The Write Way to Answer Your Most Pressing Questions

I’m going to go out on a limb here. Because what I’m about to suggest might seem a little crazy.
But it really works.
And I want you to know about this simple habit, because the sooner you adopt it, the sooner you’ll start to see what I discovered.
I stumbled upon this weird (and unexpected) benefit while I was developing a different habit.
Now the habit is a daily practice for me because of the powerful results it produces.
Move those fingers every day
The habit I was trying to develop was a daily writing practice.
Because here I am, managing the editorial direction of the Copyblogger blog. And my job includes a lot of writing.
My goal for adopting a daily writing habit was to get my writing chops into the best shape possible.
And it turns out that a daily writing practice does help. Warming up your writing brain every single day helps you lose the fear of the blank page. You get into the habit of sitting down and starting to fill the screen with letters.
But as I started writing every day, something kind of eerie started to happen.
The everyday habit that yields weird results
First off, I should tell you what my daily practice looks like.
I use a website called This site does a few things that help keep me on track. It features:

A completely private, distraction-free writing space
Encouragement to write at least 750 words each day
A daily email reminder to get your words written
A chart that is

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The Traffic Light Revision Technique for Meticulously Editing Your Own Writing

As a Los Angeles native, I know a thing or two about sitting in traffic.
I’m talking about physically sitting in your car while stopped in traffic on the way to your destination — not the traffic you talk about when people visit your website.
But the two different types of traffic may not be as unrelated as you think.
A lack of objectivity
One of my favorite observations about traffic jams is that sometimes you’re the one accidentally blocking an intersection with your car — making it difficult for other drivers to move forward on the road — and sometimes you’re the one honking at the person blocking an intersection.
If you drive on a regular basis on crowded streets, you fluidly move between these two roles.
While it’s easy to recognize another driver’s mistakes, and criticize her shortcomings or behavior that has frustrated you, it’s difficult to objectively observe and accurately assess your own actions (and possible missteps).
When you block an intersection, you don’t necessarily regard yourself in the same disapproving way you regard another driver when he blocks your path.
The same lack of objectivity is present when you write.
The discerning taste of an onlooker
As you develop a content-based business on your own digital media platform, you need to evaluate your writing with the discerning taste of an onlooker.
The problem is: you can’t magically become another person with an objective outlook. However, there are ways I’ve found that help you look at your writing like an outsider who

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How to (Rapidly) Build an Audience with Content Syndication

Content syndication is sort of like guest posting on steroids. You get all the benefits of guest posting without the work because you use one article to show up on different websites.
But which websites you publish on matters. Which is why host Demian Farnworth asked Belle Beth Cooper to come on today’s special interview edition of Rough Draft.
Belle’s articles have been syndicated on Business Insider, Fast Company, and Lifehacker. On average, her articles were generating tens of thousands of views, several thousand social shares, and driving a ridiculous amount of traffic back to her website.
She’s Demian’s textbook example of someone who’s grown an audience through content syndication. So, naturally, she’s a great resource — full of tips, wisdom, and useful warnings about what not to do.
In this 20-minute episode of Rough Draft with Demian Farnworth and Belle Beth Cooper, you’ll discover:

One thing you must do when a big site re-publishes your article
The trick to driving traffic back to your site from syndicated content (your byline won’t do it)
Why content syndication won’t ruin your Google rankings
How to keep your syndication relationship alive with a big publisher
What never to do with syndicated content

Click Here to Listen toRough Draft on iTunes
Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM
About the authorRainmaker.FMRainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

The post How to (Rapidly) Build an Audience with Content Syndication appeared first on Copyblogger.

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The Bobby McFerrin Plan for Creating a Remarkable Business

Editor’s note: This article was Pamela Wilson’s first guest post on Copyblogger, published on March 25, 2010 — well before she joined our team as VP of Educational Content. Pamela had just completed Copyblogger’s flagship course, Teaching Sells, and was ready to expand her successful offline design business into new online territory.
I just returned from a Bobby McFerrin concert, and now I know how to run my new business.
No, this post isn’t about “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Bobby McFerrin is much more than that.
You see, I’m a little nervous. For 23 years, I’ve made my income the same way — in a service business, as a graphic designer. Clients come to me for design work. I create something for them, and bill for my time. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat for 23 years, and you have a career as a successful designer.
But that’s all about to change.
I’m venturing into new territory. I’ve started a blog. I’m putting together a course. I’m interacting with my readers. I’m supposed to let them guide me, respond to their needs, offer what they’re looking for, and everything is going to work out fine.
Except, I’m just a little terrified. How exactly is content marketing supposed to work? Who are these people I am serving, and how do I know it’s all going to come together?
And that’s where Bobby comes in
The first thing you notice when you file into the theater at a Bobby McFerrin concert is that the stage

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The Oddest Story About Overcoming Obscurity You’ll Ever Hear

It’s a monumental moment in the history of Rough Draft because we are going to break — for the first time ever — the monologue mold of Rough Draft.
In fact, we’re going to do it all week.
See, Demian Farnworth has four short interviews for you from four superb web writers. People who will teach you fabulous lessons on overcoming obscurity, finding your voice, choosing the right words, and rapidly expanding your audience.
Right now, you’ll hear from the lovely James Chartrand, a single mom with two kids who built a world-class design and copywriting boutique called Men with Pens.
But her ride wasn’t pretty. Her story is one of intrigue and forced anonymity. And downright sexism.
It’s one of unfair competition and writing $2 articles. But there are also inside jokes about dressing drag and being Canadian, and ultimately, a happy ending that culminated in a blog post on Copyblogger that blew all of our collective minds.
Demian speaks in superlatives because this story demands superlatives. And it demands your attention. Particularly if you feel alone and forgotten and like no one will ever notice you. Because the lesson is if this single mom can win the attention battle with these odds, so can you.
So pay attention …
Because in this roughly 20-minute episode of Rough Draft with Demian Farnworth and James Chartrand, you’ll discover:

