to writing your novel is not dissimilar. Build a problem into a situation or scene, carefully anticipate your readers’ potential reactions or emotional responses and move the story or message forward with a most logical conclusion or solution to that particular problem.

Write with purpose and direction but the flexibility to allow for change

As writers, we fashion ourselves as conductors of an orchestra; flapping our arms and hands as directional overtures that guide our individual and collective musicians to act and react in response to the intended course of the composition score. As the music plays out in response to our direction, sometimes a wayward yet keenly enthusiastic and artistic soul among the collective throws in their own sense of musical prowess. As a conductor with an acute sense of hearing, you sense an errant series of notes, subtly off course yet curiously intriguing to be sure.

So you strike out for the cessation of sound as you awkwardly collect your thoughts. Then and without undue fuss request that the wayward musician replay that series of notes, audacity aside! Much to your astonishment, you, the masterful conductor, suddenly experience the unexpected; an alternate yet surprisingly pleasing and well-suited interjection of background accompaniment that works even better than the original score. What follows would be a rather furious recording of the new and preferred enhancement of the musical score, with a discreet nod to your ‘co-writer’ as subtle approval and signal to the collective to repeat the overture accordingly.

We must read back our work with an open and receptive mind to change.

Regardless of the source, our intuition becomes imperative in the moment. Trust your instincts, gauge your reader response and go with the subtle nuances of revision as the story or message progresses and as we read back repeatedly during the editing process.

It is the allowance for unexpected change that will shape and reshape our story or message in the most meaningful ways. As in life, we experience many twists and turns in the journey and must adapt to those changes which, for the most part, are positive. We can always alter our course when anticipated changes are not the most suitable to the storyline, message and solution conveyed.

Have you ever sat bolt upright in bed, shocked out of a dead sleep only to groggily awake to brilliant notions for a piece you are writing? Has it caused you to laugh out loud in the triumphant glory that such a critical idea would somehow startle you out of dream state, about your writing project no less, and render your storyline or copy superbly better conveyed? Well, I certainly have experienced that flash of unexpected light and regardless its origin it had me scrambling for the light switch and my pen and writing pad to get it down before the thought drifted in tatters out the open window!

Never take for granted the subtleties of revision on the winds of change. Some things were just meant to be!

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© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

What Constitutes a Great Sales Pitch Blurb for Author Publications?


ebook-e-book-ipad-tabletSo you’re an author with a newly written book manuscript, ready for submission to the publisher for release and public retail distribution and you’re asking yourself what’s next? Well first of all, congratulations on achieving what so many only dream of doing!

Now that you’ve created the product to be the best that it can possibly be, proofread and edited to bring on the polish, painstakingly poured over every word and every line to ensure that your content is structurally and substantively sound and error free, the next step is submission of the cover design and manuscript to your chosen publisher/distributor for their final run through their conversion software in readiness for releasing the book for retail marketing and distribution.

Full stop! Once ready for submission, the author still has another essential element of the publication process yet to complete; the ‘Book Description’ or in industry terms the ‘Sales Pitch Blurb’ which are most often one and the same. If you take a look on the author retail pages of new publications on the publisher’s website you will see a cover design image of each title illustrating the front cover of each book being sold.

Right next to those cover images you will typically see the ‘Book Description’, often known from a marketing perspective as the ‘Sales Pitch Blurb’. For many of you who purchase or publish books on Amazon.com you will be quite familiar with the general format of ‘The Blurb’. The blurb is also frequently found on the back cover of print format publications and this variation will depend on publisher platform and in some instances author preference where afforded.

Purpose of the Blurb

Next to the cover design visual itself, the book description or sales pitch blurb is the most critical marketing element of your book presentation on the publishing platform. The browsing consumer has read promotional copy that you have posted to social media or a paid advertisement which links back to the author publishing page. They land on the new publication retail page and hopefully, after a number of passing seconds of close scrutiny of your book cover design, they are most suitably impressed and wanting to find out more.

The next step for the browsing consumer is to check out your book description whether on the back cover of the book they hold in their hand within the book store itself or as an accompaniment to the cover image on your online publisher retail page. After having engaged enthusiastically in the cover image let’s assume that the consumer is anxious to see more. They begin to read the book description which for all intent and purpose is the sales pitch blurb that will compel the consumer to buy your book!

The blurb is the quintessential tool for capturing the potential buyer’s attention and interest. This is the critical marketing copy that will either make or break the sale assuming that the consumer has not received a very strong recommendation about the book by someone with whom they implicitly trust.

What You Should Include in Your Blurb

You want to make sure that your book description or sales pitch blurb, whether associated directly with your author retail page as described above or incorporated into sales copy for a paid advertisement, is a carefully and skillfully executed enticement that provides an overview/glimpse of the storyline in a well-crafted blend of the primary characters to snippets of intriguing glimpses of geographical locations, powerful scenes and internal/external situational influences, tantalizing measures of fragrance, feel and anticipation without giving too much of the story away. Remember, you want to develop a sense of great anticipation and the desire to purchase the book to get the whole story! Give away too much and what is the sense of the consumer buying the book?

If you have not yet written a sales pitch blurb or book description nor engaged in any formalized copywriting, my strongest suggest to you is to either hire a copywriter to prepare the blurb for you or at the very least do extensive research in advance of essentially copywriting the blurb. This is not something you can sail through on a wing and a prayer. There is a skill level to copywriting that is essential to understanding the development of this critical piece and you cannot afford to leave this to chance.

Unless you quickly capture and retain the consumer’s attention, at least sufficiently to want to read the sample content preview that comes with the cover design or immediately add your book to their purchase cart, you will lose them fast. There is no room for mundane, generic content in the blurb’s development.

Copywriting is defined as written content which is intended to increase brand awareness and to persuade the consumer to decide to act i.e. to hire, to read, to purchase. This specialized form of content writing is the strategic delivery of words that will get people to take action and is one of the most essential components of online marketing. Effective copywritng takes time to research, study and analyse its essential cause and effect; to understand which approach to writing copy will have the greatest effect on the consumer/reader.

Need to Know:  The copywriter must understand what their targeted audience’ perspective on things is; your message must align with how your prospective customer sees things. Consider carefully what readers love most of all about your genre. What motivates them to keep coming back for more and for the first time buyer who does not know your work, what is this particular author all about and why are people reading his or her publications?

Know and understand what the reader’s motivations and desires are and ultimately, the copywriter must meet the basic expectations and go beyond to exceed their expectations! The author’s story must also meet and exceed the consumer’s expectations but that is a subject for later discussion outside of this topic.

Power Points for Emotional Triggers

Now that you have the basis of an understanding of the psychology behind the words that go into your sales pitch blurb, now let’s take a look at the essential elements of the blurb that you need to adhere to that will help to ensure that your book description/blurb do as intended effectively from a marketing perspective.

