#10 Most Read Article of 2014: Excel VLOOKUP Basics & Top 5 Mistakes Rookies Make

By John Gagnon

An Excel VLOOKUP can be your best friend. It can save you hours of work. Give this formula the information you have and it looks through a long list to return the information you need. Here’s how the formula works and common mistakes to avoid. …read more

Source: Search Engine Watch

    

#9 Most Read Article of 2014: Avoid SEO Hype: Why Small Businesses Should Focus on Return on Investment

By Adam Stetzer

If you’re a small business owner, you don’t have time to waste trying to wade through Google’s constantly shifting guidance on SEO tactics. Statistics and analytics will clearly suggest starting with PPC advertising, because it works. …read more

Source: Search Engine Watch

    

How to Face Unafraid the Plans That You’ve Made

By Jerod Morris

Later on, we’ll conspire,

As we dream by the fire

To face unafraid,

The plans that we’ve made,


Walking in a winter wonderland.

Have you caught yourself at any time over the past few days and weeks daydreaming about what you plan to do in 2015?

Maybe you have a new website idea you want to launch, or an old idea you want to complete. Maybe you want to double your number of clients. Maybe you have a new plan for positive personal habits you want to implement.

So you look to the new year.

It’s a blank slate. Anything and everything is possible. The upcoming year represents a wonderland of potential where your best-laid plans are sure to become your proudest wins and successes.

Thoughts like these keep us warm, like a fire, on winter nights, while we conspire.

But warm and fuzzy thoughts eventually have to turn into bold and consistent actions. Otherwise, what good are they?

That means facing unafraid these plans that you’ve made.

Which means taking the first step.

No more New Year’s resolutions

Every new year is a blank slate where everything is possible and plans can become proud successes.

Of course it is. Every day is exactly that too. Every moment exactly that as well.

Which is why waiting for January 1, 2015 to begin executing on a plan already in your head is arbitrary at best, fearful and self-defeating at worst.

Why are you waiting? Why not take the first step, no matter how small, right now.

Face unafraid, these plans that you’ve made.

Because if you’re waiting for the “fresh start” of 2015 to get started on some new idea, initiative, or plan, what you’re really doing is letting fear get the best of you. And you’re better than that. We all are.

You have a fresh start tomorrow, December 25, if you want it. You have a fresh start as soon as you finish reading this article, if you want it. Heck, if you’ve already read enough, you can stop reading this article right now and get a fresh start immed–.

You get the idea.

Only fear, family, or egg nog are preventing you from taking the first step on your new year journey right now. Once the egg nog wears off, just find a few private moments away from family at some point over the next week … and then all you have left to do is vanquish the fear and step into the new year (a week early).

That’s how you face unafraid, these plans that you’ve made.

What one little step can you do right now?

So what is your biggest goal or initiative — personal or professional — for 2015? What plans are you waiting for the first day of January to get started on?

And what one step can you take over the next week to get started now? To start building positive momentum immediately?

Don’t worry about thinking beyond that one step. It will inevitably lead to a second, then a third. Just take the first one. You’ll already be way ahead of the alternative — which was waiting for the new year.

Don’t do that. Don’t wait. Instead, embrace the new here. Embrace the now.

Face unafraid, the plans that you’ve made.

And walk into your winning wonderland.


Want a place to publicly declare your biggest goal for 2015 and the step you’re taking now to get started on it? Hop on over to the LinkedIn discussion and share it with the group.

Also, a tip of my winter cap to our Manager of Editorial Standards, Stefanie Flaxman, for inspiring this post. She sent me the lyric from “Winter Wonderland,” bold part included, with the explanation, “Perhaps extract that bolded lyric and apply the sentiment toward fearlessly seeing your business goals through to completion.” Great idea. Teamwork FTW.

Happy holidays everyone, from the Copyblogger family to yours. We’ll be back Monday.

Flickr Creative Commons image via Sean J. Connolly

About the author

Jerod Morris

Jerod Morris is the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter or . Have you gotten your wristband yet?

The post How to Face Unafraid the Plans That You’ve Made appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Source: Copy Blogger

    

3 Subtle Content Techniques That Make Your Offer Addictive

By Amy Harrison

Leading up to my wedding, I indulged in one of the most lavish things.

No, I didn’t order doves to be released after the ceremony or commission an intricate ice sculpture.

