Archives for Guest Blogger

5 Rules You Should Break When Blogging for Business

Blog with stars shooting off the word BlogA common question entrepreneurs ask is, “Should I blog?” If you have a business, it’s worth your while to do so.  Why? Consider this: “Companies that blog generate 55 percent more visitor traffic.” So say the authors of From Prospect to Evangelist – Optimizing Relationships with Social Media, a free e-book by HubSpot (a company that creates software and gives out marketing information for businesses).  Producing great content, drawing attention through relevant keywords and attracting a community of followers through important topics are all ways to generate traffic. And this traffic can then be diverted to your website and your business.

You may be just starting out, or a veteran blogger, but if you’re overwhelmed and confused by all the “shoulds” out there, here are 5 rules you should be breaking when it comes to blogging for your business:

1. Blog only what you know. They say the same thing about writing. But there’s a big flaw in this. You’re not just limiting what you can write, but your potential for learning as well. Sure, write about what you know, but also leave space for topics you are not familiar with. Do the research and you will eventually increase your expertise in other areas of your professional life. You don’t need years of experience in a subject to write about it. You need passion, good research skills and interest in the topic.

2. Pretend everything is okay. It’s all too tempting to create a perfect persona online. But perfection can create boredom in blogging and an inauthentic representation of your work. Say, for example, you made a mistake in a blog post. You may have quoted the wrong person, added the wrong link, misspelled a word. If your readers and potential customers are commenting about it and you don’t acknowledge your mistake, that’s an elephant in the virtual room. It puts distance between you and your future customers. To be successful in business you need to create trust. Be honest and show them you’re not perfect. Present yourself as human and you will establish better relationships with your prospects and customers.

3. All your posts must be planned. It’s great to have a row of posts lined up when you go on vacation or in case you get sick. Consistency is key to getting an established set of readers to your blog. But to be successful you don’t always have to have your posts planned. Say you’ve got a great new product you want to share with your customers or a marketing strategy you’ve just learned. Spontaneous posts keep your readers on their toes. They’ll never know when something new or exciting may show up on your blog and they will keep coming back for more.

4. Your posts should not be too short, nor too long. I think breaking up your blog with short and long posts makes for an interesting read. There is no specific word count that will make your blog more popular than others. It is the content, not the length that will draw readers. Remember that the next time you want to post a 300-word post and feel the need to double it before it’s published. For more information, read Problogger’s take on post length

5. To have a successful blog, you must continuously plug your business. We all know you’re blogging to grow your business. But writing your latest press release or touting your product in every post will scare away your readers and potential customers faster than the plague. The most important thing you can do when blogging for your business is to create a community of readers. This means welcoming and answering comments, visiting other blogs, commenting on their posts, creating an email signature with your website and putting your blog on your business card. You want to do everything to garner potential readers to your site and create interesting, engaging posts to keep them there.

These are just a handful of rule-breaking tips. Do you have your own? Share them in the comments below.


Brandi-Ann Uyemura is a professional freelance writer. Not only does she write for other people, but she writes for herself as well.  She maintains two blogs. One is for writers and taking your writing to the next level. The other is a blog that is designed to inspire.  Her background in English and Psychology give Brandi a great voice, inspiring others to write, and giving insight into the world of writers.

Read her self-titled blog: Brandi Ann Uyemura: Guide from a conscious writer

Read: The Inspiring Bee

Follow her on Twitter @2inspired

I heart SEO: Why Quality is King

I heart SEOHow to Organize Your Marketing Budget for SEO

In a world where it seems content marketing, social media and SEO change faster than it takes you to read this blog post, it’s more important than ever to nail down the your marketing budget’s top priorities in terms of what you’ll allocate to SEO. What works? What’s Google looking for these days that will help me rank? How is that different than what they were looking for a year ago? And most importantly, what web solutions do I need to allocate resources to that will most help my company’s SEO performance?

Industry-leading search engine optimization software developer, SEOMoz, published their 2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors report earlier this year. The report can be an essential guide into what search engines are valuing these days. Their analysis should help point us in the right direction when we’re looking to allocate resources to managing our company’s SEO.

One of the most interesting things about the 2011 report was how different the factors are from findings published in the past. For example, in 2010, if you had an exact match domain that included a keyword, you were probably in pretty good shape to rank. Today, that correlation has dropped significantly.

Here are a few things to consider when you’re dividing up your marketing budget:

Quality and Quantity Content

It’s no longer enough to simply have pages that point back to your site with links. It’s also no longer enough to have a ton of low-quality content stuffed with keywords. In the old days of SEO, you could get away with these habits and win some searches. Now you can’t cut corners with your content. Keyword stuffing or hiding won’t work. Creating large volumes of original, relevant, sharable content is more important now than ever.

Google’s crawlers analyze whether your content is relevant to both your website and the sites you link to.

In a sense, our marketing tools have come full circle. Earlier this decade, we were told that unique content was the key to driving traffic to our websites. After all of the SEO shortcuts people have tried to take the past few years, unique content that is relevant to your audience is, once again, king.

If You’re Ignoring Offsite, You’re Missing a Huge Part of the Pie

Offsite SEO accounts for nearly 40% of the SEO pie. If you’re only concerned with what you’re saying on your domain, you’re only doing about half of the work. Things like external links, domain and page authority and social media all play a huge role in how Google perceives you.

It used to be that if you had an external link with anchor text was highly regarded by Google. Not so much anymore. Similarly, if you buy a domain that includes an exact keyword, it’s not as helpful as it used to be. Search engines want to know the context of your domain and content. Links are nice, but what’s the context of the content surrounding them?

