November 23, 2014

How to Restart a Blog When You’ve Been on Hiatus for Three Years

Posted by: of Stephan on 05/14/13

I left my blog dormant for a few years, but I’m finally back in the saddle! I drafted up a post entitled “How to Restart a Blog When You’ve Been on Hiatus for Three Years” because it seemed fitting. Here are my main points to get you started:

1. Jump in and write something. No apologies. Or a lengthy explanation or justification for being off the grid.

2. Get some tools or processes in place that will make it as painless as possible to post. Like Dragon – which incidentally is available as an iPhone/iPad app.

3. Hire a virtual assistant if that will help you. (More on using VA’s in a future post).

4. Roll out a site redesign at the same time to let everybody know you’re reengaged and committed.

5. Don’t try to get all your readers all caught up on your life all in one post. You’ve got plenty of fodder for many blog posts – so save it for later.

6. Finally, silence the perfectionist in you. I have this bad habit of pouring over my blog posts – my articles even more so – trying to make them perfect. I put a dozen hours or more into articles on search engine land. That’s crazy. That’s not good use of your time. Much better to freeze all those great ideas and insights stuck in your head – share them with the world. It’s okay if the sentence structure isn’t always on the mark. It’s a blog post for Pete’s sake.

Grow Your Blog Business: The Earn-Millions-in-Your-Flip-Flops Framework [Case Study]

Posted by: of Stephan on 02/12/13

Former mortgage broker and digital information business expert, Susan Lassiter-Lyons built her business online, and grew it to a six-figure income in only seven months.

She attributes her amazing success to a simple framework she developed and perfected over that time.

Recently, I met with Susan and she shared with me her “$1 Million digital business blueprint”. In my guest blogger post on Problogger.com, I go through her exact, replicable steps to apply to your business. Here is a snippet of what I cover.

$1 Million digital business blueprint

Forced to close her real estate business in November 2008 because of the mortgage meltdown, Susan launched her digital information business in January 2009 with a mere $200 in startup capital.

Susan’s ebook, Mortgage Secrets for Real Estate Investors is where it all started. Published nearly four years ago, it still makes $600-$3,000 a month in online sales.

That ebook functioned as a launch point for her business that eventually reached six figures by July 2009. Living by her three-step framework, she is now able to work part-time, with no boss, in flip-flops. Some might call that a dream job.

The framework

Now, let’s break down that three-step framework for creating an online business around your passion.

Step 1. Create

  • Create a product of your own.
  • Acquire the rights to an already created info product to sell as your own.
  • Expand to a product suite.

Step 2. Campaign

  • Start a blog about your topic.
  • Start a Facebook page about your product.
  • Buy some cheap ads on Google to promote your product.
  • Ask others who have websites and subscribers in your niche to email their list about your product.

Step 3. Convert

  • Create a simple website that tells visitors all about the features and benefits of your product.
  • Offer a simple way for them to buy and download the product.

Is it really that simple?

Susan Lassiter-Lyons has proven that these steps work. While the framework is simple, as you can see, there’s a lot of work in each step. But if you follow her example, while you may not make six figures in seven months, you will put yourself on a path to similar success.

Read more here.

 

 

Three Cheers for Author Bloggers!

In my opinion, blogging and book writing go hand-in-hand. All it takes to bridge the gap from blog to book is a bit more forethought, discipline, and structure, and of course a publisher, and BOOM! you’ve got a book. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. My experience co-authoring a book (The Art of SEO) was nothing like that. But still, it’s nice to romanticize the process — simply assemble your blog posts into a cohesive structure and send it off to a publisher. What could be simpler?

More often than not the author’s blog is an afterthought. The book came first. Then the blog came second as the book’s marketing vehicle, a complement/supplement. I’m not knocking it, but it’s great to see a high-quality blog turn into a high-quality book.

As both an author and a blogger, I can really appreciate when a blogger succeeds in transforming their blog into a book. It’s inspiring. One of my favorites is PostSecret, which was turned into a whole series of books. More prototypical examples of blog-to-book projects are The Long Tail (blog / book) and The Search (blog / book). Both are excellent blogs, and excellent books. Sometimes Twitter feeds turn into books too, like S*it My Dad Says. That’s some funny stuff. Now it looks like CEO blogger Steve Spangler is coming out with a book too. His is called Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes. A curious title. In actuality I think his book is more of an amalgamation of his video content than his blog posts, but nonetheless the finished book looks impressive. Congrats Steve!

Folks often ask me if I’m going to write another book. My answer: I doubt it. It’s too painful (like birthing a baby, though, as a man, I can’t truly appreciate the pain of childbirth), and it pays less than minimum wage if you work out the numbers. Folks will then chime in with “Yeah, and why bother with a physical book anyways when everybody’s migrating online!” That I don’t agree with. There are a very large group of holdouts — me included — who still prefer the feel of printed books, who enjoy the experience of curling up with a good book rather than a laptop or ebook reader. And yes I own an iPad, but I don’t read books on it. And I don’t plan to anytime soon. Call me a Luddite.

Business Blogging for Realtors

With the decimated housing market fueling the Great Recession, savvy realtors have realized they needed to “up their game” with their online marketing in order to keep food on the table for their families. Where did they turn? Why, blogging of course, among other things.

