Six Ways to Make Your Content More Usable

On the web, usability is king. You may be an expert – but if your web content does not follow usability principles, few people may read it.

Growing your web stats could be as simple as using these six techniques to make your content more usable.

Use the Inverted Pyramid

The inverted pyramid style of writing is used in journalism. It basically says that the conclusion – or the most important thing you have to say – should be the very first thing that people see. This is especially true when writing for the web.

You may have heard of the F-shaped pattern. Users’ visual patterns have been tracked in usability testing when they have looked at a web page. The way that users’ eyeballs track a page generally takes the form of an F. That is to say, many users will read the very top line of your content first. Then, they will skim down through the content until they find what they’re looking for.

This is why inverted pyramid writing is so crucial to keeping your users’ attention.

Keep It Short

Some usability tests have shown that most people have short attention spans on the Web. According to some usability tests, users leave a web page after they get to 600 words. If your content is longer than 600 words, users are not going to make it through the entire article. Some users also have problems with sentences longer than 20 words.

Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Have one thought in each paragraph.

Avoid Dense Content

Again, when most users use the web, they read content in a different way than they would in a book. Web users are often just trying to get to the information that they want to know. So having a web page that is packed with paragraph after paragraph of content is not going to attract attention.

Use bullet points for content:

• that is related
• can be put into a list

This creates white space that:

• breaks up a page
• makes it easier to scan

Avoid Jargon

Be as clear as possible. Some people on the web have a low literacy rate. These users will not scan content in ways that users with a high literacy rate would. They will read your article more word-for-word to decipher its meaning. If they hit a technical word without a description of what that word means – they will be gone from your page.

That is true of contractions, too. Some users do not understand them. Avoid them.

Use Visuals Where Appropriate

Remember the old saying “a picture is worth 1,000 words”? If you can show what you are talking about in the form of a graph, visual or descriptive image – do it. Be aware that this content can step into accessibility issues, though. Your site may have users who are blind, deaf or have a mental disability. If so, you will want to make sure that your images and videos are accessible. Reading the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines would be a good starting point.

Show the “How”

Just because you are the expert on something does not mean that people can read your mind. Break down your content in a way that explains the “how” of what you are writing about. Consider, where appropriate, using “how to” posts to explain your processes or research to users.

What do you think? Do you have any other examples or tips? Say so in the comments.

Tune-Out to Tune-Up

Remember weekends? Those special times when we left work on a Friday and could forget about everything until Monday morning?

I’m not that old and I barely remember them. Today’s Gen Y workers will go through life not knowing that memory at all.

Work life balance is a fantasy that becomes more and more distant every day.

We’re connected all the time. Blackberrys, iPhones and Android devices have tethered us to our offices. It’s virtually impossible to escape. Work emails come 24 hours a day, all week long. And senders expect a response immediately.

A few weeks back I was thinking about a 9 day camping trip I took back in 2005. I had no access to my phone or my email. It was wonderful.

Could I take 9 days away from my job now? It would be difficult. I know in my brain that the world would go on just fine without me. But being connected is such a huge part of what we’ve all become that making a break – even for a few days would be tough.

But learning to separate ourselves from work and our social media tribe is essential if we want to maintain a semblance of independence.

Work is important. Facebook, less so. And learning to turn away from both for even a little bit can help us recalibrate.

If you need a business reason to try this, think about what effect resetting your perspective and looking at your business from a completely fresh angle on Monday morning could mean to your clients? A little bit of distance can do amazing things for your objectivity.

Try it this weekend. Can you live without email and social media for 48 hours?

On Monday, I’ll be back to writing about marketing with some tips on how to use LinkedIn for prospecting.

Next week, I’ll also have a blog about optimizing your videos for search.

So have a good weekend. I’m off to grab a beer.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Everything is connected.

The tools are out there to have all your social media update like a fine tuned machine.

