Archives for blogging

Blogging is Doing

Search engines are used by billions of people every day, helping them find products to buy, stores to buy them from, information on anything imaginable or the directions to their grandmother’s house. Because search engines are such a huge part of consumers’ lives, they have become a huge part of how companies do business. Users are often unaware of the existence of businesses because they don’t show up on the first page of search results, creating the need for business to employ search engine optimization (SEO) in order to gain a wider audience and generate profitable conversions.

Having an official blog is an effective method of gaining rank in various search engines, particularly since Google’s Panda update was rolled out, favoring pages with high quality content over weak, shallow pages. As part of both a social media marketing campaign and a service being provided to customers, a well-maintained, attractive blog featuring informative, useful content can provide tremendous support for a business.

By emphasizing valuable content and displaying the knowledge of the company’s employees in their field, a corporate blog can build relationships with customers while gaining the positive attention of Google and Bing. Integrating the blog into social networking initiatives and making it part of a cohesive brand will increase the likelihood of being ranked highly in search results and of increasing customer retention and brand awareness.

Content is King

Google’s Panda update made it clear that the search engine values quality content over anything else, particularly the overuse of keywords. While websites could formerly get away with having long pages of machine-generated, mostly incoherent text that included repetitive uses of the same keywords, the method for gaining ground in the post-Panda world revolves around well-written pieces that match the context of the site. By writing content with customers and potential customers in mind, businesses can satisfy both their intended audience and search engine bots.

Show What You Know

In addition to providing well-written, pertinent information on their blogs, companies should provide useful information for consumers. Blogs should not be used to advertise a company’s products (though a short post announcing a new product is okay) but should instead educate customers on frequently misunderstood aspects of their business or field. For example, a heating and air conditioning repair company could feature blog posts concerning tips for homeowners to keep their HVAC systems running efficiently or posts describing the various heating and cooling options available to homeowners, along with their strengths and weaknesses. By providing valuable information to consumers, businesses have an easier time maintaining brand awareness with potential customers and being seen as leaders in their field.

Get the Word Out

Every blog post should be accompanied by social buttons that will allow readers to share the post with their friends and colleagues on the most popular social networks, such as Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. Integrating the company blog with other social platforms can increase the visibility of each post–and the blog as a whole–to both consumers and search engines. By keeping the user experience integrated and as seamless as possible among the various social platforms and the company’s website, users will be able to recognize the company and its brand more readily and search engines will notice the uniformity and rank the site more highly.

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

iCloud OS: Good for Business?

Apple has finally released their new operating system, iOS5, complete with the highly anticipated iCloud. Drawing on principles of cloud computing, iCloud gives you access to all of your information but doesn’t rely on any one machine, whether it be a computer or dedicated server, to store or access information.

With documents, information, calendar dates, contacts and automatic backups now stored in the cloud, how we can we expect to see businesses utilize and thrive with these new resources? Or, can we expect a change at all?

 Paperless? Or Close To It?

 Whether to cut down on cost or become more eco-friendly, many businesses have been taking steps towards becoming paperless for a while. Though it’s difficult to completely leave paper behind, iCloud eliminates much of the need for paper.

With documents stored in the cloud, there’s no need to print. And, as you continue to re-draft your business model, there’s no need to print updates or make changes in every document. Any changes you make in sixth draft will be applied all across the cloud. All of your iOS devices will be kept up-to-date with changes.

Faster Pace?

 With many apps designed for iCloud and mobile use, the loading time will be significantly less. Not only will your apps and documents load faster, but the ability to work on the go and around the clock could mean people will do so. While we once had to stop working for the thirty minutes we rode the subway, or drove to a meeting or the hour we spent eating lunch, we could soon work straight through all that down time.

 

Sharing in the cloud means instant access to information, which means faster responses, which adds up to more business at the end of the day.

Will We Ever Have An Excuse Not to Work?

 iCloud allows you to access any document in the cloud from any iCloud enabled device. It boils down to you needing to find a new excuse for “I’m out of the office” or “I don’t have my computer.” With iCloud, your office, computer and information follow you wherever you go. As long as you have an iCloud-enabled device, you have access to your material. Start searching for new cop-outs.

 Never Lose Documents Again?

 iCloud automatically backs up all of the priceless information on your iGadget. Your music, TV shows, applications, books, photos, app data, organization, messages and ringtones will be backed up daily. When disaster strikes, your business plan or entertainment items won’t be casualties.

