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Business Books You Should Be Reading in 2016

Let’s cover a few core business books you should be reading in 2016…

On the last episode of Nathan’s Bookshelf, we got a taste of my more esoteric, literary, and poetic interests, with a dash of business books.

This time around, the focus is mostly on business books.

I’m a firm ongoing learner, who believes that people should always be improving their job skills and life skills.

I look at it like this: in a college course, they will typically have you read 1-3 books on a given topic…which are, by the way, often theoretical, abstract, and not practically useful.

So if you read a book a week, what kind of education are you giving yourself?

Anyways, enough pontificating.

books-933293_1920Here’s what I’ve been reading this past year:

  • No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits – Dan Kennedy’s non-politically correct guide to managing staff in your business. He makes a lot of fascinating points, in my opinion, but beware: ruthless means ruthless.
  • Making Them Believe – Another Dan Kennedy book, written with Chip Kessler. This book covers the life and the marketing takeaways of John Brinkley, a man who surgically implanted goat testicles as a cure for impotence.
  • Scaling Up – This book, by Verne Harnish, is a must-have for any business that experiences – or wants to experience – super-fast growth.
  • Ca$hvertising – This book is an epic guide to advertising. Copywriters and advertising professionals will probably know much of the material covered herein, but it’s still a good reference book. For those who aren’t immersed in advertising and marketing and want to learn more, it’s a must-have.
  • The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Shit Together – John Carlton’s first book (I think) is a must-have for anyone – and I mean anyone – who wants to improve their business skills. Most people probably haven’t heard of him, but he’s a killer copywriter who can teach you much about sales, young padawan. When linking to the book, I discovered that he has another book out, Simple Success Secrets No One Told You About, which I immediately downloaded … even though I haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do the same … that’s how good this guy is.
  • The Boron Letters – Gary Halbert has been called the world’s greatest copywriter. This book is a series of letters written by Halbert to his son, which cover everything from copywriting to marketing to life advice. A must-have for any business bookshelf.
  • Don’t Wear a Cowboy Hat Unless You Are a Cowboy… – Robert Bly is another one of the world’s most famous copywriters. He’s written dozens of books and his copywriting portfolio covers the gamut. Every businessperson should have at least a few of his books on their bookshelf.
  • The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene’s classic is another must-have for any business person – and any other person who wants to be successful in life and relationships.
  • Fanatical Prospecting – Jeb Blount knows how to sell. Like many of the authors listed here, he is an “old-school” salesperson who doesn’t spout the New Age nonsense that you see everywhere else online … which is often designed to steer you clear of prospecting, direct marketing, and sales.
  • New Sales. Simplified.  – Mike Weinberg, who did the foreward to Fanatical Prospecting, writes another great book on prospecting and new business development – that is, bringing new business in the door as opposed to harvesting the same clients and customers over and over. It’s geared towards the sales professional, but you should read it. It will clear many of the New Sales Age cobwebs out of your thinking.

There are plenty more books on my bookshelf from the past year, including many I haven’t gotten to yet.

But these are the business books that stand out.

What most of these books have in common is that the authors truly understand sales.

As I mentioned, many of today’s marketing and sales professionals subscribe to New Age beliefs: prospecting is dead, cold calling is dead, inbound marketing should replace outbound marketing, and so on.

The authors mentioned here contradict these false teachings and stand like a torch against the darkness.

In fact, when it really comes down to it, when you really think about it, and when you really dive deeply into your business, it’s clear that sales, prospecting, and new business development are the bottom line.

And the Only Skill You Need in Life Is…

Nothing left to chance - Business StrategyPersuasion.

The ability to sell.

As the marketing mastermind Dan Kennedy has pointed out, many of the the coolest and most successful CEOs aren’t MBAs. They come from a sales background.

These are the guys that can generate fortunes from the skin of their teeth – or, more likely, the words that come out of their mouths.

All good salespeople and marketers know that the key to selling is persuasion. Books like the popular Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion cover this concept in detail. And most of the dozens of business books on my bookshelf expand on this concept ad infinitum.