Develop Immediate Curiosity

  • Throughout the blurb, give the browsing consumer a hint of the plot. Use short, descriptive sentences that give away a little of the storyline, just enough to stimulate or entice curiosity and the desire to purchase.

Paint a Vivid Picture

  • This visual in the reader’s mind is so critical. They must easily relate to what they are reading. Use touch points that highlight locations, landscape and building structures central to the story. Liken elements of the book to the styling of similar popular publications/authors of the same genre and draw on the reader’s growing sense of anticipation with references to essential situational plot.

Effective Character Identification & Development

  • Identify your primary characters , their occupations or notoriety and the essence of their purpose or role in the story.

Set The Scene

  •  Identify the primary geographic location(s) featured in the book. Use engaging, descriptive wording to enhance the reader’s sense of fascination and excitement and its potential significance to the story.

Pose a Relevant and Stimulating Question

  • Draw the reader into the story with reference to a question that must be answered. Compel the browsing consumer to read on, to buy the book with this technique!

Use of Exaggerated or Sensational, Overstated Language

  • Use ‘Hyperbole’ in your descriptive language by using expressions which excite the imagination characterized by obvious and intentional exaggeration when describing critical situations that present themselves. Avoid bland descriptions that do not stimulate interest, curiosity or excitement and the desire to find out what happens in the story!

Book Reviews, Quotes, Reference to Your Previous Books

  • Use references where your book has been compared to that of another notable/popular author’s style.
  • When you have sought out advance book reviews for your new publication, highlight particularly vivid and expressive quotes by readers who have raved about your new release.

Length of the Blurb

  • Authors vary the length of their sales pitch blurb/book descriptions to a degree, at times designed to accommodate space allocation and location of the blurb whether as the book description on the author retail page of the publisher, front matter of the book or back cover copy. The blurb length, again depending on space allocation and placement of the copy, will range from approximately 150 words to 325 words. Usually the book description field will identify the maximum word count permitted. Take advantage of the specified allowable word count to effectively market your publication. Wherever possible my copy tends to be just over the 300 word mark. 150 words does not give you much space to cover the essentials to best advantage.
  • Keep clearly in mind the significant importance of the ‘sales pitch blurb’; it is the most essential and immediate marketing tool associated with the book publication and typically what browsing consumers review right after they initially scan and engage in the front cover design and its textual elements. Make every word palpable and compelling to motive the sale!

Sample Sales Pitch Blurb for a Published Book

Following is an example of a sales pitch blurb/book description that I wrote for my own most recent publication, a collection of my fifth volume of original works of poetry and prose titled ‘HEARTLANDS’, an Amazon.com publication. The actual copy and its tone selected for your particular publication and its genre will predicate how your blurb reads out but the principles of its composition, as relayed here previously, are incorporated in the piece and will give you a sense the framework needed to build an effective sales pitch blurb.

HEARTLANDS; TAKE THE JOURNEY

Sample ‘Sales Pitch Blurb’

Poet, writer Don MacIver has once again drawn upon his innermost emotional connection to contemporary prose and poetic verse, greatly influenced by all things that continuously inspire and foster visual perceptions through his written word and the desire to follow our own dreams.

Heartlands, a diverse range of highly responsive poetic works, takes the reader through a deeply personal engagement of life experiences and our natural surroundings that impact our living experience in a profound and enriching way that makes Heartlands a personal library favorite. Finding the ultimate connection whether through inspiration, romance and relationships, the powerful and deeply personal impact of our homeland, loss of a loved one, the tragedy of global military conflicts or just plain whimsical fancy; it’s all here on the pages of this exceptional fourth volume of this writer’s original works of poetry.

Imagine your own connection to candlelit dreams, our richly inspiring history of human hardship and accomplishment, a meeting of minds, finding your way in life, deeply emotional moments charmed by a romance, the heartache of misunderstandings and estrangement. Walk a pathway into the depths of an enchanting forest filled with the fragrant essence of wilderness, its solitude and restorative energy. Embrace your homeland, your ‘Heartland’, the very place of your upbringing, explore and discover the many possibilities that life affords our decision as they would shape our present and future.

Forever inspired and indebted to the brilliance of master poets through the ages, this poet writes in a contemporary style through a fusion of traditional composition elements that stimulate the reader’s sensory perceptions while affording each reader the luxury of their own interpretation and responses.

This writer’s deeply heartfelt and emotional connection to highly relatable poetic verse continues to engage him as a lifelong passion. ‘Heartlands’ is a nurturing, healing and uplifting reader experience.

You are cordially invited to dim the lights, cozy up in your favorite place of refuge and solitary, sip on something soothing and just let the words take you away. Feel the light and its earthly origins through ‘Heartlands’.

© Don MacIver, Lasting Impressions Editing 2016; Heartlands, sales pitch blurb

~

© Don MacIver, Lasting Impressions Editing 2017

Copywriting for Strategic Delivery


copywritingOne of the most critical aspects about advertising and marketing in its various forms is where the focus lies. In this article I will share critical perspective in the sales and marketing process through effective copywriting. 

For three years now I have incorporated copywriting in my core group of services as an essential part of helping my clients capture an ever-increasing audience. Whether you are an author, writer, poet, business professional, advertising specialist or indeed a copywriter you need to understand and embrace the core principles of copywriting and how this critical discipline is ever more important today and moving forward.

What Is Copywriting?

Let’s start with the basics. Copywriting is the writing of textual content for advertisingcopywritingdefinition and various other forms of marketing. ‘Copy’ is defined as ‘written content which is intended to increase brand awareness and to persuade readers to decide to act; to read, to hire, to purchase.

Copywriting is the strategic delivery of words that will get people to take a desired action and is one of the most essential components of online marketing. Effective copywriting skills takes time to develop through research, study and analysis of its essential cause and effect; what approach to writing copy will have the greatest effect on the targeted reader or audience?

Need To Know

The copywriter must understand their targeted audience’ perspective on things; your message must align with how your prospective customer sees things. Know and understand what their motivations and desires are. Ultimately, the copywriter must meet their basic expectations and go beyond to exceed their expectations!

SEO Copywriting

SEO Copywriting is a specialized form of writing that:

  • contains ‘keyphrases’, word phrases which your targeted audience/reader uses in their search terms to find what you have to offer.
  • helps to increase web content ranking in search results through Google, Bing, Ask and other search engines.
  • drives qualified traffic to online content i.e. websites, blogs, published articles etc.

Online Content Must Fulfill Two Essential Purposes

»  Content must appeal and/or be relevant to your audience/readers.

»  Google, Bing, Ask and other search engines must perceive your content as actionable/valuable/usable immediately by your readers. Your content must be quality and reflect you as a knowledgeable/authoritative resource. 


