Archive for October, 2008

Cool Tool: Mechanical Turk

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I had coffee last week with a web designer here in Portland, OR I work with and he told me about an outsourcing website owned by Amazon called Mechanical Turk. Oh, man. My world has changed!

I do a lot of writing for websites and article marketing and there are two things I’ve long wished I could get cheap:
1. answers to specific questions
2. transcriptions of conversations with clients.

It pains me to admit that I’ve paid virtual assistants $30 to answer questions. And I went into sticker shock when I found out transcriptionists get $180 for an hour long phone call. It’s pretty tough to turn ideas into words when you’re paying those kinds of prices.

So when my website designer pal George, told me about how he’s been using Mechanical Turk to get answers to questions, I was intrigued. He even told me about Andy Baio author of who created an awesome blog post about how he used MTurk to get a transcription of a conversation done quickly and cheaply.

I first tested out MTurk on an answer I’d wasted half an hour trying to fiind for a web page I’m working on. I posted my HIT (MTurk’s name for a question) at about 8:00 PM. The next morning I had an answer with resources that sent me on my way happily writing again

I then tested out Andy’s method for using MTurk to transcribe a conversation I had with a client whose website I am writing. Knowing I was getting a transcription of the conversation was liberating. I could just focus on the conversation instead of having to worry about the notes I was taking. I found that I was asking better questions and getting better content for the website.

Although I’ve never used an audio editing software program before, it did take some time to figure out how to use the free audio editing program to edit the hour long conversation into 10 minute segments. It was a bit of a challenge but well worth the time investment.

Less than 12 hours later I had all 40 minutes transcribed and it cost me $20. Now I’m happily on my way writing again.

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Comment SPAM: You Are an Idiot if You (or Someone You Hired) Do It

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

My blog is set up so that I have to approve comments. And like everyone else in the world, I HATE SPAM. So imagine how happy I was to get the following comment on my last blog post which was about copy writing from “

Making the rather questionable assumption that “Justin” is a real person*, as opposed to an outsourced company in India or South America that has no strategy behind internet marketing, Justin has screwed up on so many levels it warrants a blog post from me:
* When you go to the Article Post Robot website, all the glowing recommendations are for “David” not “Justin.”

Here’s why this comment is wrong in so many ways:

  • First of all, you’ve pissed off a D List blogger to the point that she is willing to dedicate a post to your scatter-shot approach to internet marketing. So if you were hoping to get traffic, you’re f’ed. Any traffic from this blog is going to be gawkers looking at the scene of the accident.


  • Secondly, the links in your comment won’t help your rankings because Blogger comment links are nofollow links!



  • Your product has nothing to do with the blog post! So even if I approved the comment so readers could see it, it wouldn’t be appealing to them because it has nothing to do with what they were reading about.


Congratulations. Your one size fits all approach to internet marketing has done more damage than good. Was that worth the time savings of automating your internet marketing campaign?

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Posted in Musings, Social Media | 1 Comment »

How to Improve Your Copywriting: Nuts & Bolts Examples

Friday, October 17th, 2008

I hate it when books and articles on copywriting make lists of suggestions without examples. I think they do that because it’s easier to make suggestions than keep track of actual examples. So, today when I was working on editing some articles that will be used in article marketing for a client, I kept track of the suggestions and the examples.

Start with the solution instead of ending with it. Often, sentences flow better if you start with the solution.

Original: One of the best sources for you find ideas to aid you operating your ranch in the most affordable ways would be the Internet.
Updated: The internet is one of the best sources for finding ideas to help you operate your ranch affordably.

Be mindful in the use of pronouns like “it” or “this” especially at the beginning of a sentence. These words are vague and can lead to confusion. Sometimes when I come across them I find myself thinking “Huh? Or “What are you referring to?” Many times you can replace pronouns with a more specific word or phrase that makes the sentence clearer. You can also replace vague pronouns with key words or phrases which helps improves your rankings. In the example below, I replaced the word “it” with what “it” is referring to. Doing so makes for a more understandable sentence.

