Monthly Archives: September 2017

SEO copywriting
Sep 22

Read This to Have Amazing SEO

By Sylvia LeRahl | Uncategorized

There are countless SEO copywriting services available to choose from. To be frank, the majority of them are a waste of time and money for the eager business owner. Before tossing your money at inexperienced copywriters who think SEO optimization means inserting random phrases here and there, it pays to be informed about what constitutes effective SEO copywriting.

Keep in mind that SEO is an investment – a means of increasing traffic, leads, and ultimately improving profits. Copywriting is like most services: If you pay a little more upfront, you’ll likely more than triple your desired results. Here’s what to look for when choosing an SEO copywriter:

Effective Copywriters Understand Your Audience

Sure, many freelance writers aced Poetry 101 and know how to transform the word ‘horizon’ into ‘The sky is a somber gray except for the stretch of salmon pink that lingers over the mountains. The muted tones pierce the bottom of the skyline with a jagged edge, whereas the clouds above soothe it with charcoal swirls.”

That said do you really want your content marketing to be filled with hyperbole? Effective content writers know what language to use (and what to avoid) depending on your audience. We can wow your demographic with simplicity, complexity, or a fusion of both depending on the need.

Effective Copywriters Focus on the People First, Search Engines Second

Oh, how seductive the promise of SEO-optimization can be! Upon discovering the art of SEO, too many amateur writers and business owners overlook one common aspect: Search engines don’t buy stuff; people do. There’s zero point in creating content that is filled with all the right keywords yet doesn’t motivate people to enter their credit card digits.

By focusing on people in addition to SEO, a skilled copywriter not only draws visitors into a website, but also turns them into conversions. Consider the alternatives: few visitors or a ton of visitors that quickly hop away. Hmm…

Reap the Benefits of Amaaazing SEO

With the right SEO approach, you not only wrangle in more visitors, but you also turn them into paying customers. Two birds with one stone, yeah?

Don’t settle for sub-par content. Generate the returns you’ve dreamed of by hiring a skilled content marketer that takes your conversions to the next level. Learn why copywriting matters and more about the copywriting services that On the Verge Writing provides by sending an inquiry to sylvia@onthevergewriting.com.

Sep 05

7 Tips and Tricks to Earning a Profit on Instagram

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Instagram marketing is a big deal. As 2015 came to a close, there were 400 million active monthly users and 75 million active daily users on the social media platform, thereby marking its growth as nearly 10 times faster than Twitter and Facebook. Each Instagram post gets 308 percent more engagement than a Facebook post, and 1,313 percent more engagement than a Twitter post. It’s no surprise that businesses are turning to this site to market their goods. What may come as a surprise, however, is how you can translate Instagram’s popularity into money for you, an average user. Here are the steps to making it a reality.

Attract a (large) following via Instagram marketing.

If you’re serious about making a profit from Instagram marketing, the first thing you need to do is gain followers. Successful marketing is directly proportionate to the length of the list of people checking out what you post. Most brands expect you to have a large group of loyal followers before contracting with you. At a minimum, expect to have 1,000 people on your list before being taken seriously.

To gain followers, spend a substantial amount of time marking “like” and making genuine comments about other users’ photos. Focus primarily on people who are in your niche by checking out hashtags and viewing the friends of your favorite Instagrammers. Host a contest, such as asking people to provide the best caption for your photo. Geotag your photos so other people who have posted in the same area can see your pics. Link your Instagram account to all of your other social media and online networks.

Find sponsors for your posts.

Sponsorship is a huge source of revenue on the social media platform, with companies plunking down $1 billion to $1.5 billion each year on sponsoring content on Instagram. Put simply, sponsorship means that you post pictures and videos highlighting certain products and brands. Each picture usually comes with a favorable caption mentioning the brand and how it fits into a person’s lifestyle. Often, the images are accompanied by a hashtag, link, or @mention. Payment varies, depending on the scope of a project, the brand involved, and the influential power of the Instagram user (or “influencer,” as the industry refers to them). Some programs only offer free swag, whereas others pay $5 to $10 for every 1,000 followers, and yet others offer $100 for 100 followers.

An app named Takumi guarantees to help you get money from sponsored posts as long as you have at least 1,000 followers. With a guaranteed payment of nearly $60 per post that fluctuates according to the number of people following a person, people with more of a following wind up with substantially more money. You can choose whom you work with and avoid brands you’d prefer to stay away from.

