Monday Must-Reads: Christmas Edition

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Happy holidays from iCopywriter this glorious Christmas Eve – which, as it happens, falls on a Monday this year, so you know what that means …

That’s right, a special Christmas Edition of Monday Must-Reads. It looks like you’ve all been very good copywriters and SEO managers this year, because your humble blogger Santa Alex has some very special links for you.

To get you in the spirit, here are some good holiday reads.

1. The Los Angeles Times reports on efforts by scientists to build a better Christmas tree. As in, one that won’t shed needles on your floor. Because nothing says Christmas like mutant trees.

2. The Washington Post wants to help you pick a last-minute holiday gift.

3. And ABC News has Christmas Eve store hours. 

4. Newser wants you to know that your holiday tree has 25,000 bugs. Yuck.

5. The Queen of England filmed her annual holiday message in 3D.

6. From The Patriot-News in central Pennsylvania, a brief history of your favorite Christmas songs.

7. And, for old times’ sake, one of the first viral reads in American media history. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. It’s still a fine piece of writing. Read it with your kids.

Merry Christmas!

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – It’s the iCopywriter End of the World Roundup – and We Feel Fine

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

In case you’ve been living under a rock – or maybe an ancient stone tablet – it’s the end of the world as we know it. Do you feel fine? Yes, the ballyhooed Mayan Apocalypse is finally here. Or, as a Facebook friend of mine put it, the most annoying day on social media. Ever.

We initially held off on writing this week’s Freaky Friday, you know, just in case. But the world hasn’t ended in Australia or New Zealand, so let’s do this. Um, what are the SEO or copywriting lessons here? Well, my professional takeaway is that, because it looks like reality is going to continue as scheduled, both those things will continue to be important to any Web presence!

You can still cash in on the last drops of viral goodness here – #EndoftheWorldConfession is trending on Twitter – but it’s probably too late for any apocalypse-themed sales. And all the good parties were last night. But hey, it’s not the end of the world, right?

So let’s just cut to the chase here with iCopywriter’s ultimate guide to our favorite end-of-the-world links.

1. The Onion suggests that the apocalypse is already here. So funny it hurts. A lot.

2. Slate has been a reliable source of end-of-the-world coverage. Here’s the effect on the markets, a report on past apocalypse scares and the ultimate end-of-the-world mashup. And yes, a few are even using the old last night on Earth line.

3. Still not convinced? Here’s a good debunking of apocalypse myths from National Geographic. Plus, what the Mayans actually meant with that whole calendar thing.

Photo Credit: Kim-bodia

 

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.

 

 

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – When Obamadon Ruled the Earth…

By: iCopy Head Paleontologist Research Blogger Alex Dalenberg

It’s a bit too late to win over the crucial paleontologist vote, but scientists at Yale and Harvard have named a newly discovered prehistoric lizard after our newly re-elected 44th president.

Enter the Obamadon, which, according to the Yale news service, was a slender, toothy lizard roughly one foot long. Unlike the president – who has shown a predilection for Spam, of both the email and canned variety – Obamadon probably ate insects.

The scientists said no one should impart any political significance to the name. Paleontologist Nicholas R. Longrich told Yale News, “We’re just having fun with taxonomy.”

If only we all had such fun with taxonomy.

Actually, whether intentional or not, the buzzy name was a rather clever coup for these scientists, if for no other reason then the fact that their upcoming journal findings received nationwide press thanks to the Obamadon. Of course, they’re not the first scientists to name their findings after notable politicos. Reuters reports that ancient sloths and slime mold beetles have also been named after presidents and various cabinet members.

In general, it’s best to tread carefully when it comes to politics, but I’d categorize this is as being a win on both sides of the aisle. For example, conservatives can snicker that the Obamadon was a cold-blooded bug-eater with fangs. As for the liberals, well, the chances of there ever being a Romneydon are, shall we say, extinct.

Photo credit: shvmoz

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Mashable Marketing Director Takes on Social Media

By iCopy Blogger, Senior Social Media Analyst and Movie-Meltdown Expert, Alex Dalenberg

A couple weeks ago, Todd Wasserman, marketing editor for Mashable, posted this share-worthy takedown of social media marketing – Let’s Face it: Most Social Media Marketing is a Waste of Time.

