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.

 

 

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

 

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Robots vs. Writers

By: iCopywriter blogger Alex Dalenberg

Guess what? The writers are still winning. That may come as a shock to anyone who works in the media industry (your humble blogger is himself the veteran of a mass newsroom layoff, even at the tender age of 27).

Old media’s struggle to adapt to digital disruption wasn’t bad enough. But anyone who has been watching the bleeding edge of online content over the past few years knows that the geeks who rule our world are hard at work on the robots that will finish us all off.

Not physical robots of course, but algorithms that can aggregate and even write stories in the place of humans. Statsheet.com is one of these. It automatically writes game recaps based on data. For example, this story about Gonzaga crushing Lewis & Clark State* in basketball this week, was not written by a human. Of course, the writing is, shall we say, robotic.

But, this week, one of the pioneers of this kind of automation — TechMeme founder Gabe Rivera had some interesting things to say this week about the old-fashioned process of curating news. This is via the tech blog GigaOm, by the way.

Rivera’s site, of course, automatically aggregates Silicon Valley headlines from around the Web — and it works quite well. But in the past few years, he’s added human editors throughout the country to help the machines do their job better. The problem is that the algos can’t yet sense when a story is played out, or not truly worthy of the front page. For now, human news sense still can’t be replicated.

Not that this doesn’t mean algorithms and aggregation are dead. The fairly obvious feeling I get from this is that the publishers who will be successful are the ones who find the best mix of automation and the human touch. Excellent content — and how it’s organized and presented — still rules the day.

Which actually isn’t so freaky after all.

* Side note: the human who edited this piece looked a little more into that Gonzaga-Lewis & Clark State bot-originated article. We scanned the article in question, and the Flesch-Kincaid readability calculator suggested that FIVE of the 18 sentences be revised. 30% of the content.

Hmmmm…Can you get bot content for your site? Sure. Will it be a cheaper option for you? Yep. Will Google know if your content was bot-generated? Bet on it – they’re not dummies. Will they penalize you? We think so…are you willing to chance it?  iCopywriter real, live, human writers and editors.

Photo Credit: Sebastianlund

SEO Guru Blog – Part II: SEO-Cubed: Three Suggestions from Three Search Engine Gurus

Last week at iCopyInsider we featured the first part of an interview we did with some of the fantastic project managers we work with.

We grilled them about all-things-copywriting and SEO to get their take on how businesses should approach the sometimes-daunting task of staying found on the Internet. They dropped a lot of knowledge, far more than we could fit into one post; so today we bring you the second installment.

To refresh, here is your expert panel of SEO gurus:

Fumi Matsubara, Director of Account Services at Geary LSF Group

http://LSFinteractive.com

http://Gearyi.com

http://GearyLSF.com

Miguel Salcido, CEO of Organic Media Group

http://organicseoconsultant.com/

http://organicmediagroup.org/

Jenna Allison, Account Services Manager at Geary LSF Group

http://LSFinteractive.com

http://Gearyi.com

http://GearyLSF.com

And here is each of our guru’s answers to the following question:

“What are the top three suggestions you can give clients who want to improve their ranking?

Fumi Matsubara

1. Develop strong, sound site architecture. Improve title tags that are not just keyword rich, but also with call to action to help with your click through rate.

2. Make sure your website is mobile compatible. This way you can broaden customer base and provide a quality user experience.

3. Invest time and resources in a good content marketing strategy.

Miguel Salcido

1. Be dedicated. Put aside enough budget for at least 6 to 12 months and let it ride. Basically, you need commit to SEO and see it through without getting antsy.

2. Create great content and continuously create new content. The more content that you have, the more traffic. It’s pretty simple.

3. Promote your content. Your content is the gift that keeps on giving. You should be proud to promote it.

Jenna Allison

1. Make it easy for Google to read and understand your site. Make sure that any content on your site pages is organic and natural, and update any title/meta tag descriptions for those pages.

2. Don’t over optimize. Several years ago, it was common practice to “stuff” keywords into your content. This is no good now. The way you should look at doing any content on your pages or for link building is to create conversational content. Don’t write something that wouldn’t make sense if you were having a conversation with somebody in front of you. Google is smart enough to understand what you are doing if you use too many keywords in one space.