TapInfluence helps pair Instagram users who want sponsorship with brands. After creating a profile with a description of you and your content, brands who are interested in working with you will issue an invitation to their program.

Another helpful program, Influenz, provides a platform for Instagram marketing users to browse available campaigns. Influencers can then choose which brands to sponsor and receive payment accordingly.

Create an online store.

Since you can’t set up shop directly on the site, establish another way for people to purchase your Instagram pics. Each photo you post should have a link in the caption to the store where your photos are available. Use TinyURL or Bit.Ly to shorten the link so that it’s a manageable length.

Possible ways to establish an online store include:

Utilizing a site like inSelly, which allows you to link directly from your Instagram account to a virtual store.

Creating a personal website with your photos from Instagram.

Selling your pictures directly through a service such as Twenty20 or Community Foap. These services provide the printing and shipping and turn approximately 20 percent of the sale over to you.

Contact companies directly.

Develop a portfolio that exemplifies your ability to take photos that are appealing, clear, and positive. Contact companies directly that may be interested in being featured in your content. Offer the companies information about how many followers you have and how often you post to your Instagram feed. A variety of services, including Popular Pays, Quglu, and Quickshouts, help connect organizations with aspiring Instagram marketers.

Promote your own business through Instagram marketing.

If you own a business, use Instagram to your advantage. Here are some clever ways to do so:

Create a unique hashtag and promote it through your business. Ask your clients to post pictures of your business and use your hashtag. That way everything gets circled back to your business Instagram marketing account.

Post pictures from behind the scenes. People love to see what they aren’t usually privy to. Include photos from the process of making and delivering the product.

Make exclusive offers that are only available via Instagram. Doing so ups the number of followers (bonus for multiple reasons) and increases traffic to your business.

Generate leads for other businesses.

Another quick and easy way to make money is to sell another company’s products or generate leads for it. Make an account for free on Peerfly so that you can browse current promotional offers. Choose a company you’d like to promote, post its URL into your Instagram bio’s website section, and be prepared to make some commission. When your followers choose to check out the website, purchase something, or enter their personal information, you could wind up earning cash.

Sell your Instagram account.

If you’re ready to be done with the whole social media platform yet don’t want to give up on all the effort you’ve put forth to build a following, consider selling your Instagram marketing account. Some people will pay substantial money to have access to all of those potential customers or viewers. Viral Accounts and Fame Swap are good sites to help you navigate this.

Having all this information is enough to get you started on building your Instagram empire. Continue to draw followers as you stay true to your personal goals and intentions. Remember that the rest of the world is a potential collaborator and the more you understand what you have to offer, the more you will receive.

Sep 05

What I’ve Learned From Writing Email Copy for 1000+ Clients

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

This month, I got to a point in my writing career where I had a lot of my preconceived notions about writing email copy challenged.

Over my freelancing journey, I’ve written email copy in over 40 different industries. Tons and tons of emails. In short, my clients have been happy. After all, I made them a lot of money.

Then, it dawned on me.

When you first start learning any new skill, you know nothing.

Then you start learning more and you think you have everything figured out.

Then you get some experience and you KNOW you have everything figured out.

And then you get even more experience and you realize you don’t know a gosh darn thing.

Your understanding is like wading in the shallow end. There is a world of depth you haven’t even begun to see yet.

Guess where I am right now?

I’m at the point where I’ve learned a lot of things I once thought were true… simply aren’t.

And that’s because for the longest time I looked up to people who spent a lot of time talking about copywriting, yet didn’t actually write for clients.

So once I stopped listening to everyone else and set out to discover the truth, a whole new understanding beckoned.

I looked back on the bazillion emails I had written for my clients, and I identified a few universal truths that have always held true for me — no matter the list, market or product.

I’ll let you in on these secrets here.

#1 Email copy is not a dying art; it is very much alive and thriving.

And anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool.

Is deliverability an issue?

Always has been. Always will.

Are people more distracted than ever?

That goes without saying.

Are open rates declining while spam complaints are skyrocketing?

Sure, in some industries, for some people. But there are other people who have the opposite of this problem.

I always chuckle when people say that email is dead. Email copy isn’t dead. It’s actually more important than ever. And I’d say it’s actually increasing in importance.