Fab advice about getting noticed from a woman who chose to remain obscure
The icky environment James found herself in when

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The Disgustingly Simple Rule for Web Writing That’s Often Hard to Swallow

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on January 14, 2009. We’re bringing it back today because clear, concise writing on the web never goes out of style.
In 1964, Richard Hofstadter wrote a Pulitzer-prize-winning book called Anti-Intellectualism in America. This rich, thorough book exposed the thread of anti-intellectualism that runs through the culture of practical America.
For example, even though the founding fathers were sages, scientists, and men of cultivation, the Federalists attacked their curiosity and idealism as too trivial for important affairs.
Did you know there’s a thread of anti-intellectualism running through good web writing and design? In fact, web usability demands mindless writing and design.
Naturally, this makes some people want to vomit. That’s part of reason why I used the word “disgusting” in the headline of this blog post. So let me explain where I’m going with this.
The simple rule of web writing
Web users are mission-minded. Cramped for attention. Bent on standards. And uninterested in learning new navigation methods. What you have to remember is that people don’t go to the web to window shop.
They go there to drive 60 miles per hour — and look at billboards.
Thus, there’s only one good reason why you should learn how to write clear, concise and compelling copy for the web …
To get noticed.
That means when someone arrives on your website home page, blog, or article, they should know immediately what to expect. Everything — even your microcontent — should be

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What You Don’t Know About Copyright Can Hurt You

As writers, we are very protective of our own creations.
But when we perform research on a topic and come across the perfect passage on a website, or an image that perfectly captures the essence of the point we are trying to make, sometimes it can be tempting to just copy and paste it into our own content.
With that one move, however, you commit copyright infringement — which could cost you your reputation and your business.
Copyright infringement is serious
Since it can be difficult to determine whether or not you’re committing copyright infringement, you may violate someone else’s copyright even if you don’t intend to.
What if a website does not display a copyright notice? Does “fair use” allow you to use someone else’s copyrighted work?
If you use a copyrighted work without permission from the copyright owner, it’s infringement. Period.
It can be costly just to be accused of copyright infringement.
You may have to hire an attorney to defend yourself in court. If you settle out of court, the amount you might owe could bankrupt you or your business. Plus, it often takes a fair amount of time to resolve an allegation of copyright infringement.
Knowing how to proceed when you encounter someone else’s copyrighted work can help keep you out of trouble.
How to avoid copyright infringement
1. Don’t copy and paste someone else’s copyrighted work without permission from the copyright owner(s)
Permission to use a copyrighted work should be in writing, and should detail exactly what you can and cannot

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The Powerful Resource You Always Have When Presented with Creative Challenges

In the fall of 2008, I had every aspect of running my online copy editing business carefully mapped out — but the unpleasant reality that callously illuminated my pretty little map was that there wasn’t much of a business to run.
I had a few clients to keep me busy, but I put way too much hope in my bare-bones website.
At the time, I thought that the mere presence of a website would make clients flock to me and graciously ask for writing help. I’d have a steady flow of clients who were happy to pay me substantial fees, and to pass the time between copy editing work, I’d recline comfortably, eat bon bons, and file my nails.
I was incredibly disappointed and frustrated not only because that scenario was not my reality, but also because I didn’t know the most effective ways to promote my online business.
I pressed on and remembered that a former co-worker once mentioned a blog about online marketing called Copyblogger.
Customize your content marketing
After discovering that content marketing seemed like a great way to promote my online business, I realized I had a lot of work to do.
What was I going to write about?
If I just copied what other freelance copy editors wrote about on their blogs, my writing wouldn’t stand out.
I didn’t want to invest time creating content that would just be ignored.
As I carefully studied all of the online content I consumed, I discovered that you can observe and implement

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Revealed: The Perfect Blog Post Length

Here’s a million-dollar question: Is there a magical blog post length? In other words, should you aim for a word-count sweet spot?
The answer is no; there is not an ideal word count for a blog post. But there’s an ideal number of questions you need to ask yourself before you write.
And that magic number is 13.
Ask yourself these 13 questions and you’ll discover how long your article should be, whether or not it will be interesting, and if you even have the time to write a good article.
In this 8-minute episode of Rough Draft with Demian Farnworth, you’ll discover:

The first thing you must understand before writing
Why thinking you have to write could be killing your readership (this is for anyone who hates writing)
The mistake most web writers make about mobile
What to say when people tell you your article has to be short
Google’s idea of the perfect blog post length
Question 13 amounts to a majestic, fool-proof way of seducing readers

Click Here to Listen toRough Draft on iTunes
Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM
About the authorRainmaker.FMRainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

The post Revealed: The Perfect Blog Post Length appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Clean Up Your Sidebar!

Does your sidebar look like a cluttered closet that’s stuffed to the gills with distracting ads, images, and text?
Time to unpack your sidebar, look at everything you’ve put there, and consider whether or not it’s pulling its weight.
The result of your efforts? A sidebar that’s good for business.
This week on Hit Publish, host Pamela Wilson invited three Copyblogger experts to share their best advice on cleaning up your sidebar once and for all.
Tune in to Hit Publish to hear from host Pamela Wilson, Brian Gardner, Rafal Tomal, and Brian Clark as they discuss:

Why the very best sidebar might be no sidebar
How your design approach should change depending on where your sidebar is located
The secret power of an “accent widget”
Why sidebars are such a minefield, and how to make yours the exception to the rule

Click Here to Listen toHit Publish on iTunes
Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM
About the authorRainmaker.FMRainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

The post Clean Up Your Sidebar! appeared first on Copyblogger.

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