Lynn Blog Post ImageOn average, 8 out of 10 people will read a first paragraph, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of a blog post. So if you’ve gotten to this point, you are part of the 80% of people who read the headline copy. Now, with the tips below, you can ensure your readers join the 20 percent who enjoy the entire blog post.

Regardless of how good your content is, if the intro doesn’t grab the  attention of the reader, it’s no use. You have probably wasted your time writing a complete post that your audience simply won’t finish reading.

While blog posts are ideal for SEO purposes, as well as ways to spread interesting and engaging content, your opening statement should leap off the page and get readers engaged. As the first thing readers see, it should give readers a clear idea of what to expect to read. To ensure your posts are being read, here are a few tips on creating unique and captivating blog posts openings.

  • Questions

Have you ever found yourself completely caught up in an article? What was it that grabbed your attention? See what I just did there? I got you thinking by asking a question.

Questions engage readers immediately as a way to get them thinking while setting the tone of your blog posts as well. By asking a few questions, readers already have their wheels turning and have a good idea of what the blog post may be about.

  • State Facts

79% of people scan web content rather than read it word-for-word. By stating a fact such as statistic as an opener, you are showing readers that you’re giving them well-researched and therefore reliable information. You can use facts to give readers a better idea of where the blog post is going.

  • Quotable Quotes

“Blogging is good for your career. A well-executed blog sets you apart as an expert in your field.” Capture your readers’ attention with a quote and set forth the overall theme of the post. Whether you quote an opinion or words of wisdom, the quote you choose should set the stage for the rest of your content.

Writing a unique and captivating opening for every blog post is important, but it is only half the battle. Engage your audience by creating user-friendly content including bullet points, lists, subheadings, relevant links, white space, and various forms of media. Blog posts are ideal not only for SEO purposes, but for solidifying your stance as a thought leader in your specific industry. Ensure that your blog reflects this by creating appealin

Jen DeShields - Blog ImageI have a lot of different tasks as a Content Writer here, and if there’s one task I enjoy doing, it is creating infographics.

Infographics are a fun way to create a visual element for presenting information, and they give clients content that embodies the essence of share-ability. Infographics can be wonderful promotional tools, but only if they’re made correctly (for examples of excellent infographics, visit the Daily Infographic for examples from around the web). If you’re thinking about making an infographic for your company, remember to keep these five tips in mind:.

Tip #1: Remember that it’s not about you

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they create an infographic is intensely focusing on their company or a particular product. Infographics are meant to share information with others, not act as a blatant advertisement. Filling the infographic with the company logo and product descriptions will almost ensure that it won’t get shared, and sharing is the entire goal of creating an infographic. Discretely placing your company logo somewhere in the graphic is fine, but avoid making your company the focus of it.

Tip #2: Keep it simple

When it comes to infographics, simplicity is important. If you pick an idea that’s too complex, your infographic will either be too wordy and difficult to understand, or it won’t engage the reader. Instead of picking a complicated and very specific topic, think of an overarching idea that you can easily break down into different sections.

Tip #3: Show, don’t tell

Infographics should be able to tell someone information about a certain topic, but they shouldn’t heavily rely on words. Sometimes you need a sentence or two to be able to get the point across, but avoid making your infographic full of lengthy paragraphs. Photos and graphics often speak for themselves.

Tip #4: Avoid the obvious

Infographics should be teaching the reader something that they didn’t know before, and if you fill it with common sense facts, you won’t be seeing a lot of shares on your Pinterest or Facebook pages. If you’re creating an infographic about filing taxes, don’t tell your audience that April 15th is tax day and that they could face penalties if they don’t file on time. Tell them pertinent information and statistics about the number of audits the IRS gives out each year, the most common mistakes people make when filing, and the average refund amount Americans receive.

Tip #5: Create a unified visual theme

Infographics are supposed to be informational and visual, so it’s very important for your infographic to have a unified visual theme that flows well. Some people find that it’s easy to use their company’s colors to design the infographic, and others use the same font as their company logo or slogan to covertly slip in some subtle advertising. Avoid using clashing colors or using different fonts, as it can make the infographic look unattractive and disorganized.