While my initial clients were primarily authors I soon became increasingly aware of the need for advanced writing skills and related services that would help each client not only bring a clarity and correctness to their work but also capture the attention of an ever-widening audience for them through copy centric business practices.

Business clients needed to engage in meaningful content analysis and discussion to establish a new way of highlighting the product or service that they offered. Most critical of all was how they said what they did through their website and communications; how they appealed to the prospective audience’ emotional responses based on their needs and desires.

One of the most critical aspects of content marketing, whether through book publishing or professional business or marketing and communications endeavors, individuals with important document submissions or business websites and beyond…is the essential need to connect with the right people, using the right words in the right place and time. As stated earlier, we need to connect with our targeted audience or readers in a way that embraces the perspective of those individuals, what they need and expect from us.

My author clients pour their heart and soul into their storylines. Many of them are employed and have a host of responsibilities and hours of work which pose limitations on the time they have to dedicate to not only writing but marketing their publications. Marketing of any product takes ongoing research and applied methods that are current; search algorithms, like Google, change frequently and must be part of the process of marketing as critical best practices change.

Business professionals, already bogged down in daily regimens of fulfilling their own respective responsibilities have little to no time for extensive research, effective writing that engages and sells nor the resources to invest extensively in paid advertising; that’s where experienced marketing and copywriting professionals come into play with a company whether an internal hire or a contracted service.

I have begun to work with advertising professionals to bring essential copywriting skills to the table in tandem with their superlative illustrative and graphic design elements for a superior, well-rounded advertising presentation that fully engages people in a powerful way and compels them to response, to immediate action, to hire or purchase.

Transitional Approach from Selling to Copy-Centric Engagement

Marketing takes a finely developed strategy. Our content must be quality-driven and provide the consumer with highly informative, interesting, entertaining and/or usable content that the consumer can use NOW, that they can take away meaningful and practical information that they can apply to make their lives better or resolve a problem TODAY!

Critical Rule of Selling

Always remember to write from the perspective of your targeted audience

  • Have absolute and focused empathy for the customer
  • Write to serve that customer (not to serve yourself)
  • Write to recognize and solve their problem or in some other way make their life better

Appeal to Emotions

Aspirations ~ Shame ~ Fear ~ Suspicion ~ Belonging

Always appeal to your reader/audience’ sense of motivational triggers with care and respect:

  • Their desire to dream or succeed
  • Their need to justify their failures; write to expose a failure and release it by wiping the slate clean. They should take the positive from the experience, to learn from it and move on.
  • People are naturally drawn to those who make them feel safe/secure.
  • People want to have a sense of belonging and have a sense of loyalty to a ‘tribe’

Historically, marketers have focused on selling their product to serve themselves, to meet their targeted sales objectives. Today, the marketing pendulum has swung away from the ‘Buy Me’ approach because people are quite simply sick and tired of being sold to.

People now want a sense of engagement, trust and the ability to make quick purchase or hire decisions based on reliable, quality and informative, customer-centric appeal.


Any author, writer, business professional or individual can increase their website traffic, reader engagement, communications audience reach and sales levels by using my editing, copywriting and publishing services to help compel their audience to  respond and take action for a more enjoyable, meaningful and gainful experience today!


START A CONVERSATION; FIND OUT MORE TODAY

Audience Engagement & Social Media Profiling in 2017


add-social-media-buttonsAre your website, social and professional media platforms producing the kinds of traffic and conversion results that you have anticipated? You’ve spent countless hours adjusting your online presence to comply with previous search engine algorithm changes, primarily Google, to no apparent avail? This article will focus on those two elements to your online presence and how to get improved results for the new algorithm updates just released for 2017.

Once again search algorithm updates are changing the way we develop our web content on our websites and blogs and through social and professional media platforms.

Improving the Mobile Experience

First things first; you’ve heard of the buzz over the past year about the rapid escalation of mobile use for internet access. This story continues to move forward to the extent that you can expect that the same trends will continue for years to come. Previously we were focused on optimizing our website and social/professional media for greater visibility in search engine results pages (SERP’s) and advance preparations to ensure that our online locations are mobile friendly.

The mobile technology requires changes to web design well beyond what the average user is familiar with and experts handle that in their website builder designs. What you and I must get on board with right NOW is ensuring that your website or blog is indeed configured for mobile browsing. The background design work has been established and factored into web design and now the end users (ourselves) need to do a number of things to our websites, blogs and social media to further that mobile friendliness in order that when mobile users arrive at our site or page they have an optimum viewing experience, failing which they will quickly click out and move on with the search results elsewhere.

Responsive design is simply not enough. You need to be sure that all of your navigation and site elements are highly intuitive and convenient for your visitors.

Long form content now reigns supreme. Develop your content through lengthy articles that are comprehensive; that is, to fully and deeply cover your topic. Don’t glaze over with superfluous content that does not help readers solve their problem; give them lots of details that represent advice for your readers.

People are sick and tired of old news that has no depth and lacking usable information and meaning. You now need to do extensive research on your subject matter to enable you to produce information-rich long-form articles that provide value to your readers. I know what you’re thinking; now I have to spend hours researching from countless sources and writing even longer articles. I’m pressed for time more than ever.

Because there is such a high level of priority and focus now placed on long-form, information rich content, make that your focus and relax your post schedule to accommodate fewer posts. That way you trim the time factor while maximizing the quality of content you provide for your readers. Never lose site of the end objective; increased traffic, authority interest, followers/subscribers, engagement and conversion to sales or increased customers/clients.

Social Media in 2017

Your social and professional media platforms continue to be crucially important assets for reader engagement, pushing brand awareness, driving consumers to your landing pages, websites and blogs as well as other intended online destinations. That sequence of audience transitions furthers our SEO objectives.

Today, in terms of your social media accounts, the new order for audience engagement is to become much more actively social with your followers and non-followers alike and far less focus and posting on BUY ME, BUY ME, and BUY ME. Engage with your followers and other social media users on their own Tweets or Facebook updates and do so in a genuine, meaningful way that illustrates your interest and engagement in their interests. Stop the constant selling!

By interacting socially with fellow users you subtly support your own brand through the experiential authority of your comments, your voice online. Wherever possible, practice this user engagement with those whose own account platform has relevance to your own. Then and only then do you have something which is mutually interesting to each other to talk about. Demonstrate your brand expertise being sure that your comments are fully relevant to the other party’s interests as expressed in their Tweets/update posts.

Non-Business Engagement: Don’t lose perspective on the importance of social engagement. Drop your shoulders, remove your tie, kick off your shoes and relax with social engagements. Factor that essential time into your schedule.