User Experience

We all want to find what we’re looking for easily. No one likes feeling like they’ve been tricked into finding a website. People are online looking for answers to their questions or problems, and they don’t want to feel mislead. Google has taken notice and places a value on user experience.

Google analyzes things like clickthrough rates and bounce rates. If people are coming to your website and are bouncing off quickly, chances are, it will affect your SEO. Similarly, if people are clicking through your ads to your website and stay there, you might see a boost.

With the smart phone boom in recent years, more sites are seeing traffic come from mobile users. If you aren’t optimized for mobile, your traffic probably isn’t as successful as it could be.

Today, Google values unique content and context. Those two are the biggest factors in how you will be ranked. Do your marketing resources and investments reflect the prioritization of valuable content, offsite SEO and your site’s user experience?


Justin Shimp is a digital handyman and content author at Smallbox, an Indianapolis web solutions consulting firm.

Follow SmallBox on Twitter: @smallbox

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Modern Mad Men: What’s in your Media Cocktail?

Mix. Layer. Repeat.

Our culture has a love-hate affair with advertising. What was once an art reserved exclusively for the Ad Men of Madison Avenue (you’ve heard of Mad Men?) has deteriorated over the years, as savvy consumers get harder to reach. It’s an embarrassing cat-and-mouse game now, as customers dodge behind pop-up blockers, DVR and no-call lists. Various brands shamelessly persist, seeking to interrupt us at the exact moment when we might pause long enough to be engaged or entertained by their message.

So where does the love part come in? The reality is that if it didn’t work, advertising would not persist. Consumers don’t realize it, but our habits indicate that on some unconscious level we’ve accepted advertising as a part of our culture. Mad Men is one of the highest rated shows on television, Super Bowl ads are almost as highly anticipated as the game, and Twitter allows us to follow our favorite celebrity brands who are likely tweeting about their favorite brands.

Mad Men

Your marketing strategy: like modern day Mad Men?

That’s the consumer side of the picture, and in real life we consumers are often business people who need to advance our businesses. Whether we need to sell more products or services, every business on the planet needs to get the word out to someone, about something. Is advertising the best way to do that? If you think of it as a paid vehicle through which you promote your message, then yes, you could probably benefit from some form of advertising.

If you’ve committed to telling someone about the something you are selling – product or service, B2B or B2C – then it’s time to talk about your mix. It used to be that when the Mad Men would talk about your media mix, they meant that you could complement your television advertising with radio advertising (insert nostalgic chuckle here) Oh, the simple days …

Today your mix must be strategic, dynamic and appropriate to your audience. Think about your marketing plan as a layering of messages that complement micro- and macro-targeted approaches. Here’s a look at a few of the myriad options, starting from the most wide-reaching media vehicles and narrowing down to laser focused opportunities:

Radio and Television

  • Overview: This is the big-picture nuclear bomb approach to advertising. Cast the broadest possible net!
  • Best for: Setting the tone of a campaign – creating the perception that your topic, product or company is part of a larger dialogue. This is a medium for overarching brand messages. With this you can plant the seed of an idea, but it may not be best for a call to action.
  • Optimization Examples: Nationally you can buy broadcast stations like NBC, or Radio mega networks like Clear Channel. Unless you are a big company like McDonalds though, you may be better off looking at cable and satellite networks, or keeping your buy strictly local for refined targeting to your key audiences.
  • Warning: Unless you can shell out for high-quality production and high-ticket time, step away from this medium as an option. You will only sully your brand with poor quality production, and your saturation needs to be adequate as well. Repetition gets results.

Print

  • Overview: Print is the old war horse, and getting a bad rap for lacking effectiveness and ROI.
  • Best For: Bolstering messages as part of a larger campaign. Use to promote specific events or sales, or relate your product or service to a specific issue being talked about in the publication.
  • Optimization Examples: Select a targeted print option. If you are a CPA, the business section in your local paper is a good spot. If you are an interior design company, look for the local home magazine. You can get even more granular and find target industry association publications which can be a very cost effective means of reaching just the right people.
  • Warnings: Your advertisement is just wallpaper unless you make it stand out. In newspaper, go with color; in a magazine go with a full-page full-color. Always ask for premium placements – back cover, inside front cover or better still, get an editorial calendar and ask for placement next to relevant editorial copy.

Outdoor & Transit

  • Overview: This is more of the grenade approach. Big coverage in small localized areas.
  • Best For: Reaching consumers in their everyday lives. Soccer mom on the way to practice, lawyer on his commute to work. This can be a good call-to-action medium, and is generally very cost effective.
  • Optimization Examples: A media agency can give you specific data on the customer segments that drive past a particular billboard, and you can geo-target bus routes by zip codes and demographic areas.
  • Warnings: What are we thinking about in our cars? All kinds of things! Make the message relevant, eye catching and briefer than your think it should be. As I whiz past your billboard at 75 miles an hour am I going to make a decision about the printing company I use at work? Not likely. Am I going to think about my car insurance? Possibly … if you get my attention fast enough!

Alternative Media

  • Overview: This category could be a blog post unto itself, as I am lumping in all kinds of wonderfully targeted options here. Find a great media buyer, and learn about the possibilities that await with options like:
    • Closed circuit television in airports and airplanes
    • Elevator advertising
    • Parking lot advertising
    • Bathroom stall advertising (if you sell feminine products or birth control, this could be the ticket!)
  • Best For: Targeting groups of people, at a key moment in time when they will receive an aptly paired message.
  • Optimization Example: Do you have an environmental campaign that wants to remind consumers to use reusable grocery bags? Parking lot strips catch that person before they forget the bags in their car!
  • Warning: As your approach gets this targeted, make sure the message matches the medium. When you are waiting for a plane to take off, are you thinking about cleaning products? Not likely.