Guest Blogger MM BoxThe door shuts, the drinks are gathered and before the first trash bag hits the can, the hosts of the party are already talking about their guests. “Did you see the shirt Bill was wearing?” “Did you notice how much Jack was talking?” “Don’t you already miss Michelle?”

The world of guest blogging is a lot like the social world we live in today. You may get invited to a party once, but if you leave a bad impression – you probably aren’t going to be welcomed back. So, how do you get your hosts to miss your content? It’s all about minding the P’s and Q’s of guest blogging.

Follow the House Rules – Is there anything worse than a guest who shows up and gets a little too comfortable with the phrase “make yourself at home?” While you certainly don’t want to completely change your writing style to appease the needs of your host, you should view the guidelines or parameters that a hosting site has put forth. Stay on topic, meet their word count and ensure your information is valuable to their audience. Mutual respect is essential to building strong blogging networks. A disregard for the rules is as annoying as a guest commandeering your iPod doc to blast the latest Nickelback hit.

Don’t Bring Unannounced Friends – While follow links may be a great friend in link building circles, they aren’t invited to most guest blogs without bringing something to the table. Much like a party that only invites guests who bring something for everyone to enjoy, most blog hosts won’t allow random links. And, guess what? That’s the way it should be. In the same way you wouldn’t show up to a party with a few unannounced friends, don’t provide a guest blog with some unwanted links. Instead, add links that boost the value of your content.

Confirm the Theme in Advance – Have you ever felt the chill of showing up to a Halloween party in a costume only to find out that it wasn’t a costume party? What? Just me? Anyway, matching the theme of a party is just as important as matching the theme of a guest blog. When your content is submitted for posting, there shouldn’t be any surprises. By confirming the theme of your piece in advance, you won’t metaphorically be left at the doorstep in your Raggedy Andy costume.

Socialize – Throwing on the headsets and playing round after round of Call of Duty is a great way to eliminate any possibility of appearing on future guest lists. Who wants to spend time with an antisocial person? This same concept is perfect for the guest blogging community. Not only should you look to provide engaging content that starts a discussion in the comment section, you should also work to promote your content. While you will certainly enjoy the increased number of eyeballs reading your content, your host will greatly appreciate the increase in quality traffic to their site.

Much like the unwritten rules of social etiquette, the guest blogging experience requires certain courtesies. Be respectful of your host, mindful of your readers, and follow some good old fashioned common sense. Following certain standards will build your reputation within the blogging community. It won’t be long before word spreads that your content is the life of the party.

Unlocking Social MediaDuring the first class of the first creative writing course I ever took, my teacher posited the question to us of what is the minimum word length a writer could write a story. I remembered that the “Cask of Amontillado” was really short, so I offered a guess of 500 words. Other classmates gave guesses of 300, 450, and 200. One courageous student said 20, but when he was asked to say a story in 20 words or less, he sunk into his seat and offered only a meager excuse of how he didn’t have his coffee yet. Admitting defeat, we deferred back to the teacher who wrote this on the board:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Although it’s been disputed whether or not Hemingway actually wrote this short story, you have to admit that the single line is rather compelling. Immediately, you ask questions of whether or not there was a baby, if the baby died in childbirth, or if the baby just had too chubby of feet to fit into the shoes. Because of the ambiguity and structure of this sentence, a linguist would have a field day with this story.

For example, in linguistics, syntax usually refers to the order of the words in a sentence and how this affects the meaning. Notice that the writer chose to end with the phrase, never worn. By doing this, it intimates that there is shame on the part of person who says it because there is a slight pause with the comma, indicating hesitation.

Let’s say you wrote the sentence like this instead: Never worn baby shoes for sale! Here, never worn is right in the forefront, suggesting that the writer is proud of the fact that the shoes have never been worn and is using this as a selling point. Although both sentences feature the same six words, there are stark differences between the two. Yet each is a story on its own – just a very different one at that.

I described my first day in Creative Writing 101 not to illustrate why I got a C in the course, but rather to show the wondrous ability writers have to create meaning out of words, even if there are many restrictions put on them.