Comment on others’ posts that you liked; tell them that you got a lot from their post and thank them by name. If there is no room to comment directly on their Tweet, reply to them or send them a private message with the same compliment. Share others’ Tweets or Facebook updates frequently. Shares are a critical way to expand your fellow users’ audience reach and you will find that they reciprocate accordingly.

Be sure to always use the other user’s name in your responsive comments; personalize your comment by saying: “Nancy, what you’ve shared here really resonates with me. Many thanks!” Then follow up with later interaction, perhaps by private message or chat, share more specific comments and develop two-way conversation in a meaningful way. Assure them that their article or post gave you useful, meaningful insights.

By following this approach you’re not just fluffing through your comments in an ingenuous attempt to grab their attention about you and your brand. People see through that façade immediately. Maintain your comments strictly about them and when they respond with meaningful dialogue, return the gesture with your own meaningful response and close the conversation by wishing them a great day/week.

Do you see the trend that is quickly emerging here? Switch gears and back off the sell, sell, sell accelerator pedal. Reduce the frequency of Tweeting/updates about your own brand and links back to your website or blog considerably. I know that sounds counter intuitive to what we have been practicing for so long yet the new world order online paints a very different picture than those of the past number of years where it was THE only game in town.

Place the sell factor on your website or blog and ads where it belongs. Those vehicles are the primary hub location online where your content marketing should rest, beyond which expand your targeted audience through advertising. Social media advertising continues to be a powerful medium. Transition quickly to being social in your social media platforms.

Social Media Platform Profiles

If you have designed your social media profile properly you have begun by inserting your name or business name at the top of your profile next to your profile photo which should be a nice, professional head and shoulders shot of yourself in business attire (smile, looking directly at the camera or slightly off center) or your business logo.  Follow with your hashtag keywords that have the highest relevance and potential search terms that people will use to find what you have to offer. Those hashtag keywords are critical not only for search results but also to tell visitors what you have to offer once they land on your page.

Make sure you have included your business website or blog URL – a must to navigate people back to your website where the marketing process takes place. If character limitations become an issue, use a TinyURL or similar for the website or blog link. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is also linked through your social media profile and if there is still room add a short URL link(s) to your Facebook page. Add your location by city and province or state. This is especially important for the many that search for such services or products in their own locale.

A Word on Personal vs. Professional Pages on Social Media Platforms:  I strongly advise that you keep your professional content on social media platforms separate from your personal pages. Why? Because the two do not mix for the majority of people. Keep the two separate and by having individual professional pages on each of your social media platforms and LinkedIn as well. On Facebook I opened with my personal page and when I launched my business I created a business page that focuses on the business end. I am also a published writer/poet and keep that aspect of my online presence separate as well. Many people hate users posting business content on their personal page; after all it is a social platform. Business has become a huge part of social media in recent years but keep it separate from your personal page, otherwise you may well suffer adverse effects of lower follower numbers and engagement accordingly.

Images & Video Media

Another critically important aspect of social media content is the use of high quality images and videos that will have relevance to your brand, or that of your targeted audience, and which add informational/beneficial value for your followers. While staying away from the BUY ME aspect of your content, link only to the relevant image/video source or related article.

LinkedIn Profiles

5498550a7fca10fe79bcc8171fd8dea7-linkedin-logo

I cannot stress enough the importance of having a LinkedIn profile; if you are a business person, a marketing expert, a social media enterprise, a professional of any description or a writer, author or poet who is marketing their product, services or cause, or if you are job hunting or want to have a professional presence for business networking purposes and potential employer exposure, having a LinkedIn account is essential. The power of this mammoth professional networking platform cannot be understated.

LinkedIn Profile Image

A serious note to all of you who have a LinkedIn account for business purposes. LinkedIn is a professional networking platform with emphasis on ‘professional’. Time and time again I see profile photos that are cheesy, idiotic, circus fare, face jammed right up into the camera, comedic and contorted facial expressions, freaky colored hair and the list goes on. STOP THE GOOFY PROFILE PHOTOS. LINKEDIN IS A SITE FOR PROFESSIONALS. There is a rapidly growing furor over those kinds of playhouse mentality profile images.

Your profile photo on LinkedIn must be professional; make sure your appearance is professional. The profile image should always be a head and shoulders photo, hair groomed, clean-shaven, direct gaze into the camera with a nice smile (or slight turn for a partial side profile but only slightly). Wear a crisp, clean outfit suitable for your vocation. Take the photo while you are fresh for the day and not after coming home from a grueling 18 hour day or a night out on town. Looking stoned or otherwise inebriated turns people off fast. People want to be comfortable that in seeing your profile photo they would be dealing with a professional.

I see profile photos that are actually on the diagonal, fully sideways and some that are truly upside down. You want professionals to connect with you? Use photos like just described and they will click out in seconds and ignore your existence. Such photos have no place on a professional networking or marketing platform.

Disclaimer: I only make the foregoing comments about suitable profile photos, not to make fun or belittle anyone, rather, to illustrate the type of professional photo critical for the LinkedIn profile. Save the goofy, cheesy stuff for your socials.

Follow conventional practices in professional circles and avoid experiencing high bounce rates (quick arrival and click outs) that will render your LinkedIn page virtually useless in terms of professional activity and brand marketing and also reduce your website traffic drastically.

You are using the site to foster interest and drive traffic to your website or blog (whichever is your primary business/marketing platform).

Developing Your LinkedIn Profile

The profile page on LinkedIn is your place to sell your experience, talents and potential as a new employee, associate or business partner to those business professionals. The same holds true if you are marketing a product, service or cause. Put your best foot forward and work painstakingly on a quality, error-free, professional presentation of who you are, what you have to offer, what you have achieved and how to contact you. Get a professional friend to help you or hire a professional content writer or editor to get your profile fine-tuned to where it needs to be that tells other professions: “Yes, I want to be associated with this individual and/or their business enterprise.”

Much of my preceding comments on social media will also apply on your LinkedIn profile. Remember that your LinkedIn account is a professional networking platform – ensure that all of your content is just that…professional from top to bottom including your Profile page. I’ve linked my own social media and LinkedIn profiles at the end of this article for you to take a look at if you wish to help you employ best practices in your profile development.

Following is a partial screenshot of my LinkedIn profile page. Click on the visual to expand it for better viewing.

Don MacIver; LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn Profile Image

Use a high quality/resolution photo image of yourself (or your business logo) that is free of distortion. Image specifications are searchable if you are unsure of the most suitable image size to use for best quality image viewing. The image should be clear, sharp and as relevant as possible to your business or profession, services, product or cause. The importance of a professional appearance of the header image is as critical as the header image for your website or blog, often one and the same for brand recognition.

An incomplete, nearly blank profile page is virtually useless here. Even if your experience is minimal you should be able to draw on the experience, education and interests that you have acquired to date and as your experience and employment situation changes. Always remember to update your LinkedIn Profile accordingly.