Ever check out how many auto responder companies there are? Have a look at how many funnels you see asking for an email address. Just take a glimpse at your inbox.

If email is dead, then why is email everywhere?

#2 Writing is mechanical, not romantic.

Movies love to portray writing as so…romantic.

It humors me.

And the reason why it humors me so much is because most of the successful writers in the world view writing as a mechanical process.

When people like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling sit down to write their 3,000–5,000 words every single day, they don’t sit in a bathtub, pour themselves a cocktail, and wait for the muse to come calling.

They put their butt in the seat and assemble greatness.

As I’ve grown into a better writer, this process has become less and less about trying to channel inspiration and more about assembling compelling sales messages based on tested and proven formulas for persuasion.

When you get past a certain level of experience, writer’s block should become increasingly rare. And that’s because you’ve internalized the formulas and structures you need to produce a compelling sales message.

All successful email copy follows the same formula

Ready for it?

Subject line

Story/hook/lead

Transition

Call to action

This is a proven formula for persuasion when selling with email.

And when you start looking at every email in these four parts, it makes things a lot easier for you to ‘fill-in-the-blanks.’

#3 Your subject line is infinitely more important than the body

To be sure, 33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone

Nothing happens until your email gets opened. Just like a regular advertisement — nothing happens until the headline is read. Email copy is no different.

Opens might not be the most important metric to track, but they are what starts the conversation with your prospective customers.

#4 Short subject lines usually work better

A while back, I started counting the number of words in my subject lines.

(Just call me a nerd.)

I noticed that almost every subject line clocked in at usually 10 or 11 words.

Now, this isn’t bad. But oftentimes, entire subject lines can’t be displayed on mobile unless they are 8 or fewer words.

I’ve tested this out in a number of ways and shorter subject lines usually do a bit better than longer ones.

What’s also important: the human brain processes information in chunks.

So the fewer words you use, the easier it is to process. If you can get across your idea in five words instead of twelve, people will be more receptive.

It’s hard to do this, but it’s a great skill to develop. And better word economy will not only capture interes;, it’ll help people scan through your writing faster.

Say more, with less.

#5 Curiosity is king (er, queen)

The best subject line formulas I have ever used fuse curiosity + benefit.

I use that 1–2 punch for almost every subject line I write.

It’s incredibly powerful.

And just like our tendency to stare at car accidents on the side of the road, people click far more if a headline produces curiosity. Even more so than a straight benefit or shocking subject line.

Look at all the clickbait headlines on Facebook and Buzzfeed and all the native ads you see around the internet.

Those content powerhouses work the system.

#6 Stories sell and they’re easy to write in email form

Every time I write a story in email copy, it explodes.

That’s not because I’m a good story teller. It’s because humans like reading stories.

It’s how we’ve always communicated with each other. Human nature hasn’t changed. And it never will.

Anytime you can illustrate your sales message with a story, it helps your prospects relate. And if you can get them to do that — you’re golden.

#7 The more personal your tone, the better

Write like you talk. Assuming you have some semblance of an intelligent voice, this is an effective strategy. The closer you can match your tone of voice in email copy to a one-on-one conversation, the more successful you’ll be.

It’s not always easy to do this.

Especially when you’re sitting down writing an email that’s going to go out to over 700,000 people.

But if you can channel that voice, you’ll immediately draw in more people.

#8 Your job is to get them to click

That’s it.

That’s all the email copy is supposed to do.

Manage this and you’re an email genius.

Don’t worry about making the sale in the email. Are there times when you SHOULD focus on pre-selling them inside the email? Sure enough. But only if it’s going to get more people to click through.

Just move more people through. Let your conversion piece (sales page, VSL) do the rest of the heavy lifting.

#9 Add links in email copy

I used to think that if my copy was good enough, people would read all the way through. So I got in the habit of only putting my link at the end of the email, right before the signature.

Then, I realized I had believed a fallacy.

So I started embedding links all throughout the copy.

I didn’t just plaster a “click here to blah blah blah” hyperlink.

Instead, I targeted benefit-laden phrases and hyperlinked them.

Like this: “Her only goal was to earn $2500 every month.”

Once I started doing this, click through rates went way up.

The human eye is attracted to the links in the email. So much so that sometimes they block out the other text that’s not hyperlinked.