In SEO, this is no different; in fact, some content writers might argue that SEO puts so many restrictions on them, with character limits, tone and keywords, that it creates a sink or swim situation: Either you can choose to sink amidst the limitations put on you and write the same old story, or you can choose to swim with the current and deliver the best content that you can within those parameters (such as being asked to write a story in six words or less).

If you do choose to swim, here are two things to consider that deal with linguistics:

• Don’t try to write a new story – it’ll never happen. The key in creating good content is saying the same story in a new and interesting way. In SEO, you’re writing content that is geared towards specific keywords and themes, but is there a way to write that content that will spark readers’ interests? Can you play around with word choice to derive more meaning out of those keywords, rather than just writing the same old boring content that will never get picked up by anyone? Given the fact that we use a computer screen to read pages and are, therefore, conditioned to scroll up and down and glance, can you layout and edit down your content in a way that will spark meaning within seconds in order to get the message across? It’s cliché, but how you write the story is what matters.

• Computers don’t exactly understand context. In linguistics, the ability to use context, place, intent and other factors is called pragmatics. Computers can infer meaning through latent semantic indexing, but this is no guarantee. Think of the movie, Terminator 2 when John Connor teaches the Terminator how to speak like a human. The Terminator doesn’t understand slang or sarcasm. However, by becoming more human as he stays with John and Sara, he infers the meaning of what is being said and uses phrases like “Hasta La Vista, Baby” correctly. By understanding the targeted reader of your content, you can use phrases and terms that coincide with their contextual understanding of things to connect with them and create engaging content.

By considering linguistics and rising to the occasion of working within limitations that SEO demands, you can certainly create interesting and shareable content that others will actually find compelling.

It was great seeing everybody at the IRCE 2013 in Chicago! Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth; we feel the event was extremely useful and it was a great success.

Danelsy Medrano presents at the IRCE 2013 Chicago event.

The speed at which e-commerce is developing and fueling the fire of the global economy is incredible. It’s amazing how the Internet makes it possible to overcome nearly any obstacle an entrepreneur might encounter – businesses can now expand their clientele outside their locale, have an organized space to put products on display, and provide service 24/7. E-commerce is really revolutionizing the world of retail, and that’s what we focused on at the IRCE. Conferring about the changed landscape of retail in social, mobile, global, personal, and interactive aspects brought many new ideas to the table and created some interesting discussions. We were also lucky enough to be in the presence of some really great and knowledgeable speakers who shared some valuable insights.

When you think about what makes an e-commerce website successful, SEO and web development are important tools. With the popularity of e-commerce comes competition, and in order to rise above the competition, you’ve got to have a well-developed and well-optimized e-commerce website. That’s why choosing the right e-commerce platform is so important:

  • A good platform gives you control of head and meta content. When you can customize your meta description, H1, title tag, and image alt attributes, your page is better optimized for Google.
  • A good platform allows for URL rewriting. This makes for a well-optimized page. Similarly, a platform that let you control your redirects and 404 pages is more user-friendly.
  • A good platform provides control of image handling. Some platforms will create new image URLs, which is a big don’t in the SEO world.
  • A good platform is a speedy platform. As you may have seen in our whitepaper, site speed and performance is related to conversion. You don’t want customers navigating away from their shopping cart because of a slow-loading page or page error.
  • Are you mobile? Of course, your e-commerce site should always have a mobile-formatted option so users can easily shop from their phones.

Don’t forget – it’s important to combine your solid platform with good social media,Chicago Skyline as it is becoming increasingly important in the online retail revolution. Social media makes it easy to target your ideal demographic – not to mention, 86% of American adults use social media daily, and 46% consult social media prior to making an online shopping decision.

Of course, these are just a few of many reasons why choosing the right platform is crucial to your e-commerce convers

Google I/O 2013Google I/O wraps up today, and now it’s opportune to highlight the coincidences of trends and announcements that Google is trumpeting in their Google gloryfest. My approach is to examine each of the highlights from their 3-hour keynote (!) and point out, from a business and web user perspective, what’s missing. Google has had their I/O… now, I get my Google I/O/U.