With very little effort you can set yourself up so that each time you update your blog or post a new video to YouTube, it automatically goes to Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook or any of the other half dozen social media hubs we’re all encouraged to join each week.

But just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to.

That’s right. You don’t have to connect everything.

A few years back when all this was very new, I had a guy I barely remember from high school “friend” me on Facebook.

Within minutes I was getting information about his catering business. Needless to say, he didn’t last very long on my feed.

At the time it got me thinking about why I’m on Facebook and what the expectation of my friends are.

While I’m sure at the time they were bored silly of pictures of my newborn baby, even that was probably less irritating than the business-related tweets and Linkedin updates that were also going to my Facebook account.

So a decision was made. I severed my Facebook account from Twitter and Linkedin. I then tweaked the security settings so that only real friends were welcome in my digitally walled garden.

This allows me to separate the personal from professional.

Now when I get a Facebook friend request from a potential business contact, I politely refer them to my Linkedin and Twitter accounts.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use Facebook for business. You just have to be smart about it and create a Facebook business page, so that folks who are interested in you as a professional, continue to get what they need, while your friends and family aren’t turned off by your latest blog posting on “Leadership.”

Can you build a business with a Groupon approach?

Groupon has been in the news quite a bit lately. So much so that many stories now take it for granted that you know what it’s all about.

So here’s a brief overview of how is works:

You offer a product or service at a substantial discount ONLY if a certain number of consumers agree to buy the product or service you’re offering.

To put it in speaker terms, if you’re holding a public seminar or workshop that would usually cost an individual $900 to attend, you might offer members of Groupon that same seminar or workshop for $300 if 25 people sign up.

The kicker of course is that Groupon also takes 50% of that $300. So each attendee is really only bringing you $150. This might be great if you’re just trying to put bums in seats, but can you really build a business on this model?

I actually think you can. Only not through Groupon.

What if you could have a Groupon-like widget on your own site that you could apply to all your products?

Imagine the potential.

An email blast to your database for a full-day workshop. It costs $1200 per person. But if 40 people sign-up in the next 7 days, the price falls to $600. Uses some social media – Facebook Like and Share, Tweet this etc. And you might be able to fill a room faster than you ever have before.

And if you don’t sell those 40 spots, those who have signed up are paying full price.

Groupon has proved it’s not a crazy idea for it’s business. And I think it could also work for yours!

Here’s my “Deal of the Day”

I currently offer a one hour web marketing consultation over the phone. It comes with a full content analysis as well as a report filled with links and tools you can use to help your business thrive online.

I charge $300 for this service. If I can get over 15 people who want this service – I’ll do it for $150.

That’s 50% off. A great value for an actionable list of stuff you can implement yourself.

Comment below or send me a note on Linkedin.

This offer expires on Monday, April 25th 2011 @ 3pm.

Do you really need publishing services when you are publishing on the web?

It’s a question I’ve thought about an awful lot over the last couple of years, if you’re going to be publishing on the web, do you really need the publishing services offered by the big publishers?

In 2007 when I began working with author and speaker Jim Clemmer, I was lucky enough to learn, first-hand, from someone who had sold hundreds of thousands of books using the traditional publisher route and several hundred thousand copies as a self published author the difference between working with traditional publishing services and going it alone.

The biggest difference was that when you sell books through a publisher you need to sell many more books to make the same amount of money you’d make selling less books as a self-publisher.

One of the first projects I worked on with Jim was his business-fable Moose on the Table: A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work.

Taking the book from manuscript to print was not a huge issue. But we hit a wall when it came to distribution and marketing.

At that point we were focused on getting the book into stores and getting the word out to the public to do this:

  • We scheduled webinars
  • Went on a cross country seminar tour
  • Created a website –
  • Sent thousands of postcards to our mailing lists
  • Promoted the books in Jim’s monthly newsletter
  • Sent out targeted email blasts to the database based on what products and services contacts had purchased in the past.
  • Built a YouTube Channel and loaded it with chapter summaries and other videos
  • Created an iPhone Application
  • Hit just about every Breakfast Television show in the country

We were able to do all this ourselves.

