Archives for blogs

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.

Got Style?: Blogger Makeover

I read a lot of blogs. I am sure this does not surprise you.  In reading blogs I often pay attention to the writing style of the particular post. Some people are very analytical, some are casual, some write like they are in the middle of a conversation with you. When I come across good writing style, I appreciate it. I like that witty play on words or a nice turn of phrase. I appreciate cleaver alliteration and enjoy the feeling when I understand an obscure reference.  But there is more to style than writing.

Writing style is more than the words that flow out of your fingers.  The visual impact of words are also important. Maybe it is my background is graphic design. Maybe it is my obscure interest in typography. Maybe it is that I just read a lot of blogs and want them to be easy to consume.

One of the more common style issues in a post is literally the paragraph format. Some people write blogs where nearly every sentence is its own paragraph.

Sometimes they will even have more than one line of space separating the individual sections.

 

Some people do this because they feel that it makes their post look more substantive. They think that blocks of dense text is hard to read and unwelcoming. In a way they are right. If a paragraph is nearly the length of your screen it can feel a bit daunting.

 

If the words are too dense then we are disinclined to read it. However if they are too far apart we feel the same way.

 

It is not a matter of creating white space to make your post feel longer and easier to read. It is matter of writing in a way that makes your post easy to consume.

 

This means that you need to make it easy on your reader to read. Don’t you remember in school that a traditional paragraph is 4 sentences long? Now 4 sentences is not to much to take in. In fact, you can write more than for sentences. Lets make it 4 lines.  Four lines is a nice block of text. It is not so dense that it is overwhelming. But it is not so spread apart that you are having to scroll down every two lines just to keep reading.

Being easy to read is more than just the words that you use. It is also the way in which they are presented. It is like TYPING IN ALL CAPS. WHEN YOU DO THIS PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE YELLING AT THEM. If you want to make your point, do it in the words you use not the capitalization. Too much white space is a pet peeve of mine because it makes reading the post difficult. I don’t want to have to scroll down every couple of lines to continue reading, it makes the post feel disjointed in my mind. Often times I have to reread to to make sure I absorbed all of it, and if that’s the case then I am not likely to do it.

So keep in mind that traditional writing styles have prevailed for a reason and make sure your blogs are both good to read and easy to read.

 

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.

A Tweet more than 140 is called a blog

Eggs and Toast with the twitter and Facebook logos on them
Is your social media consumable? Tweets are popular because they are short and easy to digest. Will making them longer remove the primary value?Tweetdeck is introducing the long awaited Deck.ly. It is their desktop Twitter application that will allow you to post more than 140 characters in Twitter.  Sound great? Not to me, and I’ll tell you why.

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform limited to 140 characters.  (Micro-blogging….hey, isn’t that smaller than mini-blogging?) It means that you are basically limited to one thought, and that thought is limited by length.  This forces people to be concise, or get creative with acronyms. It also lets people consume each other’s thoughts and expressions in easily digestible chunks.

The easily digestible factor is what has made Twitter so popular.  We can absorb incredible amounts of information when it is delivered 140 characters at a time.

Longer tweets defeat the purpose. Not to mention that the Twitter platform, overall, does not support it. So if you are looking at longer tweets from Tweetdeck, you will not have any issues. However if you are viewing from Twitter.com, you will have to click a link to see the full post. This means that you will be taken to another web page to actually view the full tweet.

And don’t think that using Tweetdeck will exclude you from “read more” links.  If someone writes a small book in their Twitter feed you will still be given a “read more” link if it exceeds the amount of space Tweetdeck has given for the increased post size, which is double height.

People don’t like the “read more” link.  They get annoyed if a pic takes them off site, much less if a tweet does.  I see people tweeting about how they do not really want to click a link to read the last 4 words of your tweet. Many just won’t bother.

Essentially this development promotes people tweeting on Tweetdeck and using their apps. Although their platform supports longer tweets, if they are more than 280 characters (resulting in the double height post) you will still have to “read more.” If you use Tweetdeck your Twitter experience will not be terribly disrupted. A good question to ask is: how much of your audience uses Tweetdeck? Is that a question you can answer?  I know I can’t.

Are you willing to possibly ostracize a potentially large part of your audience to get a few more characters in your tweets?  From a marketing standpoint, this is not a great idea. This also makes me wonder if I am going to have to start paying closer attention to the length of my tweets, to make sure I am not exceeding the 140 character limit unintentionally.  I love using Tweetdeck. It has been a valuable part of my social network management. However, if I have to be aware of every tweet because I might be exceeding the general limit, it might become more cumbersome than helpful.

