Archive for the 'Writing and the Internet' Category

On color and readability in graphic design

July 4th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber JA writes:

“Bob, have you noticed how many websites use gray typeface on a
white background?

“It’s difficult to read.

“How about taking a minute to address the importance of color
schemes?”

Entire books have been written about color in design. And I am no
expert in color. Far from it.

But the whole of it can be boiled down to one principle:

The primary purpose of design is to attract the eye to the ad,
and to make the text easy to read — and the latter just as
important as the former.

Anything that makes the copy difficult to read, no matter how
dazzling or creative, is bad graphic design, whether in print or
online.

So at a glance, the color and type rules to follow are these:

1–Make all type large enough to be easy to read for older adults
with average or less-than-average eyesight.

2–The best color scheme is black type on a white background.

3–In body copy, avoid reverse type, which is white type on a
black background.

4–Avoid low-contrast color schemes such as gray type on a white
background, or dark blue type on a light blue background, or the
horrific but not uncommon gray type on a black background.

5–In the body copy for print materials, use serif typefaces —
letters with little extension on them, such as Times Roman.

6–Online, use sans serif typefaces — letters with no extensions,
such as Arial — in body copy.

7–On web pages, subheads can shine and make a statement when you
use an easy-to-read bold serif font such as Georgia bold, for
example, and set them in a darker color to pop off page online
and draw the reader’s eye down the page.

A dark blue looks nice. A deep red or rusty red can also feel
easy-to-read. The color depends on your overall design and what
type of audience and product you are working with.

8–In direct mail, despite what the vendors of handwritten
envelopes and letter mailing say, I have seen no proof that
handwritten outer envelopes or letters outpull typeset. If
handwriting universally outperformed typewritten, everyone would
use it all the time.

Remember, the primary functions of graphic design in advertising
are (a) to attract the reader’s eye and (b) make the copy easy to
read.

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Category: General, Writing and the Internet | 8 Comments »

The #1 challenge of writing a weekly e-newsletter

April 25th, 2017 by Bob Bly

I am a big advocate of publishing your own e-newsletter,
because it is one of the best ways to build a large opt-in e-list
… and to establish a good relationship with your subscribers.
Doing so builds trust that leads to sales.

“But where do you get ideas for all those newsletter articles
seemingly without end?” I am often asked (I have been publishing
this online newsletter continually since 2004).

If you wish to publish an e-newsletter — whether sporadically,
monthly, or weekly — all of which can work … let me share with
you my 5 favorite sources of ideas and inspiration:

1–Things I learn.

If you are an active practitioner in your field, and given the
breakneck speed with which new techniques and developments are
invented, you are learning all the time.

Many of my articles are based on things I learn doing and
observing marketing.

I don’t invent most of them. I merely study and then explain them
in my newsletter essays.

2–Things I see.

When I observe and admire a particularly clever or effective
marketing campaign, I tell you about it here — so you can learn
it and perhaps adapt it to your business.

3–Things I know.

After almost 40 years as a copywriter and marketer, I’ve seen,
read, and tested a lot of things most other marketers have not.

Many of them are evergreen, and I present these rules and tactics
here for you — hidden gems not 1 in 100 of your competitors even
know about — giving you an almost unfair advantage.

4–Rants.

When I see people repeatedly making egregious marketing mistakes,
ignoring time-tested principles, or saying things that are wrong
or stupid, I report their errors (not naming the person
responsible) so you can learn from their mistakes.

I call these “rants” because I do tend to get worked up about it.
I have a highly sensitive B.S. detector and share what it detects
with you — often in opinionated and forceful terms.

5–Recommendations.

Whether it is a new book, new guru, recognized expert, online
course, vendor, or other resource that I think you should take a
closer look at, you’ll read about it here.

I could go on, but for me, these 5 sources give me 90% of the
ideas I need to keep on writing two fresh essays every week like
clockwork.

As for frequency, start with monthly. If open rates are good and
unsubscribe rates low, test going to weekly.

If the unsubscribe rate doesn’t spike, then your subscribers like
your missives well enough to want one a week.

Since at least half of your messages should be content, and half
or fewer sales pitches, a weekly newsletter gives you at least
one opportunity to sell a product a week.

Which can substantially increase your online revenues to the
$100,000 to $200,000 a year level or more — a stream of passive
income that can make your life easier without you working too
hard to get it.

Who wouldn’t want that?

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Category: Writing, Writing and the Internet | 4 Comments »

Why I personally respond to your e-mails and questions

February 22nd, 2017 by Bob Bly

I get a lot of e-mail from subscribers.

And even though it’s time-consuming, I respond to as many as I
can — which is most.

Why?

I believe that when you make your e-mail marketing a two-way
communication, you build a stronger relationship with your
subscribers.

The result: greater engagement, more readership, and increased
sales when you offer your list a product they might like.

A week or so ago subscriber JI sent me this brief e-mail:

“I enjoyed your article today. I like the way you communicate
what you believe and how you respond to people.