In the end the book didn’t sell nearly as well as we’d hoped. And as best I can figure, it was because it was so completely different from Jim’s previous books, that it didn’t resonate with his core audience and it didn’t catch fire with the general public.

We did cover all our bases from a marketing perspective.

But distribution was a big hole. The book wasn’t available everywhere and we were trying to sell as many copies as we could through Jim’s main site – The problem with this is that even with 500 unique visitors dropping by each day, most of them weren’t going to buy a book.

Jim’s next book was more in keeping with what he’d done in the past. Growing at the Speed of Change is, as Jim likes to describe it “inspir-actional.”

While we did many of the same things we did with Moose, this time we were able to remove one of the great barriers to self-published authors – distribution.

With GSC, opted for Print on Demand using which immediately made the book available in Canada, US, UK and EU at local pricing and shipping through Amazon and other e-tailers. Better still – the books were almost always listed as “in-stock” and “usually ships in 24 hrs.”

While were were setting this up we added all of Jim’s previous books to the POD system – including a two books that had been out of print for over 20 years.

And guess what? They sold some copies as well!

Another avenue we explored was ebooks. Using, we were able to create e-book versions of Moose on the Table, Growing at the Speed of Change and The Leader’s Digest, which are now available for the Kindle, iPad and other devices.

Distribution was always one of the major advantages of going with one of the major publishing houses. But with LightningSource this advantage disappears. Self published authors can now, for the first time, go it alone and keep most of the profits in their own pockets.

Do-it-yourself marketing for speakers

It’s entirely possible to take care of your marketing without any help. You just have to invest the time and effort to do it right.

The calculation you need to make is how much is your time and effort worth?

If you get paid between $5000 and $20000 a day for an engagement, then you have to consider the cost of each day you personally spend doing your own marketing in those terms.

If you are new to speaking or make considerably less on your average engagement, then there are things you can do to market yourself more effectively without having to spend a lot of money.

Let’s start with the basics. If you don’t have a site, you’ll need one. You can save yourself a lot of time and money, if you arrange for your own hosting and domain name. The good news is that you don’t have to be a tech-head to do this yourself. A quick search for cheap hosting will bring up thousands of choices. To save you a bit of time, I’m going recommend because that’s the one I use. And I think they do a fine job.

But feel free to do some research for yourself. Like I said there are literally thousands of hosting companies out there to choose from. And just before you make your decision do one more piece of research. Type “ sucks” into Google and see what complaints show up.

One of the biggest mistakes folks make is building a static site that is virtually impossible to scale upwards. If your goal to be successful, then a little planning now could save you thousands of dollars in the future.

For this reason alone, I recommend using a Wordpress.

It comes with thousands of free and paid extensions to make it very easy to integrate the latest and greatest tools from around the internet.

Many hosts use something called a cPanel that let’s you install WordPress with just a few clicks.

It comes with an few out of the box templates to choose from, but you can also find free templates online or hire a programmer to custom build something for you. My experience tells me that you should look through the free templates first and then hire a programmer to customize it for you.

I’m actually using an out-of-the-box solution on this site.

If you don’t like any of the free ones, you can find hundreds of Wordpress designers on

The next step is to define your marketing position from the viewpoint of a visitor. Too many speakers believe people care who they are. Assume that each visitor to your site is someone who doesn’t know you, but has found you through some research or a referral.

What is it you’re offering them? That’s the reason they are there and that’s the only reason they are going to hire you.

If you have a site that is all about how awesome you are, nobody will care.

Offer real solutions to real problems and you won’t have to look very hard for clients.

The good news for speakers when it comes to web marketing is most of your competitors’ sites are terrible. They might look shinny, sharp and cutting edge, but if you peak under the hood, they aren’t search engine friendly.

