flower tree

5 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Online Business

Overheard in the office this morning: “The sun’s out so I can’t complain.”

After a few grey days and long months of winter, that pretty much sums up my feelings exactly.

Spring has officially sprung in the British capital!

Even if I’m still in boots and a jumper (hey, it’s London) the sunnier weather signals a fresh start — a chance to dust off those landing pages, make your social media shine and brighten up the ole blog.

The best part? They’re easy, and dare I say, fun updates to make.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and breathe some new life into your online business.

These five tips will tidy up your digital space in no time and give it that glow other websites wish they had.

1. Revamp Your Headlines

Headlines and page titles play a huge role in attracting visitors to your site.

They’re not only the first words people see when they land on your website, but they also tell readers exactly what they will gain by clicking on your content. Or at least, in theory, that’s what they should do.

To see if your headlines are providing as much value to your community as possible, open up your blog or a landing page on your site and ask:

  • Is the benefit clearly stated?
  • Do you want to click to read more?
  • Can you easily understand what the article, video, landing page, etc. is about?

Every title on your website should pass this three-part test with flying colors.

In fact, you can even apply this “rule” to your social media posts too.

Because headlines are THE chance to pull your reader in.

If you’re feeling stuck or not sure how to craft a compelling headline, look at magazine covers and newspapers. Try to incorporate their bold punchiness into your titles.

The Onion is a master of this, although I would say it takes a certain brand to pull off this type of headline:

Think of the benefit your reader will receive by clicking on your page and put it right into the headline.

Above all, keep your audience top of mind when writing headlines. Because if it’s meaningful and relevant to their lives, it will catch their attention.

2. Perform Better on Google

Wouldn’t it be awesome to know which search terms are taking people to your site?

Google Search Console is a free tool that tells you just that and more.

Once you connect your website to the Search Console, you can see:

  • The search terms that pulled up your company’s pages during an organic search on Google
  • How many times one of your pages showed up in a user’s Google search results (the tool calls these “impressions”)
  • How many times a user clicked on your URL via a search
  • The click-through rate for each URL (i.e. the percentage of impressions that received clicks)
  • The position of your URL on the search page

This is a wealth of information about how users are finding your content through search, so how can you use it to your benefit?

A nifty video on using Google Search Console.

As digital marketing guru, Neil Patel, suggests, you can use it to zone in on search terms that aren’t resulting in clicks.

Jot down the search terms that have a high number of impressions but a low number of clicks.

Then try searching for the term yourself and seeing how your webpage appears in Google.

For these underperforming search terms, that can mean your SEO title and meta description aren’t clear and compelling enough.

Like your headlines, the Googler should know exactly what the content is about just by skimming it: short and to the point.

Next, make sure the description below the SEO title is also crystal clear. By giving the reader a bit more context while piquing their interest, your meta description can be the difference between them visiting your site or not.

No matter how you choose to use these insights, this tool is a quick and easy way to see which keywords are bringing people to your site. That’s gold.

3. Read More Tags & Widgets

I recently noticed it was next to impossible to discover new content on my website.

At the end of my blog posts, there was a small clickable link to the next post, but even I had trouble seeing it.

blog screenshot
On my blog, the links had to be changed to black and increased in size (see above).

For websites built using WordPress, Squarespace or Wix, the title of the previous blog post will typically appear at the bottom of a post, under a “Recent Posts” section or via a link to “Newer” or “Older” articles.

If this is difficult to find on your blog, try making the link bigger and more visual.

If your website is built using WordPress, you may also be able to add a widget to your footer to give visitors another way of discovering fresh content.

footer screenshot
The Recent Posts widget is fully customizable. Here’s how it looks on my footer.

This update, made by adding a “Recent Posts with Thumbnails” widget or “Read More” tag to your website, is one of my favorite tricks because it’s a small change that makes a big impact.

Plus, it extends the shelf life of your content. What’s not to love, right?

4. Boost Your Instagram Profile

With 1 billion people using Instagram each month, it’s easy to see why businesses choose to grow their community on the app.

It’s not a one-way relationship either; people interact with brands on Instagram.

According to Hootsuite, 60% of users discover products on the platform and 75% take action, like visiting the business’s website.

A content-packed Instagram bio with Linktree and Highlights.

This is why upping your Instagram game is so important.

Here are two simple ways to do that all within your Instagram profile:

  • Add Linktree to your bio so you can share multiple links to your website at one time
  • Use Highlights, or curated Instagram stories that do not disappear, to draw in your followers

Both of these tools are free and easy to use, not to mention a quick way to share more of your brand with your community.

What type of links can you add to Linktree?

The beauty is you get to decide. It could be your latest blog post, newest product, About page or even a music playlist. All you have to do is upload the link and switch it out whenever you see fit.

Highlights, on the other hand, are much more visual.

Pro tip: Canva has free templates you can use like this one to design your Highlights.

These permanent Instagram stories can be made up of photos, videos or both and can be a window into many aspects of your business: events, blog, services, tips and inspiration, ambassadors. Even the office pet.

Most importantly, they give your brand another dimension, a more personal one. Because what’s the point of social media if not to connect on a personal level?

Now, give Linktree and Highlights a go and watch your Instagram profile come to life!

5. Revive Your Blog

We’re not talking a full overhaul here, just some fun keyword search to give you new topic ideas for your blog.