Online & Social Media

  • Overview: This is the laser-targeted, sniper approach. You can try to reach millions worldwide on some sites, but it’s best to find the specific customers that matter most to your business, in their natural online habitats.
  • Best For: Just about everyone, really. The Internet is as big as the universe and the people you want to reach are probably online. The tools within this category are limitless. Twitter can be a great tool for solidifying a position of leadership in a dialogue, and pay-per-click contextual ads can be a great way to drive traffic to your site.
  • Optimization example: The optimization options are also limitless. Find a partner with the experience and capabilities to recommend the best options for you. Remember that you may not be reaching millions of people, but you will more likely reach the right 1,000 people. (see SMCubed Popularity vs. Influence: Are you the popular kid?)
  • Warning: This medium is changing so rapidly that last week’s trends may be prehistoric this week. Embrace what you don’t know, and find an expert partner with their eye on the ball to help you make the most of this medium!

If you are undertaking an advertising campaign, think about your customer and how to reach them at different times in different ways. Almost all of these vehicles are useless by themselves. When layered together, they become a dynamic brand presence that can actually get through to today’s dodgy audiences.

A last parting thought to ponder: you may have the best chance at reaching your target market right in your own back yard. Consider this: I spent a few wonderful years in marketing for Whole Foods Market, and you may notice they do very little paid advertising. What they understand is that they have hundreds of ways of reaching their customers inside their own stores. Every communication point is an opportunity – directional signage, price tags, point of sale signs, team member name badges, checkout kiosks and receipts.

What might these opportunities look like for you? Invoices, email signatures, meeting signage, Powerpoint presentations, proposals, conference programs … every touch point is an opportunity to present the brand image you desire. The Mad Men of the 1960s would be very proud of such ingenuity!

 


Colleen Rauscher brings over 10 years of strategic communications experience in a variety of industries including energy, non-profit, insurance, hospitality and retail. She specializes in integrated corporate marketing communications, brand strategies, Hispanic marketing and advertising strategy.

Prior to joining GBSM, Colleen served as an independent marketing consultant in the alternative energy and hospitality industries, helping clients articulate complex technical concepts, define their market niches and build well defined brand identities. She also served as a Regional Marketing Associate for Whole Foods Market, where she worked on seasonal campaign development, supervising staff in 33 stores and four states in the Rocky Mountain Region. She was recognized by the Global Consumer Research group for her work using customer data and demographic information to create innovative market strategies.

Colleen began her career in New York City, working for dotcom start-ups and advertising agencies. She moved to Denver to work in the meetings and incentives arena, with clients including Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, Ameritrade, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and 3M Corporation.

Colleen has a BS from the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism with minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. She serves on the Board of Directors for Global Energy Options, Inc. and the Denver Hooperz Youth Organization, a program that uses competitive basketball as a vehicle to give at-risk youth opportunities to learn life skills, discipline and responsibility.

Can Google + beat FaceBook?

Google Plus

Google+ is challenging Facebook, but will it be enough to take down the giant?

Will Facebook be the last dominant social network? I’m not sure anyone really knows the answer to this. Only time will tell. Looking back at history, I can tell you that FB certainly wasn’t the first. Even before Mark Zuckerberg even got off the ground with there were already online social networks. LinkedIn and MySpace had more than a year on FB. How FB made these two sites obsolete will give us clues regarding how Google + will fair as a social network.

Facebook VS MySpace

When users starting migrating from MySpace to FB, my initial hypothesis was that it was a fad. Similarly to the migration from MSN to AIM, I thought these networks went through cyclical shifts. I figured that within a year we’d be messing with something else. What I now realize is that in the case of social networks, boredom alone won’t cause a mass migration. I figure that for a social network to fall there has to be a big upgrade waiting on the other side. Facebook was far superior to MySpace. Facebook’s interface was far superior. While MySpace was overcrowded, FB was beautifully minimalist.

This interface offered not only something different for users but was also simply a better interface (MySpace pages took forever to load). On top of that FB had game changing features. Features like the newsfeed and picture tagging put interaction on a whole new level. The real game changer though, was something as simple as a relationship status. This innovation basically hit the nail on the head as to why social networks exist in the first place. This feature while technically unimpressive was the greatest addition ever. So, can what happened to MySpace happen to FB.

Google +, Google Buzz, Google Wave (The Threepeat)

Google Plus

Are privacy circles enough to truly challenge Facebook?

Based on the FB MySpace controversy, to beat a dominant social network you need user migration. To do this you need boredom and new features. I myself am quite bored with FB, and wouldn’t mind a change. Unfortunately I won’t be moving till my friends move. As such, boredom will only get the user base half way.

If Google + wants to beat FB it will have to do more than simply matching it. In its current condition Google + doesn’t even quite do that. In their defense, they have some interesting interface ideas with their privacy circles. Unfortunately I just don’t see any groundbreaking reason to change.

What Google needs for success in the social market is a game changer. I am not exactly sure Google has what I t takes to compete. Very rarely are companies able to find second acts. Microsoft and Apple found there’s with Office/Xbox and iPod respectively. Google has had a myriad of side projects over the years while trying to find their second act (Gmail is admittedly pretty cool). Just like Microsoft however, Google is suffering from classic old monopoly symptoms. They no longer know how to compete. Luckily for Google, they have a tremendous long fall to the bottom. Both Google and Microsoft can never innovate again and still make billions for years to come.