The colors incorporated into the header image you select should mirror the colors that you have in your business logo. It all goes to brand association and recognition…an important aspect of on-page images. Remember that if you find this page unfamiliar or too difficult to develop on your own, seek the help of a professional associate or friend or even hire a professional writer or editor to set up your profile page. On-page optimization is also essential which many people are not fully conversant with. Your page must be searchable and place well in search results.

That very first field at the top of your profile must be carefully designed from your professional head and shoulder photo image (or logo) to your name and professional credentials and your business name. What follows is the most critical textual elements of your profile; your itemized list of products or services using highest level keywords (on-page optimization for SEO) which must clearly define what you do, what you have to offer and what key components of your business are.

If you are not a business or marketing professional but want a professional presence online, list your qualification/designation and key responsibilities

Contact Information

Be sure to provide your business contact-related content in the fields provided and make sure that this section is updated for any future changes so that the profile does not become outdated or containing dead links.

‘Posts’

Use this relatively new feature for creating and posting your articles which showcase your brand with content that is rich in useful information that readers can use today. Present the most up-to-date information available as readers are frustrated by old news and click out fast. Write high quality articles that benefit the reader the most. Your content should be clear, concise and free of superfluous fluff that has no actionable value for the reader. Provide information that is of strong interest and benefit to your targeted audience.

Summary

Highlight what your key services, products or cause entails or your occupational summarization. Remember who your targeted audience is to profile the most relevant expertise and experience. Do not rush this summary development and make sure that keyword inclusion is carefully designed to alert search engines and pull traffic for those searching for what you have to offer. Ensure that your profile is showing up in search engine results pages (SERP’s). You can test your search visibility by searching with your name and or business name and city location as your search terms. Note: With new online pages or sites it will take some time before it appears in search results provided the proper on-page search optimization and your page/site ranking has been executed.

Portfolio

Begin with a clear and concise summary of what you do and then build your portfolio/project profile with those project or client services most significant to this profile and relevance to your targeted audience and related achievements.

Word this section for optimum interest and action on the part of your professional readers. The Portfolio section is also of great importance to potential employers, clients and human resources/recruitment specialists seeking to find just the right fit for their client position candidate searches.

If you develop your profile effectively you will find that over time you will begin to receive contacts from business professionals who wish to express an interest in your experience and expertise. It is a powerful tool with a broad reach, not to be underestimated. A well written profile on LinkedIn will translate into exposure to any number of opportunity levels, funnel traffic to your website or blog and social media platforms as well.

Client Testimonials

I cannot stress enough how critical this section is. If you have had wonderful professional business, client or customer experiences and relationships, be sure to seek their personal testimonials. By obtaining those attestations about your quality services or products, your business objectives are legitimized and create a buzz of interest. Be sure to obtain permission before posting those testimonials publicly. Extend your thanks to that client or customer and support them in some way as well.

Testimonials are a powerful statement that will help sell your professionalism and brand authority. Flogging yourself can be an endless and sometimes futile effort so make sure you acquire testimonials from your best, most appreciative clients; they will pay it forward in spades.

Experience & Employment History

Use a chronological or hierarchal sequence to listing your career/professional history. As you would with your resume, only focus on the history that is most relevant to your targeted audience, employer or business/job role. Be clear, concise and brief in this section. You do not want to overload information beyond the primary position, company and brief, most relevant responsibilities.

Courses

Outline relevant course studies that advanced your education and skill sets as relevant to the type of position you are pursuing moving forward in your career or that serve to further your expertise and brand relevance.

Skills & Endorsements

This section is critical for highlighting your top level skill sets and expertise. Do not rush or under-populate this crucial field. This is where more defined details of your acquired skill sets or expertise come into play. I have seen countless profiles that limit their skills list to only five or six points. Consider carefully what your functions were with each respective employer during your career to date. Hone in on those critical responsibilities and the essential skills required to do the work effectively.

The Profile allows for 51 different skills to be identified. Use this area to full advantage; exposure for your expertise to all those seeking your experience level i.e. business managers, human resources personnel and recruitment experts all searching to find the one individual that is the best possible fit for their client’s position search. Do not sell yourself short.

In tandem with the skills listings, once you begin to connect with individuals in relevant industries to your own, you will begin to see skills ‘endorsements’ provided by your connections on your behalf. Make sure that you reciprocate those helpful and important gestures and acknowledge the same by initiating conversations through private messaging. Develop relationships and trust, never rushing the selling aspect of your own brand. Through that engagement process you will increase the potential for business, job or professional partnering prospects.

Engaging with your contacts and relevant group discussions develops powerful professional networking activity, perhaps the most effective means of attracting new business customers and clients today. When networking, focus on what you can do for your contacts based on their own needs and not your own. Forgo the personal selling of yourself; that will happen through genuine conversation and in turn establish your brand authority.

Education

Your educational history is fairly self-explanatory. Outline your key educational highlights and acquired qualifications, diplomas, professional designations, certificates or degrees. From this history you will want to emphasize those skills and qualifications that are most relevant to your career pursuits and at given time.

Certifications

Do not miss out or skip over this section when you have educational qualifications. Display your highest (hierarchal) designations, diplomas, certificates or degree(s) here.

Additional Info

Another important section of the profile, just as it is in your resume. Do not skimp on sharing your interests, hobbies, life passions outside the office. Show your human side and what you do with your non-working hours; it paints a complete picture for anyone considering engaging in your services in any way.

Honors & Awards

Again, this is very important information. If you have been bestowed a form of honorary recognition for something you have done over the years, professionally or otherwise, don’t leave anything out, especially an award(s) from your employer. Such awards points to your highest skill levels, achievements and the potential to reciprocate with a new employer or business partner.

Organizations

Getting involved with organizations that are relevant to your own employment or business is important. It can lead to important volunteer work and is certainly a powerful means to network with other business professionals in your community i.e. Chamber of Commerce.

Volunteer Organizations You Support

Volunteer work is an important aspect of your life and commitment to your community. Serving to help others in need is a powerful testament to character. It can also be a very rewarding experience for you personally and again paints a picture for anyone considering engaging with you on a professional level.

Recommendations

This is yet another critical element of the profile building process. When you have a solid experience with a client with whom you have had a good relationship, reach out to them to request a brief written attestation. As with a testimonial, that endorses your abilities in your industry or profession. Such statements are solid gold!

Emphasize a brief statement but if your experience with that individual has been very good, chances are that you will get a lengthier recommendation than you are anticipating! Always express sincere appreciation, publicly if suitable to do so, and pay it back in some way beneficial to the client or customer. Associates will also provide invaluable recommendations.

In summation, invest in the time and energy needed to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is all that it can possibly be. The fruits of your labor are potentially considerable. You will connect with the most amazing, influential individuals, converse in relevant professional groups, network with like minds that move mountains and establish a strong presence in the worldwide professional community.