I say fun because you sort of feel like an undercover detective when you find out what people, in general, use the web to search for.

Let me show you what I mean, with the help of two free tools:

  • Google Trends tells you how often a keyword was typed into Google over a period of time.
  • Wordtracker is similar in that it estimates how many times a keyword was searched for over a set time, but it also shows you how competitive that keyword and related search terms are.

Google Trends is a helpful way to identify seasonal trends, dig up relevant topics that people are interested in right now and see which geographical regions are seeking out your content.

A snapshot of topics and queries related to Van Gogh over the past month in the UK.

Alternatively, Wordtracker’s value comes from the competitive analysis it performs on a keyword.

It effectively tells you how many businesses are paying to get that keyword seen by as many people as possible.

That means you should focus on keywords with a high search volume and low competition. Those are the topics people are interested in but aren’t being overly covered by other brands.

‘Easter’ has been searched for roughly 60,500 times in the past month.

Once you start plugging in your own keywords and getting a feel for these tools, you’ll see how handy they can be for producing fresh and relevant content for your audience.

And with that, you are well on your way to giving your digital storefront that special springtime glow — one that radiates sunshine and success.

Looking for help to achieve that glow? Drop me a line at celeste@cbacontent.com.

vlad dracula

Dare to be Like Dracula: The Mesmerizing Power of History & Horror

Vampires look like humans. Some so beautiful they hypnotize people.

Three such mesmerizing vampires seduced a lawyer from England, Jonathan Harker, when he visited Castle Dracula for the first time.

It’s not until after Harker escapes from the female vampires’ deadly spell that he realizes Dracula, his host, only wants one thing: human blood.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle, also called Dracula’s Castle. Stoker may have used it as inspiration for his book.

This fictional story is from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written in 1897 and renowned all over the world. Today, the book’s basis in history and connection to real people and events is what fascinates me most.

Because it uses fiction to tell the truth about a brutal 15th-century ruler, Vlad the Impaler. He and Dracula shared a thirst for blood, one while defending Transylvania and the other while trying to survive and grow the domain of the undead.

This idea of fiction being used to shed light on the truth is key to all good storytelling. Whether you’re writing a novel about vampires or a blog post about your business, the ability to educate and entertain your audience is powerful.

Here’s how you can incorporate history (fact) and horror (fiction) into your marketing strategy to capture and hold your readers’ attention.

Inform with the facts

Without Dracula, Vlad the Impaler’s life and bloodthirsty reputation might have remained largely a mystery.

The fact Vlad’s father’s name was Vlad Dracul and he became known as Draculea, “Son of Dracul”, is no coincidence; the ruler’s name and his cruel punishment tactics (impaling his enemies on stakes), were the perfect inspiration for Stoker’s vampire.

Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler

Knowing this gives Dracula another dimension. The vampire becomes more real because of Vlad and thanks to the Wallachian prince, readers are more invested in Stoker’s bloodsucking creature.

As a business, think about your different dimensions. Give your audience everything they need to know to make an informed decision about your product or service.

Using your homepage, landing pages, blog, newsletters, social media — all your content channels — set the scene, describe every benefit of your offering and paint a real picture of how your reader’s life will be transformed by your one-of-a-kind workshop, sustainable clothing line, etc.

There are a number of ways to do this including:

  • Sharing the story of how your organization came about
  • Telling your community exactly who you are (reinforce your core values)
  • Describing exactly what your thing does (material, look, feel, etc.)
  • Explaining how their life will change for the better (testimonials, case studies, research)
  • Providing them with something of value: a solution, an answer, expert advice

Think of what is relevant to your community right now. Pinpoint the stage they are on in their customer journey and produce useful content that they care about and can gain something from.

Give them Vlad. Just try not to scare any customers away.

Entertain with fiction

This is where the terrifyingly good content comes into play.

It’s the wolves howling outside the castle and the paleness of Dracula’s skin. It’s the blood from a shaving cut that causes the vampire to pounce on his house guest.

Dracula_by_Hamilton_Deane_&_John_L._Balderston_1938

Poster for a production of “Dracula” by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.

In Stoker’s case, the gory details and bone-chilling plot twists are what entice the reader, leaving them wanting more.

Most likely your content won’t grow its audience by frightening them (unless you run a haunted house), but if you incorporate the elements below into your blog, newsletter, social posts, you will draw in and engage with your readers:

  • Use eye-catching headlines that clearly state the value readers will receive in exchange for their time
  • Create a bond with your community by being passionate about your product and speaking from your heart
  • Satisfy readers’ desires with a series of blog posts on a popular topic. Then package it into a free e-book!
  • Give a new perspective on your industry. Be different than your competitors.
  • Make sure your call to actions pop on the page and are easy to understand
  • Choose compelling images and user-friendly designs

Remember that your content marketing should imitate fiction in its power to captivate an audience, make them feel a special connection to the story and persuade them to keep reading. Your content shouldn’t ever be fake, fabricated or untrue.

Virginia Woolf put it succinctly: “Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction… “

People want the facts, but they also want to feel and experience something. That’s the bloody truth.

via Giphy

Old Station House B&B

A Bed & Breakfast Guide to Attracting New Visitors to Your Site

The sun was setting as we walked up to our bed and breakfast in Broadway, a charming village in the Cotswolds.