3. Think quality over quantity when it comes to link building. This is one of the keys to creating authority for your site as well as boosting search rankings. Make sure that you aren’t overdoing it though. A few years ago it was OK to syndicate content over thousands of different blog farms. Now, Google is actually devaluing and penalizing those sites because it isn’t natural. You want to create content with links that are going to be beneficial to the reader/user: this is Google’s main objective when it feeds you a search results page.

Check out iCopywriter for YOUR online content needs

 

 

Freaky Friday: Weird of the Day – #drunknatesilver Ruins Freaky Friday, Debunks its Freakiness

By: Alex Dalenberg, iCopywriter Blogger

“Statistically speaking, Friday isn’t freakier than any other day of the week.”

OK, New York Times über stats geek Nate Silver didn’t actually say that, but we imagine that he might, especially after putting back a few. Welcome to our favorite Election Week meme, #drunknatesilver. Twitter is having statistically unprecedented amounts of fun (unprecedented except to Nate Silver) imagining the math man carousing about the town to celebrate his dead-on prediction in the presidential election.

This isn’t that surprising. Silver was more or less dead on predicting the 2008 presidential election, missing just one state. And while some see Silver as a wizard, he uses a fairly straightforward forecasting model that averages the results of numerous polls and gives more weight to the ones with a better track record of picking the eventual winner. The idea is that, this way, outliers have less of an effect on the prediction.

A few of the best #drunknatesilver tweets.

@davelevitan: Drunk Nate Silver stumbles through traffic on the Jersey Turnpike, screaming out what time each driver will get home. #DrunkNateSilver

@kelkulus: Drunk Nate Silver stumbles through the streets, shouting obscenities at the future ex-wives that he has yet to meet. #DrunkNateSilver

@copyblogger: Drunk Nate Silver says “Call me maybe? I’ll know it’s you because your number is …” #drunknatesilver

All kidding aside, Nate Silver is a model of viral success for every blogger seeking to create compelling, vital content. He started as a relatively humble contributor at liberal political blog Daily Kos http://www.dailykos.com, but because his work focused less on the ideology and more on the numbers, he found a much wider readership.

Silver turned his musings and number-crunching into the smash-hit website FiveThirtyEight.com which was subsequently picked up by The New York Times. According to the executive editor, it’s now one of their biggest traffic generators.

His new book, “The Signal and the Noise: Why so many predictions fail, but some don’t” is also worth a read. Not just for political junkies, but any business decision maker who wants to better understand how to sort good information from the bad.

As we see it, here are three lessons to takeaway from sober Nate Silver.

1) Use content to address an unmet need.

Silver saw that most political coverage struggled to rise above the day-to-day minutiae, spin and partisan emotion dominating the news cycle. Silver found a way to let the data speak for itself. Readers looking for a better way to make sense of the political climate flocked to his approach. What need does your content fill?

2) Don’t just aggregate, interpret.

Polling is a mainstay of modern politics, but Silver isn’t a pollster. He’s an aggregator but, more important, an interpreter. The numbers aren’t his, but he explains them. Don’t just retweet and repost. Give readers context.

3) Make your content indispensable. 

Easier said than done, but there’s a reason the bleary-eyed hordes of political junkies keep Silver’s website bookmarked: his take on the polls are can’t-miss content. These days, if Silver isn’t part of your repertoire, love him or hate him, you just don’t follow politics. If only all of us could say that about our industry blogs.

#drunknatesilver says be like him and you’ll have at least a 72.3337492 chance of content success.

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Photo Credit: joewcampbell

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day-We Can’t Think of Anything Freakier than Sandy, So Here’s How to Help

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

Is there anything freakier, not to mention more tragic and disturbing, than the havoc wreaked by Hurricane-turned-Superstorm Sandy this week on the East Coast? As a New Yorker myself, I can attest to the massive damage, physical, psychological and spiritual, that this freak weather event inflicted on my city, state and region. From elderly people trapped in high rises without power or water to unprecedented damage across New Jersey and other states to the loss of more than 100 homes in Breezy Point, Queens, it’s hard to fathom the destruction, let alone imagine rebuilding.