Could Staying Connected Be Any Easier?

 Your calendars, appointments and contacts will be with you all times now thanks to iCloud. If you wish you could remember Jeff’s email address, now you won’t have to. If you saved it on your computer, it’s now on your phone too. The iOS5 notification center will remind you of any date set in your calendar, any alarms set on your phone or upcoming deadlines.

More fun at Work?

 Lastly, with the ease of sharing photos, videos, sites and documents could we maybe all have a little fun too? If you stumbled across a great comic during work, why not share it? Businesses can certainly change with iCloud, so why not for the better?


 

 

 

Wordcamp Albuquerque

Wordcamp is the conference that focuses on everything WordPress. For the first time the conference came to Albuquerque. Attendance was good, about 200 people. Some people had strong backgrounds in WordPress, blogging and web business and others were beginners trying to learn how to get started. The conference had three tracks, a DIY which was more of a beginners track, the Business which was an intermediate track, and the Advanced which was obviously the advanced track. The three levels did a good job at accommodating the various levels of users.

Though I was not a speaker, I was a sponsor of the event. Of course I was an active participant, as I am sure you could guess. Next year I will put in a speaker proposal. I had many people tell me they wished there had been a social media panel at the show.

My favorite seminars from the show were the SEO panel. There was a good discussion about SEO and blogs. The CMS design seminar by Evo Web. Ray did an excellent job going into some depth on CMS customization that I really appreciated. Lastly the Video on a Budget seminar. There was some great information about lighting and editing for video blogs.

The day finished up with a nice get together of food and drink, where people could mingle and chat. I met some great people and hopefully developed some local connections. If you are interested in learning more about WordPress, I recommend attending one of these conferences.

Catalyst

With the American economy mired in the mud and fears of a double-dip recession looming, the professional world, it seems, has stagnated.  These can be worrisome times for businesses, as comparisons to the Great Depression are being regularly drawn.  However, a lot has changed since the last time this country has seen such financial turmoil, so entrepreneurs have more options available to them as they navigate the morass and lead the way into the future.  With fewer employees, the time it takes for those retained to do specific jobs must be balanced with the expense of keeping them on staff.  Thankfully, there are many tools which are available that can help this idea become practical.

Internally, software development has allowed businesses to streamline and increase productivity exponentially.  Doctors’ offices are now able to use medical billing software from companies like Kareo, freeing up office staff for more important tasks.  On a much smaller scale, improvements with small business accounting in programs like Quickbooks and Peachtree almost successfully automate the financial process.  There are also companies that can remotely manage your payroll, help you set up your company’s 401k, and other services.  In choosing these things, the company must (again) balance the expense and needs against such investments.

Externally, one of the most important innovations to date is the emergence of various social media outlets.  Businesses now have the ability to advertise their services in a forum where many different pairs of eyes can see, and consumers have the ability to show their like or dislike of businesses, services, even individual employees. With these new ways to externally promote and streamline your business, customer traffic can increase, and customer service can be refined.  In the past, most marketing was the result of many months and thousands (or millions) of dollars invested in make sure the product or service would be accepted by the public.  Now, in the world of viral videos and SEO, those results come in real time, and are measure through actual results of both use and opinion.

In addition to the external and internal, there is the “gray area” which exists in the form of apps and other resources available to the owner.  Adding to this smorgasbord are various phone apps, many of which are free.  Whereas cell phones used to be a novelty, most people have one now, and use them for far more than just making and receiving phone calls.  Foursquare, for example, is a free app that allows users to let their friends know where they are, and what is going on there.  If you happened to be the business that is being discussed, this will not only bring more people to your door, but it will also tell you what is noteworthy to your customers.

The thing to remember in your business is that there have been many who came before you, who felt the same apprehension and doubt that you are likely feeling now, as you watch news reports and listen to accounts of Wall Street.  But fear not!  Through innovation and maximum usage of the resources that are available to you, you can maximize your chances of success and lead your business into the future.  Whether that success is aided by medical billing software, or a simple points system generated by a social media outlet, is entirely up to your company.  The promoter which pulls your company to the next level may be something as simple as the organic nature of social media, or the many different adjustments made both internally and externally.

Write about what you know (and you don’t know enough)

Blog ToolsThe guest post “5 Rules You Should Break When Blogging for Business” referred to the conventional wisdom that states, “write about what you know”.  When people ask me about blogging, topic is always a topic: “What do you write about? Do you know enough about the subject to write every day?  Do you have enough to say on that topic?”  The answer, simply, is no.  Your knowledge is not enough.