By embedding links into my copy like this, I’m essentially making a claim that seeps into their subconscious. And if they want that specific benefit that is described in the hyperlinked text, they can’t help but click on it.

One last thing: If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, I’d appreciate if you liked and shared it. Thanks.

 

Sep 05

How to Optimize for SEO

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

No doubt, there are a lot of acronyms in the world of professional freelance writing services. One that you’ll certainly come across throughout your marketing efforts is SEO. This means Search Engine Optimization. And it’s a Really Big Deal.

In a nutshell, its purpose is to:

  • Communicate to the search engine your intentions so that it can recommend your website for relevant searches;
  • Create a seamless and great user experience.

That said, your links, social media advertisements and paid searches are beneficial only in the case when the content, information architecture, content management system and infrastructure of the website is of great quality. Without those things in place, all of your efforts are useless.

Let me repeat that: Without great content writing services and a solid content management system, and without appropriate infrastructure, your efforts at SEO will fail.

What Do Search Engines Look For?

When a user searches for something, the search engine does its job by referring users to websites. That is, if your writing services have done its job well. The likelihood that your website appears depends on the following components:

  • Content: blog content, page titles, headlines
  • Performance: speed and abilities of website
  • Authority: number of inbound links from authoritative sites
  • User experience: low bounce rate

What to Avoid

As people learn ways to “trick” the system, search engines also become savvier. That’s to say, what worked to boost ratings two years ago doesn’t necessarily work today. There are some old approaches that can count against you today.

  • Overuse of keywords
  • Purchased links
  • Too many ads

Multiple Channel Optimization

Along with utilizing a keyword strategy, it’s important to consider different channels to market your products or services, including:

  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedln
  • Radio or TV ads

These platforms will help your branding efforts and help customers use the specific phrases you are optimizing for.

Steps to Optimization

Analyze your target market

Website analysis and competitive analysis are very important. You have to see your website Meta sets, keywords, and visible text to analyze your results. You should also look at the content keywords and engine rankings of your competitior’s websites to determine an effective positioning strategy.

Keyword research

As the most popular search engine, Google is a great starting point to determine what keywords people are searching for online. Google AdWords allows you to unveil the search engine queries and the competition for each keyword. Note that it’s important to do this on a weekly basis so that you have the most current, relevant search terms.

Content optimization

All qualified marketing writing services will underscore the importance of content optimization. It is particularly crucial for landing pages and anywhere that leads to content on another page. To optimize content, you’ll need to carefully examine each of the following (which will be explained in more detail in another post):

  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Meta keywords
  • URLs

Continuous Testing and Assessing

About the only thing consistent regarding SEO is that it changes frequently. As such, you should continuously analyze your search engine ranking and the traffic on your page. Pay attention to the content that drives traffic into your site and remove any content that doesn’t bring visitors, or merely serves as a distraction.

Optimizing a site for SEO can be a delicate balance between doing what’s relevant now and predicting what will be relevant in the future. Employing freelance copy writing services is one way to ensure that your content stays optimized for the best SEO.

Sep 05

Importance Of Cоруwriters In a Digital World

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Yоu may have hеаrd thе term “соруwritеrs” аt some роint in your life, but you might nоt knоw exactly whаt it means. In thiѕ аrtiсlе, уоu will find оut exactly what copywriters do and hоw they саn bеnеfit уоur buѕinеѕѕ. Rеаd оn tо find out mоrе.

Copywriters are wоrd people. Thiѕ is diffеrеnt thаn a grарhiс dеѕigner, whеrе thеу аrе соnсеrnеd with the lауоut аnd aesthetics of an advertisement оr sales letter. Hеrе, a соруwritеr iѕ hаving a sales соnvеrѕаtiоn with оnе реrѕоn аt a time, ѕhоwing еасh рrоѕресt hоw thе рrоduсt in question will hеlр him or hеr.

Copywriters essentially write “copy,” whiсh is all of thе writing thаt hеlрѕ thаt buуеr mаkе a decision whеthеr or nоt a сеrtаin рrоduсt is for thеm. It all ѕtаrtѕ with the headlines. Evеrу timе you wаlk bу thе magazine rасk in linе at thе grосеrу store оr newsstand, уоu are experiencing thе роwеr of thе headline.