I hypnotically worked my way through half a tube of $45 lip gloss in just two weeks.

How did it happen?

Simple, subtle, persuasive content.

The power of instruction

I’m not a big makeup person, but before my wedding someone recommended a lip gloss for the big day.

I followed the recommendation, and the instructions that came with the cosmetic stated that in addition to using it as a lip gloss, you could also:

Use morning and night for 15 days for an intensive lip treatment.

With the heady excitement of a bride-to-be, I followed the instructions and then later realized that I was consuming the product much faster than I normally would because I had been told how to use it to get the best results.

Here’s what happened:

  • I loved it.
  • I wanted to use it more often.
  • I raved about it to my friends.

While some might say the instructions are just a cheap ploy to get people to use a product more frequently than they normally would, I disagree.

If you’ve got a quality product, it’s in your best interest — and your customers’ best interests — to get people to try it and experience positive results.

Content marketing can help you do just that.

Since the lip gloss consumption of 2012, I’ve seen other businesses, from cereal brands to online marketing powerhouses, employ similar, subtle types of content that get you hooked on their offers.

Here are three content techniques you can use as well.

1. Content that tempts your readers

Native advertising can be a subtle sidestep away from promoting a product outright. When done properly, you offer valuable information and a clear call to action.

For example, Guinness’s famous adverts teach the reader about cheese and oysters in ways that paint delicious pictures.

The brand tempts you to partner your favorite nibble with Ireland’s famous tipple, and the information is helpful even if you choose not to drink Guinness.

Let’s also look at temptations you can put in place on your own digital media platform.

KISSmetrics provides analytics software for businesses. Many software providers point prospects directly towards a free trial, and the KISSmetrics home page does the same.

However, their smart content marketing strategy includes offering free guides that visitors can use even if they’re not ready to buy or start a free trial.

The guides are targeted towards the pain points of an ideal customer and also dovetail the features offered by the services they provide.

They have tips on color psychology to increase website conversions, how to know what metrics to track in your marketing, conversion optimization case studies, and more.

Each one deals with a specific challenge and shows prospects how to solve them — without making any purchase.

However, KISSmetrics knows that if it can help businesses tackle analytics problems, they can tempt a prospect with the promise of bigger results if the prospect signs up.

Once that temptation is there, promoting a trial or sales conversation is going to be much easier. It’s a clever way of using a low-resistance opt-in to start (and continue) a relationship with a prospect.

2. Content that makes readers hungry for more

We know that it’s easier and more cost-effective to get a current customer to buy again than it is to acquire new customers.

In the UK, the breakfast cereal brand Shredded Wheat had a long-running advertising campaign during the ’70s and ’80s that encouraged customers to eat more of the cereal than they typically would.

The advertising suggested that the cereal was so nourishing, it was impossible to eat three, full-size servings (a standard bowl contained two).

The company displayed celebrity athletes known for their fitness and endurance who were unable to finish a third serving of Shredded Wheat.

As a result, people felt dared to eat three bowls rather than the usual two.

But, of course, your methods have to be ethical. Using more of your product has to actually benefit your customers.

For example, Canva lets you make simple, cost-effective (often free) graphics you can use in your blog posts, presentations, or documents. I love using it for blog illustrations and, because I’m not a designer, I love their tips even more.

Occasionally they’ll send emails telling me how to do new and nifty designs with graphics and text.

The result? I’m encouraged to use the service more regularly, which means I’m more likely to purchase their images for my illustrations.

What’s great about Canva’s content is that their free tutorials are bite-size, specific, and easy to implement.

Instead of providing a tutorial that says “how to get the best from Canva,” they provide niche subjects, such as “how to make pictures look retro” or “how to use text and images effectively.”

You can quickly evaluate whether or not a tutorial is relevant to your needs.

If you can teach your customer specific ways to use your product, you will make them hungry for more information and more inclined to spend money with you.

3. Content that provides upfront results for your readers

With content marketing, people who consume your content should be able to get value and experience some results without having to purchase anything.

This can make certain businesses nervous because they feel customers will just use the free content without making a purchase. In my experience, that doesn’t tend to happen.

Yes, you will encounter people who consume your content and never make a purchase, but you will …read more

Source: Copy Blogger

    

An Easy Fix for 5 Website Woes That Can Threaten Your Business

By Demian Farnworth

It’s something that hangs heavy over your head every day.