And as Michael Gerber points out in his classic book, the E-Myth Revisited, most small business people aren’t business people.

A person good at making lemonade doesn’t necessarily understand the fundamentals of hiring, firing, managing, accounting, marketing, and sales.

Writing vs. Copywriting vs. Content

Take writing.

Since I work as a writer, I’m intimately familiar with this field, the people who work in it, and the people who hire from it.

There’s a wide spectrum of talent, skills, and knowledge that may or may not be possessed by someone who labels him or herself a “writer.”

When viewed from a commercial perspective, I tend to categorize writers into 3 types:

Wordsmiths

These creative types like to write fiction, poetry, plays, and so on.

The primary drive is artistic self-expression, creativity, literature, and so on. This type of writing doesn’t pay well, so sometimes they end up writing for businesses.

I think that’s quite often a bad thing for businesses and the commercial writing industry. Wordsmiths don’t necessarily know how to sell, persuade, or communicate value. They will often work for a pittance – driving down prices and expectations for the writing industry – and they can’t necessarily copywrite.

The result is that some businesses develop misconceptions over what copywriting is and the value that it adds to their bottom lines.

But hey writers, it’s our own fault…

So stop doing it…

Instead, learn how to persuade and triple your income today

Copywriters

Copywriters are salespeople.

They aren’t necessarily poetically inspired and they don’t necessarily have the ability to create beautiful flowery passages that make you all warm and fuzzy inside…but it doesn’t matter. That’s not the point of copywriting.

Copywriters possess the one skill that everyone needs in a capitalist society: persuasion.

Well, usually…

There are problems within the copywriting world. Different camps within the copywriting world have different perspectives on what copywriting is and should be. And people charge rates that range from bottom-of-the-barrel to off-the-charts. And every copywriter brings different skills to the table.

But they all call themselves “copywriters,” so this field is also all over the map…

Content Writers

Content isn’t king – it’s “words on a page.”

This type of “writing” is new. It grew out of the trenches of the internet marketing world…out of the need to satisfy the search engines. From that, we’ve seen the rise of content marketing and the proliferation of gross phrases like “content consumption,” which spread like mind-eating viruses.

Literally, content means stuff that fills up other stuff.

I don’t like this word. It’s sterile and meaningless.

Content doesn’t persuade. It doesn’t inform. It’s passive, like data – it’s just there and does nothing but take up space.

Content writers write generic SEO content that is usually designed to get the attention of the search engines. This type of “writing” usually just requires the ability to write a complete sentence with keywords. Or write about a topic in English, as opposed to ESL.

Cheap “content” pays nothing and means nothing to your customers.

Instead, focus on information that matters and stories that mean something. Not content that takes up space and communicates that you are the same as everyone else.

And add some freaking energy and sell something.

Telling vs. Selling

A while ago I coined the phrase, “Copy sells and content tells.” It’s a short but mostly accurate description of the difference between “words on a page” and sales copy.

And this difference between telling and selling highlights a huge problem in the business world: most advertising sucks. It tells when it should sell. It’s passive instead of active.

There are reasons for this:

People don’t know how to advertise and sell properly. I had to teach myself how to sell and persuade. And it took time and effort. But once I did, my entire view of the business world changed.

Most advertising, marketing, and sales are, as mentioned, passive.

Social media marketing, for instance, is passive. You gain followers and likes and wait for stuff to happen.

Direct mail is active. You test, evaluate, test, evaluate, hold yourself accountable, and keep doing it until it explodes.

lemonade-stand-656399_1280An ad that says, “Asheville lemonade” is passive but typical.

An ad that says, “Asheville’s first – and only – totally organic, sustainable, home-made, hand-crafted, farm-to-face, fresh-squeezed lemonade stand brings you mouth-watering, tear-jerking lemon flavors found ONLY in nature.

For a limited time only, for only 25 cents, you can buy a 16 oz. ice-cold glass of Asheville’s most sought-after lemonade. Order NOW while supplies last! Satisfaction 100% guaranteed or your money back!