This iѕ where thе соруwriting bеginѕ. Effective copywriters must bring the rеаdеr оut of a digital marketing trаnсе and focus that person’s аttеntiоn on thе рrоduсt fоr just a ѕесоnd. Once thаt аttеntiоn iѕ fосuѕеd, the copywriting uѕеѕ оthеr tооlѕ tо рull thе rеаdеr intо thе “bоdу сору,” whiсh is thе bulk of thе ѕаlеѕ lеttеr, advertisement, or blog.

Cоntrаrу tо рорulаr belief, соруwritеrs саn’t соnvinсе a person tо buy ѕоmеthing thаt they don’t want. The ѕаlеѕ letter hаѕ tо be рut in frоnt оf a реrѕоn thаt wоuld hаvе a wаnt for thе product that is bеing ѕоld. You саn’t ѕеll tires tо a реrѕоn withоut a саr аnd уоu саn’t ѕеll аnуthing to a реrѕоn thаt has nо uѕе fоr it.

Thuѕ, you wаnt tо mаkе ѕurе that уоu hаvе аlѕо “pre-qualified” the prospect. The pre-qualification рrосеѕѕ bringѕ the rеаdеr in frоnt оf products that they hаvе ѕhоwn аn intеrеѕt in. You саn dо thiѕ through еmаil liѕtѕ, mаgаzinе ѕubѕсriрtiоnѕ tо certain tуреѕ of реорlе, even ѕресifiс саblе channels, whеrе thе liѕtеnеrѕ аrе аll mеmbеrѕ оf a сеrtаin dеmоgrарhiс.

There iѕ nо magic bullеt with copywriting, but thеre are fundamentals thаt all good соруwritеrѕ need tо knоw. Without thоѕе fundаmеntаlѕ, you саn hаvе the bеѕt рrоduсt in frоnt оf the bеѕt audience, аnd the ѕаlеѕ lеttеr соuld асtuаllу turn реорlе аwау. When you hire On the Verge Writing for your copywriting needs, you can be sure your copy recruits and retains rather than repels.

So why are copywriters so important tо grоw уоur ѕаlеѕ аnd inсоmе via digital marketing? Consider this: Perhaps even thоugh уоu offer a great рrоduсt or ѕеrviсе, реорlе dоn’t seem tо nоtiсе уоu? Or even when you hаvе traffic increasing оn уоur site, уоur ѕаlеѕ rаtе never inсrеаѕеѕ? Hаvе уоu еvеr thоught аbоut hоw thе big brаndѕ ѕuсh аѕ Adidаѕ and IBM became so popular?

That’s why On the Vеrgе Writing is here for you. If yоu dоn’t hаvе sound ѕаlеѕ сору оr a соmраnу brосhurе thаt саn mаkе potential customers notice уоu, you’ll struggle to recruit or retain customers. If yоu dоn’t have сору thаt reaches the heart оf thе readers, сарturеѕ their imаginаtiоn аnd wоrkѕ оn their рѕусhоlоgу, you’re apt to struggle. If yоu don’t hаvе сору that hеlрѕ build уоur credibility аnd рорulаrizеѕ уоur brаnd nаmе, you’re just another business lost in the shuffle. In ѕhоrt, if уоu dоn’t hаvе copy that demands a рrеѕеnсе, you’re apt to be lost. That’s why yоu need соруwriters thаt have a personality, whеthеr it iѕ in уоur company ѕlоgаn, brосhurе, wеbѕitе соntеnt or ѕаlеѕ lеttеr. Gооd соруwriting helps you in:

  • Tripling your sales – Consider if your product was sub-par. Trу сhаnging its sales copy. Yоu will bе аmаzеd to ѕее thе sudden riѕе in уоur ѕаlеѕ and inсоmе. It has hарреnеd with mу соllеаguеѕ and I am ѕurе it will hарреn with you, tоо.
  • Dоubling thе сuѕtоmеr rеtеntiоn rаtе – People ѕhоuld want tо buy frоm уоu аgаin аnd again. Yоu hаvе to build trust and rеliаbilitу in thеir еуеѕ, аnd thаt iѕ nоt аn еаѕу thing. If you only hаvе written ѕсribblе tо dо thаt, you’re likely spinning your wheels. Thеrе liеѕ thе imроrtаnсе оf gооd copywriting fоr уоur buѕinеѕѕ.
  • Singling уоur brаnd nаmе – Over time, уоu want реорlе tо remember уоur business аnd tаlk about it, right? Sо whаt dо уоu think will асhiеvе that рurроѕе? If you ѕаid copywriting, I аm рrоud of уоu. Gооd copywriting fоr уоur wеbѕitе and business wоrkѕ wonders in thiѕ саѕе. Juѕt look at thе big соmраniеѕ and you will knоw.

