Your homepage and spitting

My former neighbor liked to spit. It made me gag and hunch up like someone just punched me in the gut.

We didn’t know each other. He didn’t know I thought he was a gross person. He might not have cared. But, he didn’t have the chance to take himself out of the “gross person” column.

So what does this have to do with your homepage? Like my neighbor and me, you and your site visitors might not be acquainted. And when they hit your homepage, they begin judging you by how the site looks, what they can do and find there – or can’t.

If you’re looking to up your homepage game, take a few minutes and watch this video from ConversionXL. Peep Laja looks at several homepages and points out what’s working and what’s not. Use his advice to get closer to your web visitors.

Good beer and good writing

Close your eyes. Scratch that. Keep them open just enough to read this.

Imagine you’re at a pub in a small German town. You’re sitting outside at a picnic table with a small group of your favorite people.

The evening is warm and there’s a little breeze. You overhear quiet conversations at nearby tables. A little oom-pa-pa music floats out of the pub.

In your hand, a cool, locally made wheat beer.

Are you there?

There’s a point to this. Other than taking me to my happy place.

The story pulled you in. It got your attention.

If you want to convince someone to buy your product or service, you need to get your reader’s attention. And that, dear friends, requires good writing.

In the podcast episode “Is Good Writing Making a Comeback?”, Rachel Parker share great tips on how to up your writing game. (Episode 218 of her Content Marketing Podcast.)

Here are a few of her tips, along with a bit of editorializing.

  • Know what you want your readers to think or do. Before you start writing. This is common sense. But, at times, I still start writing with the hope I’ll back myself into a point. [sad eyeroll]
  • Our attention spans are almost non-existent. That means you need to hook readers immediately. How? Do you have your own version of the beer story? How about an attention-getting quote or intriguing question?
  • You don’t get a pass to go all boring once you have readers’ attention. You have to keep it interesting to the readers all the way through.
  • Great headlines – and email subject lines – rule! Make yours clever, interesting, fun or unexpected. You want your readers to say, “Oh, what’s this? I want to find out.” But don’t make yours clickbait (intentionally over promising or misleading). Clickbait is evil.

Here are a couple of headline examples. Which are more interesting to you?

  • X and Y Clinics Announce Plans to Combine*
  • Better Together! X and Y Clinics to Combine
  • XYZ Corp. Receives “Best Company to Work For in Chicago” Award
  • Happy People Do Great Things – XYZ Corp Awarded “Best Company to Work For in Chicago”*

*Based on real headlines.

Exercise:

Just for fun, read a good sampling of the email newsletters you receive. Read the subject lines, too! You will laugh; you will cry. If you love to read or have writing-nerd tendencies, you will find this exceedingly fun.

Pay attention to what piques your attention. Which subject lines would compel you to open emails? Which opening sentences make you want to read further? You will learn a lot!

If this post piqued your interest, check out episode 218 of Rachel Parker’s weekly Content Marketing Podcast. You can find her podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and her website.

Happy writing!

Small talk, maybe you won’t kill me

Small talk exhausts me. “How unusual,” you say. Seriously. As a borderline extrovert/introvert I can handle it pretty well. But then I need to be by myself for a long time.

Just in time for the holidays, I happened on this oh-so-helpful story in The Muse: 48 Questions That’ll Make Awkward Small Talk So Much Easier. There are examples by context (e.g., work, food, travel). Who wouldn’t love to ask, or be asked, questions like these?

  • What was your first job? Did you like it?
  • What’s the best “hidden gem” around here?
  • What’s your go-to comfort food?
  • What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
  • Do you have any podcast suggestions for my commute?

I do pity the person who would ask me the last one. After a couple of minutes they’d pretend like they have to use the restroom.

P.S. The Muse is a great career advice and coaching site.

That’s me?

I’m taking an online course about becoming a freelance writer. Smart, huh? One of the exercises in the finding-your-niche section was to make a word cloud. Write down a list of all the things you’re really “into,” then put them in a word-cloud generator.

Even though I put all the words in the tool, it’s a little weird to have them stare back at me. Helpful? Probably not. Interesting? Yes.

word-cloud

Seth’s Blog: One way to think about talent

I don’t know if I’d call Seth Godin prophetic. But he says what needs to be said.

Here’s today’s daily email. It gives you an emotional nudge – the way a good teacher does.

One way to think about talent

If you’ve worked hard for it, it’s a skill.

If it’s something that other people have that you believe you can’t possibly achieve, it’s a talent.

Of course, they think the same thing about your skill, don’t they?

Being jealous of talents that are actually skills is a great way to let yourself off the hook and make yourself miserable at the same time.

Source: Seth’s Blog: One way to think about talent

Subscribe to his blog and check out the cool stuff on his site.

Tell me about yourself …

I’ve been working on my LinkedIn profile this morning. The summary? I could spend
all day on that thing. Not because I want to but because the process is uncomfortable ayarnnd hard.

Writing my own story feels like untangling a mess of yarn. There are several types of yarn, some knots, some glitter and probably some glue. I know I can do it but it’s going to be a bit frustrating and it’s going to take a little time.