From a re-tweet point of view, longer tweets cause problems.  People are less likely to re-tweet if your original tweet does not fit into the 140 character allowance. This means that your tweets should actually be less than 140 characters to leave room for re-tweets.

If they are longer, and the person is not using Tweetdeck, then will they still re-tweet you?  If people aren’t willing to click a “read more” link are they willing to re-tweet one? Are you missing engagement and networking opportunities because your tweets are too long?

People consume tweets the way they do because they are short and easy to grasp. Maybe it plays well into our techno-driven ADD. Longer posts actually defeat the purpose and effectiveness of Twitter.

In short, if you have more to say…blog.

I read, I write, I blog…but why?

Lauren MacEwen with a comic text bubble that says "I'm sure I can think of something to say"

I am preparing to give a talk on blogging at the end of February.  This has me thinking a lot about the topic. However, I have not been thinking about strategy or what goes into building a blog. I have been thinking about the issue of writing: what qualifies us to write, what gets us going, why we write and why we don’t.

I read a lot; blogs, news articles, magazine articles, academic articles, books and posts. In fact, if I were to sum up my primary activity, reading would be at the top of my list. Because I do this, I come across a lot of good writing and a lot of bad writing, especially in the world of blogging. Most seems to fall somewhere in the middle.

As a consumer of writing, I feel as though I am a fair judge. As a writer, I am rubbish at critiquing my own. So I have given up trying.

Lately what has become more interesting than the quality of writing has been the reason behind it.

Why do we write?

I started writing this blog to help my business. Blogs establish expertise. They give a voice to your business. They help with SEO because they create dynamic content. I also started writing because I have a lot of thoughts about social media.  I wanted a place to share these thoughts, as well as a place to work them out. Sometime my theories, when trapped in my head, are not fully formed. Writing becomes a way I can work out the finer (or thicker) points.

My mom would argue that I write because I am a writer. She would say that I have always written. For those who remember me in my younger and more tortured years, they will recall my stint as a poet. And yes, I have written stories for kids that I share with a select few.

I think blogs help turn reluctant writers like myself into writers. It becomes an easy way to embrace the writing bug.  For those who never were writers, blogs provide an easy vehicle where opinions count first, and writing second.

The biggest hurdle for new bloggers is the intimidation factor. There are many people who are interested in blogging but don’t do it because they don’t feel qualified. They don’t feel their writing is good enough or their theories are worth sharing.

First, you are the worst judge of your own writing.  Just start –  the more you write, the better you will become.

Writing about your business is a great way to begin. It drives traffic and establishes your expertise in an area. No one is asking you to be the next Hemingway. Write what you know about. As you continue you will fine tune your skills.

As bloggers, our posts become the social proof that qualifies us to write. We don’t need any qualifications to start writing. Do you have an opinion? Do you know stuff about stuff? Then you are qualified. And like anything, practice makes perfect.

You have something to say. It is time to say it.

Editor’s note: Lauren’s message is positive encouragement for your desire / willingness to communicate. All good. Here’s one thing for you to consider: have someone look over your stuff before you go public. Your style is your style, and maybe it’s all one sentence in lower case and stream of consciousness. However, if your goal is to be seen as a professional, or be taken seriously (or humorously) have your writing reviewed. It’s easy for us to miss our own mistakes – and if readers are tripping over typos, seriously misspelled or misused words and unintended grammatical hiccups they’ll miss (or dismiss) your great concepts. A good editor can proofread your stuff, help you streamline the flow of syntax and ideas and make your unique writing “voice” more effective and powerful.

OK, start writing!  Hilary Jetty (SM3 associate and copy editor)



Did you KISS your permalinks? The importance of simplicity.

colorful chain painted on a wall

Are your permalinks pretty, or are they a long messy horror?

Did you KISS your permalinks?  Of course, KISS stands for keep it simple, silly. Short, simple, easy to read permalinks are not only cleaner, but they are important to your SEO, your page load time and the way your site is perceived by visitors and search engines. When it comes to permalinks, simplicity matters.

Permalinks are the permanent web address (URL) for your posts.  Every post has its own unique URL.  A lot of times the default is:

www.yourwebadress.com/f87hne-ijn  or www.blogblog.com/?=145

OK, can you remember it?  I can’t.  When you see this address, does it convey anything to you? Is any information being passed? Nope.

Some permalinks are even longer than that. I am sure you have seen strings of characters that are 3 lines long. If one single letter, number or symbol is wrong then you are directed to a 404 page.  I am actually reticent to click a link that is really long because I question it: could it be spam?