Thе аdvаntаgеѕ оf good соруwriting fоr уоur business аrе mаnу. And аѕ thеу say, actions ѕреаk lоudеr than words. Rеѕultѕ matter. Contact On the Verge Writing today to see how I can make a huge impact on your bottom line.

 

Sep 05

Freelance Writer or Writing Mill?

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Your company’s success depends on several different factors: convenience, relevance, and price point among them. While these components should not be ignored, they overlook what may be the single-most important factor, however. Content. What you say to your customers or clients is of utmost importance when it comes to conversions. In other words, having the right content writer is imperative.

Words and images are the way to address your audience, the way to let them know about your services or products, and the way to keep them entertained and educated at the same time. This is a job for a professional content writer, someone who has experience with creative writing and can make your business more attractive. But how should you choose the best content writer for your business?

Prestigious Large Company or Individual Content Writer?

Many businesses choose large writing mills that they have heard of before or that offer smaller price points for each service. Instead of hiring a content writer, this may seem like the best solution. However, large firms must complete large quantities of work within small time periods. This leads to duplicated content and templates that will be applied to your site, as well as others.

Large firms can afford to be creative — but only with the right content writer — since they must perform on a larger scale. Therefore, they have created useful methods and techniques to use repeatedly, key phrases, elegant terms, and words that will appease customers in the short-term. Unfortunately, this makes for a cookie-cutter approach that leaves clients frustrated when they see the similarities between their content and that of other clients.

Alternately, a small boutique writing firm, such as On the Verge Writing, that has fewer freelance writers, can provide customized service unique to your needs. You’ll receive unique content written specifically in your preferred style. Being able to communicate with one experienced content writer will enable you to share your thoughts and ideas directly with the writer who will be working with you.

Smaller workloads lead to more careful writing, with no repetition or previously used techniques. Select an experienced and successful writer that will be there along the way.

On the Verge Writing has the same dreams and goals as you and will be right by your side for every project no matter how large or small. If you don’t like something, or you need an improvement, your freelance writer will be there to support your requests for revisions. Contact On the Verge Writing today to find out how to make your content turn to conversions.

Sep 05

Going Viral

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Every day, thousands of blogs, articles, and videos are uploaded to the Internet, ready for consumption by the masses. Most of these languish into oblivion. Yet some go viral. Their popularity surpasses expectations as the article becomes shared on Facebook, tweeted on Twitter, and emailed across the globe. These are the stories that remain in the public consciousness. For anyone who wants to reach a large audience, whether it be for fame, fortune or the future, it’s important to learn the secrets to crafting content that goes viral.

Naturally, the number one secret to Internet fame is to create compelling content. Once a polished, intriguing article is on hand, there are countless ways to increase its reach.

The two things you MUST do in order to increase the shareability of content on the web:

Evoke highly emotional responses

Articles that receive the largest number of hits are those that generate an emotional response from readers. The emotions can be positive or negative and can trigger a wide range of responses. That said, positive articles tend to get the highest ratings. There are a lot of unhappy people in the world. Crafting content that is inspiring and uplifting has the potential to lift people up out of the gloom, thereby increasing the likelihood of shares.

The three most popular emotions that viral articles evoke are awe, amusement and anger. The least share-inducing emotions are anger and sadness. Other emotions that trigger a strong response include surprise, joy, amusement, lust, and anxiety. The power of surprise cannot be overstated. If people are genuinely shocked by what is written, research shows that they are far more likely to share the information.

Craft content that is useful and practical

Once an article is through the editing process and ready for publication, take a careful look at it to determine whether it asks readers to do something and compels them to do that something. In other words, give readers a very specific action to take after reading the information.

People aren’t very skilled at applying broad concepts to their own lives. They can read an article and gloss over any notion of doing something with the information gleaned. However, if a writer can make readers do something, and that something is beneficial, the writer is remembered for it.

Asking someone to take action can involve nearly anything from researching information and making a purchase to signing a petition or donating money.