I had an opportunity recently to sit down with one such forward-thinking realtor-blogger, Jamie Miller. She’s actually a former employee of my former company Netconcepts, and she’s the agent for this beautiful property in Madison Wisconsin (yes, it’s my home). I asked her to share some pointers for realtors who want to get into blogging. Here are Jamie’s tips:

  • Use your blog’s name to target geographic locations. I named my blog Madison Wisconsin Living.
  • Also consider optimizing your blog around condo communities, like Miami Condo Lifestyle does, to target Google searchers. Individual posts can be condos for sale within their respective communities.
  • Post all your property listings to your blog, and have a separate property listings category. This provides an excellent source of regular content for readers and the search engines.
  • Don’t remove properties once they’ve sold. Simply update the listings with the word “Sold” — it’s a great way to communicate to prospective clients how many properties you’ve sold.
  • Develop an authoritative voice in your local market for all things home sales. For instance, The Boston Real Estate Blog publishes local real estate news and stats.
  • Leverage your blogging content into Social Media sites, such as your Facebook pages or Twitter profiles. It takes time to source and author content for blogging, this content should be shared across additional marketing channels in order to get the most bang for the buck and maintain message consistency.
  • Don’t forget to also incorporate typical Real Estate Website features and functionality into your blog, such as Featured properties to highlight the agents own properties for sale, a Property Search that pulls from a MLS (multiple listing service), and informational pages on buying and selling homes. For example, My Westside LA has great posting categories that feature content targeted to buyers and sellers.
  • If you’re a blogging newbie, it’s really easy to get started. Simply purchase a domain or use an existing domain you own (don’t just use a subdomain of wordpress.com or blogspot.com), purchase a hosting package (Ed. note: Bluehost is the one I use), and perform the famous “5 minute WordPress install” (actually it’s more like 5 seconds!)
  • There are some great, cost-effective real estate-specific themes for WordPress you can choose from, including RealEstateThemes.com, Agent Press, and Villa Grande. Or, just Google for “wordpress real estate themes“.
  • Install the following WordPress plugins: SEO Title Tag, Breadcrumb navigation, Google Analytics, and WPtouch iPhone Theme.
  • Before you start writing, first outline your content plan for the blog. The plan can include things like new listings, local real estate news, tips on home selling, etc.

Advertising and Search: the one-two punch

Posted by: of Compendium on 07/6/10

I received a great reminder recently while I was at AdTech in San Francisco.

TV celebrity at AdTech

This guy was mobbed everywhere he went! Why? Because he is on TV!

I was immediately reminded of the Seinfeld episode where they are pitching the Show About Nothing:

Producer: “So why am I watching”
George: “Because it’s on TV!!”

Here is the thing, and how this relates to Search Marketing. Search can’t create demand. Think about that for a second. People search because they already have an idea or problem and are seeking a solution. Whereas other forms of traditional marketing are very good at creating demand. For instance, Advertising still creates demand. The opportunity then for search is to intercept that demand. If you are advertising, you must also have a powerful search strategy and here’s why.

I’m really enjoying reading Vanessa Fox’s new book: Marketing in the Age of Google. In the book, Vanessa makes (basically) the following points:

  • Of the 18 Billion searches each month nearly 12% are retail focused. 70% of product searches are for categories (digital cameras, washers)
  • For most searches, the home page is not the entry point. “Any page can be the entry page” “We have to rethink our approach to site design and user interaction based on the new world”
  • “Even those retailers who don’t sell products online or who have substantial offline sales are still impacted by search.” “Sixty three percent of search-related purchases occur offline” “In a webvisible/Nielson study, 82% of respondents said that they’ve used the Internet to find local businesses; 80% say they’ve researched a product or service online before buying it locally.”

So here’s the thing I wanted to test. How does traditional advertising impact search queries? From that: How does search marketing play a role in overall advertising strategy? Does Corporate Blogging?

Let me give you an example. Compendium has a client that spends a lot on TV and Newspaper advertising. You can literally watch the search traffic climb on the products that they feature in their advertising. Consider the ramifications here. Companies spend millions on Advertising…creating demand. Convincing me that I need this brand new flat screen Samsung TV with 5 hdmi ports…and LED. Do I rush to the store? No! I rush to Google. If company B shows up for that search, where do I buy?

Check out the following charts:

Notice the peaks? What do those peaks have in common? If you guessed Sunday you win the prize. Ok, consider this (although it may be obvious to you now) big retail invests millions of dollars every week creating beautiful, compelling enticements to buy new products. These go into our newspapers every weekend.

What these inducements clearly do is create demand for the products advertised. What do the readers of these Advertisements do? They do just what Vanessa Fox says they do…they go online and research the products that caught their eye. Not only the brands (you see spikes in branded searches too) … but the products themselves.

If these brands are not ranking on these product searches, didn’t they just spend all that money to send shoppers into the arms of their competitors? About one million searches are done each month for [samsung led tv]. Not a single big brand shows up organically to help the consumer buy this product locally through a brick and mortar store. Who paid for the advertising…?

There are millions of searches that contain the term “washer” spread over hundreds of different phrases or queries. To Vanessa’s point: “Any page can be the entry page” “We have to rethink our approach to site design and user interaction based on the new world”. Businesses are looking at the scale afforded them through enterprise level blogging software. It’s the perfect tool for thinking differently about SEO.

Targeted blogging about your products and services, coupled with your geography, use cases, specials and coupons help make certain you have the right organized content online to ensure you show up for the searches that you just spent a fortune creating demand for through traditional advertising.

Content Curation in B2B Marketing

Posted by: of Online Marketing Blog on 06/29/10

Content Curation in B2B MarketingMany of the B2B companies that publish corporate blogs have long realized the value of publishing useful content in the form of white papers, case studies, webinars, newsletters and other types of educational content.

Business buyers typically seek additional information and resources for information on business products and services. In the growing content marketing field, some companies choose a pure creation strategy (often using blogging platforms for publishing) and find it to be a challenge.

Within the field of content marketing, content curation blends a mix of new content with the filtering and management of useful information streams from blogs and other RSS resources. The curation of useful content for B2B marketing serves as a productive and manageable solution for providing prospective customers a steady stream of useful information from trusted sources.  Pure content creation is demanding. Pure automation of content aggregation doesn’t foster interaction. For B2B marketers, content curation provides the best of both worlds.

To make more sense out of the notion of content curation, here are some useful thought leader definitions of the topic and insight into where curation might fit within a digital marketing program:

Joe Pulizzi – Founder Junta42 and Content Marketing Institute, Co-Author of Get Content, Get Customers.