It is hard to think of permalinks as an important part of your business strategy. They aren’t fun, interesting or particularly helpful, so it seems. Generally the only time we think about permalinks is if we are changing their format, and then most of us cringe at the thought of the migration.

Why it matters

  • Search engines don’t like long URLS.  You will have better  SEO if you have short, neat URLS.
  • You can put keywords in your permalinks to help gain higher ranking in search engines.
  • It is very easy to mess up a long URL when sharing links or backlinking
  • Spam? A short clean URL lets people see the path of the link.  A long messy URL can make us wonder where the page is really taking us.
  • Tells you everything. A good permalink can tell you a lot: the date of a post, the category, the keyword, the topic.
  • Clean URLs look more professional. It adds a level of sophistication to your site and shows that you know what you are doing.
  • A bad permalink structure can actually slow down the loading of your page. This has to do with how the page is indexed and read by your server and by the search engines. Here is a great post that addresses this in more detail.

Your blog posts

When you write a new post you should be able to see what your permalink is.  On WordPress, it is directly below the title of your post. Depending on how you have your permalink set, you may have the title of your post integrated into the link.  If this is the case, make sure that your permalink isn’t something like:

http://www.smcubedconsulting.com/2010/07/build-it-and-they-still-may-not-come-why-wont-you-talk-to-me-how-to-get-interactions-on-facebook/

Oh yeah, that is a real link.  Do you see how long it is?  Sure, it tells you that it was posted in July of 2010 and is about why people won’t talk to you on Facebook.  But YOWZA!  It is not as ugly as a string of incoherent numbers, letters and symbols, but it is not exactly clean.

Before you post, take a look at your permalink and check it.  You can edit your link.  Maybe instead of that super long URL, I could have shortened it to:

http://www.smcubedconsulting.com/2010/07/talk-to-me-on-facebook/

It still tells you generally what the post is about without giving you a summary in the link.

Migration:

If you already have a ton of posts, and a horrendous URL, you can still change it.  This is where most people panic.  Because if you change the permalink structure on your site aren’t you changing the URL of every post you have ever written?  Yes.  The way to do that without ruining your SEO, backlinks, trackbacks and inbound links is to use a migration plugin.

The one that I use is the Permalink Migration Plugin for WordPress.

What this will do is create a 301 redirect, which is a permanent redirect for your page. It tells search engines that the old address has been changed to this new address and will automatically send you to that new page. From the visitor point of view, nothing has happened.  From the blog owner point of view, you have just summited the Mount Vesuvius of web issues!

What to do?

  • Get a permalink migration plugin for your blog.
  • Check your links before you post. Make sure they are clean, and shorten them if they are not.
  • Use keywords in the title of your post for better SEO
  • KISS it – keep it simple, silly!

You are talking but no one is listening: Understand your audience

a 1950's movie audience wearing 3D glasses

Understanding your audience is an important part of marketing strategy.  Who are they? What are their age ranges?  Are they predominantly male or female? Unfortunately, you can know everything about the demographics of your audience and still not reach them. An important factor that is often overlooked is: when are they active?

Knowing when your audience is online is important for a number of reasons:

1.  If you want to be sure your target audience is reading your posts, then you want to make sure you are posting when they are online.

2. Posting relevant content at relevant times shows them that you are part of the group, participating in the conversation, rather than someone from the outside trying to broadcast information

3. Work smart not hard.  If you don’t get traffic on the weekends, stop posting on the weekends.

People are always trying to figure out how to drive more traffic.  The best way to do this is to thoroughly understand your audience.  By knowing when they are likely to be most active you can optimize your time by using it effectively.

There is no shortcut for this.  You can read all the stats you want and see when people tweet the most, and what days are best to post to your blog.  Ultimately every audience is unique.  What works for one person might not work for you.  Keep track of your stats, watch your traffic, monitor your engagement.  Pay attention to when your audience is paying attention.  Once you know them it will be easier to get them to know you.

My RSS Feed is Gone!!

cartoon man sitting on a bench reading an oversized magazine with an RSS symbol on the coverI was doing some basic maintenance on my blogsite and suddenly realized that my RSS feed subscribers dropped down to zero.  You can imagine my “WHAT THE F*%$!!!!” reaction.  Once I got a grip, I decided to leave it for a day to see if maybe it was just some horrible dream.  So I came back and checked and nope, it was real.  All of my subscribers were gone.