 

LinkedIn Profile

Twitter Business Profile

Facebook Business Page

 

© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

 

How to Increase Your Blog Subscribers & Article Sharing


Frustrated that after spending hours of research and fine-tuning your blog articles, you are seeing very little, if any, reader engagement? The follower numbers just aren’t there and yet even as you reread your blog posts repeatedly you still have the impression that your content is exceptional and should be attracting new subscribers?

My focus here today will be on a number of ways you can draw attention to ‘subscribing’ by using specific techniques to keep subscribing fresh in your readers’ minds. The more visible and readily available your subscribe forms are, the greater the frequency that readers should be inclined to subscribe.

You’re certainly not alone with that frustration. Keep in mind that there are countless numbers of content bloggers out there doing the same thing and many of them sharing the same experience of a seemingly static reader response. The competition online today is staggering and we must consistently develop new and unique ways to not only attract new readers to our blog or website but also find effective ways to capture our readers’ attention with every single new post and compel them to ‘opt-in’ by subscribing to receive our new blog posts right to their email inbox!

Content Quality

First and foremost, your blog or article content has to be exceptional, high quality, fresh (current), engaging and sufficiently value-added with information that is easily actionable immediately, not to mention truly beneficial to your readers, to compel them to click that subscribe button and sign up! That does not happen by chance or with mediocre content.

A whole article can be dedicated to the subject of quality content alone. Once we have established that quality content we now need to transition our focus to providing ample opportunity on our website or blog for our visitors to clearly see the path to future engagement of our blogs; through clicking the featured opt-in subscribe button and provide their email address in order to receive all future posts directly to their email inbox.

Opt-in Blog Subscribe Forms

Make sure that you have several locations on your website or blog to strategically position your blog subscribe forms/widgets, plainly visible to your site visitors with adequate reference to remind your readers/visitors to follow your blog by subscribing. In most cases your visitors will have two options for direct transmission of each new blog or article by either an email subscription signup or through your site’s RSS Feed and their preferred reader.

Opt-in Form Locations

a) Home Page Opt-in Form:

Place your opt-in form as conspicuously as possible on your home page. Depending on your site theme allowances for content, if possible situate your subscribe form above the fold line on your home page. In doing so your conversion rates should begin to occur in the order of a 5%-8% increase in subscribers for a given period.

The textual content typically found in opt-in (subscribe) forms is fairly generic in nature and does not lend itself to compelling your visitors to subscribe. Revise the wording of the headline on the opt-in form with a powerful call to action. Use strong, persuasive words that prompt the sign-up and what new subscribers will receive in return i.e. “Sign up for Free Tips…” You could also offer any other value added free gift for subscribing like a free ebook or exclusive tips relevant to the article or blog post.

By offering that killer free gift in exchange for subscribing this approach can convert at a rage of over 30%! Keep in mind that the conversion rates (new opt-in subscribers) is only an approximation and much depends on the value and quality of your blog posts to begin with.

b) Blog Page Opt-in Form:

Again, place your blog opt-in (subscribe) form in a conspicuous location on the blog page, ideally as close to, if not the first level location at the top of the sidebar. Link to your blog page with call to action buttons, prominently visible with solid, bright color contrast, on other pages of your site so that visitors will readily see the link button and be prompted to go to the blog page to read your content and subscribe. This practice is important for page navigation as well.

c) Footer Opt-in Form:

Another effective location to position opt-in (subscribe) form is at the bottom of each website page so that for any visitor who scrolls right to the bottom of the page while reading, they will again see the convenient presence of the opt-in form and they will often feel compelled to enter their email address and click Subscribe right then and there! It’s a great reminder location to secure the new opt-in.

d) About Page Opt-In Form:

The ‘About’ page statistically experiences among the highest levels of on-site viewing as most visitors who decide they have an interest in reviewing more content on the site want to have a sense of trust and comfort level that you have the type and quality of service or product that they want to acquire and that you are, in fact, genuine or real.

As such, you don’t want to omit an opportunity to include an opt-in (subscribe) form on the ‘About’ page of your site. Typically, because blogs are most often continuous scroll, you will not have a page footer to position your opt-in form so in this case place the subscribe form as close to the top of the sidebar as possible so that it has the potential to be seen as soon as possible upon landing on that blog page. Failing to do so will mean considerable lost opportunity to secure new subscribers.

Remember the critical importance of a blog on your website (or blog site) from a marketing perspective. The blog is your most powerful tool on the site from which to foster strong awareness of who you are as a business proprietor and/or product/service provider. The blog is also the perfect place to expand on value added information about what it is you offer that you don’t have room to share on the other site pages. The blog is THE place to showcase, in a clear and concise way, what you have to offer and WHY the visitor should buy from YOU!

Be aware that by having a check box in your opt-in form that states “Subscribe to (blog name)” statistically increases new subscriber frequency substantially. It is a means to compel the visitor to affirm/reaffirm their desire/intention to subscribe and follow your new blog posts to come!

Opt-in Confirmation Page

Typically, most opt-in (subscribe) forms follow with an emailed confirmation page which is sent to the new subscriber’s email address (used for the opt-in) as a means to have the new subscriber confirm that they did in fact just subscribe to the blog. This is a way to ensure subscriber security is assured and that there is no fraudulent activity at play such as automated capture of subscriber information for illegal purposes.

Your subscriber confirmation page should be effectively worded to capture the new subscriber’s attention and prompt them to provide that confirmation that they in fact did opt-in through the double opt-in final step. If they skip over that last step they will not receive future blog posts from your site as intended.

Eye-Catching Opt-In Forms

There are a multiple of opt-in form styles to choose for the blog subscription ranging from a standard fixed-in-place form to an eye-catching popup or slider form and more. Run A/B headline testing to determine what style of form and headlines resonate best with your visiting guests to the blog and following readership as well. It is critical to understand what is working best with your various website or blog site elements. When you observe sluggish response change it up…have fun with it but stay focused on powerful, compelling nudges that prompt your site visitors to action. Get their mojo going with the blog content and zero in on the new opt-in presentation to see what lights their fire!

Website, Blog & Newsletter Marketing

As critical as each of these elements are in their own right individually and collectively, make sure that you are shouting to the rooftops to pitch/promote them on your social media, advertising spots, professional group forums; essentially anywhere that you can expand your exposure. Turn your website or blog site into the ‘hub’ location for marketing your online presence by channeling your targeted audience’ focus through the marketing funnel back to the hub location to engage, interact, share and ultimately convert to purchasing customers. That focused effort WILL pay off. THAT is the essence of blogging!

To explore and discover more content marketing essentials refer to Backlinko for much more on this and similar topics where their focus is not only on web traffic tips but critical information regarding the ever-changing dynamics of search engine optimization.