We only have 10 lemons left! Call _____ to quench your thirst, support your local community — and brace your taste buds folks…because your mouth will never be the same.”

Anyway. Off the cuff, but you get the idea.

Unfortunately, ads of the first type predominate. And people try stuff once and say “this type of marketing doesn’t work” and they go back to making less money.

People are scared to go balls-to-the-wall. It’s safer to avoid bad words. It’s safer to stay politically correct and comfortable. It’s safer not to make a ripple and to use passive marketing techniques that generate questionable returns based on vanity metrics than it is to make ripples by trying to influence people.

After all, if you make a splash then you might make enemies.

But you might also make some money. John Carlton’s most famous ad talked about a one-legged golfer. And his other top-grossing ads used scary three-letter words like “sex.”

Successful applauding executives sitting at the tableThe fact is, selling and persuasion means you actually have to persuade people. Actively. Assertively. Even aggressively.

It’s kind of like picking up girls or getting dates. You have to actually do something to get results.

And it’s like improving your career. Many people think that they are entitled to a raise or promotion because they’ve done the same job well for however many years. If anything, you’ve simply proven that you don’t have the initiative and drive to get noticed, grow, and add more value to a business…

While mainstream education teaches you to study hard, do what others tell you, be politically correct, and get your A, that’s actually the opposite of what it takes to succeed in life.

You can’t just wait for a promotion…you have to take it.

 

There are two types of people in the world: entrepreneurs and employees.

Which are you?

Copywriting & PS4: The Pyramid Scheme

Playstation Ethos

according to PS4…because reality is apparently too boring…

Warning.

This is a long article.

I love long articles.

How else can you really go in-depth?

I love long attention spans, long sentences, long blog posts, long books, long headlines, long commercials, long-tail search, and long hair. My last blog post was merely a pre-amble to a long-planned long-term series of blog entries, but I decided to wrap that crap up now and here, for a few reasons I’ll get into later and somewhere else.

Copywriting, like everything else in the universe, is based on the shape and scheme of a pyramid. The top of the pyramid is the goal of your writing, and the rest of your writing supports that goal. The goal is the eye on the top, the next couple bricks are the headline, the next layer is the first sentence, the next layer is the first paragraph, and if they’re still reading by then you’re lucky, or really good. Each successive sentence and paragraph supports the previous ones.

From the Playstation Ethos commercial

From the Playstation Ethos commercial

Copywriting is writing with a goal. You don’t just write coherently with good grammar, as the SEO clients request, you write to capture attention and influence the reader. This kind of writing takes a lot of time and crafting, and a long attention span, and, incidentally, that’s not really how I write this, my personal blog. I write my personal blog mostly to have fun and experiment and practice writing, and transmit high quality ideas to other people who have long attention spans. But mostly to do my personal work and have fun.

After all, as Noah Bradley says, if you don’t do your personal work, you go crazy. And since my personal work tends to be long, it’s not the best place to advertise my copywriting, which, as mentioned, is designed to capture attention quickly.

Take Twitter, for example, which limits tweets to 140 characters. Copywriting at its finest! The Twitter playground reminds me of the Wall Street stock exchanges, with thousands of loose neck-tied professionals screaming and yelling at banks of monitors. You have exactly 140 characters to capture someone’s attention. If you can’t do it, tweet again. And again. And again. And again. And…oops!

You’ve annoyed them too much and now they unfollowed you. One exclamation point too many. Capturing attention is not an art form, as many internet marketers would fart. To say something is an “art form” means nothing. I prefer the term “craft” over “art.”

Playstation wants you to play

Playstation wants you to play

“Art” in my world means creativity, spontaneity, and the opposite of science, which is calculations based on proof. “Craft” is a balance of both art and science. Carpentry is a good example of a craft. You have a pre-defined amount of space and material to create an aesthetitically pleasing, yet functional object.

Writing can be art, science, crap, or craft, depending on its function. But goal-oriented copywriting is craft, which, because it has goals, implies design.