Andy opened the door with a warm handshake and a smile, welcoming us inside so we could drop our bags before he gave us a tour of the house.

Starting in the entranceway, he gave us a brief history of the house,  which used to be the station master’s house in the early 1900s. This is the exact location, he explained, where the steam railway’s operator lived and managed the train line.

Inside the Old Station House

View from inside the Old Station House B&B.

By the door, Andy pointed out some flashlights that we could borrow at night and just inside the door he showed us a table full of brochures and guidebooks on Broadway and the surrounding countryside.

As Andy led us through the breakfast room, living room and up to our bedroom, my boyfriend and I immediately felt welcome and at home knowing exactly where everything was and how everything worked, from putting in our breakfast order to indulging in a nightcap before bed.

He pointed out the obvious (“Here’s the snack bar”) and the not so obvious (“The hallway lights are on a timer”), leaving no questions in our minds. Little did he know, but Andy was perfectly exemplifying how your website’s content can attract more people and convert more prospects.

Using Andy as our guide, here are three benefits of being as clear and transparent with your site’s visitors as possible. 

Your readers feel welcome

During Andy’s tour, he told us since we were staying in one of the smaller rooms that we could spend as much time in the living room as we’d like. 

Oh, and the light in the bathroom, he made sure to tell us might not turn on completely (it’s only happened once or twice) but the light above the mirror should be bright enough if needed.

Fireplace

Our favorite feature of the house.

His explicit instructions and homey tips for our stay put us completely at ease.

To provide this sense of comfort to your audience, use straightforward headlines on your blog posts that tell readers exactly the benefits they will receive by clicking through. Also, make sure your landing pages have uncomplicated titles, use clear language and a clean layout with ample white space.

It’s easy for customers to find their way around

Shortly after our arrival, we knew exactly where we could find things, and if not we knew we could ask Andy. The first morning, we even knew to put the long spoons we used for jam in a tall, clear glass so they wouldn’t leave sticky spots behind.

Everything was intuitive and easy to follow.

That’s what your website should strive to do — seamlessly lead your visitors from one page to another while providing them with the information they need to learn more about your service and purchase your product.

You can do this with the headline and layout suggestions above along with call-to-actions that pop out on the page, an easy way to contact you directly and user-friendly navigation.

These guidelines also apply to things like your business’ social media posts and newsletters — always aim to make your outreach messages clear with unambiguous directions so that your readers know exactly what to do next and are therefore more inclined to click to learn more.

A return visit is more likely

The night before we left the bed and breakfast, Andy reminded us that the steam railway reopens in March and when the weather is warmer, the village is buzzing with things to do.

He also told us he’d be happy to pick us up from the train station next time and if we wanted to go on a new hike, he would drop us at a footpath in the town nearby and show us which pubs and gardens to stop at along the way.

Inside the bed and breakfast

Train station touches were found around the house.

In other words, he gave us many reasons to come back. And I’m certain we will!

So when thinking about how to get visitors to return to your site, think about what you can offer them: free expert advice, exclusive deals and discounts, an online course, downloadable templates. Be creative! Put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and ask, why would I go here and not somewhere else? 

If you get stuck, remember Andy and his wife, Jenni — the perfect hosts. They made us feel right at home by giving us a carefully thought-out tour, precise instructions and multiple reasons to plan a return trip.

All photos by Alex Chirita.

crystal ball

The Crystal Ball of CBA Content: 5 Bright Visions

It’s only natural, or supernatural rather, to look at the year ahead each January.

In the past, I kept my goals largely to myself, but now that I’m fully responsible for the direction and success of my work life, I’ve decided to spend some time reflecting on the past year and set goals for this one.

So let’s gather around the crystal ball of CBA Content and look into the future. With a little imagination, you will see five visions have already appeared!

So, what are they and what do they mean?

Here are five bright plans for CBA Content this year:

1. Pitch more articles

Writing is at the core of CBA Content. Whether it’s in the form of proposals, brainstorming sessions, compelling headlines or marketing materials, writing is how I communicate, create and bring ideas to life.

While writing will remain the foundation of my business, I plan to use it more as a research, reporting and journalistic outlet. That means pitching more articles to more publications in the hopes of getting rejected more (yes, rejected!) and published more.

The fear of being rejected is what usually held me back from not pitching articles in the past, but those days are over. My “Pitch Log” gained its first entry of 2019 yesterday and will soon see its second.

*scribbles down “New story idea” on to do list*

2. Be patient

Failure and success — landing that byline or new client project — require patience.

The first part of the equation, not hearing back or being turned down, is all too familiar to the seasoned freelancer. But for me, someone who is still learning the ins and outs of this independent work life, understanding that the next collaboration will take time to secure and get off the ground will be key in 2019.

In the early days of CBA Content, I was quick to say yes to anything. Even after a client project was in motion, I’d accept new responsibilities and take on more without batting an eye because that comes with the territory, right? Be flexible, balance your time, be the solution even if you don’t have one yet.

Yes, those are important, but so too is patience. This year, I will remember that you don’t have to jump on every single opportunity. Instead, I will practice putting myself out there more, worrying less about silent prospects and dedicating more time to building quality partnerships.

Which leads me to my next goal…

3. Focus on quality over quantity

The most obvious way to grow a freelance business is to take on as many clients and new projects as possible. Jump from one marketing campaign to a social media update to a blog post, whether for the same brand or not.