~

Did you find this article informative and value added? If so please SHARE this post through the share buttons provided. Thank you for your continued presence here and the opportunity for me to inform and inspire!

© Don MacIver, Editor 2016; All Rights Reserved

Grammar & The English Language


grammar-police-imageAs a textual content editing professional we are often, affectionately or otherwise, referred to as the ‘Grammar Police’! Guilty as charged but then again we are hired to make sure each client’s written content is well-conceived and constructed, makes sense and is highly engaging to its targeted audience. I wear the badge proudly!

In this article I will share some of the more glaring grammatical issues frequenting written content whether in book publications of fiction or non-fiction, advertising and marketing copy, technical writing and any other form or source of written content.

Dictionary.com defines ‘grammar‘ as follows:

1.  the study of the way the sentences of a language are constructed; morphology and syntax.

2.  these features or constructions themselves:

English grammar.

3.  an account of these features; a set of rules accounting for these constructions:

a grammar of English.
4.  Generative Grammar. a device, as a body of rules, whose output is all of the sentences that are permissible in a given language, while excluding all those that are not permissible.

6.  knowledge or usage of the preferred or prescribed forms in speaking or writing:

She said his grammar was terrible.
7.  the elements of any science, art, or subject.

Grammar, as applied in its many forms within the English language, is indeed complex and confusing. Established standards of grammatical correctness have been developed and modified over the years to best represent acceptable application of English rules. The standards include proper word usage, punctuation, capitalization, clarification of words and homonyms, numeric vs written form of numbers within the context of textual content and more.
 
Why the big worry about grammar and punctuation when nobody seems to care anymore? In the course of normal conversation it is one thing to hear misused words and still be able to understand what the speaker is referring to. It becomes quite another issue when the printed or digital forms of written content contain typos, spelling and grammatical errors and riddled with wayward or misused punctuation. Consider the negative impression we would leave with a human resources manager reviewing our cover letter and resume; if the content is riddled with mistakes would you want to hire that applicant?
 
For written content that is produced for publication, informational and/or professional purposes, there is every expectation that the content is error-free and grammatically correct. This becomes especially true for any written content that forms part of a purchased product. The consumer has every reasonable right to expect clean, properly constructed and edited content that is clear and concise in its intent and meaning. The same can be said for written compositions developed and submitted for grading in an educational institution.
 
I recall back to my days in journalism school where the college instructor was, as expected, extremely critical of any paper submitted with even a few errors. We would type our papers on a manual typewriter (yes, I am dating myself but there was purpose in the manual typewriter use – we did have electric typewriters by then!). If we submitted our article or story containing even one single mistake of any kind the instructor would share the errors with the entire class and then tear the paper to shreds and angrily toss the destroyed evidence into the trash can and instruct us to start all over again and not waste the scholar’s time with such sloppy work!
 
Using the manual typewriter was slow, tedious and painstaking but that was the whole point of the exercise. With a manual typewriter, the very construction of the machine forced its user to slowly and methodically strike firmly on the desired keys, thereby demanding a more focused attention to chosen keys for optimum accuracy. We were NOT permitted to use whiteout for correction purposes! Had we been working with an electric typewriter the tendency was to type much faster yet there was greater potential for errors because we were less attentive to the keys we were striking.
 
The whole point of this analogy is to illustrate the necessity for a clean, error free paper. In today’s marketplace the onus is much more on the author of the written content to ensure that it is error-free and grammatically correct as in many instances budget allowance is minimal to non-existent for editorial staff to take over content for final copy readiness.

GRAMMAR RULES

Grammatical rules are indeed complex and widely varied. Complexities of the English language have been passed down through the generations in the form of established and accepted standards, most often found in ‘style guides’ which have been developed in specific countries around the world. Editorial and proofreading professionals use such guides as reference materials when reviewing and revising written content for their clients or in-house staff.

The complexities of the English language demand that we study in great detail the definition, applications and intended usage of specific words or word groups such as nouns, verbs, adverbs, subjects and more to ensure that we apply correct wording in our written compositions in the appropriate form such that those words, combined together, are in grammatical ‘agreement’.

Subject-Verb Agreement

  • single subjects require the compliment of a single verb and plural subjects require the compliment of plural verbs i.e. The list of items is/are on the desk. In this example the ‘list’ is the subject (singular), therefore ‘is’ would be the correct verb used.

Who Vs Whom

  • Rule: Use this he/him method to decide whether who or whom is correct:he = who
    him = whom

    Examples:
    Who/Whom wrote the letter?
    He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.

    Who/Whom should I vote for?
    Should I vote for him? Therefore, whom is correct.

Who, That, Which

Rule 1. Who and sometimes that refer to people. That and which refer to groups or things.

Examples:
Anya is the one who rescued the bird.
“The Man That Got Away” is a great song with a grammatical title.

Lokua is on the team that won first place.
She belongs to a great organization, which specializes in saving endangered species.

Rule 2a. That introduces what is called an essential clause (also known as a restrictive or defining clause). Essential clauses add information that is vital to the point of the sentence.

Example: I do not trust products that claim “all natural ingredients” because this phrase can mean almost anything.
We would not know the type of products being discussed without the that clause.

Rule 2b. Which introduces a nonessential clause (also known as a nonrestrictive or nondefining clause), which adds supplementary information.

Example: The product claiming “all natural ingredients,” which appeared in the Sunday newspaper, is on sale.
The product is already identified. Therefore, which appeared in the Sunday newspaper is a nonessential clause containing additional, but not essential, information.

Prepositions

Definition:  A preposition is a word or set of words that indicates location (in, near, beside, on top of) or some other relationship between a noun or pronoun and other parts of the sentence (about, after, besides, instead of, in accordance with). A preposition isn’t a preposition unless it goes with a related noun or pronoun, called the object of the preposition.

Examples:
Let’s meet before noon.
Before is a preposition; noon is its object.

We’ve never met before.
There is no object; before is an adverb modifying met.

Rule 1. A preposition generally, but not always, goes before its noun or pronoun. One of the undying myths of English grammar is that you may not end a sentence with a preposition. But look at the first example that follows. No one should feel compelled to say, or even write, That is something with which I cannot agree. Just do not use extra prepositions when the meaning is clear without them.

Correct: That is something I cannot agree with.

Correct: Where did you get this?

Incorrect: Where did you get this at?

Correct: How many of you can I depend on?

Correct: Where did he go?

Incorrect: Where did he go to?

Rule 2a. The preposition like means “similar to” or “similarly to.” It should be followed by an object of the preposition (noun, pronoun, noun phrase), not by a subject and verb. Rule of thumb: Avoid like when a verb is involved.

Correct:
You look like your mother.
That is, you look similar to her. (Mother is the object of the preposition like.)