The time consuming part of blogging is not the writing. For the most part, you can write a blog in less than 30 minutes.  The hard part is the research. No one possesses enough knowledge to write every day about one topic and not run out of things to say.  To be a good blogger you have to be willing to do research.

Information is always changing. News and perspective are always shifting. What you know is always evolving, so don’t hesitate to expand your knowledge.

I research every blog post I write. You can guarantee that I have read articles, seen news reels, interviews, other blog posts, tweets, updates, group discussions, websites, or something that inspired the post and/or taught me something new. Most of the time I don’t just write something that reiterates what I find; research feeds me information to think about, so I can formulate my own opinions and share them.   Research is a tool for critical thought.

The first time a friend wrote a guest post for me, she said it was like being back in school. Though she knew about her topic, she wanted to make sure her theories were including all the relevant data.  She had to do research and then do her writing.  That is the pattern…research and then write.

A lot of my investigation is done every time I surf the web or watch TV. I get my blog ideas from all sides of pop culture and news.  Sometimes seeing a singular piece that gives me an idea is enough, sometimes I need more. But either way I am always integrating what is happening now with what I am writing.

So write about what you know, but keep expanding your knowledge.

Social Media: Marketers Focus on Blogging (part 3)

cartoon of a computer telling a person that it is time to update his blog

Is blogging boosting your marketing or is it time for you to update?

This is Part 3 of our analysis of social media marketing trends. Part 1 addressed overall trends in social marketing, and in Part 2 we looked at the time commitment and cost benefit of time investment. In this post we’ll focus on one aspect of social marketing, the blog.

Blogging is one of the best overall tools for your online presence. It establishes authority for your business by providing a forum for sharing your topical knowledge. It can be a resource for your clients and a good customer service tool. It is also an excellent way to keep your clients up to date with changes in your industry. However, blogging is a commitment that a lot of people are unsure about.

In yesterday’s post about the time commitment of social media we talked about new marketers spending about 6 hours per week on social media and the more experienced (1-3) years speding 15+ hours on it.  For people just starting on social media, 15+ hours is daunting.  However the reason experienced users invest so much time is because their return on investment has been so significant.

Data from the Social Media Examiner 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report indicates that blogging is something that most marketers are interested in doing, but the more experienced marketers are the ones who are significantly more invested in their blogs.

Blogging is excellent for driving traffic to your site, making your site dynamic and improving your SEO, establishing your authority and building brand recognition. So why are small businesses using them much more than large companies?

Though it is often easier for larger companies to make a bigger time commitment to social media because they can devote people to the task, they are actually less likely to blog. Once of the best reasons to blog is to build brand recognition and authority. Larger companies often have established strong brand recognition, so they do not need to incorporate blogs for those reasons.  However, blogging is not just for awareness and SEO, it helps establish you as an expert, thus making you a more robust resource for your clients.

The Ecomagination site is an example of a large business that has harnessed the power of the blog. GE obviously does not need help with brand recognition, but in fact their Ecomagination campaign has revitalized their entire brand. They use their site as a way to share information about the environment and trends in renewable energy. Thus the blog furthers their mission and keeps them positioned as thought leaders.

Blogging

  • Strong usage for the self employed and small business
  • Large companies less likely to use blogs
  • 75% of marketers project increased blogging activity in the coming year
  • Marketers who invest 40+ hours per week are more invested in blogging
  • More utilized by B2B
  • 81% of all marketers plan to increase blogging activity

Blogging has long been considered a playground for writers or “mommy bloggers” who want to share stories about their kids and spouse.  What has shifted is that these bloggers became influential in consumer decisions.  Thus, blogs have also become an important tool for reaching out, communicating about products, services and business.  I personally find that benefits from blogging include keeping me on top of my industry and thinking critically about developments.

So if you are considering a blog for your business, I would recommend that you do.  They are beneficial on a number of levels and they are the primary area that marketers from all levels of experience are intending to improve.

8 Reasons Not to Autoblog

Autoblogging

Is your blog you or a bot? Why autoblogging may not be the best idea for your blog.