I hinted at this in my last blog post with the PS4 commercial analysis, For the Players Since 1995. That particular commercial was designed for a specific purpose, i.e., to support the slogan, “This is for the players,” which slogan was, in turn, designed to support the marketing strategy in the Great War of the PS4 vs. the Xbox One.

Let’s take a look at this ad to see why the Xbox One is about as dry as the Arizona desert.

 

Now watch this and see why, in comparison to the PS4, the bland Xbox One does not deserve a place in history or anyone’s living room, anywhere, ever.

 

As we can see, there is a slight difference in the ad campaigns, but some of you might be saying, “What does any of your rambling have anything to do with anything anywhere ever?”

Others may be saying, “Okay, so their ad campaign sucks, so what? Xbox One’s still a good device. It still has cool games and does pretty much the same thing that the PS4 does.”

Hi, I'm old and boring

Hi, I’m old and boring

If all things are pretty much equal, then I would not choose Xbox One, based on how much care and effort they didn’t put into their campaign. I think it’s quite amazing that Sony, some no-name whatever company from some little island off China, has managed to create a gaming device that is outselling Microsoft. After all, the USA dominates the world, and Microsoft has dominated the USA’s technology industry for a long time, yet Sony has created the most amazing place to imagine and play: the Playstation Nation.

Supporting the PS4, powering this David’s rise to meet the Goliath of the Xbox One, lies their energetic marketing campaign, which supports on one copywritten slogan, “This is for the Players.”

At the end of For the Players Since 1995, we see the slogan directly beneath the name of the device, PS4.

Me too.

Me too.

Everything in the ad has been specifically designed to support that slogan, and that slogan has been carefully crafted specifically to support that device, the PS4. In the same way that the slogan supports the name, the whole commercial works together to support the slogan. Therefore, the ad supports campaign supports the slogan supports the device name supports the device itself supports the salaries of the people at Sony etc.

Thus, we can see how the design-oriented disciplines in marketing and advertising, such as copywriting, are shaped like a pyramid, just like everything else in the universe.

PS4: For the Players Since 1995

My last post analyzed a couple commercials from the PS4 and Xbox One campaigns, and in this post I’ll pick up with the PS4 commercial, titled on YouTube, “For the Players Since 1995.” This ad is so detailed and well-crafted that it would take a thesis paper to analyze everything inside it. But we’ll just scratch the surface, to get a rough idea of the kind of work that goes into good copywriting and advertising.

This commercial, of course, represents the culmination of the work of a slew of people, including copywriters, marketers, designers, filmmakers, actors, and so on. These types of commercials are fun to analyze, and a useful way to better understand copywriting. The creation of these commercials involves the same essential process as copywriting: design. In fact, this is the goal of most writing, which is why different “types” of writing skills are so transferable. They all involve the same essential design process.

But on to the commercial.

“For the Players Since 1995” is a coming of age tale, a tragedy, a romance, a bromance, a story of heartbreak, and a story of adventure. We follow Daniel from his high school years to his post-college years, and throughout the ad, the Playstation acts as a centerpiece and an anchor in the storm of Daniel’s normal life. While he grows older, friends and girlfriends come and go, but the Playstation remains.

I can’t emphasize enough the extreme level of detail the creators put into this commercial. To get a glimpse of this, count the number of red and white objects you see in the first thirty seconds. And then count how many objects and symbols you see recycled throughout the commercial. For example, you’ll see a number of guitars, bicycles, Playstations, TVs, Domino’s Pizza boxes, signed shirts, and so on.

 

 

Most of the commercial’s Playstation “eras” are accompanied by band posters — such as Blur, Kasabian, and Tinie Tempah — that indicate the time period. Signed shirts denote Daniel’s graduation from high school, university, and then something else, perhaps a dojo. There are color scheme changes, lighting shifts, and musical shifts, which act to change the mood and transition the story into new life periods. The dialogue bits are windows into the players’ lives, and each little interaction suggests backstory.

Girl’s hand shoots up to Token’s hand. The poster on the wall timestamps this PS3 “era.”

