October 24, 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.

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

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.

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!

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?

ECO-SAFE Business Blogging

Posted by: of BizGrowthNews on 06/16/08

Have you ever come across a business blog and have wanted to print out a blog post but find that there is no print icon on the blog page?

I always think that we need to make it as easy as possible for people to access our content from our business blog so one of the things I did some time ago on my main blog was to add some plugins so that people could then print a blog article and also email articles to others.

However I recently came across a service that enables us to guide people to alternatives to print pages yet still makes your content accessible to readers and enables you to virally market your blog to others with a tell a friend functon – and it’s free!

The ECO-SAFE Merit Badge can be added to your website and offers the opportunity to website and blog visitors to:

  • send themselves or other an email of the blog article
  • send themselves or others a PDF of the blog article
  • download a PDF of the blog article.

Why not add the ECO-SAFE Merit Badge to your business blog? That way you are being kind to the environment and enabling others to share your great content with potential readers and potential clients.

Oh I almost forgot to let you know, you can also register for free iTunes music of your choice when you add the ECO-SAFE Merit Badge to you blog or website.

Sun CEO on Communication through Blogging

Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz gave a great keynote interview at the Web 2.0 Expo last month. He was interviewed by Tim O’Reilly. The 30 minute-plus interview covered a wide range of fascinating business- and technology-related topics, not the least of which was business blogging. The first five minutes after the introduction concentrate specifically on how Schwartz — whom O’Reilly called “One of the most senior bloggers around” in terms of business leadership — uses his blog to reach both employees and potential clients.

Jonathan Schwartz accepts blogging wholeheartedly, but rejects the word itself. “‘Blogging’ will at some point be a little anachronistic. I communicate. My number one job as a leader of a company is to communicate. You used to communicate by being the celebrity CEO, you flew around and spoke with heads of state, and got local media to cover it, and got your message out in an inefficient and environmentally irresponsible way. Then the Internet came along and gave you access to the whole planet all at the same time. So why not use the Internet as a way to communicate directly and authentically to the marketplace? Then I will have satisfied at least one portion of my job.”

Blogging doesn’t just communicate with the marketplace, though. Sun’s CEO also uses his company blog to communicate with the more than 32,000 Sun employees. When they have questions about business decisions, Jonathan can respond to both the company and the marketplace via his blog. “If you are going to lead, you must communicate,” he said in the interview. “You can communicate in many different ways, through your actions, through your products. The way I communicate is by using the spoken and written word.”

Schwartz is a genuine blogger — he’s very much against having the PR people do any writing for him. But do they mind that they’re not in control of his message? “I don’t think I’ve ever terrified our PR department, but I’ve terrified our securities department once or twice, and they’ve been very quick about telling me to put in a safe harbor statement at the beginning of the post, and then they make an SEC filing based on what I just said, but now we’re very practiced about this and that’s no longer the norm. I can get away with a link to a safe harbor statement now.”

The CEO isn’t the only blogger at Sun — more than 4300 people at the company, from marketing and HR staffers to high-level engineers and managers have blogs on the Sun Microsystems corporate site. Some of them are in languages other than English, and many of them are fascinating not solely as an insight into the internals of one of information technology’s founding companies, but as a collection of smart people who love to share ideas about a wide range of subjects. “The most terrifying day for me as a blogger was when our general counsel started writing a blog,” Schwartz said jokingly. “Actually that’s not true — he’s very thoughtful. And guess who reads his blog? Other general counsels.”

The rest of the interview covers Sun’s MySQL purchase and the integration of two businesses into one, Sun’s open source strategy, cloud computing, how giving away products for free gives insight into the market and access to potential hardware and services customers, utility computing, the evolution of high-performance computing, the “black box” data center, efficiency and power consumption (“[electricity] is the number two expense, next to people”), and how blogging helps inform people about all of these issues.

Good stuff!

If you’re a CEO, you’d do well to emulate Jonathan’s approach to business blogging.

