August 31, 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.

FTC May Regulate Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Posted by: of Blogging Systems Group on 12/14/06

The Washington Post is reporting the Federal Trade Commission may regulate word-of-mouth marketing and require full-disclosure.

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday said that companies engaging in word-of-mouth marketing, in which people are compensated to promote products to their peers, must disclose those relationships.

In a staff opinion issued yesterday, the consumer protection agency weighed in for the first time on the practice. Though no accurate figures exist on how much money advertisers spend on such marketing, it is quickly becoming a preferred method for reaching consumers who are skeptical of other forms of advertising.

I’ve ranted about the PayPerPost, need for full-disclosure debacle a couple of times and have one more such rant in me, which I’m considering posting here later this week. However, if the FTC steps in, it may make my harangue moot. More to follow on this I’m sure.

Via TechCrunch and CopyBlogger

Woot, you may be witty, but that’s not a real blog

First a disclaimer. I’m a loyal fan of Woot.com. Not only do they offer unbeatable deals of some really cool gadgets, but they are also damned funny! It’s such a hoot reading their product of the day descriptions. Today’s was no exception:

Barbie Real VacuumFor generations, American parents have trusted Barbie to prepare our daughters for adulthood, when they’ll be judged by completely unrealistic standards of beauty. Now, along comes everybody’s favorite plastic blonde with another reality check for the little she-tots. There’s no better way to say “Merry Christmas, and get ready for a lifetime of household drudgery� than the Barbie Real Vacuum by Bissell.
Ah, but we shouldn’t be so cynical. It doesn’t befit the season. Besides, the Barbie Real Vacuum is more than just a toy-slash-propaganda-piece; it’s an honest-to-Gaea cordless, rechargeable sweeper. A rotating brush, an easy-empty dust cup, and a washable filter make it easy for the wee lass in your life to make herself useful. Just one push of a button converts the Barbie Real Vacuum to a hand vac, and the whole thing weighs a mere 3.25 lbs, well within the capacities of all but the scrawniest kids.
It’s wonderful how those innocent, wide-eyed bambinas love to help out around the house. Take advantage while you can with the Barbie Real Vacuum by Bissell. After all, in just a few short years your little girl will be stealing your cigarettes and sneaking out of the house every night. There’s nothing the Barbie Real Vacuum can do about that, but at least you’ll have gotten some housework out of her in the meantime.

Feminist or chauvinist, you can’t help but appreciate such witticism!

Now to the point… Woot.com, having such clever, sharp-tongued writers on staff, surely could produce an exemplary blog, right? Certainly as a fan of theirs, I expect their blog to be absolutely killer! Unfortunately, it’s anything but. For the most part, it’s merely a copy-and-paste of their product-of-the-day descriptions. Attention retailers: Product description copy does not make for acceptible blog posts.

Because this is such an important point, let me restate it for emphasis… PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS DOES NOT A BLOG MAKE!

I think somebody must have let Magazines.com in on this, because a year ago they abandoned their uninspired blog which was full of nothing but product descriptions.</RANT>

Apparently, WordPress has become the blog police?

One of the core questions that people ask me when they decide to start using a weblog as the foundation of their business marketing and branding efforts is: where should I host my blog? My usual answer is that it doesn’t really matter and that you can get started a lot faster by using a hosted service like WordPress or Typepad, but I’m going to have to change that now.

Why? Because the team at WordPress.com has come up with new regulations about what is and isn’t acceptable on blog postings, and if you cross the line, they’ll not only shut your site down with less than twelve hours warning, but they’ll also ban you from ever signing up again.

It starts with banning blog entries that have (sponsored) links from PayPerPost, but that’s a sticky slope and it’s easy to have that move into other prohibited areas, including perhaps exactly what your business blog is about. Then what?

So, come clean, are you hosted on WordPress.com? And if so, what’s your opinion on this clarification of their Terms of Service and its implementation within the community?


Note: this is an excerpt of a longer article I’ve written on this subject: Is WordPress now the Blog Police.

Defining ROI on Business Blogs: HubSpot.com cracks the code and delivers solid answers

Posted by: of andrewbourland on 11/6/06

No doubt about it: the most complex problem business bloggers face is coming up with a clear definition of what ROI their blog has produced.

How many sales did it result in? How many subscriptions did it sell? How many seats to your conference did it fill? How many solid leads did it generate for your sales force?

Brian Halligan, a former VP of Sales at Groove Networks and MIT Sloan graduate launched Hubspot.com to provide solid answers to that very problem. Hubspot tracks visitors at each stage of involvement in your blog’s content, and tracks that visitor as they move down the funnel to an actual sale. Every day and with every post and with every event you can track where you stand with the visitors you have attracted to your website.