Autoblogging is one of the big trends in the blogosphere.  It is hard to be a blogger and not see something that is telling you about the “easiest way to make money with blogs and take the pressure off blogging”. At first, I was intrigued.  I love blogging.  I love writing, I love composing the critical analyses of my topics. Blogging is  good for my writing skills, valuable for my readers and also helpful to me by ensuring that I stay abreast of developments in my industry.  But I won’t lie, sometimes writing another post can be hard. Sometimes the idea of content appearing on your site sounds like a dream.  Maybe autoblogging would give me a vacation from my blog?

I started thinking about it, and red flags went up everywhere. Then I read a great post by Spyrestudios about why they think autoblogging sucks, that addressed all of my little red flags!

Here are the issues:

1. Control of your content

If you are autoblogging you do not have control over your content. Content is posted on your site, and you do not get prior approval.  How do you know it is valuable? well written? relevant for your audience?

It may be topic oriented, but that does not mean it is good. I write on social media and business. There are a lot of blogs out there that cover these topics, but that does not mean that I find most of it relevant for my blog.

A number of autoblogging programs do allow you to remove a post before it goes live, in case you don’t like the content.

2. Stealing

A lot of times autoblogging is flat out content theft.  Most autoblogging systems are not pulling content from sites that have given permission. In fact, most people do not even realize that their content has been reused until they stumble upon it.

Some argue that publishing an RSS feed gives people the right to republish. This is not actually the case.  When you post original content on your site, you automatically have a copyright.  People do not have the right to republish without your consent. Read Copyright: Stop Stealing My Content! for more information on blogging and copyrights.

3. The lie of original content

Often autoblogging takes content and posts it on your site without giving credit or trackback links to the original author.  The content is being passed off as being original, written by you. So now we have plagiarism thrown into the mix.

4. Good for Traffic?

The biggest argument in support of autoblogging is traffic.  If your content has been reposted you are creating an additional site from which to drive traffic to your site. This would be true if autoblogging linked back to you. A lot of autoblogging does not link back, so not only are they using your content without permission but you don’t even receive the benefit of improved SEO or increased traffic to your site.

5. My Blog was published where?

If an autoblogger has republished your content, the likelihood is that you are unaware.  However, if you have managed to find out, you might be horrified to see where it was published.  Since they did not get approval before republishing, they certainly did not make sure that the site where they republished your content is in alignment with your branding. What if your content is being used on a site that is sexist, racist, pornographic?  If you discover this, you can ask for it to be removed, but that is about it.  Currently, there is very little prevention.

6. Aggregators v. Autobloggers

Many sites will aggregate content. One of my favorites is Social Media Today. They take content from around the web and post it on their site.  However, they link back to the original articles. They link to a profile they create for you, that you can edit and add all your links and information to.  They notify you by email about posting your content. Plus, if you want it removed you just have to ask them and they will remove it.

This is the type of content aggregation that does boost SEO, traffic and is generally good for your blogging reputation.

7. Using other people’s RSS?

A form of autoblogging is using someone’s RSS feed on your site. This means that you are streaming someone elses content on your site. However, the big difference is the link to the original post. The content obviously came from someone. Generally you cannot even stream a blog post in its entirety. When you share someone’s RSS you are sharing a clip of their blog post and if the reader wants to access the whole thing, they click on the post link and it takes them to the original post.

This is a good tool for sharing valuable content with your readers.

8. Just plain lazy

If a blog is autoblogging, I tend to think they are just plain lazy.  If I am reading someone’s blogsite, I am interested because of the topic, the writing, their perspective.  I don’t want to read the same thing that has been publishing on multiple other blogs. One of the biggest things I also wonder about with sites that autoblog is how active they really are in their own site as a whole.

If you want to blog, write your own posts! You can have multiple writers, a writing staff, whatever works for you. But make your content your own.

If you want to aggregate content as a resource for your readers, that is also fine, as long as it is clear that you are sharing other people’s writing. Get the appropriate permissions and link back to the original content.

My thoughts…

The point of a blog is to provide information and resources for your readers and establish authority in your area. It gives you a medium for expressing your thoughts and expertise on a subject or offer insider insight to your topics. Can autoblogging do this?  Well, kind of.

I generally feel that autoblogging is a bad idea. If you cannot write enough for your blog then access other writers. Get guest bloggers. Use freelancers.  Adjust your posting schedule to better suit your writing abilities.

As a blogger, I would not want to use another person’s content without their permission.  After all, I do not like people using mine without my knowledge.  We work hard to write good content, and deserve to receive recognition. I have no problems with aggregating content, as it is just sharing content from another source. As long as it is linked and credited, it can be a great way to share resources with your readers and drive traffic.