Brand Yourself on Your Blog, in Your Feed, with a Photo and Sig Line

In my blog post about the importance of your avatar in social media marketing, I included my headshot photo to show folks what I use as my avatar on social media sites:

Stephan Spencer avatar

Seeing this in my post gave one of my readers, Dave Dugdale, the idea to append his photo to the end of posts on his blog’s RSS feed. That is a great idea. That headshot image of me appears only in my aforementioned post because I added it by hand. It certainly wouldn’t be hard to automate it so that your image (and byline, and links) would appear on ALL your posts. Then, folks using RSS readers and website aggregators like Bloglines and Google Reader will see this photo and byline while reading your post, helping brand you and letting people know who you are. You, as the author, will appear more real, more tangible, more human, to the reader. S/he will relate to you more as a fellow human being, take notice of you, remember you, and listen to what you have to say. S/he may even then recognize you at conferences and introduce herself/himself to you (this has happened to me on many occasions!).

Another important benefit of this tactic is that it somewhat thwarts content thieves who “repurpose” your blog post content on their blogs. If they are scraping from your RSS feed, they will be putting up your photo, byline, and links on all the posts they stole from you! (By the way, if they are scraping your HTML — which won’t be nearly as common — then the photo and byline would need to appear on your blog site, not just your feed.)

So how do you accomplish this — putting a sig line containing your image/avatar on all your posts? You could add the sig line to your template (theme) files. But there are other, easier ways. For instance, if you’re running WordPress, there’s the RSS Footer plugin or the WP-Avatar plugin.

Or, if you’re using the excellent Feedburner service for your RSS feed, there’s the “Feed Image Burner” tool.

You can also put a tiny image of yourself into your blog’s favicon too, which will cause it to show up next to your blog’s name on many RSS readers. That’s what I’ve done on my blog. Here’s what it looks like: favicon

If you don’t have a custom favicon, don’t know how to create one, or don’t know what I’m talking about, then you should read my post Favicon and Robots.txt – Must-Haves for your Blog.

Five More Reasons You Need to Start Blogging Today

Posted by: of BSETC on 05/10/08

Back in December of 2007, I decided that I wanted to try something new and fresh with my website. I was also getting tired of the standard websites with their uniform look and I didn’t really feel like I was getting any benefit from it. So, I did a bit of research and decided that I wanted to try a blogging platform and after a bit more research, I chose WordPress.

Before I fully converted to the blog, I was receiving approximately 900 unique visitors each month.

  • By January, one month after I converted, I was receiving 1300 unique visitors.
  • By February it had grown to 2500 unique visitors
  • In March, it had grown to 4000 unique visitors in the month.

That is four times the traffic I started with!

So, let’s look at the top five reasons why you need a blog (in my biased opinion, WordPress is the way to go so I will reference WP throughout this post but you could use any blogging platform to achieve these same benefits…):

1. Blogs are User-Friendly and Very Easy to Use

The upside to having blog software as opposed to a website is that it is very user-friendly. The blog uses a GUI, or a graphic-user interface, which means that that everything that you may need to do is laid out in simple to understand graphics. The blogging software also conforms to the standards of most other software programs. For example, the graphic icons you see in Microsoft Office programs are very similar to the graphics you’ll see inside of your blog.

The reason that this is so important is that YOU can update your OWN website and you don’t need to pay high prices in web design fees to do so! There is no messing around with HTML code, you can avoid having a dull, lifeless site that people only visit occasionally and instead, you can update it yourself and give people a reason to return again and again and again.

The other upside to this is that when you want something changed quickly, you can do so. You no longer have to wait on a web designer or a virtual assistant, you can just pop in to the dashboard and update the page you need to make changes to and click save and boom – you’re done!

Making regular posts is also easy to do. In a few, short clicks and then some keystrokes for the body of your post, you can have fresh, new content on your blog immediately. If you’re feeling particularly creative one day, you can write a series of posts and save them all to post on future dates. For me, I will write eight or nine blog entries at a time and save them to post one or two days apart. This is also useful if you are going on vacation. In February, my husband and I went to the Dominican for a vacation and before I left, I wrote blog entries to cover the week I was gone and just posted them in advance. On the days that I specified, my blog entries showed up on the blog!

2. Blogs Are Easy to Navigate

All blogs follow a fairly standard style of formatting and navigation. Although each template may look different, they all contain the same standard elements. When I visit a blog, I always know where to go to see Recent Posts. I also know that on the majority of blogs, I will be able to find a place to subscribe to the blogs feed. A feed is simply a syndication of your blog entries. That syndicated text is then sent out to your blog visitors feed readers and is sent out to the search engines, etc. This is part of the reason that blogging is so powerful in getting people to your site.