If your name is Johnny Speaksalot and your site comes up number one, when someone searches for you specifically, great. But it’s far more important to reach those who are looking for a keyword or phrase that relates to what you do. Johnny would be much better served if the content on his site attracted folks typing “conference speaker for widget convention.”

There are a number of ways to do this, but for this article I’ll give you two quick ways to bring in more qualified leads through search use the words you want to be found for into the actual content of your pages and have a proper site map so that Google and other search engines can easily find and index your content.

One of the first things I do when I visit a potential client’s site is look for a sitemap ie /sitemap.xml . If it isn’t there I know there is work I can do to help them.

Site maps are so valuable and yet I’m constantly surprised by how many folks don’t have one. If you are one of those folks, here is a great free tool to generate one within a few minutes:

Once you’ve done this upload the site maps to your site and submit them to the Google, Bing, Yahoo.

Here are the links:

Web marketing isn’t rocket science, but it does take a bit of time and effort. Do it yourself or hire someone else. But don’t underestimate the power of the web to help you find clients from around the world.

Other things to promote your self online

Invest in a bit of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). How much is your time worth? Should you really be the one looking for keywords and trying to figure out how to get a better placement on Google? Use Scriptlance for this.??Install Analytics on your site. Find out how many folks are actually coming and set a realistic goal for improvement. you have videos, create a custom YouTube Channel. How many folks come to your site compared to YouTube? Build the channel bring your content to a whole new audience. Then use a module to bring those YouTube videos to your site.??Link all your social media together. Whenever you send out a newsletter, publish a blog post or update your status – let it show up everywhere automatically. Create a podcast and update it once a month. You’re a speaker. Speak. Try a webcast. This is a great way to engage your existing clients and even get some referals. The secret is simple. 1 hour consisting of 50 great content peppered with 10 minutes of subtle pitching. let’s you do this for $99 for up to 1000 attendees. Imagine the impact of reaching that many potential clients without even leaving your room. Look into POD (print on demand) services that will get your books onto Amazon sites across the world. is a great resource to get your book distributed around the world! Turn your books into ebooks through They now provide content for Apple’s Ipad, the Amazon Kindle, Sony e-reader and Barnes and Noble Nook.

You can do it yourself. So the decision is yours. Do you have the time and the inclination to do this or would you rather hire a web marketing expert to take care of it for you?

If you are looking for the latter, then please contact us and we can make this the most profitable year in your speaking career.

Quick tips to improve your marketing

Back in December, I was an exhibitor at the CAPS Conference  in Montreal and as part of my follow-up, and as a thank you to everyone who attended, I’ve been reviewing sites and passing along recommendations to help folks improve their online marketing efforts in 2011.

I’ve noticed a lot of speaker sites need exactly the same things and so I’m putting this out there to help everyone in the group kick-start their marketing in 2011.

The first thing I’ll tell you is that I’m not recommending anything you can’t do yourself. I’m even including links to help you access the tools I’m talking about.

Obviously. I’m hoping you’re far too busy and you’ll hire me to do the work. But if not, at least you’ll have a pretty extensive to-do list .

The first thing I noticed is folks aren’t maximizing all the free Facebook integration tools.

There are 500 million folks on Facebook and it is one of your best opportunities to find more clients.

To do this you can:

  • add a Facebook “Like” button to every page on your site. This allows folks to share your site with their friends.
  • create a Facebook Fan Page that integrates your Linkedin profile, Twitter feed, blog and e-newsletter feeds, and display that fan page box on your homepage.
  • replace the default comments on your WordPress blog with Facebook Comments. This will eliminate spam and comments will appear in visitor’s status, so all their friends will see a link back to you site.

If you’re currently you’re using a profile instead of a Fan Page –  it’s a mistake I’m seeing over and over again as I do these reviews. There is a key distinction. With a profile page, you never know who is going to see your updates, but with a Fan Page everyone gets a notification.