Google Buzz

The only buzz Google Buzz generated was for privacy violations

+ isn’t Google’s first attempt at competing with FB after all. Last year Google announced Buzz. Other than making headlines for some severe privacy violations Buzz was a non starter. Google even tried to gain an instant user base by integrating it with Gmail. Google went about Buzz completely the wrong way, and because of that Buzz was a failure.

Google Wave

Google Wave was a complete no-go

Two and a half years ago, Google announced Wave, an innovation that would change the way we interact with computers; the less said about Wave the better.  If things don’t go their way with +, will they simply call another redo?

My last point is that even if + does come out of beta with creative innovations over FB, will it make a difference? Just because certain conditions killed MySpace doesn’t mean the same for FB. FB is now a completely different animal then MySpace. FB now has over half a billion users. It is no longer the case of a bunch of kids getting bored and moving. It is fair to say that FB now has deep roots in our society. It is very well possible that no social network regardless of quality can best it. We will just have to wait and see.


Jonathan Rosen is a business major at Miami University. He is an avid fan of different media and how its covered. His website Call It Like I See It strives to be a source on info about entertainment and technology. You can read more from Jonathan at www.callitlikeiseeit.com

Please Like us on Facebook and follow us @calllikeiseeit

Article Marketing; A Post-Mortem

What is Article Marketing?

I’d like to introduce a fellow named Matt Cutts. Matt is the head of Google’s Webspam, which makes him an expert at both identifying and eliminating any signs of article marketing. He defines article marketing as “…you’re writing an article and you try to include a link at the bottom and you’re hoping a bunch of other people put up copies or mirrors or duplicates of that article and that those links might flow through.”

Matt then adds a slight warning, “Typically the sorts of sites that just republish these articles are not the highest quality sites.”

Why are We Doing a Post-Mortem?

It’s time for a post-mortem on article marketing, because as a business strategy, article marketing simply doesn’t work anymore. An article posted to an article directory might eventually show up on a search engine like Google, or it might not. In any event, it definitely won’t be found on page one of the Google search results – if it’s found at all.

One reason that Search Engine Optimized (SEO) articles don’t see much daylight is that people just don’t enjoy reading them. At best, they are thinly disguised ads, and at worst they are a clumsy package of strung-together keywords and backlinks. These articles are generally never shared, Liked, plugged, or DIGGed (or DUG, perhaps?)

Despite this, sites that sell Yamaha piano keyboards and Kitchen Aid Mixers still send out poorly written articles in hopes of establishing strategically placed backlinks. It hasn’t occurred to some folks that whether they’re selling keyboards or posting reviews on retouching photoshop pictures, the article directories are not able to deliver either better Google rankings or more website traffic.

It might be too early for an autopsy on article marketing – it’s still wheezing slightly – but it’s as good as dead, and the causes of death are very easy to diagnose. All five of them are explained below.

Mortal Flaw #1: You Can’t Control Who Publishes Your Articles

The point of submitting an article to an article directory is to raise your website’s Google rankings for a particular keyword or keyword phrase. This will only work, of course if your articles are published on quality websites that Google trusts.

Unfortunately, once you’ve submitted your article, you have NO INPUT on where your article ends up. The kinds of websites that use article directories are not highly ranked in Google searches. The highly ranked sites have dedicated writers and exclusive content, so they don’t need to purchase low quality articles in hopes of filling up a page.

If you are hoping for the kind of strategically placed backlinks that lead to improved Google rankings, leave the directories out of your loop. You’ll need to retain control over who gets to publish your articles and where they are published.

Mortal Flaw #2: You Can’t Succeed By Posting Duplicate Content

Google became the world’s largest search engine for two basic reasons; it’s efficient and effective. That didn’t happen by accident.

Whenever a problem arose with the speed or efficiency of the algorithm, the folks at Google found a fix. Back in 2004, Google had a problem with duplicate content in their search results, and they fixed it by installing a duplicate content filter.

Since then, article marketers have invented and often sold new ways to distribute duplicate content to the masses via Google’s search results. Each new way was met with an updated spam filter, and so the cycle continues.

Unfortunately for the article marketers, this resulted in one of the world’s least effective marketing models;

  1. write an article and submit it to a directory
  2. notice an inconsequential improvement in Google ranking or site traffic
  3. notice your backlinks being systematically hunted down and vaporized
  4. write and submit another article

I have discussed the weaknesses of article marketing for several years now. Although a few marketers have made a bit of money with this strategy, most have not. What’s more, the amount of money made looks like chump change compared to the money which could have been generated by businesses working with guys like Matt Cutts rather than against them.

Mortal Flaw #3: You Can’t Succeed by Posting Duplicate Anchor Text, Either

I couldn’t have timed it better if I had tried.

I just got off the phone with someone who was wondering why his article marketing plan had failed so spectacularly.

This person was very annoyed because his website, which was supposed to rank well for the keyword phrase “Lasik eye surgery”, had just fallen from page 3 to page 30 in the Google rankings for that particular page.

Ouch. That must have hurt.

Eventually he explained that he had written several articles, inserted backlinks in these articles to his website, and then submitted them to 100 different article directories. In theory, this should have improved his Google rankings, not torpedoed them.

Then he mentioned that he had used the exact same phrase, “Lasik eye surgery”, as the backlink to his site, and he did this in all of his articles.