For instance, at around 2:24, as the camera leaves the player party and pans back to the PS3 and TV, the girl’s hand jumps up to Token’s hand at the controller (the black guy). Why? To suggest some love interest, obviously. Maybe this level of detail sounds a bit extreme, and maybe I am reading a bit too much into an innocent action, but the director told her to do that for a reason. When you sit down and actually look at some of the commercials being fed to us on a daily basis, you will start to notice some extreme attention to detail. Lots and lots and lots of work goes into the creation of a commercial like this.

Everything in the commercial is designed with a specific purpose; the commercial has been engineered to support the “This is For the Players” mantra, the latest battle cry of the Playstation Nation. This five-word slogan did not come out randomly at the water cooler or on the toilet. Like all good copywriting, it was crafted over a period of time and takes into account the bigger marketing strategy, the business aims, and the audience. “This is For the Players” is designed to fulfill a specific strategic function, as mentioned in my last post, just as each detail of this ad is designed to create a specific impression on the viewer.

Two red, black, & blue jackets plus a Domino's box

Two red, black, & blue jackets plus a Domino’s box on the left

In the opening PS1 sequence, you may have noticed a large number of red and white objects, which all but disappeared in the later sequences — until, that is, the very final image of the ad, when you see a red and white race car skidding into the future. The PS2 color palette cools down a bit, and in the PS3 sequence, you notice more objects which are red, blue, and black. By the time the final sequence has arrived, Daniel’s apartment is cleaner, more modern, and the modern feel is reinforced by a futuristic blue and purple palette.

Attempts to overanalyze the purpose or the “why” behind the color schemes and significance of the objects might yield some interesting ideas, but it would often just be an exercise in speculation, since only the creators really know the answer to such questions. For example, I could attempt to draw parallels between the red-white-and-blue of the Domino’s boxes and the British flag that appears a million times, or the significance of the guitars and bicycles as objects that thematically suggest playfulness and competition. Such analysis and speculation is a useful way to study copywriting, but there’s no point getting caught up in circumstantial theory.

The abundance of detail put into this ad, and the PS4 ad campaign as a whole, indicate an assertive, knowledgeable approach to their campaign and their target audience. Every time you watch this commercial you will see something new, and that goes quadruple for the Players. I can’t even begin to count the number of game references in this ad.

This ad is one of the more interesting and carefully constructed commercials from which to study high quality copywriting and advertising. I suggest watching it at least one more time. You will certainly notice new things each time you watch it.

 

And after you watch it again, watch this:

 

 

Obviously not all commercials are created equal.

 

 

Copywriting: PS4 & Xbox One Showdown

This copywriting leaves no doubts in your mind. You know exactly what this place is about.

Not the most grammatically correct English, but you know exactly what this place is about.

My little post about why you shouldn’t write how-not-to articles has a parallel in the world of copywriting. The examples I’ve linked to all have something in common with bad copywriting: Don’t Tell it Like it Isn’t,  as Tom Albrighton of ABC Copywriting so succinctly summed it up. The most vivid example in his article — for me at least — is the gym poster by Nuffield Health, and their dead-end slogan, “The gym. It’s changed.” You look at the poster and have no idea what they’re talking about. The entire ad epitomizes what not to do when writing, copywriting, or designing ad campaigns. This particular design reminds me of a teenager suffering from an identity crisis. “I don’t know what I am but I’m not that. I’m different. But I’m still cool.”

A piece of writing, copywriting, or an ad campaign should know what it is about and be able to sell itself to you. Let’s take a look at some better examples of copywriting.

 

Good vs. Evil, Right vs. Wrong, PS4 vs. Xbox One

Kids are cool and different, adults are not. This is the reason video game companies shouldn’t advertise to old people. Albrighton noted that almost half of PS3 owners were over 34, and suggested a few reasons why old people would be a good demographic to target. There’s a number of problems with this, I think, and they all revolve around age and the perception of cool, video games as being a “kids’ thing,” and adults as being uncool. There is a certain age where we all begin to lose our cool, until one day you wake up, look in the mirror, and realize that you are old and not cool. So if you run a campaign that markets to uncool old people, that console’s market might implode. Video game companies would alienate younger generations if they showed middle-aged folks behind a controller with beer and pizza. Sure, it happens a lot, but usually behind closed doors.