Here is a link to grab the Facebook code:

Your books and audios

I recommend setting up an account with and moving them to Print on Demand. Lightning Source is owned by Ingram, so your books will be available around the world through their catalogue as well as – USA, Canada, UK, EU.

Why POD? Very simple. If you are taking care of fulfilment yourself, Amazon is probably only taking 5 or 10 copies at a time. This means your books are probably showing as “Usually ships with 3-4 weeks.” With Lightning Source your books are always “Ships within 24hrs.” And that’s in Canada, US, UK and EU!

PDF e-books are great – or at least they were 3 years ago. Have you thought about offering your books as e-books for the iPad, Kindle and other readers? All you need to do is set up an account at Did I mention it’s a free service? In addition to being able to sell your books on your own site, your ebooks will also be available on the iTunes store, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

As for your audios, if you sell cds, why not create downloadable MP3 versions? Are you selling them on iTunes? Why not??


As a speaker, you probably have boxes of videos you aren’t using. Why not chop them up and create a custom YouTube channel? Or use them for a Podcast distributed through iTunes. All you need is an xml file and some content!

Quick onsite changes:

Have a look at this tool and see what keywords you should be using in your copy to get more visits:

Set up a Google Webmaster (  account and submit your xml site map. –

There’s obviously loads more, but if you just get the Facebook stuff done, you should see some real benefits.

Send me a note if you want a more personalized free consultation.

Some completely attainable goals for 2011

Whether you do it yourself or hire someone else, here are ten completely attainable marketing goals for 2011 that will help you take your business to the next level.

  • Take a look at your site from the viewpoint of a visitor. What is it you’re offering them? That’s the reason they are there and that’s the only reason they will hire you.
  • Invest in a bit of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). How much is your time worth? Should you really be the one looking for keywords and trying to figure out how to get a better placement on Google?
  • Install Analytics on your site. Find out how many folks are actually coming and set a realistic goal for improvement.
  • If you have videos, create a custom YouTube Channel. How many folks come to your site compared to YouTube? Build the channel bring your content to a whole new audience.
  • Link all your social media together. Whenever you send out a newsletter, publish a blog post or update your status – let it show up everywhere automatically.
  • Create a podcast and update it once a month. You’re a speaker. Speak.
  • Try a webcast.
  • Look into POD (print on demand) services that will get your books onto Amazon sites across the world.
  • Turn your books into ebooks through They now provide content for the Amazon Kindle, Sony e-reader and Barnes and Noble Nook.

These are all perfectly reasonable goals to get you charged up for success in the new year.

As I said, you can do all this yourself. But it makes much more sense to have a professional do the job. Click here and see what I can do for you.

So you want to publish a book: publicity and marketing

This series was originally posted in 2008

Publicity and marketing is harder to speak about at this stage. We spent the better part of September looking at different firms to see what each had to offer.

As Jim has said to me many times, a lot of these places like to have release parties that do more for the author’s ego than for actual book sales – because attendees are more likely to be friends and family rather than actual media contacts. So in that respect, for an author on a small budget, it’s better to direct your funds toward activities that are most likely to land you in the press and generate some sales.

For Moose we decided to go with Meisner Publicity in Toronto. Headed by Susan Meisner, they seem to have no end of connections and come to the table with plenty of good ideas to get press.

This is the one area where I think if you absolutely have to cut expenses you can. But don’t delude yourself. You’ll need to be a shameless advocate of your book 24/7 if you want to succeed. You’ll have to buy some books on writing great news releases and be fearless and creative when it comes to targeting media. If you have any hesitation about going it alone – get a publicist.

For my own part, I built a little site that’s still in beta called A Writer’s Market. I like to think of it as a farmer’s market for authors. Have a quick look and see how it’s coming along. If you know an author, then send a link. I really need some folks to help test it.

I hope you found this little series useful. If you have any questions, send them along and I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can.