“At the same time, I see that I can leave a conversation with you
while taking away my own view of life without hurting your
feelings.

“It’s nice getting to know you over these years and I do love you
as a person for what you are giving the world. Thank you.”

And subscriber RM writes:

“Wow! Thank you so much for your timely response. That was the
first time I had responded to a posting by someone as famous and
accomplished as you and I in no way expected to hear from you so
quickly.

“This speaks volumes to me about your quality and dedication to
helping others. A fairly rare quality in this day and age from
my experience in the business arena.”

I know from publishing The Direct Response Letter for more than a
dozen years that, like JI and RM, many of my subscribers
appreciate that I am accessible — both via e-mail, Facebook, and
phone.

Conversely, I have heard many say they dislike it when they write
to the publishers of their favorite e-newsletters, and all they
get in return is a canned auto-responder message — usually saying
the author is too busy to reply personally.

Maybe I am stupid to maintain a dialogue with my subscribers —
Lord knows I’m busy enough.

But I do it for three primary reasons:

>> First, I think if you have a question or comment, you deserve
a personal response from me.

>> Second, I enjoy hearing from and talking with my readers. Some
reach out to me only once in a blue moon. Others are regulars. I
like both.

>> Third, it lets me know what you are interested in, so I can
produce content that is useful and relevant to you.

I believe the give-and-take interaction between an editor and his
subscribers enhances the experience of getting the e-newsletter
for readers and adds value.

So I plan to continue it for both the immediate and long-term
future.

And thanks for reading my e-mail essays. It’s much appreciated.

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Category: General, Writing and the Internet | 4 Comments »

Are typos a big deal?

February 14th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber TW writes:

“Bob, here’s a question I’d love to see you address in one of
your e-mails: Have you noticed the constant misspellings and
incorrect homonyms on the web and in e-mails? People not knowing
the difference between ‘to,’ ‘two,’ and ‘too’ — or ‘there’ and
‘their’? Terrible grammar?

“Did you think that the ability to dictate on smartphones and
other devices and our reliance on spellcheck and text shorthand
(“r u home?”) is dumbing us down? Either that or is it
desensitizing us to these types of errors?”

Well, we have always lived with spelling and grammar mistakes —
but yes, they have definitely increased in e-mail and on web
sites. What’s the reason for the proliferation of typos online?

In e-mail, it’s two things.

First, people are crushingly busy today. So they dash off their
e-mails as fast as they can, without reading them over or even
using the e-mail proofing function.

Second, some people believe that e-mails don’t have to be as
flawless as a traditional letter. And so they are sloppy e-mail
writers.

Unfortunately, many of their e-mail recipients are aghast when they
see bad grammar and spelling errors. As a result, such mistakes
distract your readers, diverting attention to the typos and away
from the content of the message.

Some readers even lower their opinion of you and what you are
saying if there is even a single misspelling.

As for web content, there are also two reasons for the
proliferation of spelling and grammar mistakes in web pages,
white papers, blogs, and other online writing.

First, back in the day, before the Internet, when our writing was
all print, we proofread carefully, because if an error was found
after a magazine article, direct mail letter, or product brochure
was printed, it would cost a fortune to go back to press. So we
were much more careful.

Today, if you write and post a new web page, and someone spots
typos, they can quickly and easily be corrected at virtually zero
cost. Easy peasy, no biggie.

Second, with large web sites having dozens or hundreds of pages,
many of the pages come from different sources — product bulletins,
articles, blogs, press releases, newsletters — some of which were
created for other purposes and then repurposed on the site.

So many firms either just don’t have or are not willing to devote
the time to carefully proof each new page.

It’s not that they don’t think proofreading is important, but
rather it is not at the top of their priority list, and they do
not have the bandwidth or resources to get to it.

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Category: General, Writing, Writing and the Internet | No Comments »

Are you violating client confidentiality by showing samples on your site?

December 14th, 2016 by Bob Bly

Subscriber GR asks:

“When I send clients an agreement, it states using samples is
important to my business.

“I have a client who doesn’t want the work I do for him displayed
on my site; I’m thinking he’s worried about his competitors.

“I have never done an e-book for a client…. so this certain
sample would be important to me, as future clients may ask if
I’ve done one.

“Since you are an expert, what are your thoughts to solve this
problem?”

My feeling is you should NEVER put in your agreements that you
automatically have the right to use the promotion you wrote for
the client to market your own services.

Why not?

Because some clients want their marketing — or the fact that you
wrote it for them — to be confidential.

They want to keep what they are doing under wraps — and not put
it on display where it is easily imitated or knocked off.

That is their right … and for them may be the sensible path.

So if your copywriting contract requires clients to let you use
their samples to promote your services, many prospects may not
hire you because of that contract clause.

So I never, ever include it in the agreement.

What happens is that once the promotion is produced, I tell them
it looks so great, may I please post it as a sample on my web
site’s portfolio?

At that point 95% give permission to post what you did for them
on your online portfolio. And so — problem solved. They will
even give you a PDF of the finished artwork which makes it a snap
to post the promotion on your site.