Kids don’t want to play a machine that old people play, because old people aren’t cool. Old people who play games don’t want other non-gaming old people to think they’re kids. And old people don’t want kids to think they’re not adults. The only way to fix this problem is to overhaul the worldwide perception that video games and Trix are just for kids. A multi-year, multi-lateral advertising campaign by all the major tech giants, video game companies, and eSports venues should be enough to convince the world that video games aren’t just for kids, they’re for everybody. But until that utopian age arrives, and people of all ages play video games together in harmony, we must live with the knowledge that only kids are cool enough to play and “get” games.

In his piece comparing iPad Air’s and PS4’s ad campaigns, Albrighton criticizes PS4’s “This is for the players” ad for being too busy, among other things.

 

 

At the time of this writing, the top comment under the YouTube video reads, “Playstation makes the best ads ever.” I loved this ad and I think it’s quite appropriate for its target audience: gamers. If anything, the ad needs more adrenaline, more action, more budget, more everything. The PS4 commercial should be compared to the Xbox One commercial or the iPad Air commercial within the context of their respective campaign strategies and audiences. PS4 shoots for younger, cooler gamers, but Microsoft’s strategy is much more ambitious.

Xbox One’s Invitation ad opens up with a twenty- or early thirty-something businessman being invited into the cockpit of a giant robot, but his smooth skin and babyface still don’t make him seem too old. This campaign is shooting for a broader demographic, positioning the Xbox One as the household appliance used for all your entertainment and communication needs.

 

 

Each ad campaign has a different approach to this virtual world of entertainment. The PS4 ad thrusts you into a vortex of gaming worlds (the type of chaos that many games throw at you), which would appeal to a young, imaginitive gamer. The Xbox commercial rather politely brings one world at a time into our mundane lives, invites “a new generation” to step into that other world, then brings that other world into the living room.

And both worlds become one…if you buy an Xbox.

 

Copywriting Serves the Marketing Strategy

And the marketing strategy serves the business’s overall world domination strategy. Microsoft takes on the family omni-device and PS4 takes on the hardcore gaming device. Looking at the big picture, we see that Microsoft aims for the more family-friendly-yet-still-edgy-enough approach to dominate the omni-device market while keeping its foothold in the gaming market via the household. Sony competes by being cooler and entering via the gamer brain.

Since brand or product must define itself clearly in order to appeal to a certain market, it can’t be two things at once. The PS4, by targeting the young gamers and defining itself as a gamer’s machine, can’t appeal to the uncool old people, for instance. The Xbox One has to maintain a more politically correct and calmer approach so as not to disrupt its family-okay image. Therefore, it can’t target adrenaline junkie gamers like the PS4 can.

Obviously, by defining their target market and focusing on that, they make certain sacrifices, because you can’t be everything. But they avoid the trap that befell Nuffield health, which failed to define itself at all — at least in that example. A brand differentiates itself by saying it’s not something, but doesn’t tell you what it is. From our case study of the console wars, we can see how each product shows and tells us exactly what it is, who it is for, how it defines itself for a target market, and how it uses copywriting and ads to serve its marketing purpose.

Resources for Further Study

This post owes inspiration to the above-linked posts by Tom Albrighton of ABC Copywriting. For those interested in learning more about copywriting, head over to his blog and be enlightened. Other good copywriting resources include the Ad Contrarian and Unmemorable Title.

Here is another one of PS4’s cool ads, which follows cool from then till now. In this ad we can see the age boundaries of cool being pushed slightly upwards. Perhaps by PS7 or PS8 we will see senior citizens playing from their wheelchairs, with the slogan, “Players Forever.”

 

 

 

Probably not.

SEO Basics

Site not found. Maybe I should connect to the internet first.

Site not found. Maybe I should connect to the internet first.