Have you ever visited a website where every menu has been different and each sidebar contained different text depending on where you were on the website? Those types of websites are confusing and they don’t lead the website visitor where they should be going. With blogging software, it remains standard and is always updating itself. When you make a change on one sidebar, it automatically updates on every other sidebar which eliminates any sort of confusion for your website visitors.

A great book I want to recommend is Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think.� Even if you don’t design websites, you want to read this book. A lot of the reasons that I love blogs are outlined in his usability section. He references making websites more functional by following his principles but what is so great is that a blog already conforms to many of his standards.

3. People Can Subscribe to Your Blog and Stay Current

Now, I want to explain what RSS is first. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. What it is is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated digital content, such as blogs, news feeds or podcasts. People who are into blogging will use your RSS feed to do a few things:

  • They may subscribe to receive a daily digest of new content. Think of how powerful this is in terms of keeping you in touch with your target market. If someone receives constant, updated messages from you, you are always in their line of sight and they will see what you are up to, new products or services you are launching and how much knowledge you have on your chosen subject.
  • They may also add you to their feed reader. I have a program that I use called Feed Demon and this software program tracks all of the blogs I am interested in by capturing and updating the feed that comes from the blog. Each day I can open up this software program and have an instant summary of every blog I have subscribed to and I can review what it is people are talking about. This allows me to stay current without having a thousand bookmarks in my internet browser or trying to remember which blogs I liked to read. The same is true for your visitors. They want a quick, easy way to be reminded that you exist and that you are posting things that they want to know about.

Normal sites don’t do this for you unless you are putting out a monthly ezine that contains all of your business updates. By having the blog, you can nearly cut out the monthly ezine and just let the blog do the work for you!

4. Search Engines Love Them and They Are Content Managers

In fact, it’s so easy to build content on your blog that I have actually created info-products based on content I had blogged about over the past year. Info-products become simple to do because you aren’t creating fresh, new content each and every time. What you blog about could become an article which could turn into an e-book. Blogging gets you into the habit of writing and creating which then allows you to easily and effortlessly create info-products.

Your visitors will also love this because when they show up on your site looking for assistance in your chosen profession, they can find a whole archive of great content. Most of my blogging clients will archive their past newsletters or e-zines on their blogs so that their clients can read past issues without having to download PDFs or visit thirteen or fourteen different web pages.

Search engines love blogs for a number of reasons. Number one, they love the fact that fresh, new content is being posted all of the time. Even if you are only updating it once a week, you will still see the benefits from it. Each and every time you post something to your blog, the search engines are automatically pinged and if you have pinging software installed, which is free and simple to use, it’ll automatically ping the different services that should be pinged.

Number two, search engines love hyperlinks and trackbacks. Hyperlinks are links to other people’s websites, blog entries, audio files, etc. and track backs are special links from someone else’s blog entry that let the other person know you’ve blogged about him or her. It also posts YOUR entry on their site for other people to read. This is how blogging also becomes so viral.

5. They Become an Active Networking Source for Your Business

For me, I have met a number of brand new people through my blog. Some of these people became clients, others were just frequent readers that became friends and others asked me to collaborate with them on special projects. By having a blog, you can become a place where people visit to learn about what it is you are writing about but also so that they can meet you, get to know you and someday work with you. You can build a community and allow other people to meet through you which then allows people to talk about you and get your name out there.

If you think of standard networking, you think of people showing up to an event for about an hour, rushing through the crowds trying to get business cards and then leaving the event and never really having a true feeling of connection. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. Blogging gives your interested parties a place to come to learn about you. They can start to see how you both would benefit from knowing each other and they will be more apt to approach you over time. This is a much more effective way to network and you don’t need to worry about your business card being thrown in the trash.

Another way that it becomes a networking tool is when you reach out to other people’s blogs. Once you start blogging, you will quickly realize that the whole world is blogging and there are many great things to be read. By visiting other people’s blogs and leaving comments on their posts, you will do two things: one, you will introduce yourself in a non-threatening or non-imposing way to someone you may not have wanted to just e-mail in the past and two, by showing that you have interest in that subject on their blog, you’ll gain interested visitors who share similar interests.

Erin Blaskie is the owner of Business Services ETC, The VA Coach and VA Matchmaker.  She services internet marketers, coaches, speakers and solopreneurs with their everyday operational needs which frees up their time to focus on the big picture.  She can be found at www.erinblaskie.com.