Because the reasoning goes, the more work you do, the more money you’ll make. But, there is another way.

Instead of piling on each request that comes your way, take a moment (read: be patient) and list out the pros and cons of the project. Ask yourself: How will it benefit you in the long run? Can you leverage this type of work to win new business or grow your existing partnership? Do you have the bandwidth to take it on? etc.

It’s easy to be distracted by the numbers game, thinking because you have more to do, the more successful you are; however, this year I will be more discerning about the types of projects I take on. Having one quality client partnership with a clear path forward is better than having three short-lived ones.

4. Embrace my creativity

This vision is based on another astrologer’s predictions which means it’s doubly important (stay with me!).

Time Out London, one of my weekly tube reads, published a 2019 cultural horoscope this week and I love the way CBA Content’s stars (aka mine) have aligned: “Expect new-found courage and creative energy over the next 12 months, Leo.”

So besides visiting the National Gallery and V&A more often, I plan to use these artistic adventures as opportunities to think in new ways, connect the dots and grow my work.

I’ve got my notebook in hand. Now, time to follow the stars, explore and absorb.

5. Celebrate!

After all, how are you supposed to achieve your goals without celebrating along the way?

The kind of celebration I’m talking about is showcasing my work and sharing it with all of you more often. Whether that’s through my website or on social media, this is something I really want to get better at.

In the short term, that means creating a portfolio of the marketing projects I have worked on so far. It also means keeping my list of published work up to date.

In terms of the big picture, I want to celebrate the fortunate opportunity I’ve had to start CBA Content and pursue my passion for helping others tell their stories, all in a city that I love — London.

Now that’s something worth celebrating. Cheers to 2019!

Why French Cuisine is Good for Content Marketing

“[T]hey know what to do with every scrap of hoof, snout, entrail, and skin … Because they grew up with that all-important dictum. Use everything! (And use it well.)”

This is how Anthony Bourdain describes the French style of cooking in his book, A Cook’s Tour.

I picked up his collection of food and travel tales before my last plane trip and have since been reliving his fearless and much-missed spirit through his writing.

He brings up French cuisine when talking about creating magic with food. To him, these classically-trained chefs are experts of taking the most unglamorous ingredients — “boiled tongues, tails, bones, and cheap root vegetables” — and turning them into something delicious, like pot-au-feu.

Not unlike how content marketers strip down a business’s purpose, down to the core, so that they can then reconstruct its message in many different meaningful and relevant ways.

Because when done right, content marketing doesn’t appear as a business-driven message at all, but as a story you want to read, a song you want to sing, a feeling you want to have.

So how do you go from a word or an idea to captivating someone’s attention and evoking emotions? Like the French, start with the basics and build from there.

know the exact ‘ingredients’ of your business

What does your business do for its customers that is better and distinct from the competition? In other words, what are the main elements that go into your company’s special sauce?

mixing ingredients

What ingredients go into your business?

Is your product or service easy-to-use? Eco-friendly? High-quality? Backed by research?

Once you know the essential components of your business, then you can begin to shape your brand’s point of view and unique approach to a particular problem.

This thorough understanding of what goes into your offerings will make it much easier to create effective landing pages, start a conversation on social media and focus your e-newsletters.

keep it simple (especially when the idea is complex)

Remember, as Bourdain points out, you have to start with “scraps and trimmings and fat, ground up and seasoned” to get pâté.

In marketing terms, that is to say, if you are trying to communicate a complicated concept to your audience, there are always ways to break it down and reconstruct it so that your customer not only understands the message but can also relate and empathize with it.

Marketers can do this by being empathetic themselves, trying their best to absorb the pain points and desires of your prospects and customers.

By putting yourself in their shoes, you can more easily see what questions they might have and what problems they are seeking to solve. Then, tell them how your business can be their solution in a clear and to-the-point way.

Talk to them, person to person. And tell them what to do next.

Which leads me to tip #3…

use your words — in a myriad of different ways

Your underlying message will remain the same for the most part (e.g. we’re credible, we’re classic, we’re dedicated, etc.) but how you present it will vary in every context.

On a landing page, for instance, you’ll have a headline, subheadline, copy and call-to-action to convey your message. This checklist will help make sure your content is easy to read and understand.

Creating a post for social media, however, will take on a different tone and appearance. It will be conversational in style, shorter and visually engaging.

There are lots of other content types that your marketing strategy will include and therefore lots of options when it comes to putting it together and sharing it with your audience. Sometimes fewer words will work better, or a graphic or a series of newsletters.

What’s important is how you decide to tell your business’s story (hint: follow the French’s lead to create something truly special):

Those shrewd and wily French toiled mightily over the years, figuring out ways to make just about everything that grazed, creeped, swam, crawled, or hopped, and every growing thing that poked through soil, rotted on the vine, or hid under dung, into something edible, enjoyable — even magical.

silhouette of woman

3 Ways Mary Poppins Can Magically Boost Your Business

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Play games, all sort

 

Does that bring back any childhood memories?

Luckily for Jane and Michael Banks, the qualifications set out in their Perfect Nanny advertisement brought Mary Poppins down from her cloud and into their playroom.

A little magic could’ve had something to do with it, but I think Jane and Michael’s detailed letter painted such a clear picture of who they wanted that there was only one answer: Mary Poppins.