With assets such as annual revenues larger than that of all states except New York and California and Google Chrome’s 750M active users, Google is becoming the steward of your future. (“Good morning to the Senator from the great state of Google!”)

Google leverages their wealth of data and huge ad revenues to provide web users worldwide with free services. Americans are quite familiar with this revenue model. News comes in a free form, but you will be force-fed ads to earn the right to consume it.
In an effort to keep a clean balance sheet, it’s time to consider, “What does Google owe me?” and “What do I owe Google”?

Unification of Google Services
Microsoft Office Suite. Adobe Creative Suite. User Experience has vaulted thanks to some of the most-visible integrations of programs and cloud support. Uniting apps and functionality common to a vertical is old news. (We won’t even go into the controversy of ‘subscription-based software’ in the cloud). But it’s easy to see the wisdom behind merging Google+ and other Google services. User interfaces have undergone cosmetic changes that make them much more consistent across services. The integrations must go well beyond superficial, and that behind-the-scenes sharing of data has begun. Sharing of data within Google is well within their Terms of Service, so there is no protest. But has their integration efforts gone far enough? Most think not, if you read the forums and comments.

Google I/O/U: More effective options to combine accounts for improved cross-functionality and User Experience. Merge Google+ Local (formerly Places), Gmail, YouTube, etc. Put users in control of how the merging works.

Google I/O/U: While I am at it, let me state that Google services require better interfaces. Across the board. Most users I consult with on a daily basis have the same disregard (and sometimes, disrespect) for Google User Interfaces and User Experience. They suck. The level of simplicity and cosmetic appearance has improved, but have they become more intuitive? Many think not.

Big Data is a Big Deal
Google has earned their seat at the Big data table (Hadoop, anyone?), as advertisers push the edge of peta-scale data accumulation and synthesis. Some appreciate the targeted advertising that results. Some are horrified by the creepiness of so much ‘personal’ data being shared and sold and acted on.

The lack of debate about whether this is creepy or cool, the technology industry has been ranked the world’s most-trusted for the seventh consecutive year, according to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer.

At the same time, Android developer Dan Nolan of Australia found that Google provides programmer access to personal identity of app buyers, reviewers and trials.

Google I/O/U: There is nothing more valuable than User Trust. Earn it. Don’t burn it.

Google+ has a lovely, new layout on the desktop that has been described as being more like Pinterest. More columns. Wow. More data visible at once on the screens of a dying race of desktop machines. Zzz.

Google I/O/U: Mobile experience of Google+ on iOS is only fair at best. It needs better profile edibility, for one thing. Make it so.

Cards are a visual nicety, that ‘flip’ over to reveal more data on the reverse (shades of MacOS ‘Widgets’). This plays on a visual metaphor that is familiar to consumers, and provides a framework for greater use of that convention. Cards come in six ‘flavors’ and mix your habits, searches, commuting routes and more into an ever-tightening web of useful information.

Google I/O/U: Droid Voice Search and Cards have invaded iOS. How long before advertisers have the option to use the reverse of these cross-platform cards to flip to reveal Ads? Better still, ads that use all of the Circles, Search and other data to be tightly targeted, at massive scale?

Related Hashtags emerged from Google I/O as Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr and other Social Networks ride Twitter’s coattails to parlay content keywords into an ecosystem that enables better-informed Search, brand messaging and tracking of trends. google’s version will likely leverage their hoary old content analysis algorithm to discern keywords, and then their AI backend of search queries and subsequent search queries and personal preferences to add Related Keywords in the form of #hashtags. Excellent integration of a maturing user convention is on the horizon. Whether this becomes reflexive or intrusive depends on implementation, thus, it’s a crapshoot, but worth the gamble.

Google I/O/U: Bottle that Related Hashtag ability. Make it a form of metadata (similar to Facebook’s pervasive OGP) to reside in the Social Media, or, as an App that can be added. Open Graph Protocol affords Facebook an eye into one’s off-network web activities, provides authentication services, and records Likes and other forms of interaction. Could Google drive in the harpoon to leverage a similar inside job on Facebook and other Social Media? If so, Google’s own ability to provide incisive hashtagging could also feed those instances into search for general consumption. The mind reels at the possibilities. Better perception of social mentions for Google. Better and more immediate social monitoring for users, right there in their Search. For free, the Google way.