Using Your Feed Reader to Generate More Traffic and New Business

Posted by: of BSETC on 05/7/08

Feed readers are tools that keep track of the blogs you have interest in. You may use your feed reader to keep track of competitor’s blogs or blogs that will notify you of trends or important news. Whichever blogs you choose to add, there are some great ways that you can make use of that blog traffic.

Here are some of the ways that to generate traffic to your blog.

Build a Network

When you’re reading other people’s blogs, you’ll develop a network of like-minded individuals and people who share similar interests. You can also meet people to provide your products and services to and you’ll find people who have products and services that you need.

The beauty of creating a network this way is that the more you are on other people’s blogs and commenting on their posts, the more traffic you will receive. The thing to remember is that people love to have visitors on their site and they want to know who those people are. If you’re commenting on posts they have written, you can bet that they are going to appreciate that and check out your site as well.

Do This!

Register a feed reader account at a website like Newsgator (www.newsgator.com) or Blog Lines (www.bloglines.com) and add some feeds from your favorite blogs. Now, spend about 1 to 2 hours per week reading your blog feeds and comment on posts that you feel you can provide valuable feedback on.

Create Links Back to Your Site

By commenting on other people’s blogs, you’re creating a search engine ranking fiesta and all roads lead back to you! Page rank is determined by a number of things but one of those things is how many incoming links you have to your website. The more links, the higher you rank.

One thing to keep in mind though is that a simple comment is not going to give you much back in terms of valuable traffic and notoriety. When posting comments and creating these links back to your site, you want to be sure there is some substance in your comments.

Another way to create links back to your site is to write great blog entries that people will want to post onto their blogs. In the world of blogging, people ‘copy’ content all of the time and link back to the original author. This allows you to have a viral marketing source and you won’t need to do anything to generate this traffic.

One last way to create links back to your site is to add your favorite bloggers to your “Blog Roll� and request that they add you to theirs. If you have a lot of colleagues, friends or family who also own blogs, ask them to also add you to their “Blog Rolls.� All of these incoming links will increase your traffic AND your page rank.

Do This!

Right now, go to your blog and create a “Blog Roll� if you don’t have one already. Add your favorite bloggers to this list. Next, ask your friends, family and colleagues to add you to their links list on their blogs. Make sure that whatever you do in terms of links, it is reciprocal so that both parties benefit.

There are many ways to generate traffic but those are just a couple of the ways to utilize the RSS feed reader tool that you have to stay in the line of sight of your potential customers (and ideal clients).

Erin Blaskie is the owner of Business Services ETC, The VA Coach and VA Matchmaker. She services internet marketers, coaches, speakers and solopreneurs with their everyday operational needs which frees up their time to focus on the big picture. She can be found at www.erinblaskie.com.

How To Name Your Business Blog

Posted by: of BizGrowthNews on 04/24/08

One of the questions I often get asked is how to name your business blog or name your business.

Many people call their business blog by their own name which is great especially if you are in the area of professional services and want to be known online by your name, therefore building your personal brand online.

In fact I always recommend that you purchase your own name as a domain name whether you are ready to start business blogging or buiding your personal brand online.

However I always consider whether the name of your business blog will be easy for people to understand if you speak it outloud on a teleseminar, at a speaking event, on a podcast, at a networking meeting, at a speaking gig or when on the radio.

My name is difficult for many people to understand and also difficult for many people to spell – in fact other than my family, I do not know anyone who has ever correctly spelt my surname when first meeting me - you pronounce it ‘Day’ but you spell it ‘De’.

That’s one of the reasons I chose a name for my main business blog ‘Biz Growth News’ - it’s relatively easy to understand when you say it outloud and it does what it says on the tin – I share strategies and insights about growing your business.

My business blog sits on my portal site represnting me online and after naming my business blog, I purchased a domain name for ‘Biz Growth News’ which points across to the blog.

I recently came across a great business blog by Paul Stamatiou. Paul as obviously recognised that his surname is difficult to pronounce and spell correctly. You see, at the bottom of his business blog is a note that says

Can’t spell my name – use pstam.com

What a great idea. Paul has purchased a domain name that is a shortened version of his name and one that most people will be able to understand and spell.

So if you have a business blog consider how easy is it for people to find it online when they hear you speak out the name of your blog.

If you are not starting a blog from the get go and don’t wish to re-name your blog, consider if you could purchase a domain name that you could re-direct to your blog so that you don’t lose that all important blog traffic because people can’t understand your business blogs name when you speak it out loud.