This practice is referred to as duplicate anchor text, and Google doesn’t care for it.

Consider this for a moment; if ten webmasters initiated backlinks to the same website at the same time, what are the chances that they would use the exact keyword phrase, “photo retouchers” for that backlink?

The chances are pretty poor..

The chances of a hundred different webmasters doing the same thing, then, would be about impossible.Matt Cutts and anyone who works for him would immediately recognize this anomaly as an amateurish attempt to manipulate Google’s algorithm, and deal with it appropriately.

In this case, the “appropriate” thing would be for Google to guarantee that the website in question is kicked to the curb and never sees a respectable ranking for that keyword phrase.

Mortal Flaw #4; You Can’t Succeed by Establishing a Business in a Bad Neighborhood

Web marketers recognize that certain sites can be caught in what is referred to as a bad neighborhood. Think of your neighborhood as being comprised of sites that you link to, and sites which link to you

In actual neighborhoods, when one piece of property becomes run down, the surrounding properties lose value as well. Strangely enough, the same thing can happen in a virtual neighborhood.

Matt Cutts explained this phenomenon recently by announcing that it was now possible that your website’s rankings will be negatively impacted by who was linking to you. This is not the result of some accidental function in the algorithm, by the way.

Google understands that one symptom of article marketing is a bunch of backlinks to low- or no-quality websites. Consequently, when they see a website with that symptom, they penalize it with a low or nonexistent ranking for that particular keyword.

Mortal Flaw #5: Google Doesn’t Want Article Marketing to Succeed.

Just this year, Google’s Panda update initiated some of the toughest non-defined standards yet with regards to how particular web pages were ranked, and this resulted in a flurry of reverse-engineering by outraged article marketers. In spite of this, I have been assured that “article marketing still works”.

That line is becoming harder and harder to believe, particularly since all of the strategies intended to keep article marketing “working” have been eviscerated by Google’s ever-evolving spam filters.

Anchor text stuffing, link farms, scraper sites, article spinning and link partnering have all hit their expiration dates, and The Next Big Scheme in article marketing is doomed to a similarly short life.

So, why do article marketers insist on prolonging this expensive form of life support?

A ridiculous amount of time and resources have been spent trying to outwit Matt Cutts and his small platoon of spam killers. All of those attempts, by the way, were quickly rebuffed. Just think about the amount of wealth that could have generated if those resources were spent working with, rather than against, Google’s Webspam department.

Matt Cutts was asked “…if he recommends article article marketing as an SEO strategy?” His reply was almost funny; “…so if I had to make a prophecy or forecast about how Google feels or how search engines feel about them in general, the trend that I am hearing and the sort of complaints that I am hearing are that people are not huge fans of article marketing and don’t view it as an incredible value add in terms of the content that gets added to the web.

Think for a moment about the irony in the statement, “So if I had to make a prophecy or forecast…”

Matt is tasked with ensuring that neither duplicate content nor spun articles show up in any Google ranking resuts. He doesn’t need to guess; he already knows how Google feels about article marketing in all it’s forms.

Google would like article marketing to die a very quick death, and they’re paying Matt Cutts to devise the death blow.

Naturally, Matt could possibly be delivering Google-inspired propaganda with his veiled threats about article marketing. On the other hand, when did you last have to access the second page of your Google rankings to find the information you were looking for?

Simply put, article marketing makes for an inefficient search engine. Google has no tolerance for the inefficiencies brought on by article marketing, therefore it will be squashed whenever possible.

Is Article Marketing Dead Yet?

If article marketing were a human being, we would be making it comfortable and gathering the family for final goodbyes. However, article marketing is simply a business tool which has become completely ineffective, and an ineffective business tool is as good as dead.

If you are looking for an effective and sustainable marketing strategy for your business, it’s time to move on.

As always, your comments are appreciated.

About James

James Martell is well known as an affiliate marketing specialist in outsourcing and SEO. He is also a speaker and does weekly podcasts and affiliate marketing trainings. James is host of the Affiliate Buzz podcast on WebmasterRadio.FM (the first ever and longest running podcast about the affiliate industry), and creator of the Affiliate Marketers SUPER BootCamp where he teaches others how to make money with affiliate marketing. He lives in White Rock BC, a seaside suburb of Vancouver on west coast of Canada with his wife, Arlene.

The Slut, The Politician and The Broken Record…..Which Type of Entrepreneur are You?

South Park Business Strategy: Step 1, Steal the Underpants. Then Step 2. Step 3, we're rich!

The South Park Business Strategy: The gnomes in the cartoon TV show South Park outlined their business plan. First, they steal the underpants. Then there's step 2. At step 3, they are rich! Who else is missing step 2, just like the gnomes?

Any athlete out there understands the fine art of ‘finishing’. You can run the best mile splits of your life, but if you forget to cross the finish line, you won’t win the race. You can end the first half up 100 points, but if you don’t come back after half time, the game will be forfeited. No matter what you do in life, if you don’t finish, your hard work along the way will never truly be appreciated.

Unfortunately, I see many entrepreneurs who, for one reason or another, become stuck halfway through the race.  Instead of crossing the finish line, they end up wandering perpetually around mile 15 of their business development marathon.  All entrepreneurs have their unique strengths and weaknesses. Like athletes, they must understand where they are vulnerable and put mechanisms in place to prevent those weak points from throwing their business success over a cliff.