Read the whole thing. It’s worth your time, especially if you’re tired of the usual social media evangelism that floods your B2B Twitter stream.

Basically, the point Wasserman makes is that the importance of social media is way overblown for marketers and needs its own Jerry Maguire moment. You know, when Tom Cruise gets mad at his seedy sports agency and decides he isn’t going to take it anymore.

And Wasserman’s not the only one pointing this out. A study from IBM, which he cites, shows that Twitter generated zero sales referrals on Black Friday.

My personal favorite piece of social media analysis gleaned from Black Friday: most people were tweeting about long lines. Now that’s some serious brand insight.

Among Wasserman’s more salient points were a few that I heartily agree with:

  • You can’t buy “likes” anymore.
  • The level of engagement from your followers is much more important than your raw number.
  • And your social media efforts mean absolutely nothing if you’re not offering a quality product.

Take it from us: We write and edit the heck out of everything iCopywriter clients assign – but there probably isn’t a case where sterling grammar saved a bad business model.

But there is one point Wasserman makes that I think is up for debate. You’re not a publisher, you’re an advertiser, he says.

I’m not so sure. In the literal sense, yes, you are promoting products and services with your content. But from a nuts-and-bolts perspective of what it takes to do that online, you face the same challenges that print and online publishers do everyday:

  • How to create clean, compelling content that reflects well on your business.
  • How to keep that content updated on a regular basis.
  • And, most importantly, how to find the people who can make that happen.

How much time, energy and money you invest in social media and other forms of content depends on how you measure ROI. That’s going to be different for every firm. You might say the right response to social media is also from Jerry Maguire: “Show me the money.”

But from our perspective, businesses are cranking out more text than ever before. Like everything else your business does, it needs to be quality.

[Editor's note: I resisted the urge for a shameless self-plug in that last line...well, almost...]

 

 

Monday Must-Reads…

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

OK, it might not be as invigorating as a strong cup of coffee, but why not start your week with a potent brew of SEO and copywriting knowledge? If you’re interested in staying found on the Web – and what business isn’t? – then you know at some level you’ve got to keep up with this stuff.

Luckily, we’re huge geeks here at the iCopyInsider, so we’ve done the hard part for you. Welcome to our new feature: Monday Must Reads. Every Monday, we’ll bring you some of the best articles from around the Web related to SEO, SEO copywriting and pretty much anything else we think you might useful or interesting.

 

Here are five reads that we think are worth your time this week. Enjoy!

1. Is a picture worth a 1,000 clicks? How to boost SEO with infographics via Practical eCommerce.

2. VentureBeat asks an important question: Are you getting a good deal on SEO?

3. We wrote about the growing importance of Google+ last week, but here it is again. AdWeek talks about how Google+ is following Facebook’s trajectory.

4. Here’s a new tool recommended by PCWorld that you can use to see if your Twitter followers are actual humans.

5. And finally, here is a good read in The Guardian about the dying art of creative copywriting.

 

 

FreakyFriday – Weird of the Day: Long Live the Royal Molecatcher

By iCopy blogger Alex Dalenberg

We live in an age of disruption. Trends come and go. Companies rise and fall. Groupon surged out of the gate to be hailed as the next big thing, but it now seems to be declining just as quickly, with its shares tumbling. The New York Times, the closest thing there is to a bastion of old media, announced this week that it will be offering buyouts for 30 newsroom positions.

But there are some jobs and industries that stubbornly endure. Enter the royal molecatcher of Versailles.

Yes, according to the Associated Press, an official molecatcher has been gainfully employed at the French court since the 1600s, surviving the monarchy itself, multiple revolutions and two world wars. Today the job is held by Frenchman Jerome Dormion, who even signs his text messages, molecatcher to the king.

Versailles it seems, isn’t just a pleasure garden for the human set, but also moles. The population has been booming since its natural predators – wildcats and weasels – have declined in the wild. The job is still much the same. Even the tools haven’t changed. Dormion is charged with keeping the roughly 2,000 acres of grounds – an iconic symbol of France – mole free.

Not to uh, make mountains out of molehills, but I actually see a few smart business lessons buried here.

1. Dormion fills an important niche: a single mole can make up to 30 molehills per day, so even a handful of moles can completely deface a country estate.

2. He’s unlikely to be replaced until engineers invent an efficient mole-catching robot, probably not a major concern for robotics experts.