How are people supposed to find your site through search engines amid the millions of other websites populating the information super highway? This article explains the basics of SEO to people who know what the term means, but aren’t sure exactly what it is or how it works. When thinking about how SEO works, the best way to look at it is this: Google wants to promote legitimate, unique, high-quality, reputable websites, and filter out spammed sites, filler content, and low quality sites.

The relevance of your site to a given set of search terms is determined by keywords pulled from your content. As long as your site’s text content — in page titles, file names, meta tags, and site content — is articulated appropriately to the search terms your audience would choose, then this part should be straightforward. Web designers are aware of these basics.

Google measures a site’s “reputation” by the quantity and quality (reputation) of backlinks, or inbound links coming from other sites. This is similar to Facebook’s “like” button. A site’s “reputation,” or authority, then determines a site’s placement on the search results page for given key words. Everyone wants to increase their sites ranking on the search results page, because the top sites receive exponentially more hits than lower sites.

Manipulating a site’s ranking in the search results is where SEO gets complicated. It involves keeping up with Google’s methodological changes and second guessing the Google algorithm. It is an esoteric and fast-paced industry that has become the domain of internet marketing companies and code-savvy internet marketers.

Most businesses rightfully stay away from this technical field, which can get murky with questionable methods and ethical debates. The bottom line for most companies is to increase their search engine results while maintaining ethical marketing standards. This is the safest way to ensure that sites don’t get penalized by Google.

On-site SEO means making sure your site is well-designed, containing text that is appropriate to your site’s concept. It is important to make sure the main idea, product, or service of your site is articulated clearly within the text portions of your web pages. This includes page titles, meta tags, and site content. Google only reads text, so text conatined inside of images does not get read, but the image pop-up captions can be read by the Google bot. Web designers are generally aware of these requirements.

Google attempts to filter out those who would manipulate the system, so two-way linking tends not to help, and can even hurt site rankings. Circular linking, where a group of sites link one direction, in a circle, also gets penalized. Link farms, or sites which only exist to provide backlinks to other sites, don’t really help either. Networks of sites which interlink to one another get demoted, duplicate content gets demoted, as does any other activity which could indicate subversive SEO manipulation.

Keeping up with the inner workings of the SEO field tends to be a highly competitive, technical, and time-consuming endeavor, best left to tech gurus.

As long as your site is well-designed and your content clearly articulates your site’s function, internet marketing is a matter of reputation-building and customer outreach, by means of the various new media channels.

The Shape of the Internet

The internet is a stacked -- or ranked -- bell curve. It's a long way to the top, and you have to compete against others to get there.

The internet is a stacked — or ranked — bell curve. It’s a long way to the top, and you have to compete against others to get there.

Internet Space has been shaped by Google. The form it takes is defined by Google’s linear information-representation interface (i.e., an inflexible linear hierarchy of search results as opposed to an interface that’s more intuitive, user-friendly, user-modifiable, and complete, such as a visual representation of the totality of search results which can be filtered and altered by the individual user…say, I want to exclude Facebook and Wikipedia, and Google represents the search results graphically in something like a graph or pie chart…) and the algorithm it uses to sort these results into a one-dimensional vertical line.

Google’s formula organizes the internet into a logarithmic (i.e., exponential, where the difference among sites’ SEO power is in orders of magnitude) hierarchy (specifically I speak of the Page Rank variable, which many see as important, and many others see as less important), according to an article by Smashing Magazine. What this means is that all pages are organized into tiers of a pyramid, essentially, which are orders of magnitude more or less “important” on the hierarchy. My blog, for example, with its zero backlinks etc., has a Page Rank of zero, so another, more popular blog with a Page Rank of one is an order of magnitude higher than mine, so if we were competing for search terms, I would lose every time.

Smashing Magazine said that the logarithm is base six, I think, but that doesn’t matter for small businesses and lay people. What matters is the fact that the internet’s space’s shape is defined by an exponential curve.