Content curation is editing on steroids.

As more content floods through all aspects of the web (as well as print and online), we’ll need more brands stepping up to make sense of what we really should be paying attention to. Content curation is as important in the content marketing toolbox as is creation. We need both…and curation doesn’t work without creation (much like Google trying to save the newspapers because they need great news to survive, but that is for another story). For some brands, curation may be enough. You can’t find the resources to develop the most valuable, most compelling content in your industry? Then just tap into your network that does, and package that content to present you as the trusted industry leader. It’s still a needed service, just a bit different from creation.

Where it will go, no one knows…but I’ve heard from smarter people than me that content curation is the future (even present) of media. I’d rather say curation and creation go together like Macaroni & Cheese…a splendid combination.

Pawan Deshpande – CEO, HiveFire, Makers of Curata

Content curation is the cure for a broken content marketing strategy. Content marketing is about a brand producing valuable content, and prospects being educated with that content. It’s valuable, it works and it’s not going away.

But the only problem is that day by day, it’s less effective as everyone produces more and more content. Brands are increasingly competing to get their content noticed. At the same time, prospects are increasingly spending more time searching for relevant content.

Content curation has emerged as a new and powerful way for marketers to seamlessly sift through the flood of content available to prospects. Like the owner of a high-end art gallery, you have to sift through the information from across the web and “curate” it to ensure that it is relevant to the customer. You will be navigating your prospects through this sea of content by leading them to the most relevant important information.

It’s already happened in the consumer world: Sites like Digg (social curation) which have little or no original content have become key resources for information. Similarly we are seeing leading businesses take a similar approach to become the experts for their respective areas.

Paul Gillin – Consultant and Author of The New Influencers and Secrets of Social Media Marketing

I define content curation as the process of assembling, summarizing and categorizing and interpreting information from multiple sources in a context that is relevant to a particular audience. I think this discipline will be absolutely essential to content marketing in the future because of changes in the media landscape.

Marketers can build trust with their constituencies by providing focused curation in areas that matter to their constituents. Original content will always have value, but curation is coming to have nearly equal value.  The key is to stake out unique topic areas and to become the most trusted source in those areas. You don’t need a lot of money to do this. You just need to know the subject matter very well.

So it seems that not only do companies need to enter the world of publishing, but undertake the role of digital librarian as well. I cannot imagine the need for original blogging going away anytime soon. But I can see blogging complemented and even facilitated by the incorporation of curated feeds (excerpts) from other blogs and information sources. Citation and links benefit the sources and the collection of useful information benefits the readers.  Satisfied readers can turn into interested prospects and satisfied customers.

12 Tips for Marketing New Blogs

Posted by: of Online Marketing Blog on 06/16/10

Plenty of new B2C and B2B blogs are launched every day and the sheer volume of content makes standing out increasingly difficult. My personal experience as a B2B Marketing pro, is that blogs can be one of the most effective ways create connections with prospects and customers through useful content. However, that content will go unnoticed unless you promote it. To that end, here are 12 tips for marketing a new blog.

  1. Add A Link – If it’s a company blog, or if it’s attached to another site, add a link to the blog from the main navigation on the parent website.
  2. Create A Badge – On the main website, add a badge to the homepage, or sidebar, that promotes the blog. Images are a good way to catch a visitor’s attention.
  3. Email – Add a link to the blog in your email signature.
  4. Newsletter – Announce the blog in the company newsletter.
  5. Network – Announce the blog to your Twitter followers, Facebook fans, Linked in connections and any other social networks that you are apart of.
  6. Press Release – If you feel that the blog is important enough to support a press release, put one out.
  7. Submit – Submit the blog to blog & feed directories.
  8. Share – Share your blog with co-workers, friends and others in your network. You never know when they might promote it for you.
  9. Link – One way to get other bloggers to notice you is to link to them. Summarize someone else’s long blog post, expand upon someones shorter post, or just write your thoughts on a topic that someone else wrote about and link back to the original post.
  10. Give Away – If it’s a product blog, run a promotion on the blog giving away one of your products. Sometimes the value that can come out of giving something away can be more beneficial than all the items above.
  11. Guest Post – If there are other blogs in your industry, ask around and see if they’d allow you to guest post for them. In return, you’d get a link back to your blog in your profile, or post, on their site.
  12. Ask – Tap into the social networks within the industry you’re trying to reach and ask them what they’re interested in. Here’s an example of a post that did just that on Twitter for this blog. Show interest in the interest of your audience and they’ll pay more attention and share your content.

Of course, there’s no substitute for good content, so even the best blog marketing tactics will be fruitless unless those visitors find something useful AND the blog publisher has made it easy to share that content. This is a simple, yet effective formula at the center of our blog marketing services.

What tips and tactics have you found to be effective for promoting a new blog?

Where Did All the CEO Bloggers Go?

CEO blogs used to be all the rage within the business blogging community. Remember when we’d hear blog consultants gush about CEOs who dared to blog with transparency and authenticity. I rarely hear much talk about CEO bloggers anymore. Do you?

Remember Jonathan Schwartz? He was the poster child of blogging CEOs, the now former (as of February 3rd) CEO of Sun Microsystems. All you could hear was crickets on Jonathan’s blog from May of last year until finally Jonathan’s farewell post on January 27. Clearly he had a few things going on; Oracle was in the process of acquiring Sun. When you’re selling your company that is pretty much all that occupies your mind. I know that first-hand, as I’m happy to say my company (Netconcepts) was acquired by Covario last month.

The thing that most struck me was the name of Jonathan’s new blog. It’s titled “What I Couldn’t Say”. Hmmm. I guess transparency within a corporation only goes so far.

