Posts by Brian


Making the Web More Webular

Making the Web More Webular


Posted By on Nov 13, 2013

Meine Freunde, the web is a big sinkhole of the horrible (must be spoken with French accent, especially the German part). This is not news to you but we’ve become rather inured to it all. There is a solution for bad websites. It’s to make them more webular. Webularity is the quality of design and writing that characterizes those websites that help users answer questions and solve problems. In other words, your website’s value to your customer. There are many ways to create this value but it always start with the audience. This is hard, I know. It’s one of those things that few of us like to think about. It’s like trying to figure out the opposite sex, or even the same sex if you’re trying to have a relationship. But the reward is commensurate with the effort put in to understand them. Understanding an audience can begin with thinking about why you started your company or why your employer exists. It’s always about solving a problem. They don’t have to be this obscure: Let’s examine what problem solving is all about. Think about your own behavior on the web. When you do a search, you’re essentially looking for information or a product to solve a problem. Even when you’re looking for something funny to Tweet, you’re in a problem-solving mood. You’re goal-oriented. The same is true with anyone coming to your website. Problem solving When you conduct a search, you follow pretty predictable behavior, even if you’re a pretty unpredictable person. Google and Bing know this quite well. It’s not just the search algorithm looking for patterns. It’s search algorithms based on billions and billions of tracked behaviors and an understanding of how people conduct searches. In my book, I tell writers over and over to observe their own web behavior and buying behavior. Doing this will tell you a lot about human nature and will give you clues to how your commercial audience behaves. There are so many ways to search for something using words in a browser window. Let’s search for information about a vacation to India. travel to india traveling to india travel india travelling to india traveling india travel to india from usa immunizations for travel to india travel agents to india cdc travel india travel to india shots travel to india visa vaccines for travel to india cheap travel to india travel visa india travel agent india travels to india travel agency india That is just a small sample of things a potential visitor to India might type into Google or Bing. If you examine them closely, you see different intentions. Someone...

Read More
Putting Books in Your Head

Putting Books in Your Head


Posted By on Sep 25, 2013

I know this might hurt your sensibilities, and I’m really sorry for that, but let’s say it out loud…there is nothing precious about paper books. It doesn’t matter what form a book is in before you put it into your head. What happens as it goes into your head is what matters. It’s just gross to romanticize paper books. Millions of trees are slaughtered, habitat destroyed, and dead dinosaurs spilled (ink). They take up a lot of room and they eventually fall apart. Saying you can’t make the move to e-books because you “…love the look and smell of a ‘real’ book in my hands” is like Guttenberg saying, “I love unrolling a scroll, and the crinkle and smell of papyrus. To hell with this press idea. It will ruin books as we know them.” Real books are in your head The reality of your relationship with a book is what happens in your head. Most of the time, if the writing is compelling, you don’t notice the way the content is delivered. The only way you notice the form is when your hand cramps and you have to switch to the other hand (unless the book is too big for one hand). I’ve been a convert to electronic print for over a year now. I used to be one of you. I said all the same things I hear over and over now from friends and family about their unwillingness to give up paper books. “I love the look of real books. I love how they smell and how they feel in my hand.” Now I hate paper books. They’re heavy. They cramp my hands and arms. I’m loathe to mark them up with a highlighter or pencil. I can’t search inside them quickly. I can’t take 20 paper books on holiday. I never thought it would come to this. Books have been a huge part of my life since I was able to read. Before then, I mostly used them to reach my brother’s toys so I could break them. I still own over 300 paper books that look nice on the shelves but rarely get opened. E-books are real books. Books happen in your head. You read a novel differently than your neighbor does. (But that doesn’t really count because your neighbor only reads pictures on the Interwebs. I looked through his window one night.) Great authors rely on your imagination, which currently resides mostly in your head, to fill in details about plot, story, and character that would be ridiculous for them to write for the same reason that we hate exposition in movies. It’s unnecessary. Write the...

Read More

Business bloggers, why do you hate America? I know you have deadlines and a paycheck to justify but you’re creating fear in the damaged psyches of the easily influenced. A better solution for your readers is right here and nearly any writer can achieve the goal. Forbes has an article about 25 Things Influential People Do Better Than Anyone Else. This kind of article hurts the Interwebs and also my head as a writer and thinker. (I don’t necessarily do both of those at the same time. It’s hard. Like the Maths.) It’s one of those “list posts” that web writers have learned to conjure up when they can’t think of anything else to write. I shouldn’t slam lists, I use them myself and even recommend them in my book. But they’ve become a kind of “go to” post that often doesn’t do anything to help the reader. They’re just there to take up bandwidth and the world is rapidly running out of bandwidth. We are heading toward a global bandwidth crisis! If I had any influence, this paragraph would scare the shit out of you. List posts are…listful The best thing about “list posts” is that the headlines offer the reader the promise of easy consumption of the content. You know the article is offering steps that are easily scanned and might be capable of implementation. Although a list of 25 or a 101 of anything is generally more than the twitchy Internet audience wants to read. Seriously, if you can sit through reading a list of 101 of anything, you are desperate, my friend, to find SOMETHING to make your life better. Anyone offering you a list of 101 things is really reaching, really stretching their ability to…list things. There is unlikely to be much there that will change your life or your level of influence (or the specific gravity of nickel, which as we all know would benefit almost no one. I have no idea what that means but I like how it sounds on the page). You need to re-prioritize your methods of gathering useful information. In fact, Forbes’ list of 25 doesn’t really fulfill its promise. It provides few usable examples for each of the 25 characteristics of influential people. But it probably does achieve the goal of getting clicks because the target demo for the article is…people who don’t have influence but crave a portion of it scooped up like non-fat ice cream and delivered to them for free. That’s not how actual influence works. Real influence arises from having something useful to offer a specific audience. People like to say that someone like Guy...

Read More

Oh No! You look on Yelp and your business just got a lousy review and two stars. Welcome to the age of consumer-generated content. This is not going away and that’s a great thing! As long as I’ve worked with businesses in the digital age, I’ve heard owners and managers speak with horror at the prospect of bad reviews. Some business owners even refuse to create social media pages, Google Plus pages, or Yelp listings because they’re terrified of their customers writing and reading negative reviews.   Why I love bad reviews Every bad review is a great opportunity to engage your customers and to turn a bad experience into a happy return customer. It’s actually really easy to do. The review sites generally provide a way to respond to negative reviews and this is a powerful way to engage online customers and prospects. But you must do it without any rancor or defensiveness. Consider the fact that even if the person writing the review has poor social and writing skills, their experience with your business was not happy. They may not express that in a way that is very nice, but you don’t have to get yer back up about it. It’s NOT PERSONAL. Your identity may be all wrapped up in your business but they don’t think about that. They just had a bad experience and they want to tell the world. Take a deep breath, tell yourself you’re going to get them back, and follow these simple steps. 3 steps to getting an unhappy customer back They don’t have to be gone for good. You, as a business owner or operator, can get them back. Here’s how: Publicly acknowledge their bad experience without defensiveness. Assure them their business is important to you. Offer to make it right. Here’s an example: John and Susan, I’m truly sorry that you had a bad experience at our restaurant last Friday. Once in a while, despite our best efforts, we stumble. It’s not fair to you that we stumbled on your filet mignon. Let me make it up to you because I want your business for a long time. Please call at your convenience and ask for me personally. We’ll set this right. Doesn’t that seem so human and approachable? Even if John and Susan don’t come back, everyone else reading that bad review sees your response. If John and Susan do come back, I guarantee they’re going to write another review that is stellar. This accomplishes two things. It can turn that disgruntled customer into a truly loyal customer and it can impress future review readers with your professionalism....

Read More