Although all entrepreneurs are slightly different, I’ve found there are three main camps that have the hardest time turning their ideas into viable businesses:

The Slut: This person has jumped into bed with more ideas than a Las Vegas hooker. They simply love ideas, and each month they become captivated with a new AMAZING one. Each new idea is ‘The One’ and will be described as the most ‘incredible’, ‘ground breaking’, ‘hot’ and ‘exciting’ idea to ever have been conceived. All their energy, attention and money will be poured into this new idea until sadly one day………….wait for it……………they find a new, hotter idea, and abandon all of their previous hard work to pursue this latest, even more AMAZING, concept.

The Good? They really do have some great thoughts, plus they are so passionate they can easily pull others in to help move things forward and create even more excitement.

The Bad? They will never take things far enough to turn an idea into a business. Perhaps it’s a fear that if they really evaluate the feasibility of their concept, they’ll end up finding out something they don’t want to know. Sluts also tend to dislike dealing with logistics and some of the other less ethereal aspects of creating a business. Continuing to have idea after idea allows them to sit in a bit of a safe zone. They don’t ever accomplish anything, but they don’t experience the pain of failing either.

The Politician: Full of grandiose talk, but not much substance, they have one clear concept they want to push forward, and they’ll talk to anyone who will listen, trying to get them on board. They may end up with a great network to assist in the creation of a business, but not enough actual meat to their concept to do much with it. They either have a lack of knowledge about how to fill in the details, or a lack of understanding that there are details that need to be filled in.

The Good? These folks are great communicators and salespeople; they can easily develop the network needed for business success, and therefore possess a huge amount of potential.

The Bad? They don’t know what they don’t know (and they may not know how to figure that out). Talk will only get you so far. Eventually, people need to see something that is defensible, fleshed out and complete. Normally, the politician has been successful in another type of career. Thus, they think they know what they are doing, but have no knowledge of how to put  an actual business together.   ‘Creating’ a business and ‘operating’ a business are two very different things.

The Broken Record: Stuck on the same chorus over and over again, this entrepreneur is the opposite, in many ways, to the slut and the politician. They stick ad naseum with one idea (even it if is a bad one) and agonize over little details without paying any attention to the big picture

The Good? They do realize that a business can’t be created unless you understand and work out the (sometimes sticky) details.

The Bad? Their focus is misdirected. They don’t realize that although it is true that details matter, they must be analyzed within the context of the larger vision.

None of these people will ever create a successful business. They might have great ideas, but they are clueless as to how to get to finish line. You don’t need to know it all as an entrepreneur, but you do need to understand your own bad habits. Figure out what is holding you back, and get out of the way of your own success.


Portrait of Laura K PetrolinoLaura Petrolino is Managing Director of Flying Pig Communications, a communications and business consulting firm which focuses on the needs of startups, small business and non-profits. She also serves as Chief Communications Officer at Ignite Venture Partners, which brings together consulting, capital and concept incubation to build value in businesses of all sizes and in all stages, and across industries.

 

Find her on twitter @lkpetrolino and @365startups

Laura is a great writer and a great advisor.  Be sure to check out her blog!

ping your podcast

3 Easy Ways to Get More Twitter Followers

Twitter Bird

Sometimes tweeting isn't enough. If you want to grow your followers you have to strategically grow your network.

Are looking for a way to get Twitter followers? Keep reading! In this article, I will share with you three proven strategies for gaining a large and loyal following on Twitter. Best of all, using these strategies won’t cost you a dime!

A Word About Software:

I’m aware that there are a lot of software programs out there that claim to help you increase your following. These programs might sound wonderful, but you should know that they are very risky. In most cases, such programs are against Twitter’s terms of service and, if you get caught using one, you could lose your account. Don’t take the risk — stick with the tips instead!

How I Developed My Strategies:

A few short years ago, I didn’t really get the “Twitter” thing? I certainly didn’t understand how to increase Twitter followers either, but I decided to give it a fair shot. After a lot of experimenting and learning as I went, I now have a loyal following of 5,403 individuals, and it’s growing every day!

I’ve boiled my experiences and what I’ve learned down into these three easy strategies. They’ve worked for me, and I know that they will work for you as well. No matter what you’re promoting – anything from reclining lift chairs to dental services to Joovy Caboose strollers, you can use Twitter and my strategies to do so successfully.

Strategy #1 Syndicate an Online Newspaper

My first strategy on how to get more Twitter followers is incredibly easy and effective. All you have to do is syndicate an online newspaper based on a Twitter list, a user, or a keyword. Then you set it to publish daily to your Twitter following.

I created my newspaper, The Guest Blogging Daily, with www.paper.li, my Twitter account, and one of the Twitter lists. You can view my newspaper at http://paper.li/JamesMartell/1308523225 to see what I mean.

Words really can’t express how much I love paper.li!

Creating your paper with paper.li is very simple. In fact, the whole process is completely automatic. The site will post directly to your Twitter when the daily paper is released, and it will tweet your following on its own.

The contributing authors will be tweeted as each newspaper is published. A great deal of these contributing authors will become your followers but, what’s more, is that they will also retweet the newspaper to their followers. As you can imagine, this brings in tons of new followers for you!

So, you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. I encourage you to start your very own Paper.li newspaper today. Pick a topic that will be of interest to your followers and then let your imagination go wild! The entire process can be done quickly, and you’ll start getting results right away!

Strategy #2 Become a Valued Guest Writer

Did you know that many sites – this one included- are always looking for guest writers aka guest bloggers? By becoming a guest blogger for a well visited site, you can make yourself known to a whole new group of people and find new followers for your Twitter.

For the best results, however, make sure you’re a good guest blogger! This means you have to provide useful information to your readers, and you have to interact with them as much as possible. Respond to the comments they leave and be generally helpful, and they’ll be much more likely to follow you on Twitter.