3. He’s an expert. Most amateur gardeners struggle to capture wily moles, which are exceptionally intelligent.

What does your business do that will stand the test of time? Do you have a “royal molecatcher” position?

Photo credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus

Big News- Google’s Author Rank is on its Way

By iCopy blogger Alex Dalenberg

So … this is happening:Google authorship.

If you haven’t yet heard the rumblings coming out of SEO world, heads up. If you create, post or access content on the Web, Google’s new author-ranking scheme is going to affect you, one way or another.

Here’s the gist of it. Google has been quietly rolling out its new author rank program – which has more or less been in the works for years. The idea is that content creators are now able to link the stories and posts they create to their Google Plus identity.

This is a big deal because the conventional wisdom says that someday soon, authorship is going to play a major part in Google’s page rankings.

You can find a few good primers at Forbes as well as the SEOmoz blog, but the main takeaway here is that it isn’t just going to matter how well a page or domain performs; it’s going to matter who writes it, as well.

The idea is that more reputable authors – judged by things like social sharing in the form of likes and plus ones, comments, links and more – produce better, more reputable content. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect that Google is going to give posts by those authors much more weight in search listing results.

This isn’t out of the blue. As the Web becomes more social-oriented, so should the way we search – at least in theory. But for now, here is the least you need to know, as far as we see it here at iCopywriter.

1. Your Google Plus account matters now.

Love it or hate it, Google is pushing hard to make its own social network much more relevant. And, as far as it can affect search rankings, they have a lot of leverage here. If you’ve been neglecting your profile, it’s time to get it up to date and start posting your content.

And, if you post your own content, it’s time to make sure that Google can find you. They have a comprehensive set of instructions here.

2. The rules are still the same. Quality content will win.

The fundamentals of this game are unchanged. Quality authors will provide quality, relevant content. However, more than ever, it’s time to think about how to create content that readers are likely to share and discuss. In my mind, this means useful content.

3. Do you know who is writing your stuff?

You will need to soon. With Google Authorship, the focus is shifting to individuals and personalities. For those who are willing to embrace the different voices that make up their company, rewards await.

iCopywriter is keeping up with the news and happenings of Author Rank (and all-things-SEO). Don’t you want us on your team?

Photo credit: followtheseinstructions

 

Google vs. Bing – The Battle Gets Heated

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

It looks like Microsoft is taking the fight for search traffic directly to Google – just in time for the holidays – with ads explicitly calling out the Web giant as a terrible place to shop.

This is according to a recent article by The Associated Press. Microsoft, of course, wants to drive eyeballs to its own search engine, Bing, which is a far-off second to Google when it comes to traffic.

Microsoft’s main issue – and it’s fair game – is that Google is charging merchants to appear in its special shopping listings. This of course goes against Google’s overall ethos as the fairest and best source of information on the Web. Microsoft has set up its own site as part of the ad campaign: Scroogled. The site doesn’t shy away from saying that the Google guys are basically hypocrites, using their own words against them to pretty devastating effect.

Although, as Danny Sullivan, an editor at SearchEngineLand.com, tells the AP, even though Microsoft’s attacks on Google are more or less fair, Bing isn’t exactly innocent. It takes its own cut from listings provided by Shopping.com, though the majority of Bing’s shopping listings aren’t paid for.

My initial reaction is that tech companies like Google are going to keep looking for ways to drive new revenue – like any company would – except that the Web is so ridiculously competitive. And the margins are so low that we really shouldn’t be surprised if Google starts balking on some of its idealistic promises. Witness Facebook’s recent changes to its business pages, which more or less force users to pay to promote their posts in order to reach their full audience.

After all, giving away the world’s information is expensive, especially if you’re doing it for free. The question is how much companies like Google and Facebook can get away with before they compromise their brand – and drive away users.

On the Web, you’re only as good as your audience. My sense is that Google messing around with its shopping listings isn’t much of a game changer. There are a ton of other price comparison apps out there; people will gravitate toward the one that actually finds the best prices. If Google can’t do that through paid ads, then people won’t use the site.

But if Google starts fooling with its actual search page – which is about as close to sacrosanct as you can get on the Web – well, then it’s time to have a whole new conversation.

How do you feel about the Microsoft/Google dust-up?

Photo Credit: michperu