After rewatching the film on a plane trip recently and babysitting two of my favorite kids last week (No, I’m not comparing myself to Mary Poppins … well, maybe just a smidge?), it occurred to me that Jane and Michael’s advertisement perfectly exemplifies how your business should approach its marketing strategy — with precision, passion and purposefulness.

Using their nanny wish list as a guide, here’s how your company can incorporate the three P’s (above) into your content marketing plan to successfully connect with and grow your audience.

1. get to the heart of your business and audience

Jane and Michael had been around enough nannies to know exactly the type of person they didn’t want. So instead of getting stuck with another unfavorable caretaker, they wrote down every desirable trait they could think of:

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Like the Banks children, get to know your product or service better than anyone else. This not only includes the technical aspects of your business (what it is, how it works, why it’s better than others, etc.) but also understanding your audience and what they are thinking throughout the customer journey.

One way to do this is through empathy mapping, where you write down what your prospect or customer is thinking and feeling before, during and after they have purchased your product. This will help you visualize your ideal customer, create a bond with your audience and tell the story (i.e. provide the solutions) they care about.

2. relate to your customer on a personal level

Once you’ve come up with your ideal customer (a specific name helps, too), it will be a lot easier to focus your marketing message and give your brand a voice.

Like Michael, don’t be shy about what you like and dislike — “and never smell of barley water”.

After all, your business was created to attract like-minded people. The type of people who agree on one thing and have an aversion to others.

Your service is not for everyone, so your brand’s story shouldn’t be either. Appeal to your audience’s emotions and stand up for what your business believes in, as long as it is relevant to your mission. Wondering the best way to do this? These three tips will help get you started.

3. Don’t forget your call to action

You’ve done your research, you know the ins and outs of your service and you’ve begun to connect with your ideal customer on a personal level. Now, how can your prospects take the next step and purchase your service?

Through your call to action.

Jane and Michael do this with their newspaper advertisement, of course. They even instill a sense of urgency — “Hurry, Nanny!”

Sure enough, the next day, Mary Poppins arrives and blows the competition away (quite literally).

To achieve the same effect and present your audience with a magical solution, you need to thoroughly and directly communicate what your product or service does. Describe its features on a landing page, create a video showing how it works, post photos of what it looks like.

At the same time, your action content is illustrating the benefits of choosing your service. The goal is to clearly depict how your product will make their lives better. Customer testimonials and case studies are great at this.

The last and most important step is to then provide a simple, obvious way for them to: follow you on social media, download your ebook, sign up for your newsletter, buy your clothes.

Whatever it is you would like your prospects or community to act on, make sure you give them an easy way, like a colorful button or pop-up window, to do so.

If sending your message up the chimney will help your ideal customer find you, then follow Mr. Banks’ lead. All I know is that a bit of Mary Poppins magic will make your business “practically perfect in every way.”

Fields of lavender

How to Grow Your Content Strategy Like Lavender

Walking through lavender fields in south London last weekend, I was filled with happiness.

The beauty, the sight, the smell was all a delight.

This new experience wandering through rows of lavender got me thinking — is it possible to give your audience a similarly positive experience through content?

Turns out, yes it is.

Lavender has three qualities that make for an exceptional content marketing strategy.

1. Grow gradually

Just as lavender takes one to three months to sprout, it will take time for your content to attract and engage new readers.

As a business, you will use different types of content across a range of online channels (your website, social media, newsletters, etc.) to draw in prospects, interact with followers and encourage them to take a specific action.

None of this happens overnight and no one piece of content magically makes your company successful. However, knowing which content is used to produce specific outcomes will help you gradually grow your business.

Here’s a quick rundown of content types:

Attraction content helps build a following.

It’s content that:

  • Communicates the value your reader will get in exchange for their time
  • Is free to consume
  • Specific, relevant and eye-catching

Bee pollinating lavender

Your content should attract readers like lavender does to bees

Action content motivates behavior.

It’s content that describes:

  • What your business stands for
  • What your product or service does
  • How you solve your audience’s problems
  • A clear next step for your reader to take

Authority content illustrates your expertise.

It’s content that:

  • Helps your audience by offering solutions
  • Shows you are a leader in your field
  • Your audience can trust
  • Encourages other people to link to and share

Affinity content creates a bond.

It’s content that:

  • You and your audience agree on
  • Your reader believes in and likes
  • Is passionate, genuine and important tor your brand

2. Nurture your evergreen

Lavender is an evergreen plant, able to last years after its flowers are dried out. This quality also makes lavender a very versatile shrub. It can be used as decoration, perfume, a deterrent (to pesky mothballs), in tea and much more.

That is the goal for your content: to be long-lasting and to offer a number of solutions.

Always think about how you can extend the shelf life of your content and adapt it across different platforms. Ultimately, you want any future visitor to be able to use, learn and benefit from your content in some way.

You could create a video, for example, on how to use your service and publish it on your  YouTube channel. Or write a blog post series on one topic and turn it into a podcast (or vice versa).

The possibilities are endless; just remember that evergreen content will benefit your readers long after it’s published.

3. Prune at set times

While it’s recommended to prune lavender soon after it’s been planted and once a year following that, you’ll want to look after your blooming content strategy on a more frequent basis.

