Monday Must-Reads

Happy Monday, iCopyInsiders. Ready for another week at the office?

Of course, I use the term “office” loosely. I imagine that – for many of our writers and clients – the office is wherever we make it. I like cafés as much as the next blogger, but I tend to stick to the nook in my apartment where I’ve set up shop.

I’ve got my headset, French press, WiFi, plenty of peace and quiet to write and a decent sixth-story view of Brooklyn, complete with a giant tree so I can tell the season. When the leaves turn green, I will finally go outside.

I bring all this up because telecommuting is suddenly the subject of surprisingly intense debate, with Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, axing work-from-home as an option for the tech company’s employees.

Which brings us to Item No. 1 on the weekly reading list.

  1. Where do you stand on telecommuting? Slate offers both sides of the debate. Tech columnist Farhad Manjoo writes that work-from-home is awesome. Katie Roiphe begs to differ.
  2. On to a topic only slightly less controversial: social media and ROI. eMarketer reports on a recent study showing that Twitter generates the most leads for small to mid-sized businesses, while Facebook generates more traffic. Social media itself only accounted for 5 percent of sales leads in the survey of 500 businesses.
  3. In other social news, this via The New York Times, Facebook is set to display targeted ads around the Web with its acquisition of Microsoft’s Atlas Advertising Suite.
  4. Of course, our passion here at iCopywriter is organic search, so if you need a refresher, this column in Entrepreneur has five simple strategies that just about anyone can use to improve their SEO. It’s a good primer for SEO newbies.
  5. And, finally, the Girl Scouts of America has pulled the plug on the ecommerce ambitions of reality television star Alana Thompson – known as Honey Boo Boo – saying she can’t sell the cookies over Facebook because it defeats the purpose of selling the cookies.

Other than dispensing tasty treats, the cookie program is meant to help young women gain confidence and business skills. I’m sold. Now, where can I find some Tagalongs?

That might be worth leaving the office for.

 

Boost Your SEO IQ This Month

January is almost over, iCopyInsiders. How are those New Year’s resolutions going?

Of course, here at the blog, we don’t believe that it needs to be Dec. 31 to commit to self-improvement. So, we’d like to humbly propose a New Month’s resolution:

Learn something new about SEO and/or the Web in February.

Even if your company outsources its search engine marketing – and most do – it’s well worth it for any business owner or manager to pick up some of the basic SEO terminology and skills [check out iCopy's latest Pinterest boards: "For Our Clients: Interesting SEO Copywriting Info & SEO News]. It will make you a savvier customer when it comes to shopping for vendors, and it will make strategizing with them more effective, as well.

Knowledge is power, as the cliché goes. It also leads to Web hits. Here are some of our favorite resources for learning the art and science behind the clicks.inflatable jumpers buy

Online Courses

For a comprehensive dive into SEO, there are a number of excellent online courses.

HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing University offers more than a dozen online videos taught by some of the leading lights in search, tech and marketing. They’re a little less than an hour each, but well worth a chunk of your evening or whatever spare time you can find. They’re also free to watch online.

In terms of paid options, DistilledU offers access to its SEO classes for $40 per month, although you can test out the service with a free demo. Point Blank SEO also offers a course for $67 on the all-important subject of link building.

Subject Guides and Blogs

For digital bookworms, the gold standard on the Web is the Beginner’s Guide to SEO, a free ebook produced by software company and online search community SEOmoz. It’s short enough to read in one dedicated sitting, but covers all the biggies, including the basics of how search engines work, how to use analytics and SEO-friendly Web design.

No surprise here, but Google also offers several useful resources. The company offers its own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. To stay on top of the company’s latest announcements, be sure to bookmark its Inside Search blog. Google Analytics IQ is another great resource for figuring out how to decipher the vast amounts of visitor data that websites produce.

Web Development

For those who are truly ambitious – but technical newbies – consider dabbling in programming. Getting under the Web’s hood is the fastest way to understand how it works. Luckily, thanks to massive online open courses, top-flight tech classes are right at your fingertips. Udacity’s beginning computer science course actually runs users through how to build a bare-bones search engine. Codecademy is also a fun way to learn the basics of programming and development.

Monday Must-Reads

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Happy Monday, iCopyInsiders. I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend. Of course, if you find yourself behind a laptop, tablet, smartphone or other glowing rectangle today, we’ve got you covered with our weekly reading list.

If you’re attending an Inaugural Ball tonight, you may even think about asking your social media butler to retweet a few of them.

Without further adieu, check out these SEO and copywriting links.

1. We harp on it a lot, but if you want further evidence that social content is becoming more and more relevant to search, HubSpot has a good article about how Bing is adding more Facebook content to its search results.

In other words, it’s a good time to clean up that company Facebook page.

2. Maybe I’m in a social media mood today, but I also liked this piece from Entrepreneur about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile for search. You’ve got expertise, but can the people who need it find you online?

3. I initially chuckled at this new series from Copyblogger called The Writer Files, which will feature regular interviews with some of the Web’s foremost content producers. I mean, we’re not exactly The Lives of the Poets. But it’s actually an interesting window into what kind of workflow some of the Web’s best bloggers use.