With the economy is in freefall, perhaps the tolerance of various boards of directors for CEO transparency has lessened? Or it could be simply that CEOs are just too busy and blogging isn’t such a priority, now that “blog” isn’t Word of the Year anymore.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is another CEO blogger who was acquired and who we don’t hear from any longer in the blogosphere. His last post was July of last year, and that wasn’t so much of a blog post as it was a copy of a letter that was sent to all the Zappos employees announcing the acquisition by Amazon. Before that, Tony last posted in January 2009.

I’m guilty too. My own “CEO blog” hasn’t seen any activity in over a month — no posts since Covario acquired us. But the reason for my ‘radio silence’ has nothing to do with the acquirer. I may no longer be a President/CEO, but I am still encouraged to keep blogging. The reason I don’t blog frequently is the same one as last year (when I was only posting a few times a month at best): I’m preoccupied running around speaking at conferences all over the U.S., writing for magazines, etc.

Then there are the corporate blogs where the CEO occasionally chimes in with his/her own post. My acquirer, Covario, fits into that group with its “Actionable Insights” blog. Trinity Road, an etailer of religious products like first communion dresses and rosaries, has a corporate blog, but you rarely if ever hear from the CEO on it.

Then there are the CEO blogs where you wonder if it’s actually the CEO who’s blogging because it’s so polished. Steve Spangler the science toys e-tailer, I think fits into that category. If you look at the posts on Steve’s blog you’ll see a gradual evolution to a style that is more and more polished.

Chris Baggott, CEO of the Compendium Blogware, has one of the best CEO blogs out there, in my opinion. It’s full of valuable content, it’s not overly polished, his personality really shines through, and he blogs regularly. It figures though. If any CEO would have that kind of a CEO blog, it would be the CEO of a business blogging software company!

New Survey: Are Blogs Still Important for SEO and Why?

Posted by: of Online Marketing Blog on 01/27/10

Blog SEO SurveyA large number of companies are familiar with the process of starting a blog, but few have experienced the challenges of maintaining and growing a blog for more than a year. Understanding long term benefits is key to sustainable business blogging. One of the most notable benefits of publishing blog content, especially if optimized, is the compliment to search engine optimization efforts.

TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog recently conducted a survey with 326 Corporate, Agency, Small Biz and Independent marketers. Long time readers of Business Blog Consulting understand the SEO value of blogging, however, we wanted to check in with marketers with a variety of blogging experience to see what their experiences have been firsthand.

Key findings:

95% indicated blogs are used as part of their search engine optimization efforts
87.4% successfully increased measurable SEO objectives as a direct result of blogging
90% cited blogging as important, significantly important or a primary SEO tactic

Blogs are started for many reasons ranging from corporate communications in a newsroom format to conversational posts from executives or subject matter experts. When it came to SEO benefits from blogging, the top choices were:

  • Creat new optimized content
  • Linking from blog posts to optimized web site content
  • Attract external links
  • Increase crawl rate / frequency
  • Community building for content/links promotion
  • Content Syndication

The timeframe between starting a blogging effort and seeing results is a very common question for companies considering a blog as part of the marketing and communications mix. In the TopRank survey, respondents reported seeing SEO results fairly quickly:

94% of bloggers reported seeing measurable SEO benefits from blogging within 12 months
54% of respondents start to see SEO benefits from blogging within 3 months

After timeframe to see results, the next most common question about building a case for a corporate blog are the results. Adding a SEO effort to a corporate blog allows companies to increase the outcomes and reach of the content published. The top benefits from blog SEO included:

  • Increasing company site traffic
  • Increase company leads/sales
  • Inbound links
  • Referrals from the blog
  • Lead generation from the blog
  • Improved web site rankings
  • Increased blog traffic

Starting a blog purely for SEO reasons will make content sustainability difficult in the long run. A blogging strategy must meet meet other goals as well, especially those that involve engaging customers or interactions with readers. Other success measures from blogging include:

  • Increase overall online exposure. They won’t know about you if you don’t say anything, participate
  • Contribute to company’s bottom line goals in at least a semi-direct way
  • Branding and owning SERPS
  • Increase quality of site traffic
  • Improve visibility and prominence in search engine results is by far the most important, it’s all about search
  • Branding
  • Incease visibility and demonstrate the company is “up to date”

Convincing management that a corporate blog or any kind of blog is not always easy. Nor is long term creation of content and promotion. Many of the comments about obstacles to blogging centered around time, resources, measurement and a lack of awareness.

  • 67.2% cited resource issues as the most common objection to implementing a blog
  • 42% cited content sourcing issues
  • 35% didn’t see the benefit of blogging
  • Regulated industry or legal issues got in the way for 19.3

Is blogging here to stay? 92% of respondents feel blogging will continue to be an important content optimization and marketing tactic for the next 3+ years.

Read the full results of the Blogging and SEO Survey here along with a large number of comments from respondents on measuring success and SEO applications of blogging. Follow @leeodden on Twitter for more insights into Social SEO and Blogging.

Take the Business Blogging and SEO Survey

Posted by: of Online Marketing Blog on 01/14/10

Blog SEO Survey Blogs serve many purposes for companies and individuals alike. As easy to use content management systems, blog software enables companies that are “content challenged” a mechanism to create content for subscribing customers and search engines.

While many companies start blogs with SEO in mind, there are many overzealous claims and exaggerated expectations about what works and what doesn’t.

At MarketingBlog.com we’re currently running a poll with business bloggers to better understand the perceived SEO impact of business blogging and would greatly appreciate 1-2 minutes of your participation: http://bit.ly/6Lr4Xb

Responses will be aggregated early next week and an executive summary will be published here on Business Blog Consulting. Full results will also be available in a Business Blogging and SEO Report.

If you’re a business blogger, please take and share the survey.