You’ve got traffic flowing to your site. You’ve built an audience and overcome the obscurity problem.

The number of links pointing to your site grows every day, social shares to your content rise with each passing moment, and you’ve recently started creating products and services your audience loves and buys.

It’s safe to say you’ve reached your hockey stick moment and handily solved the sustainability question, too. You are finally making money as a blogger (the impresario), which has allowed you to quit your job.

It is so satisfying after all you’ve been through. So what could possibly be bothering you?

It’s strange, but you feel like something terrible is going to happen … that all of this will be taken from you.

In my last blog post on this topic, I showed you the two concerns that will plague you in the first stage of becoming a content producer (and how to overcome them).

Now, in this second stage, you have a new set of concerns.

They boil down to these five issues …

1. Will your website crash?

You’ve seen it happen once or twice before.

A hotshot — someone with more than 200,000 Twitter followers or a Facebook page pushing one million fans — shares a link to a web page on your site.

And it’s like a whale striking the side of a boat.

The site blinks … and then lights out. Traffic is too heavy. The site can’t cope. So it sinks.

What most of those thousands of visitors saw was a white screen. An ugly white screen. They wandered away wondering if it was some kind of joke.

They replied to the hotshot who shared the link: “Bum link” or “Nothing but a 404.”

And the hotshot, while sympathetic to your predicament, is embarrassed. He or she will probably never share another link to your site again.

Traffic lost. Sales gone. Credibility damaged.

2. Does your website load fast enough?

Maybe it’s just a small fear. Maybe you’re simply concerned about your web pages bogging down while loading (Google considers 1.5 seconds slow).

There’s a host of culprits: large files, javascript, analytics code, plugins, uncompressed images … they all can slow down a web page.

We all know it’s silly, but people simply refuse to wait more than three seconds for a page to load. After three seconds, 40 percent of visitors will abandon the page.

So how are you going to compete with web pages that take less than one second to load?

Start by testing your site here.

3. Can you afford to have your website hacked?

44-percent-small-businesses-hacked

A third concern website owners face is web security. And unless you work in the web security industry, this is strange territory for just about all of us.

But what we know for certain is that there are some bad guys out there who want to do naughty things to your site — just for the fun of it.

According to a 2013 survey by the National Small Business Association, 44 percent of small businesses have been attacked.

As a result, those companies paid out-of-pocket recovery costs averaging $8,700. Most of us don’t have that kind of money in our budgets.

Typically, if you’ve been a victim of a hack, you hire a security consultant to identify the source of the attack and purge any malware. Plus, if customer data was breached, you are obligated to inform customers of the intrusion and foot the bill for costs incurred.

In addition, many states encourage businesses to pay for credit monitoring for each customer. Not to mention you might face lawsuits.

At the very least, you’ll suffer a credibility hit when customers feel like you can’t protect the data they entrusted to you.

While you can certainly overcome such a customer breach, it’s best to prevent it from happening in the first place.

And let’s not forget about the threats to WordPress in particular.

4. Will Google punish you if your site isn’t mobile-friendly?

61-percent-never-return-trouble-mobile

The answer is yes.

Why? Google is putting mobile users first, which is one of the reasons they gave for killing Authorship snippets.

If your site isn’t compliant with their mobile-first guidelines, then you might see a drop in your rankings.

Use this Google tool to test if a web page is mobile-friendly.

As Google’s Gary Illyes said, “I think it’s pretty clear that mobile-friendly websites provide a much better user experience for the mobile users.”

This is consistent with studies that reveal “61 percent of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site that they had trouble accessing from their phone and mobile-friendly sites turn visitors into customers.”

Fortunately, becoming mobile friendly doesn’t have to be labor-intensive. Which brings me to my next point.

5. Can you do all of this without being overwhelmed?

no-plan-for-hack-or-infection

The challenges of running a successful business are legion. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

For example, through our 2015 Cost of Doing Business Online Survey (full results will be released on January 5, 2015), we discovered that more than 40 percent of online business owners spend between two and eight hours each day working on their websites, but more than half of those who took the survey are either barely paying the bills or failing (soon to shut the doors).

Since you can only do so much in a day, you have to prioritize your tasks — generating leads and making sales top your list. Then other tasks, like web security or mobile-friendly design, …read more

Source: Copy Blogger