Emotions that make content become contagious

Awe

Albert Einstein once summed up the sensation of awe perfectly. “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

Evoking awe in a person involves showing them something remarkably beautiful or mysterious. It’s the emotion people feel when they observe the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the harmony of an orchestra, or the agility and acrobatics in Cirque du Soleil.

Fear

Fear triggers the reptilian part of a person’s brain and makes them take action. It’s a primal response that also serves as a fantastic motivator. Writers can generate this sense of fear by making readers think they are going to lose something important, or make them worry that unknowing mistakes are being made without certain information.

Pleasure

There are a lot of things that make people experience pleasure. An article that is funny, inspiring, or happy creates this feeling. An easy way to evoke pleasure is to tell a personal anecdote that readers connect with.

Anger

Question or challenge someone’s beliefs and you’re apt to create anger. When people are mad, they strive to attain justice. They write articles of their own, post on Facebook, and talk about it at the gym.

Lust

While sex is the most common thing people associate with lust, there are a variety of things humans lust over. Power, fame, money, and results are some examples. Tempt readers with results. Suggest that by doing the actions you recommend, they’ll gain something they lust after.

Surprise

Show people something unexpected. Prove how expectations are wrong or how there’s a better way of doing something they’ve done for years. Use research to elicit surprise.

Although there are many other strategies available to increase shares for an article, these two are the most significant. They guarantee readers and memorability. Help readers feel h3 emotions and encourage them to take action. Oh, and naturally, share this article.

Sep 05

Teacher as Scientists: How Today’s Teachers are Using Data to Drive Instruction

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

You may not think of teaching as a scientific profession, but today’s teachers are engaging in the scientific process on a daily basis. Scientists, defined broadly, study problems and find solutions. They seek answers and are naturally curious about why and how things occur. More and more, teachers are using data from formative and summative assessments in their classrooms to identify student needs and adjust instruction to match those needs. Classrooms are morphing from places where students “sit and get” content delivered in a lockstep manner to places where student assessment data is driving the choices teachers make from day to day—and even moment to moment.

Educational research points to the importance of teachers adopting a scientific approach in their classrooms. Expert teachers are those who consistently reflect on their practice; they “seek feedback about their teaching, and then evaluate and adjust their teaching methods based on these findings.” Assessments of student learning are the most powerful when they are used as assessments for learning. Assessment for learning sounds very much like scientific work: “Assessment for Learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.” When teachers reflect on assessment data and how it can be used to adjust teaching, they become scientists, and student achievement increases.

In today’s world of high-stakes summative tests, it is no wonder that some teachers are leery of data. Summative assessment data is often used to pass judgment on teachers and students, with labels such as “failing” or “needs improvement” given to schools, teachers, and students based on data.

While using data in this way may be advantageous in politics, it does little to impact student learning. Even parents recognize this fact, as many are “opting out” of high-stakes assessments. But, if we adopt a scientific mindset in education, summative assessments become less ominous.

Assessments are not the end-game—a final score of how the students and teacher did for the year. Assessments are just part of many different pieces of data that tell the teacher and students how effective the process of teaching and learning was. Did students learn? How do you know? There are no judgments in those two questions—they are basic and scientific. Data becomes a tool that teachers use to hone instructional practice in ways that make a difference for students.

So, how are today’s teachers putting on their scientific hats and using assessment data as a tool to improve teaching and learning? Three key, research-based principles summarize what today’s teachers are doing differently.

Assessment as a Critical Component of Planning Instruction

As teachers design instruction, they reflect on how student learning will be assessed. Expert teachers think about what they want students to know and be able to do, and they also think about how students will demonstrate their new knowledge. They carefully plan the activities that will move students toward the learning objectives. In addition, students are made aware of the learning objectives and the criteria for mastery. Teachers have a clear sense of where they are going in the classroom, how they will know when they have arrived, and they share that clear vision with the students.

Frequent, Targeted Assessments with Feedback for Students

Think of a scientist who goes to his lab daily to collect data on an experiment in progress. Perhaps he is taking the temperature of soil samples in a greenhouse. Perhaps she is recording observation notes as bacteria grow. Scientists do not wait until the end of an experiment to collect data. They collect data frequently to measure the impact of conditions during the experiment.

Expert teachers do the same.

They do not wait until the end of a unit of learning to assess students. They are constantly observing student progress—through quizzes, discussions, and assignments. Expert teachers also ensure that students receive feedback on their learning. One of the highest leverage strategies a teacher can use is to teach students to self-assess and use teacher feedback to adjust performance.

