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.

 

Monday Must-Reads

Happy Monday, iCopyInsiders. I attempted to avoid the Oscars last night by catching the Nets game at a local sports bar, but, lo and behold, I ended up un-ironically watching them anyway. Which brings us to our first pick of the week.

The envelope, please …

  1. Google, it turns out, did better at predicting the Oscars than this year’s flu season, calling it for Argo. Slightly less interestingly, Google also tracked the search patterns during last night’s awards ceremony and, lo and behold, the winners got the most search traffic.

    Now, on to the serious stuff.

  2. Copyblogger continues to beat the drum for Google+ and Google Authorship with a very comprehensive guide on using the service to improve your online authority.
  3. Have you signed up for Mailbox yet? CBS MoneyWatch has a preview of the app, which is supposed to solve all of our inbox problems.
  4. We’re two years into Google Panda. The blog Search Engine Land breaks down the legacy of Google’s infamous algorithm update.
  5. Here’s an inside look at what it’s like to actually use Google’s new wearable display, Google Glass. Like what you see? All you need to do is round up $1,500 for a pair. Oh, and get on Google’s exclusive distribution list.

Monday Must-Reads

Happy Presidents’ Day, iCopyInsiders.

I guess the foremost question on my mind is what Sasha and Malia Obama got their dad for his special day. In this case, a quick Web search wasn’t much help in digging up a good answer. Let me know if you find anything; I feel like somebody at least got him a tie.

However, I did find this interesting slideshow of Presidential gifts by The New Yorker.

The second thing on my mind this very Presidential Monday is the importance of social media and search rankings, which is how we’re starting off this week’s edition of Monday Must-Reads.

  1. AdAge charts how Facebook Graph Search will make it easier to measure ROI on social media, with some tips for optimization. No cheats here. As the Web gets smarter, every search engine will attempt to measure and reward genuine engagement with business-created content.
  2. VentureBeat breaks down ComScore’s Digital Future report. Among the key takeaways: Google still dominates search, but Bing is making slow but sure progress. LinkedIn and Twitter are neck and neck for unique visitors.
  3. TechCrunch picks this up from the ComScore report: 3 in 10 paid advertisements are never seen by customers. Considering that 5.3 trillion ads were shown in 2012, that’s a lot of ads that never saw the whites of a customer’s eyes. Don’t neglect your organic search marketing, folks! Connect with the people who are actually trying to find you.
  4. I have a few blogs I try to keep regularly updated – not to mention my workload as a freelancer – so trust me, I get that keeping content updated is a daily struggle. MarketingProfs has some helpful tips on how to build content marketing into a business routine. Routine, I would say, is the keyword.
  5. Also on the content side, Reputation Capital presents an interesting roundup of startup founders talking about the value of blogging. They ask a good question: Is it right for every business.
  6. Props to CNET for finding this: Harlem Shake Roulette. You’re welcome.

 

Monday Must-Reads: Super Bowl Hangover Edition

How are we feeling today, iCopyInsiders? Super Bowl Sunday may be an unofficial national holiday, but it’s no three-day weekend. Not that we don’t treat it like one. So let’s get Monday started with some postgame brain food.

First, let’s deal with that headache.

  • If you’re looking for ways to motivate your hungover employees, Inc.com has put together the ultimate guide. For good reason, too; Jacksonville Business Journal reports that up to $850 million will be lost in worker productivity today.
  • The International Business Times has a roundup of hangover cures.
  • If you’re feeling extra motivated, you can petition the White House to just go ahead and give us all the day off.

Feeling better? Now, onto the business end of things. We’ll start with more football, because, hey, the Super Bowl is also the championship of marketing.