Though still in beta mode, Hubspot.com’s solution is definitely worth checking out.

If you would like to hear the full story, watch the video above.

It’s not too long, just under 20 minutes. Time well invested, given the amount of time you would otherwise spend wracking your brain seeking answers to this very complex problem.

How Do You Say “Page Rank” in Arabic?

Posted by: of Thinking Home Business on 09/23/06

For any company doing business in Arabic-speaking countries or communities a good feed to have is for the Maktoob Business Blog.

Online since December 2005, the blog covers aspects of business in the Middle East, with a stated aim of focusing on marketing, advertising and media. There are several contributors.

The blog is a product of Maktoob Business – whose website banner claims that the group has the world’s largest Arabic community.

araby.com logo

A recent blog post reports on Maktoob’s newly-launched (beta) Arabic search engine, Araby.com, which Maktoob claims has a number of competitive advantages over the Arabic version of the engines developed first for English:

  • optimized to deliver Arabic-language results from Arabic sources
  • specialized search channels including Arabic news sites, photos, blogs and forums
  • a dedicated channel for searching Islamic topics

The press release here provides more detail and some pr elaboration.

Not being able to read Arabic, for me the Araby.com site is a closed book. But could Araby.com be a serious Arabic competitor to Google and Yahoo! A contender in its rather large niche? This blog post by one of the developers, Isam Bayazidi, sounds a cautionary note – it’s beta, he’s saying:

One thing for sure, Araby.com, and the verticals in it have a long way to go with development. We only released early to give users a peak into what is cooking, and get feedback on it.

Survey: Benefit of adding a blog to an ecommerce site?

I talk with lots of different potential clients about adding weblogs to their online mix and am happy to roll out the usual list of benefits, including establishing a dialog with customers, offering up a 24×7 focus group, garnering feedback on potential product plans, and even featuring specific products or services to a dedicated subset of your community.

This time, however, I’ve received an email from a large ecommerce retailer with a slick Web presence but no “face” to the firm and sporadic problems with customer service and quality control. They ask:

“what you would do with a blog or two and what the benefits would be for us?”

Before I start free-associating my answer, I thought perhaps you, dear reader, might have some interesting or innovative ideas about how to leverage a blog to make an ecommerce company better in the online world?

RSS, the heir apparent to the throne

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 11/15/05

Neville talks about an interesting, really cool IMHO, thing the U.K. supermarket chain Tesco is doing.  Not only are they sending out traditional e-mail marketing e-mails to customers (on the quantity or quality concept) they have created a “deal of the day” RSS feed.  Now, this rocks.  Frankly, I’d love to get my store flier in RSS.  Maybe, the just before the end of the day … how about a quick recipe for an easydinner and oh … here are the ingredients … oh and severalof them are on a special web-recipe sale. How about that.

From Neville:

So my prediction is – more RSS feeds by consumer-focused businesses such as supermarkets. It’s getting easier for people to use RSS (often without realizing it) and will get easier still as more businesses offer information via RSS, as simpler ways of describing it emerge (like ‘ live bookmarks ,’ for instance), and as it becomes ever more easier to get the information offered via RSS. (Related development: expect more advertising in RSS.)

It’s the heir to the direct marketing throne.

I think he’s really got it.  I can sit here and think about all the easy, easy ways for companies to reach customers.  And as all the Browsers get better at this … well we’re not even going to notice are we?
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Blogstores: rethinking business blogs as online stores

I work with a variety of different companies on business blogging strategies, but almost all of them are focused on how to get their message into their marketplace, rather than selling specific products or services. But there’s really no reason that a weblog couldn’t be used as a storefront, and with one of my clients, Waldorf in the Home, we’ve experimented with doing just that, as exemplified by the Waldorf in the Home Online Store.

The introductory section is obviously unique to this area of the site (and yes, it’s dynamically generated so that new blog entries cause the intro listing to change too). You can see the more traditional blog view of things by going to the blog store categories, like Online Store: Parenting.

Now I’m helping my sister out with her splendid Art Dolls.info site and she’s moving from just talking about how to make soft sculpture art dolls to actually selling them, based on reader demand.

My question is: who is doing innovative work in this area and what models are out there to help guide us in taking yet a further step towards what I’ll call blogstores (since everyone seems to love inventing jargon)?

To me, this is a logical evolutionary step in blogging. Most companies that have online sites either have catalog based software backends that are highly structured but expensive, or have everything built by hand, making it prohibitively difficult to add new products or services on a daily or weekly basis.