Remember that it’s up to you to ask your readers to follow you! The best way to extend the invitation is in the author bio section of the site. If you’re ready to find a whole new group of followers, then start guest blogging today!

Strategy # 3 Put Your Thank You Page to Work

Talk about saving the best for last – my final strategy is so incredibly easy and so very effective that you won’t believe you never thought of it. I actually have my friend, Joshua Sloan, to thank for it. Joshua was the VP of Internet Marketing for 1&1 hosting, the largest and fastest growing hosting company.

When I tried out Joshua’s strategy, it started working for me right away, and I’ve never looked back! All you have to do is set it up so that when someone fills in your option form (the form used to subscribe to your newsletter, to get a free report, etc.), they are sent to a thank you page.

This thank you page is where you include an invitation to follow you on Twitter. The reason this almost always works is because the person who has filled out your form obviously wants to hear more from you and has trusted you enough to give up a name and email. It stands to reason then that if you ask, that person will follow you on Twitter.

Get to Work:

So now that you know and understand my three strategies for getting more followers on Twitter, it’s time to get out there and put them to work. Remember, if you’re truly committed to carrying out these strategies, they will work for you! Even if you’re selling reclining lift chairs, dental services, or a Bumbleride Indie twin stroller, these strategies are proven and guaranteed to work!


About James

James Martell discovered the lucrative world of affiliate marketing in 1999. He is a self-taught Internet entrepreneur and a leading expert in affiliate marketing, outsourcing and SEO. James is the host of the “Affiliate Buzz”, the first and longest running affiliate marketing podcast. James is the host of the “Affiliate Marketers SUPER BootCamp”, a popular affiliate marketing training series well known for turning affiliate newbies into success stories. James resides in White Rock BC, a seaside suburb of Vancouver on the West Coast of Canada with Arlene and their 4 children.

Top 3 Online Tools You Need to Track Your Social Media Growth

Tracking your Social Media

Do you know how to track your social media?

Social media is becoming increasingly important as a way for businesses to connect with buyers, prospects, and the market. As social media grows, it will become critical for businesses to brand themselves and build relationships as part of the sales and marketing process. Social media marketing can be a great way for brands to start conversations with their users, but it can also be a time suck. It’s very important for businesses to understand what it is that they want to track and how social media fits into their overall business strategy.

Facebook Insight

Facebook Insights is an excellent free analytics tool built right into Facebook that allows you to track trends among your fans and see how they are interacting with your page. Insights is split into two main sections: users and interactions.

Users give you lots of basic demographic information about your fans, as well as show top referrers to your page.

Interactions can be a real goldmine, offering deep analytics into the updates you’ve made to your page and how users have interacted with it.

You can see which content has been most popular and which tanked, which helps understand what fans like to see on your page. Site owners with Like buttons on their sites can use Insights to see how many people saw the button, clicked on it, and how they got to the page.

Social Mention

Social Mention is a real-time search engine for social media. It’s a great tool for tracking buzz about your firm, product, or launch through Twitter, Facebook, forums, blogs, and other social media sites. A widget shows statistics over time like number of retweets, unique authors, as well as twists like the relative passion of the sentiment about your brand. Social media stats are broken down by content type, so you can see where the most attention is coming from. You can also sign up for emails to alert you whenever a keyword comes up in social content.

Bit.ly

Not only is bit.ly the world’s most popular url shortening tool, it is also an excellent way to use analytics to track link clicks and user behavior. This kind of information would usually not be available if the link were to a social site or to one on which you didn’t have access to the analytics software. However, creating a bit.ly account gives you access to its full-fledged analytics suite, showing top referrers, historical data, and more. You can use their shortening service without having an account, but then you’d be missing out on all that analytical goodness.

 

Social media tracking is important. This list is only to get you thinking about how your business uses social media and how you can begin to track all those tweets and blog mentions. It’s important to analyze the data once you’ve gotten it. If social media isn’t directly helping your bottom line, it may be time to re-think your strategy. Above all, use your analytics to better engage and interact with your audience.


Ashyia Hill is a social media advocate at the small business credit cards comparison website, CreditDonkey.  Do you have any social media analytics tools that have helped you grow your business? Let us know in the comments!

5 Commandments of Outsourcing Social Media

Outsourcing social media is a big taboo topic. Like paying players in college football, there are way more people doing it than admit to it, and if you’re found out to be doing it in a negative way, everyone piles on you like you’re the worst person in the world.  For the purpose of this article, we’ll assume that you have considered outsourcing your social media and just don’t know how to do it effectively.  At the very least, obey these commandments:

Thou Shalt Be Transparent

You can’t fool everyone forever.  To be honest, the best community managers need to function (almost) as a part of your organization.  If you’re going to go with an outsider, don’t try to fool your community into thinking that they are a part of your organization.  Just as the CEO of Apple doesn’t manually build every iPhone, it’s ok to have employees and contractors help you reach your business goals, but don’t let them pretend to be you, especially if you’re a smaller brand (1-5 people).

Thou Shalt Require Regular Metrics Reports (NOT Friends/Followers/Fans)

Too many times per day I see brands asking for X,000 followers/fans/friends to be added to their profile.  I’ve already said that if you can’t handle the 3 people on your page, you probably can’t handle 30,000, but brands are painting themselves into a corner by requesting the “easiest to fake” metrics from providers that they pay thousands of dollars.  Let me save you thousands of dollars: I’ll tell you where to get them right now for free!