I checked my RSS address and it was no longer registering my RSS feed, which was totally confusing and frustrating.  I actually had to go into my wordpress site and eliminate my custom feed.  Then I deleted my feed on Feedburner and reclaimed it. THEN I had to assign a new feed url and redirect my wordpress to the new feed address! Thankfully I did not have many subscribers…

Ok, wait, not really –  I am thankful for every subscriber!  What I mean is that I just offered a subscription box on this site, so I hadn’t yet gathered many subscribers.  But for people who have been managing subscribers for a long time, having your feed url get tanked could be devastating!

I hope that by fixing the RSS feed the subscribers I had will find me again.

Of course after I did all this I started doing some research on feedburner, specifically for this post.  I originally wanted to talk about what feedburner counted and what they didn’t, and why it is not always the most accurate form of traffic stats for blogs.  I found out that Google has been doing some algorithm adjustments and my RSS tanking was most likely because of this.  A post was written talking about feedburner possibly being one of the sources to people having RSS issues. Apparantly Techcrunch and Mashable both had issues with their feeds because of this update.

If it can happen to Mashable, it can happen to me! and you!

So go out and check your feed and make sure that all is well in your blogoverse.

5 Sources of Inspiration for Bloggers

Comic image of two people talking about finding things to write about

Blogs can be a source for – or a source of – inspiration. Blog writing is something we come to in many different ways. Some people write out of a deep interest in a topic; they have a passion about a subject that they want to share with others.  Others have expertise they want to pass on.  Some people do it out of professional intrigue or professional necessity.  The reasons for blog writing can be as varied the topics covered.

Regardless of the reason for writing, sharing is one of the key elements that unites bloggers. One of the things they most want is for others to read it.  We all want to acquire an audience.

There are various ways to promote our blogs, drive traffic, and build revenue and subscribers.  But before you can focus on these things you have to face some primary technical questions – like how often are you going to post?

How often can you write on your topic?  How frequently can you find sufficient inspiration?

Is once a week enough?  Twice? Three times?  What about daily? Oh my god, daily! Yowza. Let’s not even talk about the nuts who post twice daily (ahem…Chris Brogan)

If your goal is to drive traffic to your site, then Brogan summed it up nicely when he said, “the more you post, the more traffic you get.”

So now you are blogging three times a week, or maybe you have even gone hell bent for leather and are blogging daily. So how do you do it?  How do you find motivation?  How do you find your topics?

  1. Read other people’s blogs!
    This is one of the best ways to find inspiration. See what other people are writing about; perhaps respond to what they have written.
  2. Read the news
    Many of us don’t actually blog about mainstream news, so what is the news in your industry?  You probably have thoughts and opinions on trending topics.  Share your opinion. Stop worrying if people agree with you, or if you are right or wrong.  Put your thoughts out there, and then if the response you get changes your point of view, well then you have another post topic!
  3. Follow Twitter
    Twitter is a beacon of discussion.  What are people talking about?  How are people interacting? Twitter is ripe with inspiration seeded in the conversations.  If you pay attention to what people are talking about you will see what people are interested in…write about that!
  4. Watch a movie
    Sure, it is a great form of procrastination, but if you are feeling stagnated then challenge yourself with a movie.  Watch a great and notable title and see how you can apply your writing to that movie.  Integrate buzz words from your industry into movie liners.  Have fun with it!
  5. Just start writing
    Occasionally we are just blocked. Blocked for words, topics, creativity. Sometimes sitting down and just typing whatever comes to your mind will lead you into something.  Think of it as an active meditation.  Just write what comes, no matter how goofy or nonsensical.  Many times finding inspiration is a matter of discipline, which may means committing to writing even when you can’t think of anything to write.

The more you write the easier it will become. When you first ramp up your frequency it can seem really daunting.  But the old adage is true; the more you write the more you will be able to write.  If you focus, the inspiration will come!

What inspires you? Tell me about it!

Nut-Up or Shut-Up

Nut-Up or Shut-Up

I am a business person.  I work out of my house because I work in a virtual environment. So sometimes I work in restaurants, or coffee shops.  Sometimes I work from other peoples houses or offices.  The point is I can work anywhere I can get internet.  The problem with this is that I can also work any time, which is code for all the time.  My workaholism tends to run rampant.

As an independent business woman one of the biggest challenges is not justifying procrastination through information.  What I mean is, there is so much out there.  There are blogs and webinars, videos and news feed.  Twitters and polls and feeds.  I can spend an entire day doing nothing but reading about business development, cutting edge tech, what to do, what not to do, what I am not doing, what I am doing better than you.  I can spend so much time reading that I spend no time doing.

Stop thinking about doing it. Stop reading about doing it.  Stop talking about doing it.

In the immortal words of Woody Harrelson from Zombieland: It is time to Nut-Up or Shut-Up