4. I guess we have to give a nod to mighty Google because this is an SEO blog. Here’s an interesting piece from Slate about how the company keeps its employees happy with the world’s most sophisticated HR department.

5. Finally, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than a lazy Monday. I recommend reading (or rereading) Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail or the text of his immortal I Have a Dream speech. His words remain powerful, inspiring and even revolutionary.

 

Monday Must-Reads

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Happy Monday, friends. Now that you’re adequately caffeinated, it’s time for your weekly serving of brain food. This week’s Web roundup features the usual brew of the best SEO, social media and content conversations, plus the Monopoly guy getting ready to lay off his iron (or maybe the wheelbarrow).

1. Digital Journal asks some good questions about the future of SEO. Hint: Unique content is going to be as important as ever.

2. Even if you’re hiring an outside firm like iCopywriter, it’s worth knowing the nuts and bolts of search engine optimization. The ever-reliable Search Engine Journal has a good breakdown of online SEO resources for beginners.

3. On the social side, Pinterest isn’t just the land of cupcakes and tea cozies (although you can still find a lot of them there). If you’re interested in what the service can do for your company, check out HubSpot’s marketer’s guide as well as SmartBlog’s primer on Pinterest for business.

4. Fast Company has one of my favorite business articles of the week, about Dropbox employees taking a hike. Literally.

5. What do you think about this promotion? Hasbro is sending one of its iconic Monopoly tokens to jail for good, and it’s asking users to pick which game piece will get the boot. The boot, perhaps?

 

Freaky Friday: Weird of the Day – Tri-Freakta – The Hermit Kingdom Revisited, Smart Silverware and Digital Parenthood

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Man, 2013 is off to a weird start. So weird, in fact, that we’re bringing you a triple dose of FreakyFriday, all crammed into one freakishly compact post.

1. Google chief searches North Korea

First, the seriously freaky: In our last episode we touched on Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s visit to North Korea. As an update, Schmidt did right by Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” credo and called on the Hermit Kingdom and its leaders to embrace the Web.

I don’t know if anyone is hopeful that the world’s most authoritarian regime will find much use in supplying its people with a massive, open source of information that encourages personal expression. But, hey, somebody had to say it to Kim Jong-un’s face, because I don’t think the guy has a Facebook. Either way, Eric Schmidt walked around North Korea looking at things, which is apparently what you do in North Korea if you’re important, at least according to Tumblr.

2. The age of smart cutlery is here

The gadget powwow 2013 International CES was held in Las Vegas this week. In the last couple years it has actually been just as popular to write about why CES isirrelevant – and there is a strong case when Apple and Microsoft don’t even bother to attend – but, all the same, it’s usually good for at least a few interesting tech curios.

Our favorite this year: the smart fork. Yes, the HAPIfork is a utensil designed to help you lose weight by letting you know when you’re eating too fast. The HAPIfork is making at least some people sad. The news and culture site Salon declared that the smart fork is a sign that civilization is doomed. We’re not prepared to go that far, but hey, the fork goes back to at least the eighth or ninth century, and it’s been working pretty well ever since.

You should probably stick a fork in this idea, and into some healthy food, if you want to really lose weight.

3. Parenting 2.0

This is destined to become a question on Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me. A Chinese father, tired of his son playing video games instead of looking for a job, hired virtual hitmen to assassinate the kid’s character in online video games – the idea being that eventually he would get tired of constantly losing and quit playing.

It’s an ingenious example of crowdsourcing, but, alas, it didn’t work.

Monday Must-Reads

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Everybody shake off the holiday hangover? At least for me, the second week of January is when the year really feels like it’s getting underway (although, if you need a break, there is always football).

So, to get your brain revved up and back in the swing of things, here are five great reads out of the world of SEO, copywriting and one just for fun.

1. We’ve touched on some of these in the past, but there are some good reminders in this Entrepreneur piece about the five deadly sins of SEO and online marketing.

2. Does your website load quickly? It’s pretty important. Search Engine Journal explains why in this article about load speed.

3. Persuasive writing is the cornerstone of good copywriting. Copyblogger breaks down the five most persuasive words in the English language.

4. Cursive writing is becoming obsolete. Will we miss it?

5. We’re linking to this story on the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist on Businessweek for its amazing headline and because we love syrup.

Happy Monday and happy reading!

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Google Chairman Reportedly to Visit the Hermit Kingdom

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

This week, we take you to a land where search engine optimization is nonexistent, but if it did exist, would probably land you in prison: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, better known to the world as North Korea.

The regime is, of course, seen as one of the most repressive in the world. Watch the VICE Guide to North Korea or the Sundance film selection Kimjongilia. Harrowing, bizarre and tragic stuff. Web access is limited to only a few dozen elite families, while the rest of the country’s computers operate on a closed, heavily monitored Intranet.

So, heads naturally turned when it leaked to the Associated Press that Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt will be visiting the Hermit Kingdom as part of a humanitarian mission. And the U.S. State Department is not happy, especially given recent tensions with the nation over a December rocket launch.