There are multiple ways to tweak and improve your content plan as you go:

  • Analyze the metrics to see which content performed the best
  • Collect user comments and answer their pain points with solutions
  • Ask your audience for feedback, using a customer survey for instance
  • Listen to what your prospects are saying on social media

The great thing about content is that it is adaptable and easy to adjust throughout all stages of your marketing strategy.

Taking the time to evaluate what is working and what isn’t, is crucial. It lets you see what resonates with your audience and in turn, gives you the insight to grow worthwhile relationships with your customers.

So, the next time you feel stuck in your content creation process, take a deep breath and imagine you’re in a field of lavender. Its purple leaves now represent much more than a soothing remedy.

Celeste in lavender fields

Lavender is good for the soul … and your content strategy!

woman on laptop

Real Talk: What’s Content (and Why Should You Care About It)?

You’ve heard this term, “content”, being thrown around a lot lately.

“If you’re not producing content, then do you even exist?” they say.

The word even makes up half of my business’s name.

But really, what is it? And why does it matter to your business?

Since there is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions, let’s use something we’re all familiar with to talk about different content types and functions — weddings.

Just like there’s no one way to throw a wedding, there’s no one way to create and use content.

All the colors of content

Blog posts are probably the most common type of content that people discuss, but there are many other shades of content out there.

Consider going to a New Orleans wedding versus a Greek wedding — the first traditionally has a second line during the reception while the second usually includes smashing plates for good luck.

Likewise, different types of content can be seen across a variety of businesses. If you primarily manage a YouTube channel, for instance, you will produce mainly videos. Or, if you teach writers how to put together a novel, then you might have a webinar series that takes them through each step of writing a book.

Depending on what you specialize in will determine which type of content will resonate most with your audience.

This list will help get your creative juices flowing when deciding which way to educate, entertain or persuade your community:

  • Articles, including blog posts and guest posts
  • Videos, including live streaming
  • Infographics
  • Newsletters
  • Podcasts
  • E-books
  • Photos
  • Checklists
  • Case studies
  • Social media posts
  • E-courses or webinars
  • Promotions or sales offers
  • Whitepapers

quality content matters

Now that you have an idea of how wide the content spectrum is, let’s turn to the important role it plays on your website.

And while we’re discussing the benefits of creating content, it’s safe to assume that we’re talking about quality content and nothing less.

Because just as every wedding detail is carefully thought out, so too is engaging content.

Now, what kind of effect can good content have on your business?

The short answer: a powerful one.

The impact of good content can be more abstract, like building your authority in an industry, or more tangible, like direct sales.

In addition to helping you become a greater authority in the field, content has the ability to create a bond with your community, act as a sounding board for customer pain points, solve prospects’ problems and tell your audience how life will be better with your product or service.

More concretely, content can attract new prospects or subscribers, spark new relationships with strategic partners, cultivate feedback from customers and increase your ranking on search engines.

what will your ‘happily ever after’ look like?

As we’ve discovered, your business’s “happily ever after” will take on a life of its own.

Think about your company’s personality and the characteristics that define your target audience. Is your community more social and driven by visuals or more traditional and drawn to long-form articles?

Whatever it is that groups you and your audience together, try recreating that in content form. Don’t let the endless avenues put you off. Rather, embrace the possibilities, test it out and produce more of what sticks.

P.s. If you’d like help creating content for your company, email me here and we can put a plan into action.

Royal Wedding Crowd

The Royal Wedding’s Guide to Bonding With Your Readers

“She looked back at us!”

“We totally made eye contact!”

That’s pretty much how it went (times 100) after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry rode past my friend and me during their wedding procession around Windsor.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry riding down the Long Walk in Windsor. Photo by Sydney Bailey.

We felt a real connection with Meghan, especially after seeing the personal and modern touches she put on the royal affair and feeling her American influence on the ceremony.

It’s the sort of bond your business should strive to create with your community, whether that means someone unfamiliar with your brand or a knowledgeable customer.

You can create this special rapport using what some people call “affinity” or “tribe-building” content.

This type of writing, packaged as a blog post, social media update or newsletter, can be achieved through a number of techniques, which Meghan so gracefully demonstrated on her big day.

Duchess of Sussex, take it away.

lead with your beliefs

There were little things Meghan intentionally did on her wedding day because she believed they should be done that way. She walked down most of the aisle unescorted, something no other royal bride has done.  It was also the first time a British royal wedding had an American preacher deliver a sermon.

While these weren’t the only significant wedding decisions Meghan and Harry made, each of them sent a modern, more inclusive message to the world.

Meghan stayed true to her roots on her wedding day and the same should be the case when you create affinity content.

Since you want to attract people who share the same beliefs as you, it’s important to let your audience know what your company is passionate about. There is no point in trying to be all things to all people either because your business should stand for one particular person, not everyone.

By leading with your beliefs — those relevant to your brand — your message will narrow in on your target audience, attract like-minded people and lay the groundwork for a meaningful bond.

Speak from your heart

As cheesy as this sounds, I could feel the love emanating from Meghan and Harry. You could hear it in their vows and see it in their first kiss.

Without getting sappier, the royal couple was the epitome of two people who fell in love and came together in holy matrimony.

These are the vibes that you want your tribe-building content to give off.

Be passionate and play to the emotions of your audience. Your message should draw out a feeling from your reader — the same feeling you have towards a problem or desire.

