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Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

5 Highly Effective Website Tricks to Steal From Yahoo

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2011 at 11:32 am

By | July 1, 2011

 

Want some surprising! amazing! incredible! ways to improve your website?

Go to the carousel at the top of the Yahoo! home page and check out the headlines under the thumbnails.  A sampling from this morning:

  • “Dangers of debit card use”
  • “Beyonce’s very revealing dress”
  • “Bad golf shot saves man’s life”
  • “Real reason for weight gain”
  • “ATM receipt with incredible sum”
  • “Middle-class jobs going away”
  • “Secrets of a housekeeper”

Breathless and over-hyped?  Absolutely.  By pop star standards, Beyonce’s dress was fairly tame.  The fact that people gain weight because they eat more meals and snacks each day is hardly a revelation.

But we still click the thumbnails.  It’s almost like we can’t help ourselves.

Here are five ways to use Yahoo! headline strategies — and what they say about us as consumers of information and of products and services — to improve your website and better engage your customers:

Strategy #1:  We don’t want more information; we need an anchor. Take weight loss:  Thousands of books, thousands of programs, and millions of web pages are devoted to losing weight.  People searching for a way to lose weight can access too much information.  Weight loss seems so complicated and overwhelming so we’re almost compelled to click “The real reason for weight gain” because, darn it, we just want to know what to do.

Sometimes more information makes us understand less.  Simple, clear-cut, and straightforward is incredibly attractive.  Solve my problem — the quicker the better.  Explain the benefits — the quicker the better.  Determine what is important to me as a customer, especially where buying decisions are concerned, and give me that.  Don’t make me sift or I’ll leave.

Strategy #2: We love inside knowledge. Hoping for a peek behind the curtain is a universal desire; who doesn’t want the inside scoop?  (I clicked the “housekeeper secrets” article even though no one cleans our house but us.)

This strategy is complementary rather than contradictory to Strategy #1:  First give customers an anchor, then, provide deeper, more detailed information for those interested.  (Without an anchor no one tries to learn more anyway.)  Just make sure you go past specs and fact sheets.  Show creative ways to use a product or service.  Share tips.  Help customers benefit from your experience and knowledge.  Engage with an anchor and then provide inside knowledge customers can’t find elsewhere.

Strategy #3:  Even though we won’t admit it, we actually like a little hype. Infomercial words like shocking, miracle, surprising, incredible, wild, amazing, and unbelievable are also popular on the carousel. And why not?  I like an amazingly wild surprise from an unbelievably shocking miracle as much as the next guy.

Hype can definitely be overused, but strong adjectives and definitive statements also show you believe in your services.   While you don’t have to channel your inner Billy Mays, be proud of what you do — and say so.  No one else will.

Strategy #4:  We respond to fear. Everyone wants to avoid a disaster.  Most of us fall in the middle class, either statistically or by aspiration, and most of us have jobs… and those jobs kinds of jobs are going away?  Gotta check that one out.  “Dangers of debit cards”… everyone has a debit card and worries about money.  Probably should check that out too.  After all, what I don’t know can hurt me.

While you shouldn’t try to manufacture fear, you should consider the common concerns of your customers and address them.   Don’t try to just scare me:  Identify a fear or concern and show me how you can provide a real solution.

Strategy #5: Sometimes we’re simply interested in interesting. We all enjoy a “what the heck?” moment.  “Bad golf shot saves man’s life”… what’s that about?  “ATM receipt with incredible sum.” How incredible?  (Turns out, pretty.)

Don’t assume your site must maintain a laser-like focus.  Share the unusual or offbeat.  If a customer finds a cool way to use your product, share it.  If you have a great story about a client, share it.  Don’t be afraid to let a little personality show through.  (But at the same time never be self-indulgent. If you’re sharing only for an ego boost, don’t.)  Customers buy from people, not from companies, so share a few real examples of what makes you and your business unique.

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Want to Be a Superstar Blogger? 5 Easy Tips

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2011 at 10:54 am

By | June 29, 2011

Tell me you wouldn’t click on a headline that read, The 15 Minute Work Week. Come on, sure you would. How about these:

  • Why Working is Bad For Your Career
  • Is Sarah Palin the Antichrist?
  • Is Facebook the New Matrix?
  • How Religion is Destroying Corporate America

These are the kind of outlandish headlines we’ve come to expect from a blogosphere that thrives on outrageous hype and contrarian sound-bites. You know who’s to blame, don’t you? You are. That’s right. Admit it. You know you crave this stuff. Everyone does.

Sure, I’m part of the problem too, but it’s not my fault. I used to have a real job but, one night, I fell asleep next to an alien pod and woke up this way. Not buying that? Okay, what really happened is, years ago, then CNET editor-at-large Michael Kanellos asked if I wanted to do a blog.

“What’s a blog?” I said.

Four years later; here we are. And you know what? It was easy. Best of all, anyone can become a famous blogger with gazillions of readers by following these 5 easy steps.

So, in honor of the guy who somehow got me to give up a fortune in consulting fees to blog for peanuts, here’s my take on one of the funniest posts I’ve ever read (here’s the original, but frankly, I think my adaptation is a big improvement):

How to Be a Superstar Blogger

1. Be insane or obvious, but not both.

“There are two basic reactions you’re shooting for. You either want to: one, stun someone into a temporary catatonic state with enigmatic predictions, or two, confirm their prejudices and personal beliefs.” In other words, it’s either Charlie Sheen Should Be CEO of Time Warner or Outrageous CEO Pay Still on the Rise.

“Being outlandish and predictable at the same time, though, is tough–unless you graduate to compound sentences.” Then you can say, How an MBA Will Destroy Your Career While Improving Your Self Esteem. On second thought, better stick to one or the other. The audience prefers its lunatics to have a consistent methodology.

2. Watch what’s trending on Google and Twitter.

Forget esoteric stuff like helping people boost their careers, land jobs, or run their businesses more effectively. Instead, focus on what’s hot and trendy: social media, personal branding, Generation Y, Apple, Facebook, and don’t forget Charlie Sheen.

Practice coming up with headlines like, Gen Y Personal Branding Gurus are Uberfull of Ubercrap. And yes, I really did write that one.

Kanellos – now editor-in-chief of the popular Greentech Media site – says the more esoteric and unlikely the concept, the more popular it is. Everyone’s bored to tears with global warming, climate change, or whatever those wacko environmentalists call it these days, but if you really want to get everyone’s attention, try, New Google Car Runs on Brainwaves: The Smarter You Are, the Faster it Goes.

3. Find a good enemy.

One name: Sarah Palin. Everyone loves to hate her. If that doesn’t work for you, I’ve got a whole laundry list of villains for you to go after: Big Pharma, Big Oil, CEOs, Corporate America, wealthy people (but only the business ones: entertainers, musicians, and athletes are all okay), George W. Bush, and if you live in San Francisco, of course, McDonald’s Happy Meals.

4. Never be afraid to one-up someone.

If another blogger writes, 10 Simple Tips to Make You Rich and Famous, you can easily top that with, The Secret to Becoming a Billionaire in the Next 45 Minutes. Try it; it works.

5. Be vague.

‘Winning’ With Social Media. Is Anthony Weiner a Hot Dog? How to Be Like Steve Jobs. Most Hated CEOs. Apple’s Next iThing. Top 10 Job Interview Tips. The vaguer you are while still hitting a hot, trending keyword or key phrase, the more clicks you’ll get. Guaranteed.

Finally, Kanellos’s coupe de grace: “As an added bonus, you might someday be right.” When that golden moment happens, be sure to put out a press release.