It’s a tale of tech intrigue if ever there was one. The visit is being kept under wraps – the U.S. has no formal relations with North Korea – leaving most to speculate what the Google chairman will be doing in North Korea. According to the AP, it likely won’t be talk about search, or even business, but possibly information technology. Kim Jong-un is reportedly making a push to modernize the nation’s technology infrastructure.

What that would look like – if it could ever happen, as North Korea is currently constituted – is a question I’ll leave to the experts.

Google isn’t commenting – implying that any such visit, if it happened, would be personal travel. But the leader of the world’s most visible search company landing in the world’s most technologically isolated nation is a significant event. Technology has the power to open governments and give voice to the voiceless, but it can just as easily be used to monitor, harass and persecute.

Let’s hope Mr. Schmidt takes Google’s code of conduct to heart.

Monday Must-Reads: New Year’s Eve Edition

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

As Bill Murray once said in Ghostbusters 2 – the best or worst New Year’s film ever made, depending on whether you are 13 years old or 30 – “Happy New Year!

While you’re sitting around waiting for the ball to drop, or to be fashionably late to that big New Year’s gala, here is this week’s roundup of SEO reads and other interesting links.

1. Solid advice from Search Engine Watch – which you should bookmark anyway – detailing how 2013 will be the year of marketing integration.

2. This article from tech blog The Next Web is perhaps more appropriate for a FreakyFriday post. Chinese search firm Baidu is testing a facial recognition search engine.

3. If it hasn’t already, 2013 is going to be the year your business gets cozy with content marketing. Here’s a good piece from Mashable about how SEO fits into the content marketing equation.

4. If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, Forbes has some tips for you on how to be more successful.

5. And, as you fill up the Web with all that great business content, make sure you’re thinking about who actually owns it. As The New York Times points out, confusion abounds.

Monday Must-Reads…

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Welcome to a new week, iCopyInsider readers. That means it’s time for our second edition of Monday Must-Reads, in which we round up some of the best links related to search, copywriting, social media and more.

Did you find last week’s reads interesting or helpful? Let us know.

We’re seeing lots of retrospectives as we approach the New Year, but check out this week’s No. 1 especially. You won’t regret it.

1. This is more of a must-watch. But anybody who uses the Web needs to check out Google Zeitgeist 2012 for the ultimate recap of the year online.

2. In industry news, slowly, but surely, Google continues to creep up on 70 percent market share for search via Search Engine Watch.

3. Emails are content, too – not just what goes on your website. Sales and email app Tout is out with a good guide on how to write kickass sales emails. 

4. Is your business overdoing it on social media? Update overload remains brands’ biggest social danger via eMarketer.com

5. It’s not just for hipsters anymore. The New York Times has a cool story on how businesses are using Instagram.

 

 

Top 3 Content Lesson Take-Aways We Found in The Hobbit

By iCopy Blogger Alex Dalenberg

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey finally hits theaters this week – a long-expected party for J.R. R. Tolkien fans the world over.

What does this have to do with the iCopyInsider? Nothing, really, except that your humble blogger was more or less weaned on the likes of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. And as far as big giant collections of words go, before Peter Jackson turned New Zealand into Middle Earth, the original books were still some of the most popular in the English language.

Not that your business should be cranking out fantasy content – although that’s kind of awesome if you are – but here’s our take on what lessons all scribes can take away from the ink-and-paper version of The Hobbit.

Lesson #1: What do elves have to do with your work?

Tolkien was legendary as an Oxford professor for being incredibly boring and for his infuriating habit of obscuring the classroom blackboard with his own body. Not to mention the fact that he was a professor of Anglo-Saxon philology, a subject so arcane that even Max Fischer wouldn’t bother to save it.

Who knew that, in his off hours, he was writing about the fearsome dragon Smaug? But Tolkien’s books very much spin out of his deep knowledge of Anglo-Saxon mythology and literature such as Beowulf. Ever the linguist, Tolkien even famously invented his own languages for the races depicted in The Lord of the Rings.

THE TAKE AWAY: Creating content can be difficult, but take boring Professor Tolkien here as inspiration. What compelling content can you create that spins out of your day job?

Lesson #2: Expand on your cool ideas – like Gollum.

The original edition of The Hobbit published in 1937 was very different from its predecessor, with Gollum willingly betting his ring in a game of riddles with the eponymous hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Of course, with the success of the book, Tolkien’s publishers were eager for a sequel, which eventually led to the author going all out with what would become The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Knowing he had a bigger story to tell, Tolkien rewrote the original scenes featuring Gollum for later editions to give them a more sinister cast. So what started as a charming children’s book became part of a more epic sage.

THE TAKE AWAY: With that in mind, where can you tell a larger story?

Lesson #3: Even if you’re writing about scary dragons, don’t take it too seriously.

The Hobbit works so well not just because it’s an exciting yarn; it’s also really funny. Tolkien fits witty asides in the narrative, goblins drop some ridiculous rhymes and Bilbo is usually thinking about lunch.

THE TAKE AWAY: So, the question is, are you taking your content too seriously?

Did we miss anything? What other lessons can The Hobbit teach us?
Photo credit: Gwydion M. Williams