  1. USA Today breaks down how the big game played out on the Web and social media. Not surprisingly, Beyoncé and the Superdome blackout ate up most of the social bandwidth.
  2. Major events like the Super Bowl rarely go off script – except, of course, for the game itself – but when the power went out in half the Superdome, socially savvy marketers were quick to shine the light on their own brands. Oreo takes the prize here, with a blackout-themed advertisement that quickly went viral. Well played, Oreo.
  3. In non-Beyoncé, non-cookie related news, here is an article from Ad Age about how Facebook plans to take on Google’s dominance in the search market with its social graph. I’m not sold on social graph, but marketers should keep an eye on this.
  4. Search Engine Journal advises businesses on how to improve a website’s bounce rate. Remember, your website isn’t much good if users don’t stick around.
  5. This one is via the ClickZ marketing blog. Google has been plugging its universal analytics that aim to give marketers an accurate picture of site performance across platformsinflatable tunnels.

 

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

It’s Monday, iCopyInsiders. And not the awesome, federal holiday kind. As you shake off the cobwebs and welcome an actual five-day workweek, here are some good reads to get your brain going.

  1. Freaked out by changes to Google’s search algorithms? MediaPost says, “Don’t be.” Check out this rundown on what recent changes mean for marketers in terms of search engine optimization.
  2. Because we’re all about search, here’s a smart post from SmartBlog that breaks down how social media affects search rankings. There’s a lot of debate about social media ROI, but don’t forget that it ties into your broader Web presence in surprising ways. Don’t neglect it.
  3. For our freelance and indie workforce friends looking to improve their business, here is a neat list of must-read books from FreelanceSwitch, including several Web marketing resources.
  4. For Google geeks, here’s an interesting profile of Jeff Dean, one of the company’s tech wunderkinds, on Slate. It’s part of Slate’s new series called Doers: People who accomplish great things, and how they do it.
  5. You Only Live Once, or at least that’s what Instagram and Twitter tell me. If you’re not familiar with the #yolo meme – and even if you are – check out this awesome primer from Know Your Meme and then watch the latest SNL Digital Short.

How to Give Your Website a Checkup

Welcome to the depths of winter, iCopyInsiders. We hope everyone is staying healthy with flu season raging (don’t forget to wash your hands, folks). And of course, America’s own version of seasonal affective disorder is swiftly approaching with the end of football in two weeks.

As the weather gets dreary and frigid temperatures set in this week, it’s as good a time as any to stay indoors, heat up some soup and give your business website a checkup, as well.

And when we say checkup, we mean checking in on some of the key indicators of a healthy, vibrant website – one that potential customers will actually find on Google and other search engines.

Now, as we’ve written in the past, a successful content strategy takes a dedicated investment of patience, commitment and resources to see serious return on investment. But you don’t need to hire an expensive firm to get a basic idea of whether your site is doing well or poorly. There a number of free search engine optimization diagnostic tools that can give you a broad idea of how to improve your site’s SEO efforts.

Here are some of our favorite free diagnostic tools.

Google and Bing Webmaster Tools

Both Google and Bing offer a ridiculously useful set of free tools for diagnosing the health of your website. Both of these should be a starting point for any site checkup, because they can be used to quickly see how the two search engines view your site, including the search terms customers are using to find it. They can also be used to figure out malware and website glitches such as crawl errors.

Copyscape

Google punishes duplicate content in its search rankings. And it’s no secret that plagiarism, whether you are aware that your content producers were committing it or not, is a guaranteed fast way to tank a reputation. That makes Copyscape – which scans the web for duplicate content – one of our go-to tools here at iCopywriter. We run everything that our writers produce through the service, but even if you’re an iCopy client, it’s worth checking out if you’re posting material on your own or from other bloggers.

Google Page Speed

Website load speed is an underrated factor in your search rankings. You don’t want to waste users’ time with a clunky, hard-to-load website. Also, they’re more likely to click away from a site that doesn’t load quickly. Luckily, Google has a set of Page Speed Tools that can be used to assess how quickly your website loads.

Site Grading Tools

There are a number of sites that can give you a quick, letter grade assessment of how your website is performing. We like HubSpot’s Marketing Grader. It’s a great resource for figuring out a few jumping off points for improving your website.

Social Mention

One of the big trends for 2013 will be social media’s increasing importance in search rankings. Bing is incorporating more Facebook chatter into its search results and Google Authorship is going to give more weight to socially influential content creators. Use search engines like Social Mention to get a quick feel for how and where your brand is registering on social media.

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Photo Credit: FindYourSearch

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

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