Incorrect:
You look like your mother does.
(Avoid like with noun + verb.)

Rule 2b. Instead of like, use as, as if, as though, or the way when following a comparison with a subject and verb.

Correct: You look the way your mother does.

Incorrect: Do like I ask. (No one would say Do similarly to I ask.)

Correct: Do as I ask.

Incorrect: You look like you’re angry.

Correct: You look as if you’re angry. (OR as though)

Some speakers and writers, to avoid embarrassment, use as when they mean like. The following incorrect sentence came from a grammar guide:

Incorrect: They are considered as any other English words.

Correct: They are considered as any other English words would be.

Correct: They are considered to be like any other English words.

Remember: like means “similar to” or “similarly to”; as means “in the same manner that.” Rule of thumb: Do not use as unless there is a verb involved.

Incorrect: I, as most people, try to use good grammar.

Correct: I, like most people, try to use good grammar.

Correct: I, as most people do, try to use good grammar.

NOTE

The rule distinguishing like from as, as if, as though, and the way is increasingly ignored, but English purists still insist upon it.

Rule 3. The preposition of should never be used in place of the helping verb have.

Correct: I should have done it.

Incorrect: I should of done it.

Rule 4. It is a good practice to follow different with the preposition from. Most traditionalists avoid different than. Although it is an overstatement to call different than incorrect, it remains polarizing: A is different than B comes across as sloppy to a lot of literate readers. If you can replace different than with different from without having to rewrite the rest of the sentence, why not do so?

Polarizing: You’re different than I am.

Unchallengeable: You’re different from me.

 

Rule 5. Use into rather than in to express motion toward something. Use in to tell the location.

Correct: I swam in the pool.

Correct: I walked into the house.

Correct: I looked into the matter.

Incorrect: I dived in the water.

Correct: I dived into the water.

Incorrect: Throw it in the trash.

Correct: Throw it into the trash.

The foregoing ‘rules’ have been extracted verbatim from GrammarBook.com and are but a few of the standards of the English language effectively and properly applied. The publication also addresses proper punctuation which is equally as complex.

Punctuation

This list of punctuation used in the English language is extensive and includes (not entirely):

  • spacing with punctuation
  • periods
  • commas
  • semi-colons
  • quotation marks (including single quote)
  • parentheses and brackets
  • apostrophes
  • hyphens
  • dashes
  • ellipses
  • question marks
  • exclamation points
  • slashes

There are a multiple of on and offline resources that address the English language, grammar, punctuation, sentence composition and more such as GrammarBook.com, Grammarly.com, many of which also incorporate punctuation, grammar and spell check and plagiarism detection.

MS Word documents have a spelling and grammar check which also provides a readability scoring analysis; an effective way to determine whether the content will be readily understood by its targeted audience.

The advantages of a full working comprehension of established rules of grammar and punctuation cannot be understated. Studies in the English language with grammatical elements incorporated in the programs are highly recommended for anyone who will be required to perform at a high skill level from post secondary school studies through to their chosen career path. The greater your comprehension and application of the language, the better qualified you will be to advance your career based on that exceptional performance level.

Audience Centric & Letter Perfect


A photo by Alejandro Escamilla. unsplash.com/photos/y83Je1OC6WcReader engagement has never had greater focus and it all comes down to audience connection through line by line content and storyline development that resonates powerfully, stimulates appeal and leaves the reader with a highly impressionable and memorable experience.

Whether the written works of an author, poet, writer, business professional, marketing copy or a personal account, the composition must convey a compelling message that invokes reader response. The English language is for many an intricate, complex and confusing tangle of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and adjectives…the list goes on and on and what it all comes down to is choosing the right words in a clean, concise presentation and in a distinctly characteristic way that bears the unique voice and brand of its author.

When clients come to me they do so because they have specific and varied needs relating to the final presentation of their written project. They want to put their best foot forward and rightly so. For the author, standing out means competing against a rapidly growing authorship community that has vastly greater publication resources and options than ever before. They can opt for traditional print or electronic formats through self-publishing or publishing house services in varied levels of content development, marketing and distribution. Choosing a proofing or editing professional to help ensure accuracy, error-free, polished conveyance of our story has become an integral part of the publication process.

The business or marketing professional can outsource the challenge and tedious, time-consuming process of transitioning a draft copy to an error-free, fluid, polished communication that compels the targeted audience to actionable, measurable response. The very business of audience engagement has evolved tremendously over the past few decades and very few individuals can take on the various elements of developing and fine tuning effective communications and authored works independently…it takes a team effort.

When the product is finally presentation or publication ready the next challenge is getting that product, that compelling story out to the masses, delivering the message to the right audience and marketplace, on or offline..and that takes expertise all of its own. That our written communications have to stand out above the rest is an understatement.

There are vast resources available for understanding best practices of the day in terms of content development, management and conveyance. The dynamics of website content, keyword and meta tagging selection and related applications are perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face in promoting our products and services online. Internet is the medium of choice as reaching a global audience for many is critical to the growth and success of their business or creative endeavors. I have favored numerous reference and resource providers over the years as an author, writer, poet and business person.

Amoung my favoured sources of current and ever-changing dynamics in the world of communications and publication are SiteProNews for breaking technological, social media and search engine news, one of the most-read sources of expertise in their field. As an author I frequent Writer’s Digest for its wealth of information author centric, Writers Market for author publication reference and resources.

For the author who needs a little help with the grammatical side of their storytelling a good reference resource is found in the Grammarly Handbook and whether wearing the hat of an author, writer, poet, editor or business professional I have an open resource such as Dictionary Reference at my fingertips while writing any creative or business composition. Having both dictionary and thesaurus components is critical in not only conveyance of error-free content but also to discover and implement alternative and unique ways of written expression through synonyms and metaphoric phraseology. It all makes for better, more compelling reading and response.

Last and perhaps most importantly of all, as communicators in whatever form of creative or business writing we need to ensure that we not only stimulate thought and response mechanisms in our readers’ experience…we need to connect with them through their emotional response to our message. Our content can be exemplary in its composition, highly informative and engaging but unless we can make a critical, personal connection with our readers in a way that they can relate we will never fully accomplish our publication objectives.

In terms of connection, ask yourself this…why do romance novels sell millions of copies annually, why do bestseller publications of any kind, whether mystery, fantasy, poetic, science fiction, motivational, historical, geographical, autobiographical or other blockbuster book, magazine or other published medium historically sell to the masses year after year, decade after decade in such huge numbers?

When we discover the key to touching the human spirit, mind, heart and soul, only then will we fully understand emotive writing, audience centric and letter perfect, for the ultimate reader and audience response…and that, my friends means powerful human connection.

© Don MacIver, Lasting Impressions Editing 2016

 

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