As for the 5% who say they do not want you to show the work to
others, you absolutely should comply with their wishes — and do
not share the sample with anyone under any circumstance — as much
as you want to.

This is the right way to handle sharing and display of client
samples. You do not want to get a reputation for violating client
confidentiality, which you will if you show client work to others
without permission.

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Category: Writing and the Internet | 4 Comments »

Top 7 Reasons Why Anyone Can Succeed as a ?How-To? Content Writer And Make Money Online

November 4th, 2010 by Bob Bly

Excerpted from my new book, How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit.

1. It?s easy to get started in how-to writing: ?How-to writing provides a quicker, surer entry into publication than many other writing categories. Vast hordes dream of writing the Great
American Novel, but the group of writers who dream of writing the Great American Guide to Growing a Greener Lawn is a bit smaller.?

2. How-to writing pays extremely well: ?Some of the best-selling books of all time are how-to books. If you follow the plan in How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit, I think you can realistically get to the $100,000 to $200,000 a year income level within 12 to 24 months.?

3. You don?t need to be the world?s greatest writer: ?To succeed as a how-to, do-it-yourself, or self-help author, you don?t have to be the next Shakespeare or even the next Stephen King. Can you explain something or teach a skill in a clear, organized, entertaining fashion? Then you can succeed as a how-to writer.?

4. You don?t need to be the leading guru in your field: ?You do not need to be the leading practitioner, scholar, or expert in your field to write a book about it. As noted by author and speaker Fred Gleeck, you only need know more about your subject than 90 percent of the people out there. ?Don?t worry about the other 10 percent; they?re not your market anyway,? says Fred.?

5. Whether you know it or not, you have unique knowledge to share with a paying audience: ?If you think you are not an expert in any subject, I doubt that?s really true. Every person has unique skills, training, and experiences. You are an ?expert? in your life and many of the things that make up your life.?

6. Even when information is free, demand for knowledge is high: ?Even in a world dominated by Google, the wisdom, knowledge, and guidance people are seeking are in short supply. As librarian Richard Yates once observed, ?We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.? As a result, the public?s appetite for how-to material is insatiable, and?despite the Internet user?s mantra that ?information should be free??readers eagerly open their wallets to obtain it.?

7. The guided step-by-step plan in How to Write and Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit shows you everything you need to do to be a success: ?By following the comprehensive plan laid out in this book, you can earn a comfortable six-figure annual income from your writing. And you can do it when and where you want, while writing what interests and pleases you. You can work at home?no boss, no commute, no suit and tie, no alarm clock.?

For more information visit:

www.bly.com/simpleinfo

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Category: Online Marketing, Writing, Writing and the Internet | 78 Comments »

The End of Western Civilization as We Know It?

March 23rd, 2009 by Bob Bly

For more than 4 decades, one of my favorite activities and greatest pleasures has been reading the newspaper.

Yet according to an article on cnn.com today, at least 120 U.S. newspapers have shut down since January 2008.

“Newspapers are losing their relevance in the lives of a majority of Americans,” cnn.com — an online news service — smugly proclaims.

My own kids get their info online and on TV. They don’t read the newspaper, even with daily deliver of a newspaper on our front lawn.

I read news every day online at cnn.com, the page on which my web browser is set to open — and I love it.

But I also love reading the newspaper at the lunch counter where I have my tuna sandwich each day … or at the kitchen table on weekend mornings over scrambled eggs and coffee.

This is a singular experience — peaceful, comforting, and entertaining — which seems to be lost on young people today.

I am wondering: if you are under 50, do you read news online only … and are newspapers not part of your information mix?

If you are 50 or older, like I am, do you still cling to your newspaper habit — or have you given it up for lent?

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Category: Writing and the Internet | 116 Comments »

Another Nail in Print’s Coffin

March 11th, 2008 by Bob Bly

One of my greatest pleasures is to read trade journals, newsletters, and business magazines at home or during lunch (like many of you, I don’t have time to read them during working hours).

But according to an article in BtoB (3/10/08, p. 28), I may soon be denied that privilege, as magazines discontinue their print editions and make their content available on the Web only.

The article notes that advertising in printed magazines plays “an increasingly subordinate role in marketing communications.”

Alan Meckler, CEO of Jupitermedia, comments: “I would think that every b-to-b magazine is being wound down and will ultimately be online.”

Publishing online saves publishers a king’s ransom in printing and distribution costs.

But I want a magazine I can read at the counter of the diner where I eat my lunch. And the highlight of my weekend is reading the Sunday New York Times while having coffee at my kitchen table.

How about you? Will you miss print publications when they are gone — and do you agree with Meckler that they will indeed soon vanish?

Or would you rather read your industry trade publications on your PC screen — and celebrate the impending demise of dead tree media?

Late-breaking development: according to a cover story in today’s DM News (3/10/08, p.1), Ziff Davis, the magazine publisher, just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The handwriting is on the wall….

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Category: Writing and the Internet | 41 Comments »