To make it easy to share the survey on Twitter, Facebook or FriendFeed, here’s a bit of text to copy/paste:

Take the Biz Blogging and SEO survey: http://bit.ly/6Lr4Xb

Las Vegas is for Bloggers: Blog World Expo, Cirque du Soleil, America’s Got Talent

I had a great time last week at Blog World. The turnout was great, at several thousand attendees. The show was buzzing the whole time, even on Day 1 which is normally a light day in terms of attendance. The sessions were *solid*. It was a “who’s who” of bloggers presenting. The networking (in the speaker lounge, in the hallways, at the receptions, etc.) was excellent. The WiFi worked great (at least for me). The only real negative in my opinion: the food was not vegetarian-friendly (grrr).

I had my 18-year-old daughter Chloe with me. She and I both were speakers at Blog World, she was on a panel about blog monetization and I was on a panel about SEO. Chloe monetizes traffic to her Neopets cheats site/blog with Google AdSense, and spoke a bit about that. I did impromptu site critiques in my session.

Then there were the shows. All I have to say was “Wow!”. This is one thing that Blog World is known for — is for hooking up bloggers with free tickets to shows (“Bloggers Night Out” I believe is what they call it). We did FOUR shows in two days! It was fun but exhausting. The first night was America’s Got Talent Live! and Blue Man Group. The second night was Jersey Boys and Cirque du Soleil “O”. My daughter and I had a blast.

All four shows were excellent. Jersey Boys is my favorite musical now. It was awesome. My new favorite Cirque du Soleil show is “O” (and I’ve seen 6 Cirque shows). It was spectacular! If you haven’t seen a Cirque show, you absolutely *must*.

Cirque du Soleil O, Eugen in Umbrella

Blue Man was bizarre and amazing. Surreal. I loved it! And America’s Got Talent Live was great too — I have to admit I had no idea what to expect with that, and I was pleasantly surprised. My favorite AGT acts were Recycled Percussion, Nuttin’ But Stringz, and Barbara Padilla (here’s a picture of me and Barbara, below). But honestly, they were all great. (I can’t believe how low Lawrence Beaman’s voice goes!)

Barbara Padilla

Even though Vegas is not a family friendly town, my daughter and I had a great, clean time. As much as I wanted to see Zumanity, I passed on that one (not really an appropriate father-daughter activity!).

I also wish we weren’t forced to walk through the cigarette smoke filled casinos so much. No matter what, it seems, you have to walk through the casino to get *anywhere*.

My sincere thanks to the three shows that provided me and Chloe with the comp tickets — America’s Got Talent Live, Blue Man Group, and Cirque du Soleil. It’s brilliant blogger outreach to treat us bloggers to such great shows.

Anatomy of a Successful Blog Contest

Links are the foundation of Google’s ranking algorithm, and so, link building is a crucial part of SEO. To be really successful at link building you need creativity, because without a great buzzworthy idea, your “link bait” will fall flat. One way to bait for links is a blog contest. If you do it right, even the most un-sexy of products (like stationery) can become sexy.

Consider for example the overnight printer of stationery and business cards OvernightPrints.com. Creating a buzz which drives a torrent of traffic to that type of website could be challenge. We at Netconcepts rose to the challenge, dreaming up a brilliant (if I do say so myself!) and inexpensive contest that involved the Internet celebrity and Technorati Top 100 blogger Jeremy Schoemaker. The contest was: Win business cards for life by designing Jeremy’s new business card. Here’s the winner, which is one sweet business card IMO:

Shoemoney's business card

Let’s take a closer look at what makes a blog contest such as this a successful link building strategy…

  1. Come up with an impressive prize (or at least one that sounds impressive). In the above, the prize was a lifetime supply of business cards. A “lifetime supply” of anything sounds impressive. You can use the fine print to put some limits on it — like OvernightPrints.com did by capping it at 1000 business cards per year for a maximum of 20 years. That adds up to, well, peanuts. ;-)
  2. Get a partner with some name recognition who’s willing to promote your contest. If you’re a blogger, try to land a partner organization that you can piggyback off of their brand recognition. If you’re a brand, get a well-known blogger to partner with you. Jeremy Schoemaker was great; he has a massive following. Ride on the coattails of that partner’s brand by enlisting their help in spreading the word about the contest. They need to be willing to hawk your contest on their blog and in social media. Jeremy posted multiple blog posts (with good keyword-rich links) and a YouTube video and some tweets on Twitter, for example. (Thanks Shoe!)
  3. Promote the heck out of the contest yourself too. Don’t just rely on your partners to do it for you. With the above contest, we reached out to a bunch of design sites. And they took the bait. They loved the contest and promoted it to their community and linked to our contest page. What a great thing to add to your resume if you’re a designer, that you came up with the winning design of the business card for a famous blogger — out of over 400 entries no less!
  4. Make sure the contest entry pages lives on your site. Not on your partner’s. You want the link juice flowing directly to the site you are looking to promote in the search engines. As you might guess, the contest entry page was on OvernightPrints.com, not on Shoemoney.com or anywhere else.
  5. Keep it simple. There are numerous ways to run(ruin) a blog contest. If you want it to be a success, create a contest that is easy for users to participate in. People online are lazy and impatient — even if they aren’t like that in the real world (Something about being in front of the computer triggers it!). So, the more effort a contest requires, the lower the participation level. OvernightPrints.com kept it simple: “Design ShoeMoney’s business card”.. and win a lifetime supply of business cards.
  6. Make it relevant to your business and to your targeted search term. It wouldn’t have made any sense for OvernightPrints.com to run a contest where you write a letter to the President and win a trip to Washington DC. For Overnight Prints, their money term is “business cards”. Being on page 1 in Google for that term is worth big bucks to Overnight Prints. This contest moved them onto page 1, and in fact, onto the top half of page 1.
  7. Involve the community. Jeremy narrowed it down to 7 finalists and then asked his readers to help him decide. The participation factor is huge. It makes the blog’s readers much more invested in the outcome.