Auto-Enhance. OK, welcome to the club. Auto-Awesome. Better. Auto-Animations. All bets are off. The claim is that image processing and AI can store and examine all of your photos (those that you don’t hide from Google) and integrate portions to arrive at a better result (described as gathering all smiling faces from a series of group portraits to amalgamate one image where every subject is smiling. Other features include Collages (which any graphic software can do), Animations (AniMoto and other web services have done this for years), Panoramas (heck, my daughter’s Fuji digicam does that during shooting), Collections (from masses of uploaded photos). The good news and the bad news are simply two sides of the same coin. Yes, it’s automated. And, yes, it happens without you.

Google I/O/U: Control, Privacy — ask first. Give users an editing environment so they can have the fun. They will endorse the result better when they have put their fingerprint on it. Sharing will likely increase as a result. Oh, and please retrain all of those artists and photographers.

Google Talk Voice Search
Better than Siri? This could be the case, as Google sells the public back Google’s accumulated knowledge of themselves (G+, Google Search, Gmail, etc.).

Google I/O/U: Conversing with a personal digital assistant (RIP, Steve Jobs) is fun and all.  Give me the rest of the robot.

Music to My Ears

All Access, Google’s newly-announced $9.99 monthly streaming music service provides interest-based ‘radio station’ playlist suggestions (patent issues, anyone?). It also enables local ‘storage’ of songs. Great. Rdio and Spotify must be quaking in their boots. Owing to the service’s ubiquity, iTunes may develop a small tremor.

Google I/O/U: Wired magazine described the Netflix contest to inspire a better algorithm to surface “content suggestions” for movie-watchers. This is a huge challenge. Will it be any easier for All Access to stimulate users to more listening based on recorded interests?

Google Play
A Google developer advocate announces that they, “want the whole world to play together”. Development APIs come and go, morph and change, but their own Play developer API is now open and platform-agnostic. This goes beyond the “Open Garden” concept of moving one’s gameplay fluidly from a tablet to a laptop. Games developed on this platform can be platform agnostic. Droid devices can play games against iOS devices and other platforms.

Google I/O/U: Riveting games.

Google Maps
On the desktop, more usable screen area will be devoted to map. Then, Google will now scatter data all over the Map. Connections. Nearby. Search data.

Google I/O/U:
Be graceful in the visual interface. Some users will not appreciate clutter on the maps they are trying to see.

What’s Missing
Google Fiber did not make it to the list of Keynote highlights. As their noble experiment proceeds, to provide connection speeds 100 times faster than most of today’s broadband internet access, are consumers excited over the prospect of instant downloads and high-def communications? The tech industry, media execs and others in industry have been following the progress as it rolls out to more cities (experiment, or slow roll-out?). Yet, as disruptive as this could become, where is the hoopla? I recall a time recently, when networks ran to keep up with CPU speed. Now, CPU speeds offered by mobile devices and a faltering desktop PC industry will race to chase new throughput speeds. Whoa. Paradigm shift.

Google I/O/U: Testimonials. Consumers need to tell America whether Google Fiber has been a life-changing experience, or not.

Google Unity
Google’s efforts to entwine ‘products’, combine knowledge bases, share user profiles, and cross-pollinate are well-received. This is a welcome attempt to make strategic sense of how, “Google’s own services have been fragmented or confused at times”, according to Google Android Leader Sundar Pichai.

After-the-fact, ad hoc hybridization is a sloppy, inefficient process. In addition to opportunity, it creates development dead-ends and evolutionary cul-de-sacs (anyone recall the duck-billed Platypus?). But that process is organic and evolutionary. God would have a plan. Google has a process. It burgeons, however inefficiently, into the future. Skynet, anyone?

Google I/O/U: Continue innovating, but for goodness’ sake, don’t be evil. Have a plan, and share it.