Autoblogs can provide content, but that is where it stops. So if you are considering it, take a look at what you want to accomplish with your blog and see if autoblogging would really enhance your business and blogging strategy.

Be My Guest (Blogger)!

Guest Sign

Are you welcoming guest bloggers?

This past Friday I was a moderator for the #SMCColumbus chat, which is a social media chat based out of Columbus, OH.  This was a follow-up Twitter chat to the “Getting into Blogging” presentation I did at the Blah Blah Blogging Conference at Tech Columbus..

Guest posting was one of the big issues we discussed.  Ever since I began bringing in guest bloggers to the Blog Cubed on a regular basis, I have met some great people.  Opening up the blog to weekly contributors has added new dimensions, refreshing voices, and given me some wonderful inspiration. It’s been quite exciting!

This week we are presenting a two-part series about “tweeting for the greater good”.  Gretchen Vaughn is an iPad blogger. She writes extensively about the iPad and how cool it is (ok, that is my interpretation; in all fairness, I am a Mac-head). She got in touch with me on Twitter after one of my calls for guest posters and said she was interested in blogging about Tweeting for Good.  Of course, I was immediately interested. Gretchen emailed me with her incredible ideas and then said she wanted it to be a two-part series.

She is writing off-topic per her usual niche, and with this series she is stepping out of her blogging comfort zone.   I am thrilled that the Blog Cubed gets to be her vehicle for this experiment.  I love the topic. Her perspective should be energetic, fresh and informed.

This is the kind of thing that further demonstrates the benefit of guest bloggers.  Gretchen’s idea has inspired me.  And because she reached out, we are connecting in a lasting way.  I now follow her tweets and read her blogs.  Thus I’ve been introduced to her, and her blogging.

Finding guest bloggers is not always easy.  Like everything with blogging, regularity is key.  If you want guest bloggers, then make it a feature of your blog.  Once I did that, it became easier to find them. Of course, just because you ask does not mean people will answer. People may feel insecure or unsure about responding.  Put out your request, but also do not be afraid to just ask someone whose writing intrigues you.

Blogger Brandi-Ann Uyemura found me on Twitter and started talking to me. I looked at her profile, then looked at her blog, then asked her if she would be interested in blogging.  She said yes, and a wonderful post was born!

Guest blogging is not just about getting another post on your blog. It is about connecting to more of the community; meeting new people, engaging on a meaningful level, inspiring yourself and reinvigorating your blog. Guest blogs can help you build traffic, give you a break and refresh your writing, introduce yourself to a new audience and offer great content!

Blah Blah Blogging: The Conference

On Saturday I was a presenter at the Blah Blah Blogging conference hosted by Beyond Social 101. I gave a presentation on engagement strategies for blogging and took part on a panel about branding.  The conference was held at Tech Columbus in Columbus Ohio.  Though the weather was a little cold and gray, the conference venue was pretty warm and sunny, given all the great smiles we saw.  One thing that made this gathering so unique was that it was set up to support a Girls in Tech chapter.  Out of 18 presenters, 16 were women. There was a strong turn out, and a terrific show of solidarity from the Columbus community for girls and women with interest or experience in technology fields. Attendees included folks who were just stepping into cyberspace as well as seasoned professionals with years of experience to share.

Beyond Social 101, Sign

Hey, that's my logo - right under Blog Her!

During lunch, a group of us participated in a panel on Branding With Your Blog.  I sat next to Elijah Young from Social Talk Live, and Melissa Behring from Dreamtown Media. We really enjoyed participating, and of course couldn’t resist just a little rabble rousing –  laughing and generally having a good time talking with each other, to the other panelists and the audience.

Beyond Social 101 Panel

Elijah Young, me and Melissa Behring; the occasional trouble makers!

Beyond Social 101 Lunchtime panel

Answering questions on the panel; now we're getting serious. 🙂

Immediately after the panel I gave my talk on Engagement Blogging. And although all my tech failed (system glitches at the venue presented a challenge), fortunately I was well rehearsed and the presentation went quite well!

Beyond Social 101, Presentation by Lauren MacEwen

Givng my presentation.

Beyond Social 101, Lauren MacEwen presenting

More from the presentation; it was hard to get a clear shot - I do use lots of hand gesticulations, lol.

I had a wonderful time at the conference, and met some very dedicated and talented people.