Once they realize they share that feeling with you, they begin to relate to your company on a more personal level.

In your approach, it is OK to be upfront and candid with your reader, but also remember not to overdo it. Over-the-top statements or exaggerations can come off as phony and backfire with your audience.

be true to yourself

This last ingredient brings out the best in your community bonding skills.

From the outward displays of Meghan’s American background to the inward love she felt for Harry, it was Meghan’s authenticity that shone through every step of the day and captured people’s hearts around the world.

There are many reasons people feel a connection to Meghan. Maybe because she’s American or a women’s rights advocate or was an actress on Suits.

And there are also reasons why people are just beginning to be charmed by her. Because she is something  — American, biracial, feminist, etc. — and symbolizes ideals — the American dream, the power of love, a fairytale life — that people hold onto and want to be a part of.

Meghan is human, just like you and me. We can relate to her, which is huge considering that’s not always an inherent trait in the royal family.

That’s the key — to genuinely relate to your prospects and customers. Because being open, leading with your beliefs and speaking from your heart is how others will begin to trust you, like you and have a rapport with you.

Now, keep calm and bond on!

Horses

Two Windsor Greys make way for Meghan and Harry’s carriage.

girl in market

Easy as (Pizza) Pie: How to Make Your Customer Say Yes

Marinara or Margherita?

Coca-Cola, birra or acqua?

That’s how they take your order at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples, what some consider to be the best pizza place in the world.

Sure, it doesn’t hurt that this was the pizza Elizabeth Gilbert affectionately described in Eat, Pray, Love, but part of the restaurant’s appeal is also its simplicity. They make two types of pizza in one brick oven and offer three kinds of drinks while you wait.

No menu. No-nonsense decisions. Just happy customers.

Pizza from L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele

I heart pizza and websites that make it easy for me to say yes.

So, how can you make your online customers act and feel the same?

By creating content that clearly defines your product or service and motivates behavior.

More specifically, by addressing these four questions and incorporating their answers into your sales and signup pages.

1. Why choose your service over someone else’s?

Framed on the wall next to our table in the pizzeria was the excerpt from Eat, Pray, Love that details Elizabeth’s infatuation with their Margherita pizza. And on adjacent walls were family photos and pictures of celebrities at the restaurant.

These customer memories and stories are like testimonials for their business. They tell visitors what others think of their pizza and how this tradition has been passed down through generations. Together, they bring this famous Napoli experience to life.

So before asking someone to subscribe to your newsletter or buy a pair of your shoes, give your offer some context and let your customers know you are an authority in your industry.

For example, you could include a testimonial from a past customer to show how your product helped solve their problem. Or add a certification badge or award you received to the page as a symbol of your brand recognition.

Bottom line: give them a way to trust your service and assure them you are the best solution to their problem.

2. What exactly are you offering?

At the pizzeria, everyone around us was at various stages of digging into their pizza so we knew exactly what to expect. Plus, the smells coming from the brick oven were so divine you could almost taste the dough.

Brick pizza oven

Seeing and smelling the pizza just made us want it more. Photo by Christie Jones.

Even though your website can’t capture your customer’s senses the same way, it can use descriptive writing and visuals to tell them what your sofa feels like, how it looks inside a living room, what it’s made of, etc.

Similarly, a sales page dedicated to purchasing your e-book can include a picture of its front cover or a sneak preview of its opening chapter. The landing page could also include a table of contents and a summary of what the publication is about.

In other words, the more tangible you can make your offer, the better.

3. How will it make your customer’s life better?

The pizzeria has it easy here because when does pizza not make your life better?

In all seriousness, spelling out the benefits of purchasing your product or signing up for your service is a crucial part of getting your customer to say yes. There are many ways to illustrate the value your solution provides, but these questions are a good place to start:

  • What positive outcomes will your customer gain from this purchase or expert knowledge?
  • How will your product or service make your customer feel?
  • Is there research or data that backs up your user-friendly software or posture-correcting pillow?

This is where case studies and glowing customer reviews can help convince others to take the next step. If favorable stats support your business idea or people have flattering things to say about their experience using your service, put them next to the offer.

Remember, real-life examples and scientific evidence are great ways to reassure your customer that your product works.

4. Is it super easy for your customer to take the next step?

As you’ve gathered by now, the pizzeria couldn’t have made it easier for you to order a pizza pie. So easy in fact, I sort of wish every lunch order was that uncomplicated.

That’s the goal you should shoot for when creating a call to action (CTA)keep it simple and specific so there’s zero confusion on what to do next. Visually and verbally, your CTAs should stand out on the page and clearly lead the visitor to sign up or complete a transaction. More on how to do that here.

So the next time you offer a solution to your audience, don’t leave them in limbo, wondering whether they should say yes. Instead, show off your specialized experience, help them visualize your product, spell out the benefits and take them directly to the next step.

Serve them an irresistible slice of your business and they won’t be able to say no.

blue butterfly

The Simple Art of Differentiating Yourself (and Attracting an Audience)

One of the first things you see when you exit the train station in Bath, Somerset, is an iconic British telephone booth filled with flowers.

I’ve seen lots of red telephone booths, some lined with books inside, others vandalized and wreaking of urine, but never filled with purple primroses and intertwining ivy.