Adjusting Instruction Based on Results

It is not data that will impact teaching and learning. It is how teachers choose to use the data that will improve student achievement.

The antibiotic penicillin was discovered by Dr. Alexander Fleming, who returned from a vacation to find a mold (penicillin) had invaded some Petri dishes of bacteria in his lab. Imagine how differently things would have turned out if Dr. Fleming had looked at the Petri dishes and thrown out the results of his experiment because it was a “bad test.”

Instead, he began to use the “data” from his Petri dishes and discovered that the mold had slowed the growth of the bacteria.

Expert teachers adopt the same scientific habits of mind. Instead of looking at lackluster results of assessments and concluding that the assessment was “bad,” teachers are using the data to reflect on their practice and the results of the teaching and learning process.

So, are teachers scientists? Definitely. Teachers are becoming more adept at making data-informed instructional decisions. The result is that no two classrooms or lessons are the same. Data-informed teaching ensures that instruction meets students where they are and takes them to where they need to go.

If you’re looking to have education-related content written for your company or blog, contact Sylvia LeRahl today.

Sep 05

What Every Student Should Know About Opting Out of Standardized Tests

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

An integral part of the American school system since the 1970s, standardized tests haven’t changed much since their inception. For years, students have been told to put away their books, scribble in the circles using a No. 2 pencil; and, when the timer dinged, rush to put their pencils down. As of late, the landscape has changed. Now, those ubiquitous (and oft-dreaded) tests have taken on a new sense of urgency. That’s because high school students can forego these exams in favor of test-optional college admissions at some universities.

Yet Should They?

Certainly, it’s tempting to toss the old notion of high-stakes exams to the wayside. After all, very few of us can say with a straight face that we enjoy the pressure, the headaches, and the grueling hours spent studying for a test that seems to serve little purpose. However, inconvenience and stress aren’t necessarily grounds for dismissal.

Deciding if this route is the right one for you or your child is an individual choice that should only be made after fully understanding the process. Here’s a glimpse at what test-optional college admissions involve and some ways to determine if it’s appropriate for you.

What is test-optional college admission?

Schools that are “test optional” make admission decisions with little or no consideration for SAT or ACT scores. Some of them will, however, use test results in order to determine course placement. In these institutions, students can decide whether or not to include test results with their admission paperwork.

Alternately, there are also “test-blind” schools, such as Hampshire College, that absolutely refuse to even look at test scores no matter how high (or low) your score.

For a school to completely buck the system in this fashion has its consequences. In its first year of practice, Hampshire was dropped from U.S. News & World Report rankings. The result? A larger enrolled class and far more minority and first-generation students. Meanwhile, the average high school grade point average of students stayed the same at 3.5.

Why would a student opt out?

There are many reasons a student might choose to opt out of high-stakes testing. Some students don’t test well despite having the knowledge and skills to be successful. These students may be filled with test anxiety or simply struggle with sitting still. Whatever the reason, they fear that the scores won’t accurately reflect their potential.

is testing-optional right for me?

Like with most things in life, there are pros and cons to every decision. When deciding whether to opt out of testing, are several important things to consider, including:

Your test-taking history

From state-mandated exams to weekly classroom assessments, most people have a long history of taking tests. Yet each person’s history is unique to them. Do you excel when faced with pen-and-paper assessments? this type of strategic thinking can bring out the best in some students. Alternately, do you freeze up or find it difficult to accurately show your knowledge?

If exams don’t accurately reflect your knowledge and skills, it may be time to opt out.

Schools of interest

Though higher ed is shifting toward test-optional admissions, there are still many schools that don’t offer such an option. Consider what programs you want to attend to decide whether you’ll be required to submit test scores. For a list of colleges and universities that feature testing-optional admissions, visit here.

Your academic past

When schools choose to forego exam scores, they often rely more heavily on grades and course load difficulty. If you have an academic record that reflects high scores in advanced, honors, IB, or AP classes, you may appreciate the flexibility of testing-optional admissions. Likewise, if your transcript shows substantial improvement over time, it may be a good route for you to choose.

Opting out of testing can be advantageous for many students if done correctly and in the appropriate scenario. Such a decision should be made with care so that your future schooling isn’t sacrificed.