A good contest has synergy — it’s a win-win for all parties (blogger, brand, contestants, readers) and having the right partners means that overall the whole is greater than the sum of the parts (i.e. everyone does much better than if they had embarked on it individually). Yes this contest was a huge success for everybody involved. Of course OvernightPrints was the biggest winner of them all: they got relevant exposure, buzz, links, rankings and traffic. Use the above 7 step formula and hopefully you will have similar success yourself.

Blogging Top Ranked Digital Marketing Tactic for 2009

Posted by: of Online Marketing Blog on 04/21/09

Companies world-wide are cutting costs as well as looking for creative, high impact and accountable marketing. With concerns over the recession and its impact on marketing, I recently ran a poll of the 17,000 subscribers at Online Marketing Blog to discover their intentions for digital marketing tactics in 2009.

Poll respondents cast 1,559 votes for their top three digital marketing tactics (from a list of 45) for 200. Blogging, Twitter and Search Engine Optimization topped the list. Out of the top ten rated marketing tactics, six fell into the category of Social Media Marketing.

The actual question asked was, “What 3 digital marketing channels & tactics will you emphasize in 2009?” Here are the top ten tactics selected:

• Blogging (34%)
• Microblogging (Twitter) (29%)
• Search engine optimization (28%)
• Social network participation (Facebook, LinkedIn) (26%)
• Email marketing (17%)
• Social media monitoring & outreach (17%)
• Pay per click (14%)
• Blogger relations (12%)
• Video marketing (10%)
• Social media advertising (7%)

Email marketing rated higher than PPC which is surprising given the budgets spent on PPC vs email. Some tactics are much easier to implement than others, or less expensive, which may explain a few of the top choices, such as Twitter.

Corporate web sites didn’t rate in the top ten tactics. Does this mean the death of company web sites? Some companies are succumbing to the social media perspective to extremes, like the Skittles site which had been simplified to a page of search results from Twitter and then changed to their Facebook page. Others are adding social features to their company sites to complement existing messaging and functionality.

By now, most companies have their 2009 online marketing plans in place. Does this ranked order of tactics mean you should change up your online marketing mix? The answer is that digital marketing tactics should match the needs of the situation, company resources, the target market and end consumer preferences. The proper tactical mix for a digital marketing program could be anything from the 45 tactics listed in the TopRank Blog poll and still be successful as long as they support a valid strategy.

Some companies are prepared for digital and social media marketing programs and many are not. To get “ready”, companies need to develop a social media roadmap and get up to speed on both best and worst practices. Whether those methods of reaching and communicating with customers reconciles with existing marketing plans or not, companies would do well to allocate resources to some level of ongoing social media training, testing and development of expertise in the social media space.

Being Direct About Social Media Marketing

Posted by: of Online Marketing Blog on 02/10/09

Compared to typical direct marketing efforts (snail mail, DRTV, email, etc) where an offer is created based on a company developing a product and packing it to meet a need or purpose, a social media marketing program will focuses on creating awareness, relationships and possibly involving communities with creating the offer before it’s every promoted.

As a comparison, take a look at what a typical direct marketing program might look like:

  • Develop top level messaging
  • Research and build an email list
  • Acquire snail mail lists and segment
  • Create and implement a series of email offers to the list with landing pages
  • Create and implement a series of direct mail pieces
  • Setup and run PPC campaign(s) with landing pages
  • Craft story and press releases
  • Research publications for planned stories and journalists covering the topic
  • Distribute optimized press releases via wire services
  • Pitch story to industry and regional publications, editors/journalists
  • Leverage coverage from pitching as part of final email promotions
  • Solicit feedback from those signing up and use as testimonials for subsequent promotions

The list could go on and on really, depending on the budget, timeline and objectives. From the perspective of a traditional marketer, it seems pretty logical, right? It’s a straightforward marketing campaign based on developing an offer, defining a target audience and creating a series of messages intended to communicate the offer and convert. It also uses public relations to augment direct marketing efforts in addition to leveraging positive feedback for subsequent promotions.

While the above overview marketing plan is pretty straight forward, it runs contrary in many ways to the kind of digital marketing programs that companies the world over are warming up to: Social Media Marketing.

With social media marketing, there is an assumption that there is already involvement with the social communities involved – profile(s), network of friends, content submission, voting and participation. That’s the big mistake most marketers make when trying to promote products and services on the social web. They’ll create an account on a social media site, put up some content and expect the social media world to be their oyster without having built a network first.

So, what would a social media marketing focused program look like as an alternative to the direct marketing promotion above?  Let’s take a look:

  • Monitor discussion on social communities and networks for key conversations, keywords and topics
  • Identify top concerns relevant to what the company is promoting and develop messaging for solution
  • Identify influentials in the social communities, bloggers and authorities – ask them their opinion
  • Identify media types most often used with topics and communities – text, video, image, podcast as well platforms for communication: blog posts, comments, microblogging, status updates, social network notes, social news and bookmarking and as possible, direct messaging and IM
  • Create messaging specific to media type and platform as way of sharing information about the offer
  • Create content destinations that explain the offer and that also offer the opportunity to interact, share opinions and comments – blog posts, video, event pages on social networks (like a landing page, but focused on being informative and encouraging discussion, not salesey)
  • Reach out to influentials on a one to one basis, recognizing them for sharing their opinion, explaining the offer and your goals – ask them to join in in spreading the good word. Explain what’s in it for them and what’s in it for the community.
  • Monitor the communications that result in the most signups and provide feedback on progress
  • Offer influential bloggers a “free pass” to blog the event or a preview of what’s being offered
  • Recognize participation and contribution to reaching goals
  • Continue to engage interested participants and communities

Seems like a lot of work and possibly more effort than it’s worth to a traditional direct marketer. But to those involved with social media and social communities, it’s familiar territory. Focusing on developing solutions based on what the audience wants, then involving the community in developing and promoting creates evangelists for the promotion. Recognizing participation energizes the community and can multiply the speed and breadth of message distribution, discussion and action.

Social marketing invests in social communities with useful content/solutions as well as participation and recognition. That investment delivers long term dividends far beyond a one time promotional program using direct marketing tactics.