Therefore, in order to visualize internet space, draw a right or isosceles triangle, divide into ten tiers, the very top being Google, the very bottom being RAW English, and you have a basic concept of how Google divides up its search results. And since Google is the gatekeeper for the internet for everyone in the universe except people in China who use baidu or bandu or whatever it’s called who cares because it’s not America the Great, this is how to visualize the shape of internet space. BTW, take the Google tier and draw a little eye in it like on the dollar bill, just for some conspiracy fun.

One problem with this model, however, is that while it gives a very, very rough representation of the virtual real estate, i.e., the number of sites occupying each tier of the hierarchy, it gives an opposite conceptualization of the traffic flow, page authority, backlinks, etc. The purpose of this exercise, of course, is to allow you and me to accurately, if simplistically, conceptualize the shape of the internet as it is organized by Google, the only search engine that matters. So to get a picture of the number of visitors to each site and all that, overlay an upside down triangle on top of the first one.

Divide the triangle into tiers and now you have one triangle that represents the hierarchy of the virtual real estate of the various web domains in orders of magnitude, and another triangle which visually represents the space they occupy in the minds of the surfers (the amount of exposure, traffic volume, etc).

Another good way to visualize this would be to draw one rightside-up right triangle, and another upside down one next to it, using crayons or crayola to color code the different types of space. The bottom tier of the upside-down pyramid would represent the small number of visitors to RAW English and other no-name blogs, for example, and the bottom tier of the rightside-up one would represent the large number of no-name websites.

Disclaimer: I don’t do math. The most accurate representation would likely be a triangle with an exponential curve for the hypotenuse that is wide at the base and shoots up very sharply the higher you get and becomes extremely narrow towards the top.

 

Copywriting as Problem Solving

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Copywriting can solve many problems, but not all of them

In another article, I explained how copywriting is text that is designed to communicate a specific idea. Often, that idea is intended to catalyze a sale. The intent is to persuade the reader to buy something.

The idea behind the text, whatever it may be, is typically part of a marketing strategy, designed to solve a particular problem. Obama’s first presidential campaign adopted the slogan, “Change we can believe in.” This message was specifically designed to convey an idea that would solve Obama’s problem: how to win the election by persuading the majority of voters to vote for him. The idea was the axis of his persuasive argument that eventually won him the election. Political language is one of the most prominent places we can see copywriting as problem solving.

But copywriting-as-problem-solving is everywhere, and it permeates the internet. Most of the problems that need solving in this new marketplace are business problems, such as making a sale, or providing information to the reader. Informative articles often serve the larger aim of convincing the reader to become loyal to a certain entity. Oftentimes we will see articles that appear informative, but are actually plugs for a particular product or service. Though this type of copywriting works on certain demographics, it is very tacky and turns off many readers.

Companies that wish to develop solid relationships with their customers tend to avoid this ineffective combination of marketing and sales. Quality copywriting should communicate its idea and solve its problem without being obtuse. This type of copywriting reminds me of people who use duct tape to patch up a broken car window. It’s certainly not the most effective way of solving a problem.

Copywriting & the Craft of Persuasion

110728_0208_3The aim of copywriting is to communicate a specific idea. Like designers, copywriters work both creatively and logically to solve a problem. They design appropriate text that will communicate their targeted ideas to the reader. “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear” and “just do it” both communicate a specific concept to the reader. The former relates a specific scientific fact, whereas the second, like a political slogan, communicates an emotional message. Though the second is less tangible than the first, it has a specific goal: to evoke a specific reaction in the reader. Both use text to communicate specific ideas.

Copywriting is everywhere. It is in political language, legal language, marketing language, the text on food lables, and street signs. Unlike more subjectively interpreted forms of writing, such as poetry or literature, copywriting has the aim of communicating a specific, objective idea.

In the field of marketing, copywriting usually tries to make a sale. Whether it is landing page copy, a slogan, or a blog article, the bulk of copywriting is aimed at persuading the reader to buy something.

Since the advent of the world wide web, copywriters are often hired to write informative articles and web content. Online publication is virtually free, so anyone is free to express themselves on the web. Persuasive and informative copy has become a new commodity for businesses that wish to expand their internet marketing campaigns. High quality copywriting is vital to the development of a competitive internet marketing campaign.