LinkedIn Connections: http://www.toplinked.com – This is a weekly list of people who love to be spammed by every business individual who doesn’t understand the true meaning of networking.  If you want over 500+ LinkedIn connections in one day, just upload the contact lists here.

Facebook Fans: http://www.fiverr.com – There are companies who do nothing but create Facebook accounts (did you think there were 600 million REAL people on Facebook?).  For about $5 they will promote your fan page to their some-fake/some-real friends, and your fan page count will grow.  Once you request that they interact with you, they will then ignore you and you will be just as lonely as you can be with 10,000 fans.  Good luck with that.

Twitter Followers: http://www.graphicsms.com/blog/863-100-top-twitter-followback-lists/ – This one takes more effort, but it’s free.  There are 100 lists on that page where you can follow people from Twitter and they will follow you back.  You should be able to amass about 35,000 followers if you use the list in moderation.  Let me mention that tons of those accounts are on auto-follow and the people will never acknowledge you or speak to you in any way, but you’ll look really cool to the people who are impressed by shiny things and follower counts (Oh, you have 20,000 followers! Let’s make out!).

Now that we’re over that, what you should be looking at are some real metrics like interactions, and leads to your exit points, as proof that something is happening.  Make sure you actually review these reports as you would review reports for your business, and make the appropriate changes immediately.  This space is all about evolving, don’t wait until you haven’t seen results for 3 months to make a change.

Thou Shalt Create a Social Strategy

Quick, what’s the best way to get from Chicago, IL to Moscow, Russia on foot?  What?  You don’t know?  That’s weird, because tons of brands think they can navigate the social space and go from a new account to making millions of dollars on Twitter with no plan whatsoever.  We’ve already touched on what goes into a social strategy but the real thing you need to pay attention to are the milestones or phases that you need to go through to get to your goals.  Don’t try to exist on 400 platforms at the same time, figure out which ones your demographic is already using and dominate those first.

(You’d have to walk through the Bering Strait to get to Moscow on foot, BTW).

In short, get a road map before you go on a new journey, online and offline :)

Thou Shalt Not Ask Them To Close Sales

You Want Me To Sell Too!?!?

A sales team is a sales team.  Your community manager is there to create conversations and then pass them off to your social exit points. If you’re expecting your community manager to directly sell for you, then you need to hire them as a sales rep and put them on staff.  It’s not fair to expect someone to take on a revenue generating burden without being appropriately compensated.  Be wary of any community manager that promises you sales…it’s very rare in this industry that someone would agree to that, and the price…let’s just say that it’s not cheap.

Allowing someone to speak for your business online is a risk for both parties.  They are walking a tightrope knowing that they can hurt the company they work for by saying the wrong thing, killing their job, and you’re taking a chance in trusting them to create an identity for your brand that you approve.  It’s the ultimate relationship of trust, but like any relationship, proceed slowly and tread with caution.  Also, like most relationships, the breakup can be much worse than you ever imagine.

This post was originally posted on the Fandura Blog. But it was so good I had to share it here. The author, Elijah Young is a great writer and has some wonderful insight on relevant social media business topics. I met him when I was speaking at the Blah Blah Blogging Conference. Check out his site and follow him on Twitter.


Elijah R. Young educates solo brands and small businesses on creating digital campaigns that align with their offline marketing strategies. He approaches digital marketing from a “business first” perspective, focusing on how tools can enhance, not replace, current strategies. He has  consulted with non-profit groups, startup entrepreneurs, students, marketers and many others during his entrepreneurial career.

Go to his website: Fandure

Follow him on Twitter: @elijahryoung

Build Your Audience: Connections (part 2)

Woman singing on a vintage microphone

Is your voice reaching your audience?

This is the second post in a three part series on building your audience. Read part 1.

Connecting with an audience encourages deeper page views and repeat visits, but more importantly it encourages greater loyalty to your content. It’s easy to make your audience feel more closely related to your online material, and it will usually pay off in ‘social currency’ as connection drives the desire to share with others.

Establishing this relationship relies on presenting a clear and consistent voice, which can be easily overlooked. Language, tone and style are as important as design in online content. Are you and your brand the same thing? If there’s a strong alignment between you and your audience, it might be a good idea to feature yourself (visually and by name) in your content. However, if you’re representing a distinct brand, then consider the best way to connect with your audience; striking the appropriate level of professionalism vs personality is key.

Connection also thrives on emotional empathy, and even professional content can have an emotional impact on the audience. Ideally, your content will present something insightful, controversial or extraordinary, but in a factual way. To maintain your integrity and keep the audience on your side, avoid taking too strong a stance on any one issue; rather leave it open to debate so that your readers can get involved.

Cementing a link with your audience relies on your ability to involve them in the conversation. If you invite creative involvement from them, they are likely to seize the opportunity and become socially invested in the conversation. The best way to achieve this is to engage them in an open conversation about your content.

Even if your content isn’t open to debate, presenting open ended questions and easy email access to the author can stimulate the audience’s sense of involvement. Comment modules are familiar to the user and often the best route, especially if you can afford to leave them unmoderated. If you can, offer blog and comment subscription options, so that your readers can continue the conversation and feel more involved.

Establishing this connection with your audience will let you slowly convert users to loyal fans. Once you have content that has clear relevance to them, it’s only natural that people will want to share it. Developing a motivated fan base, willing to invest social capital in your online content, is ultimately what drives success.


Corina Newby is a social media strategist, writer and community manager for Supernova.com. She’s also an anti-drama queen who fights crime in a future time @corecorina