If the budget, timeline and resources warrant it, a combination of both sets of tactics can be very appropriate.

Wiley Reaching Out to Bloggers by Mailing Books

Got a package from J Wiley, the publisher, last month. It contained a copy of Personal Finance for Dummies and a letter. Here’s what the letter said:

Dear Stephan,

It’s a new year, a start of new beginnings, challenges, and opportunities.

Maybe you’ve resolved to try something new, to challenge yourself, and expand your horizons. I hope we can help with that.

When you attended BlogHer last year, you indicated that you would like to take the Dummies challenge. With this book, I invite you to do so. Whether you choose to tell your readers about your project is up to you. I do hope that you experience the success that millions of other For Dummies readers have.

If you want to try even more, consider stopping by Dummies.com. For Dummies is already the most widely recognized and highly regarded reference series in the world. Now, Dummies.com is bringing the how-to brand you know and trust online, and whether that means directions on how to set up a new PC, make dinner in your slow cooker, knit your first sweater, or load your new iPod, you can trust Dummies.com to tell it like it is, without all the technical jargon. However you like to learn – by watching how-to videos, looking at photo step-by-steps, reading articles, or following our team of expert bloggers — Dummies.com will make everything easier.

Please share your experiences, for better or worse, with me. You can find me on Twitter (@elleinthecity), Facebook, or you can email me at —–@wiley.com.

Best regards,
Ellen Gerstein
Marketing Director
Blogging at trueconfessions.wordpress.com

I edited out her email address as otherwise the spammers with their email address harvesters will grab her email address from this post.

I vaguely recall opting in for something book-related at BlogHer. So I’m pretty confident that this wasn’t a completely unsolicited reach-out. But even if it had been, I still wouldn’t have minded. What blogger would mind getting a free book, especially if it’s relevant/useful to them?

I congratulate Wiley on this blogger outreach campaign. I think it was tastefully done. And hey, you got a link out of it. Actually I gave you three. So it worked. ;-)

Anything Wiley should do differently? Hmm, well I found the letter quite dry. I didn’t really read it, just scanned it, as it was clearly marketingspeak. It would have been great if the letter was truly personalized to me and it was clear she had visited my blog. Now *that* would have been impressive!

How to Be Constructive in your Blog Commenting

Ever gotten an overly critical (perhaps vitriolic) comment, and decided to just delete it? I know I have. When I moderate comments, I don’t think of myself as a censor; I’m simply keeping the spam out. But sometimes, a comment just rubs me the wrong way. Usually I let it through, but I don’t give the author the satisfaction of responding to it.

Next time you offer criticism to a blogger, think about how that comment will be received. Are you building rapport or burning a bridge? Unless you are being an anonymous coward (which I don’t recommend), you’re associating your name and reputation with that comment. Are you willing to stand by that comment and have it represent you in the blogosphere?

One way to be constructive in your criticism is to structure the comment as a “criticism sandwich“. This method involves sandwiching the constructive criticism between two constructive compliments. Think of the compliments as the bun and the criticism as the meat inside.

Another way to think of it — and this will appeal to you geeks out there — the criticism is “nested” within the compliments. Like this:

<compliment>
    <criticism></criticism>
</compliment>

How might this work in practice? Well let’s come up with a hypothetical comment that is a response to this very post…

Thanks for raising the issue of unconstructive commenters; it’s an important topic and relevant for all bloggers. I can’t help but feel you’re leading your readers down a path towards dishonesty in their blog commenting. The tenets of operating in the blogosphere include transparency and authenticity. You’re not advocating either here. That said, I find your posts in general do espouse those tenets, so thank you for that and keep up the good work.

As the blogger I’d take that criticism on board more readily than if it just “cut to the chase”:

Yeah, nice one. You’re advocating dishonesty, when instead you should be advocating transparency and authenticity. Jackass.

Got an opinion? Please chime in.

Why Blogger Is No Good For Business Blogging

Posted by: of BizGrowthNews on 10/12/08

I was recently running a workshop about Word of Mouse Marketing using social media from blogging to microblogging, podcasting to video casting and it was heartening to see that about 8 per cent of the 140 attendees were blogging about their business.

However I then became disheartened as most of those blogs had been developed on a platform such as Blogger or WordPress.com.

If anyone tells you that business blogging is not a significant investment of your time, they clearly are not a business blogger developing online content and implementing a link building strategy to bring traffic to their business blog.

Don’t get me wrong, blogging is a terrific online marketing strategy if executed effectively. I could think of no other way that I would have attracted as many leads to my business so cost effectively without a business blog.

However if you are going to invest in business blogging, be good to yourself… don’t have all those wonderful incoming links to your great content go to a blog that is not hosted by you.

You might think this is something that only happens for small businesses – it’s not!

From well established businesses using WordPress.com to Marketing Directors of major companies who should know more about branding than most, using a blog that is detracting from their personal brand online as they are using Blogger, many companies are using free hosted and poorly branded business blogs.

Online personal branding coaches look to encourage people to use Typepad.com as a blog platform – whilst it’s a great blogging platform that I use and recommend and it’s especially helpful if you want a low tech solution for a personal career portfolio, if you also have a website, a Typepad blog is not going to help you with your link building and search engine optimisation strategy for your main website which is becoming even more critical as few people now move beyond page 1 of Google when searching and researching online. What do they do if they can not find what they are looking for online on the first page of their search? They change the words they are using to search with of course.

Investing a little and money in implementing a business blog that is hosted on your website not only makes you look like you take business blogging seriously as part of your online marketing strategy, it also means that every link to your great content is a link to your website.

That way you will be sure to benefit even more from your online content strategy buildng links to your business blog.

UPDATE 29 DECEMBER 2008

Thanks everyone for the contribution to the discussion.