That’s why today’s Freaky Friday is dedicated to letting you know how you can help. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10, or visit the American Red Cross’ website and make a donation there. If you live in the area and have the resources and means, plenty of organizations and makeshift shelters are looking for volunteers and donations; find something in your community.

To those affected by the storm, you’re in our thoughts.

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Collection of Houseflies has Twitter Account, Despite Being Houseflies

 By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

And you thought Justin Bieber fans’ Twitter feeds were inane.

An artist named David Bowen has set up a colony of houseflies in an acrylic sphere equipped with a hanging wireless keyboard so that the flies can send messages to a Twitter account. The flies, unsurprisingly, don’t have much to say – mostly long strings of punctuation, interspersed with the occasional number or letter – but what they lack in wit they make up for in sheer volume.

How, exactly, does this work? A camera captures the flies’ movements inside their sphere, and every time one lands on a key, transmits the corresponding symbol into a tweet. Tweets are posted when the flies rack up 140 characters or when one lands on the Enter key. You can learn more about the project on Bowen’s website, or watch a pretty dull video of the tweeting flies at work.

Which basically means just being flies.

The flies seem to be on some sort of hiatus; their latest message, sent Oct. 17, was the single number “5.”

We can’t help feeling that this project reveals the rather sad nature of Twitter and other social networks as a whole. After all, are most of the tweets we follow actually that much more interesting than the random movements of flies on a keyboard? Excuse us as we have an existential crisis.

Meanwhile, if this is art and/or social commentary, then we’re just going to go ahead and set up a Facebook for our cats walking across our keyboards while we’re trying to work.

Fjdsiafu8789&*)(*YILHJklfhdsjklfhdjkshfdjkslhfkhkhyiuY&&*YFS&*YFGSHjklfhdjksghdjshgkly7ity78yds78f6Y&*^&*(TYHJB

–      Fluffy

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately? That is, if you’re not secretly a fruit fly.

photo credit: orangeacid

Black Hat Vs. White Hat

Guest Post by: Long-time iCopywriter Blogger, Jessica Towne

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), can be a powerful tool when it comes to getting attention on the web. This is because Google, Yahoo and other search tools use your keywords to determine where in the list of search results your particular site will land.

Using the right keywords for your site is the most imperative when it comes to online business marketing. This is because the more relevant phrases you plug in, the better the chance that search engines, and thus, consumers will find you.

Knowing which magic words to use – and how often, in combination with rich, pertinent content – is the key to creating effective copy. This is a balance I’m always striving to achieve for iCopywriter clients.

Understanding “Black Hat” and “White Hat” SEO practices is also helpful. If you’ve never heard of these terms, here’s a little primer to get you in the know.

Black Hat SEO

  • Black Hat SEO is basically trying to fool search engines into ranking your site high on results page by using practices that searching sites frown upon.
  • Typically this involves irrelevant content that doesn’t really help information seekers. It can be found in the form of one or two keywords being used excessively, or posting lots of links meant to redirect users.
  • It can also take the form of repetitive tags, or “hidden” text (characters the same color as the background, which make them fade from view).

Why should you care? It’s possible to be banned from certain search bars as a result of using Black Hat practices.

White Hat SEO

  • White Hat tactics direct attention to your site in an ethical, organic way. They involve taking the time to research and write content applicable to one theme and using related keywords to naturally direct readers/consumers to that content.
  • You can use synonyms to make multiple tags, headlines and titles that are associated with your topic, and include links to other useful information on the same idea.
  • This is an ongoing process, because it involves coming up with fresh news/stories all the time and properly using HTML code to link all of your work together.

Why should you care? With practice, time and a willingness to learn, White Hat SEO tactics can really work. Keeping this information in the back of your mind when you set out to create a winning webpage is key to making something that search engines – and customers – will trust and flock to.

For more information, check out this helpful (and user-friendly) site:

http://www.webhostingtalk.com/wiki/White_hat,_black_hat,_and_gray_hat_SEO

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Photo Credit: V&A Steamworks