I took a photo of it thinking it’d be the only one in town.

Luckily, there was another one just around the corner.

Turns out, this is a trademark of Bath’s. Or another way of putting it — it is their unique selling proposition (USP). They reimagined an antiquated communication system and turned it into something you might encounter in a Lewis Carroll book.

It catches your eye and makes you think, why doesn’t London do that?

But that’s exactly what adds to Bath’s unique appeal. The city is smaller, quainter and has special touches like flower-filled phone booths.

Like Bath, your business needs to have a reason why people decide to visit your website or storefront.

What do you do differently and better than your competitors? It is this distinction, your USP, that will attract the right people to your brand.

Here’s how differentiating yourself and promoting your USP can be the simplest way to grow your audience and increases sales.

YOUR USP sets you apart

Roughly 2.6 million blog posts have been published so far today.

That’s a whole lot of content options for your audience to choose from.

Why would they visit your blog then and spend time on your site?

Because they value whatever makes your product or service different — a love of all things handmade, an eco-friendly approach or a long history of exceptional performance.

Your brand personality, motto or experience jumps out at them because it is relevant and/or appeals to them.

YOUR USP zooms in on your audience

A direct (and positive!) result of setting yourself apart is a clearer picture of who you are trying to reach.

Whether you share a belief with your audience or have a similar personality or way of doing something, that likeness is what groups you and your community together.

This likeness, originating from your USP, is baked into everything you do, and gradually attracts the right people to your brand.

So rather than casting a wide net in hopes of attracting a bigger audience, concentrate on your distinguishing trait and focus on drawing in those who you have something in common with. This will make it much easier for your target audience to recognize you and become a valuable part of your community.

YOUR USP naturally generates engaging content

Once you decide what your special X factor is, put it at the center of everything you do.

That way you have a guiding light, so to speak, that makes it obvious which direction your blog posts, newsletters and company’s content should take.

If achieving a meditative mindset is at the core of your yoga clothing line, then your content should revolve around a mindful lifestyle. You could write a blog about morning routines for a productive day. Or shoot a video of your favorite meditative poses. Or team up with a healthy food store and host a yoga event.

The possibilities are endless when you clearly define what makes you different. 

Whatever your X factor may be, it is essential in catching your audience’s attention. It not only provides a meaningful connection to your community, but it also makes it much easier to create compelling content.

Think of the flower-filled telephone booth and capture your customer’s imagination with your USP.

woman working on website

The ‘This Is Us’ Approach to Evaluating Your Online Business

While catching up on one of my favorite American TV shows, This Is Us, Beth and Randall (a married couple) played a game called “Worst-Case Scenario.”

It’s like a mental check they do with each other when something goes wrong.

For example, when their foster daughter, Deja, is being difficult and moody all the time, they imagine what would happen in the worst-case scenario. Randall suggests Deja will kill them in their sleep and end up on the streets doing drugs (dark I know, but that’s the point). Then Beth, trying to top Randall, suggests Deja will kill them while they are awake and eventually turn their other two daughters into prostitutes.

As you can see Beth and Randall are pretty good at the game—taking it to the extremesbut once they’ve thought about the worst-case scenario, it’s easier for them to see the bright side of things and confront the difficult situation head-on.

The beauty of the game is that you can play it with anything, like your website and online business. And before jumping to conclusions and thinking this is some cruel exercise, don’t worry. It’s actually kind of fun (and completely harmless) to think how terribly wrong some things can go.

Plus, you end up seeing things in a more positive light once you’ve considered the worst.

So let’s play

Worst-case scenario: your website doesn’t have any content on it. There’s no blog with helpful posts or inspiring ideas for your visitors. There’s no newsletter sign-up form to connect with your audience. There are no landing pages to promote your products or services.

The result? No one can find you on Google, no one will visit your site and no one will buy your eco-friendly clothes or use your professional catering service.

Now let’s pretend we’re playing with Beth, who considers another, grimmer situation.

Worst-case scenario: your website is bland and doesn’t offer anything new or interesting to your visitor. Equally as bad, the homepage claims that your real estate experience is “simpy the best”. There are no calls to action and your blog posts from 2010 are full of real estate jargon no one can understand.

In other words, if someone lands on your site—cold, unprofessional and outdated—they will immediately leave. There goes another potential customer.

On the bright side

Your website isn’t like this in reality. And if it is…well hey, at least you have a website, right? Not quite…we should talk about how to spruce it up if that’s the case.

As a business owner or someone who is trying to gain exposure online, it’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to get right.

Before creating content and providing solutions for your audience, think about the big picture:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • What makes my product or service different and better than the competition?
  • What are my customer’s pain points and how can I help them?

Knowing the answers to these questions first will make it easier to organize your website and produce meaningful and engaging content for your online community.

Make your website the best-case scenario

The next time you step back and reflect on what your website is doing well and what it can improve on, take Beth and Randall’s approach: what is the worst outcome of running your online business like “x”?

Nine times out of 10, your website is not headed in that direction. You know what makes your product stand out from the competition and your passion for helping others is contagious.

Start there—with the traits and knowledge that you already have—and a clearer picture of how to grow your online business will emerge: should you share your tips with followers in a different way, or do you need to reposition the content itself?

One thing is for sure: your website is easier to confront than an unruly child.

See now? The best-case scenario is totally attainable.