I recently had a discussion with a PR expert who advised me about a WordPress.com site they had set up for their client who wanted to try blogging but was unsure about whether it was something that they would continue in the medium to long term. The plan was then to import the content into a blog hosted on their website if they determined that blogging was for them.

If this is a way to encourage companies to blog (alternative approaches could include hosting a blog internally, having a project related blog or password protecting your business blog in the early days as you get into your stride) then it’s certainly worth considering – but make sure that you define the trial period on the hosted platform.

Hosting your own content for the reasons outlined in the comments and ensuring that your blog reflects your brand and corporate identiy and tone of voice is important.

And remember if you are still not convinced by the debate in the comments to this article about the benefits of hosting your own blog and you decide to continue to use one of the hosted free platforms or low cost platforms available, take the time to map your own domain name to the blog (as an example here is the guidance form Typepad on domain mapping).

Your business blog is an extension of your online identity and brand. So don’t let your business blog be bland!

How Interactive is Your Blog? Measure It!

One of the coolest things about business blogging is the social interaction and community that is built when readers leave meaningful comments. Like a good story, a post elicits a response from the reader. As your community develops, the value of your brand increases. But this warm and fuzzy feeling that people get about your brand as they interact with you on your blog can be hard to measure and quantify. That’s where blog interaction metrics come in.

Building a blog to one or more interaction metrics can help you focus on what’s important – brand engagement.

Do you measure a successful post by the number of readers, bookmarks added to del.ic.ious, diggs, comments, number or quality of backlinks, or a combination of all the above? Some metrics have a place in your blog marketing scorecard, like number of comments. And some do not, like number of trackbacks (unless you like counting spammers — and that you could do all day!). Because the last thing you need is just more data for the sake of data.

Avinash Kaushik came up with some really nifty blog success metrics that really resonate with me. I bet they’ll resonate with you too. They are:

  • Raw author contribution (posts per month and words per post)
  • Audience growth (onsite & offsite, visitors and unique visitors)
  • “Conversion” rate (comments per post)
  • Citations (blog inlinks, Technorati rank)
  • Ripple Index (# of unique blogs linking to your blog)
  • Cost (time, hardware/software technology, opportunity cost
  • Benefit / ROI (comparative vs. direct vs. “non-traditional” vs. unquantifiable)

As you start measuring the above and then gauging the success of what you’re doing on your blog based on these metrics, you can tie your activities back to something more meaningful than just the “hits” you’re generating.

If you want to learn more about metrics, I encourage you to watch the archived recording of a “Website Metrics and ROI” webinar that Avinash and I presented last year. No registration required. Just click and watch (or download). It’s 100 minutes of the two of us talking about our favorite metrics — not just for blogging, but also email marketing, web marketing, search marketing, and more. And if you just want to scan over our Powerpoint slides before you invest 100 minutes of your time (and I don’t blame you — time is precious!), here’s the PPT file. Enjoy!

FeedBurner Blog Metrics

What blog metrics do you value most? How do your readers interact with you? Do you have any particular reporting tools you recommend? Your interactivity is welcome and invited.

Learning From Business Blogging Mistakes

Posted by: of Online Marketing Blog on 07/7/08

With as many right things you can do with a blog to make it successful, there are nearly as many things you can do wrong. Below are 3 common mistakes companies make with corporate blogs, why they make them and what you can do to avoid them.

Mistake Number One: Not Setting Goals
Many business blogs are started without specific goals. Blog software is typically so easy to install and setup that the number of new blogs has been overwhelming, making it difficult for any one blog to stand out.

Identifying the purpose of the blog is as important as researching similar blogs and the communities they are involved with. The networks of users associated with blogs similar in purpose and content to your own should match the blog’s target audience.

Mistake Number Two: Not Keeping Control
Since many companies start blogs as an experiment, they often are not taken as seriously. As a result, third party blog hosting platform and url are often used such as companyname.blogspot.com, companyname.wordpress.com or companyname.typepad.com.

Why shouldn’t you host your blog using a third party domain name? First, you have no control. If you want to change blogging platforms, there is typically no reasonable way to redirect traffic from the old blog to the new address in a search engine friendly way.
Mistake Number Three: Not Sourcing Content
The excitement and promise from starting a corporate blog can often become a case of overenthusiasm when it comes to writing content. Most people are hard pressed to write good emails, let alone 400 word blog posts. Writing original content every day or at least a few times a week can become near impossible if plans are not made editorially and for sourcing content within the organization.

Obviously there are many more mistakes companies make with corporate blogs ranging from not optimizing blog templates and posts to inconsistent posting to a lack of metrics. We’ll save those for another “Business Blog Mistakes” post version 2.0. Companies that want to avoid making business blogging mistakes can hire a blog consultant like the folks at TopRank or any of the contributors listed in the left side bar of Business Blog Consulting.

How To Share Your Blog Content?

Posted by: of BizGrowthNews on 06/28/08

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Have you ever wondered how to make sure that you provide the opportunity for people to share the great articles on your blog to their social networking sites?

You might recall I wrote about one tool recently that you can add to the side bar of your business blog that allows people to save PDF’s of your articles and even email them to others.

A plugin that you might want to consider for your business blog that is becoming increasingly popular is ShareThis. ShareThis is available to use across a host of blog platforms including WordPress.org and TypePad.com

You’ll usually see the ShareThis logo at the bottom of an article or blog post.

When you click on it you will see you have several options:

  • You can post the article and share it to your favourite social networking sites such as Digg and Ma.gnolia
  • You can make sure that your friends at your social networks such as Facebook and Twitter know about the post or article you have read
  • And you can even email yourself or others a copy.

Of course it’s not just making sure the readers of your business blog understand what the ShareThis logo means – it does rely on us as content creators writing content that people want to pass on to their friends or keep as reference material.

So why not consider adding ShareThis to your business blog? And if you have added the ShareThis plugin to your business blog, perhaps you can share with us your experience of it as a tool to encourage people sharing your great content?

 

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