Original: Many ranch owners had ranching or farming experience in their past or in previous generations of their family and assume this makes them able to profitably run a ranch. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will be successful because profitable ranching practices are constantly evolving.
Updated: Many ranch owners had ranching or farming experience in their past or in previous generations of their family and assume this makes them able to profitably run a ranch. However, previous experience does not ensure future success because profitable ranching practices are constantly evolving.

Break up run on sentences. They slow the reader down and can be a bail out point which works against your goals. It can be hard to identify a run on sentence when you write it. Reading your articles out loud will help you find them.

Original: There are numerous reasons this may well be the best route for you to consider if you are hoping to get a huge return on your ranch investment and you should have this in mind when you’re looking at ranches for sale.
Updated: There are numerous reasons this may well be the best route for you to consider if you are hoping to get a good return on your ranch investment. Plus, you should have this in mind when you’re looking at ranches for sale.

Two for one example. The phrase “key to doing so” makes me think “Key to doing what?” and this sentence is a run on.

Original: The key to doing so can be as easy as taking the time to do some extensive research that will pay huge dividends for you in the future when it comes to ranch management, and this is something you should consider as early as the time you’re looking at ranches for sale.
Updated: The key to effective ranch management can be as easy as taking the time to do some detailed research. This is something you should consider as early as the time you’re looking at ranches for sale.

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Posted in Writing | No Comments »

Make Your Copy Work by Entering into the Conversation

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

You know when you’re reading website copy that’s compelling and gets the job done. Even if it’s for a product or service you don’t need, you want to bookmark the site or forward the URL to someone who needs it. You want to take action! But, do you know why it’s good?

Nine times out of ten it’s because the good copy enters into the conversation the reader is having in their mind. This is especially important on the internet because

Writing for the internet is different from other forms of advertising because of how people access the information. Other than the phone book, I can’t think of an advertising method where your potential customers are actively looking for you. They have a problem and are looking for a solution. So it makes sense that most copy writing coaches and courses subscribe to the problem/solution/benefit model.

It’s been my experience that writing compelling copy is a process of evolution. Typically we start with “This is who I am and these are my services.” When this fails to yield results, we go to the problem/solution/benefit model. Most service professionals stay stuck at this level. They wonder why they don’t get more clients from the internet and live with poor internet marketing results.

If you do the hard work of crafting copy that enters into the conversation going on in your prospect’s mind, it will improve all your results from newsletter sign ups to phone calls.

Take a look at the following websites:

Now I’m really not trying to slam Shell’s website. For all I know, she’s perfectly happy with the copy on her home page. However, when you compare it to T. Harv’s you can see the difference. Where Shell starts with a list of problems, T. Harv’s jumps right into “Have you ever wondered why this is the case? Here’s why that’s the case.”

Although they’re both selling products designed to help you change your relationship to money, T. Harv’s is more likely to make the reader say “This guy has the solution to my problem! I want that!” He assumes you’re both discussing the same problem and puts the majority of his word toward describing his solution and benefits, benefits, benefits.

You can even see this difference in their domain names. Would you rather have ‘sensible coaching’ or a ‘millionaire mind’?

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Posted in Writing | No Comments »

High Impact Mentoring Has Many Applications

Monday, October 6th, 2008

I rarely blog about clients but this week I wanted to share a white paper written by a client, the Maverick Institute, about high impact mentoring. The white paper distinguishes “high impact mentoring” from “mentoring” in that high impact mentoring incorporates the concepts of lean learning, just-in-time knowledge transfer and easily managed chunks of information into a paradigm that often has a stodgy reputation.

This is a “no fat” white paper and on the first page it answers the question “Why should we care about high impact mentoring?” with the short answer “Because we can’t afford not to.” Then it goes on to enumerate the reasons why running lean and fast is important. While the reasons are compelling at any stage, they’re especially pertinent in the current economic climate.

I found the information very helpful because I am in the process of bringing sub-contractors on board and am trying to get them up to speed and up to standard as quickly as possible. I’ve developed my own way of doing things and need to make sure the people I employ understand what they’re doing, pay attention to detail and use critical thinking skills along the way. That can get very time consuming for me if I don’t do it efficiently.

The points discussed about high impact mentoring were helpful because it showed me what I was doing right (which I wondered about) and how I can improve my own processes. I recommend it for any business owner who is not only looking for good information on mentoring but hiring and training subcontractors or employees.

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