Business Blog Interview

The other day Mike Sigers of Simplenomics interviewed me for his Hot Seat radio show about the benefits of a blog for businesses. The segment ran about 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Hmmm…that didn’t work. I’ll have to ask Stephan about that. Well, you can download the show here.

Passion’s the key ingredient in successful blogging

Not getting as much marketing power out of your blog as you’d hoped? The rules for successful blogging are the same whether you’re writing for personal or business reasons. First of all, you have to write about what you love or what you’re passionate about. When you write about what you are passionate about, readers will feel it too, and the entire process of writing will be more enjoyable as well. If you’re running out of topics or your blogging feels like a chore, then you should find a new angle on your work — one that you’re passionate about. Hopefully you love your work and your job, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find things that are fun to write about, but sometimes it’s better that you concentrate on a specific aspect of your work that you’re particularly interested in.

If you have no passion for what you are writing about, why are you writing at all? Your entries will come across as boring or flat and you will not gain the readership your writing skills deserve. When you write about what you love, it is a lot easier to sound like an expert in your field. If you are not sure what you are passionate about, take the time to figure it out. You owe it to yourself, and your potential readers, to know and write about what makes you get out of bed in the morning. If your goal is to make money with a blog, write about what you love and the money (or sales) will follow… You will have more readers and will write better posts. Great content brings traffic/conversions and when you write about something you love it is difficult to write poorly.

What’s it like to read your favorite blogs? I’d have to say my all-time favorite blogger from a writing perspective is Fake Steve Jobs. Sure, he’s not even real, but he “keeps it real.” Every post is witty, and I love his creative use of language and his invented words (e.g. MicroTards, Freetards). The blog provides a little window into Steve Jobs’ psyche. Well okay, maybe not, since it’s actually being written by a Forbes magazine journo, but wouldn’t it be cool if it were the real Steve Jobs?

FSJ may not be the real Apple CEO, but Jonathan Schwartz definitely is the real CEO of Sun Microsystems, and his blog is an excellent example of great blogging. Jonathan posts about Sun projects that he finds exciting, and technology trends that he has an interest in. As a top-level industry insider, Jonathan makes you feel like you’re getting a unique perspective on information technology.

In the past I’ve held up science teacher Steve Spangler’s blog as an excellent example of business blogging, as well. Steve’s blog helps establish his expertise and showcase his brilliance, which keeps him busy in his various adventures. If you like science and haven’t visited Steve’s site yet, you’re missing out.

What are some of your favorite examples of passionate business or marketing blogs?

Need More Time to Blog? Here’s Your Answer!

Do you ever feel like no matter how well you plan your day, you never seem to finish all of your scheduled tasks, including all the blogging you wanted to do? I know I do! There is an answer! …it’s “GTD” (Getting Things Done), a time management, or more appropriately, life management methodology developed by best-selling author David Allen. This methodology is outlined in great detail in one of my favorite books, Getting Things Done.

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down for a fascinating discussion with David Allen; that discussion is available for download as an MP3, or just hit the Play button below:

I’m a big fan of David’s, having attended one of his workshops in Chicago last year. I’ve written before about how GTD works, but this interview goes into some of the areas I struggle with the most. David gave me some excellent answers on how to…

  • eliminate time-stealing distractions,
  • how avoidance affects success,
  • how crisis negatively impacts your ability to think intelligently,
  • how sometimes waiting until the last minute is the best way to get things done,
  • the importance of emptying your email inbox,
  • the usefulness of virtual assistants,
  • and how the biggest barrier to self-expression and self-actualization is our own selves.
  • “You can’t manage time,” David said. “You actually only manage what you do during time. So the management issue is not so much about time, it’s more about how you manage your focus, how you manage your actions and your activities in terms of what you do. That’s one of the problems with that whole field of time management — they mislabel the problem. Because they label the problem as time, everyone thinks that the calendar is going to be your solution, and it isn’t.”

    In a deadline-driven, time-sensitive, stress-filled world, having the right strategies to deal with your blogging and all your other responsibilities is essential to avoiding burnout and remaining permanently productive. With some elements of your professional life, David’s advice is simple to apply, such as merely paying attention to what has your attention. With other things, you may find yourself facing off against tightly-held, self-destructive habits and behaviors that will prove difficult to disown.

 

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