Blogging, of course, solves these sort of content management difficulties by allowing you to focus on the content, on what you want to say (or sell, in this case), rather than worrying about how it’s going to be formatted and displayed.

Admittedly, the features of a high-end catalog or online shop management system, features like cross-selling and up-selling, aren’t going to be easily rolled into a blogging backend, but I believe that there are many hobbyists and small businesses that could benefit from being able to use their blogging tool as a comprehensive backend for their store, main Web pages and more traditional weblog areas.

Back to my sister’s site, here’s the first doll she’s selling:

Dasselrond

Dasselrond, © 2005 by Judi Wellnitz

The first doll for sale at the Art Dolls site, as written up and displayed at Dasselrond Needs a New Home, is on a page that seems very busy. It’s very “bloggy” with all the recent postings, categories, archives, Google ads, etc., and probably isn’t the most effective presentation of something for sale.

What do you think of that page, though? Do you like narrative descriptions of products? Should the images be at the top of the entry? Should there be “buy now” buttons like you see at the Waldorf in the Home site?

The blogging system underlying Art Dolls is a piece of clay ready to be molded into whatever shape we want, so I’d be interested in your thoughts independent of whether they’re blog-centric or not. If we need to strip out all the extraneous material and just have the dolls for sale with their narrative descriptions and buy buttons, we can do that.

Thanks for your help, dear reader, and if you want to help Dasselrond find a new home, don’t hesitate to act quickly. He’s a beauty!

This article about Blogstores: rethinking blogs as storefronts is republished with permission from The Intuitive Life Business Blog and is © 2005 by Dave Taylor.

New Blog Fashion Network Set to Debut Today

Posted by: of Blogging Systems Group on 10/5/05

Glam.com, a blog network devoted to fashion was supposed to have launched today, according to an ClickZ. The company combines "magazine-style independent editorial content with click-to-buy e-commerce functionality, courting fashion-oriented advertisers." The network, produced by Glam Media, has signed up seven blog sites so far, and is looking for more.

I visited the site, which requires registration (yuck!), and didn’t any evidence of the network. I didn’t register though, and maybe that’s a must do. Anyway, since I’m such a fashion buff, I’m sure it’s something I’ll keep an eye out for.

Talking about Retailer Blogs at Shop.org

If attendance at the "Blogs, Podcasts and RSS" breakout session at last week’s Shop.org annual summit in Las Vegas is any indication of retailers’ receptiveness to blogging, the room was full and the retailers were a captive audience. Yes it helped that one of the panelists, my client CEO blogger Steve Spangler, made his wallet catch on fire, made snow erupt from a beaker, and showed how to cause an fizzy eruption of carbon dioxide with Mentos and Diet Coke. (Did I mention he’s a trained magician, professional speaker, and Emmy-award winning television personality? …in addition to being an inventor, cataloger, entrepreneur, CEO,…)  Anyways, electrifying performances aside, the retailers on my panel — eHobbies, Ice.com, and SteveSpanglerScience.com — all gave compelling evidence for the value of blogging to retailers, and for Steve, even taking it further and bringing podcasting and vodcasting into the mix.

You’ll want to check out the panel’s Powerpoint deck for charts of blog-related revenue growth and other goodies. Steve shared that 13% of online revenue is attributable to his blog. Not bad!

I’ve also blogged a recap of the session here.

E-tailers Jumping on Blog Bandwagon

Posted by: of Blogging Systems Group on 08/6/05

A recent NY Times article reports that online retailers are beginning to drink the Kool-aid and jump on the blogging bandwagon. They cite specifically Ice.com, eHobbies.com, and Bluefly.com.

Two
of the retailers express some concern over the effect their blogs will
have on the bottom-line. Since the blogs include links off to other
sites, their marketing gurus feel it will lead readers away rather than
driving traffic to their ecommerce sites. That’s a valid point, since
the primary purpose of the blogs is marketing and driving sales.

One retailer questioned the appropriateness of putting product links
inside the blog posts. A quick review of all three blogs showed they
each did, with Ice primarily using hyperlinked images of its products
to draw visitors in.

Another retailer not mentioned in the article, Stone Creek Coffee, has also just added a blog. From what I can tell, the blog is part of their home page.

Bluefly asserts that their blog
has had a positive effect on sales, even stating that visitors who
click to the blog “have been more likely to make a purchase than those
who visit Bluefly directly.� I think they call that “qualified
traffic,� which is certainly one thing a blog can do for you.

Here are some random thoughts…

  • