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Archive for October, 2008

The Anatomy of a Press Release

This post is an exert from my ebook How to Generate Traffic for Your Website:

Writing a press release is almost the same as writing good content, therefore pretty much everything that applies to writing good content applies to writing good press releases. Your headlines need to catch your reader’s attention immediately, the active voice is strongly recommended, and you need to provide unique and interesting information. An interesting angle (a different perspective) is always a very good thing to have with your press release.

The main difference with writing an article for your website and a press release is that a press release is more restrictive. Press releases have a structure to them that you really should adhere to, to get you the best results. In some circumstances if you don’t adhere to the generally accepted format your press release won’t be accepted at all by the wire service.

** Please note that there are some variations to press release formats, but the one I will describe is the most common.

Headline: Every press release needs a headline. It’s very crucial to the success of your press release. The headline needs to be precise, convey what the press release is about, and possibly create anticipation for the article above the other aspects of what makes a great headline.

Teaser: Your first paragraph (also known as your sub-lead – which might sometimes appear with the headline in a different text format than the rest of your article) is a teaser that reveals something exciting without going into the details, it’s the hook

Second Paragraph: The second paragraph explains why the news in your first paragraph is important and why it’s beneficial to the reader

Third paragraph: The third paragraph should include quotes from powerful industry leaders, well known experts, etc. You need to validate your second paragraph (where you stated your news). If you’re not using quotes, then explain how you came to your conclusion. Just remember to keep it short, it’s only a paragraph.

Fourth paragraph: The fourth paragraph is the wrap up. It’s where you close off your article.

Contact Info: This is where you give out your contact information so that the general media can contact you. Just make sure that you can be reached through your contact information the day your press release goes out.

Above this, there are some differing options by the different services as to what you can include, such as how and where you can place pictures, graphs, etc.

Having described the anatomy of a press release, let’s look at a concrete example. The following is a press release I wrote and published a while back in June 2005. In terms of reach, it was read 161,125 times on PRWeb (the service I used to distribute this particular press release). This number is includes only the times it was read on PRWeb directly, not how many times it was read from all the sites that re-published it. In any case, it’s a good example of a successful press release.

How Interest Rates Can Drastically Affect Real Estate Prices

Interest rates can drastically affect real estate prices and the profits you make on your real estate properties, probably more than most people realize. An increase of interest rates of 5% to a more normal historical average of 8% can signify a 27% drop in housing prices to maintain a $1000 monthly mortgage payment!

Many people believe that what has driven the real estate market to today’s high prices is the investment value of properties, just like stocks in the dot com boom. However, if you ask the average person what started the boom, as in what exactly is the “investment value” most people won’t be able to answer you. Put fairly simple, housing got affordable quickly because interest rates dropped substantially and rapidly, to their lowest in decades. Although this is not the only variable, the reality is that for each 1% interest rates dropped, a person could afford a lot more mortgage with the same monthly payments, especially when the interest rates are on the lower side of the spectrum. This has fueled the real estate market boom. However as the flames burned high, the market has taken a fire all of its own as speculation too hold.

Looking at an example, a mortgage payment of $1000/month at an interest rate of 5% amortized over 30 years will allow you to pay a mortgage principal of $186,281.62. If you increase the interest rate by 1% to 6% and you want to maintain the same monthly payment of $1000, then you cannot sustain a mortgage of more than $166,791.61. This makes the mortgage amount you can afford 10.97% less than before. Take a higher interest rate, a more historically average interest rate of around 8%, now you can only afford a mortgage of $136,283.49, a significant drop of 26.8%!

We can graph the mortgage affordability based on interest rates alone. As you can see, the mortgage affordability is affected much more significantly at first. This is unfortunate for all those people that have been buying up real estate without really doing the research or working their numbers, or that are on the edge financially. They will most likely get squeezed out of the market and cause over zealous fire sales, much like the dot com boom and bust of 2000.

Headline: As you’ll quickly notice the headline draws attention. It has a power word (drastically). It creates a sense of emotion (this was written in 2005, so the real estate bubble hadn’t yet exploded – it was actually in full mania).

Teaser: In the teaser you’ll notice I state that interest rates will drastically affect real estate prices, and more importantly the profit YOU will make on YOUR real estate properties. Then I give a quick and concrete example with some numbers (no calculations or explanations are included yet) showing just how large an impact it can have on you. I imply a LARGE 27% drop in prices. Again, notice I state my claim without any explanations as to how I got to those numbers. The idea is to provide just enough information to entice the reader to read further.

Second Paragraph: This is where I make my real statement. This is where I explain my article, why it’s interesting, what it’s about, how I got to this conclusion, and most importantly why it’s important to YOU.

Third Paragraph: This is where I give credibility and validation to my initial statement. Normally I would use a quote (this is probably the only press release where I didn’t include a quote) from some high profile person (don’t forget this can also include you if you’re the founder of a company or a high profile person). In this particular press release I validated the second paragraph by explaining how I came to my conclusions. I give a concrete example of my conclusion with numbers, to show that I just didn’t make them up from thin air.

Fourth paragraph: Here I wrap up the article and add a parting thought, a word of warning for the reader to leave with.

Tip: Not all press releases need to be directly about you, your company, your product/service, or your website. Sometimes creating press releases with very interesting news information, such as the example I just showed, can result in significant indirect traffic. In this article the key to driving the traffic was the contact information.

My goal was not to directly promote me or my company, but to create authority in the real estate field. I was trying to get attention from real estate investors and indirectly create traffic and sales for my company LandlordMax (as well as this blog). And at the same time, if the article is related to your keyword as this one was, it can increase your search engine ranking through all the links you’ll get (from re-publications).

You can also increase the odds of getting traffic to your website by embedding a link to your company’s website, blog, etc. with the quote, but it’s not always recommended (if you don’t do it right it can come across as “spammy”).






How to Generate Traffic to Your Website – David Scott Kane Review

Earlier this week David Scott Kane from The Recursive ISV wrote a very in depth and detailed review of my ebook How to Generate Traffic to Your Website. And quite a review it was. Thank you Scott for the very kind and positive words!

Some of the highlights include:

I’m going to state at the outset of this review that this book has the good stuff!

You gotta love a review that pretty much starts with that previous sentence! And if that wasn’t enough of an endorsement, the next quote from the review sure is:

I just believe that credit should go where credit is deserved and I believe this book is a must have for every micro ISV and indeed many who consider themselves ISV’s.

Like I said earlier, it is a glowing review. If nothing else, the fact that he values one chapter as enough reason alone to buy the ebook, well…

To my mind Steph’s chapter on this is worth every cent of the eBook alone.  This is something I’m always harping on about here and something most ISV’s and micro ISV’s fail epically at.

What’s more, the conclusion is extremely positive:

The book covers a heck of a lot more too.  I’ve been working with websites since 1995, yet I still found gems in this book.

I also found things I knew but had forgotten and some things I wasn’t in agreement with – but was able to take away and give more thought to.

Don’t assume you know the SEO game and are able to skip this, even if it only makes you take a fresh look at what you’re doing it’s certainly worth every cent of the $14.95.

Frankly I can’t wait to read his next book, coming out in November, on blogging.

I’ve really only scraped the surface on what’s inside Steph’s book.  So in conclusion, yes I recommend it, highly.  Read it, use it and improve yourself and your business of software.

As you can see, Scott gave my ebook How to Generate Traffic to Your Website a very glowing review. Thank you.

And in case you missed the link earlier, you can read his full review here.






How Important are Headlines?

This post is an exert from my ebook How to Generate Traffic for Your Website:

How important are headlines? VERY. The reality is that a headline can often make or break an article. A headline will determine if even the first sentence of the article is even read. On average you have 5-7 seconds to get someone’s attention, which is done through the headline. More importantly, only 2 out of 10 people will read past your headline and actually read your article! That’s just how important headlines are.

To give you a more concrete example of just how powerful a headline can be, John Wesley submitted an article to several social networking sites, including Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc. The headline read “The Two Types of Cognition”. With this headline the article generated about 100 visitors. Nothing spectacular. However a couple days later, and after some work rewriting his headline, John resubmitted it with a new headline. With the new headline it got about 5000 visitors. A very significant difference, 50 times more visitors. What was the difference? Only the headline. The article was exactly the same. The headline went from “The Two Types of Cognition” to “Learn to Understand Your Own Intelligence”. You can find the details of his case study here.

Headlines can and do have a significant impact. It might only be one line, but it can easily make or break your articles success.






How Blogging Can Help Your Business

This post is an exert from my ebook How to Generate Traffic for Your Website:

To give you a quick idea of the scale of blogging, here are some more quick metrics according to Technorati.com (April 2007):

  • There are 70 million blogs
  • There are about 120,000 new blogs each day, or 1.4 new blogs every second
  • There are 1.5 million blog posts per day or 17 posts per second

What do these metrics mean for you and your company? Why is it important to blog? What’s are the benefit for your company? Will it help increase your traffic or revenues? Is it worth your time and effort (make no mistake about it, blogging successfully takes a lot of time and effort)?

For most companies, blogging can really help. It can help your business in a number of ways:

Personalize your business.

Instead of being just another faceless company website, it can give your website a second personality. It can give it that personal touch that people like. A lot of sales are through emotions, and people like to connect with people they like and trust. If you’re honest and real on your blog, and not just writing what you think people want to hear, you’ll create a personal bond with your customers. This will create long term traffic and revenues.

Express your personal philosophies and beliefs

A blog can allow you to express your personal philosophies, beliefs, etc. that might not be as appropriate on a corporate (or more official) website. For example, I share on my blog my beliefs about technical support. I’ve shared my beliefs that the most important aspects of software are easy to use, customer service, and quality. That it’s not the sheer number of features implemented, but rather how each feature is presented. To me that’s more important. I’d rather have less features, but have each one bug free and extremely easy to use. That’s my philosophy towards software design, and I’ll share it openly on my blog whereas I wouldn’t on my company’s website.

Behind the scenes.

I’ll also share what’s going on behind the scenes. How we’re doing on the next upcoming major release. Some struggles we had to deal with. Successes and failures we’ve experienced. A lot of people appreciate this. Why do you think movies often include commentaries and behind the scene clips? People like to know what happened behind the scenes. It helps bring a story to the businesses they deal with. And more importantly, it really helps them appreciate what you’re about. As a great example, my company LandlordMax doesn’t offer phone support. We tried it for a few months and realized it wasn’t going to work for us financially (if you don’t try you can’t know for sure), at least not unless we charged a significant amount. Now every time someone asks us why we don’t offer phone support I send them a link on my blog explaining why we don’t offer phone support. 99.9% of responses after reading this blog post are understanding and positive. Some extremely positive!

Transparency.

Another point very similar to behind the scenes, it’s giving your visitors transparency to your company. For us, because our customers plan to stay with us for the long haul, they want to make sure we’ll be around for a long time. Once they enter in all their data into the software, they don’t want the company to suddenly disappear. Our lifespan is important to them. By being transparent we can give them the confidence they might not otherwise get from just our corporate website.

Expertise.

People want to deal with competent people. When you go see a car mechanic you want to make sure they knows what they’re doing. When you hire a plumber, you want a good plumber. If you’re into home renovations you’d probably prefer to hire a reputable person like Bob Villa or Mike Holmes simply because they continually share their expertise. It makes you confident they can do the job. A great example of this is Pingdom.com. I don’t remember how I found their blog, probably through a link from another blog or a social network site, but needless to say I started to read their blog posts because they were extremely interesting and informative. The more I read the more I appreciated their knowledge. And it turns out I had been looking for a company I could trust for LandlordMax that offered their service (they will monitor your servers and if they go down , they notify you right away). Within a week I had bought a year package. The blog is what sold me. If it hadn’t been for the blog I have no idea who I would have selected. They really sold me on the fact that they knew what they were doing. But beyond that, I now follow their blog. I’ve also recommended their blog and services many times to a lot of individuals. I’m even mentioning it now in this post (and in the ebook). Their blog has absolutely increased their overall traffic (and revenues).

Give Advice.

A blog gives you the ability to offer advice that you might not want to on a corporate website. For example, a blog about a winery could offer a lot of advice on how to select wines. It could explain the differences in viscosity. It could explain how to taste a wine. Even further,  the company could explain how wine is made. The blog could describe the process, explain the subtleties. Basically by offering advice on how to make wine and select wine, they’re giving something to their customers. People will come back. They’ll share their article with their friends. It will drive traffic to their website.

Controversy.

Controversy will often generate attention and traffic. However,  rarely will a professional or corporate website want to present any controversy. This is where a blog comes in really handy. It’s an easy way to present your view on a controversial point yet not directly involve your company, and still manage to get some of the advantages such as increased traffic.

Long tail.

Blog articles will generally continue to generate traffic long after you write them, sometimes even years later. Take advantage of this older traffic and redirect them to your main website. Each archived article may not have that much traffic individually, but together they do add up quickly!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in purchasing the full ebook How to Generate Traffic to Your Website for only $14.95 (less than the price of a dinner for two). It contains 138 pages of information on how to increase the traffic to your website using both free and paid methods. You can read the first 21 pages here for free.






 
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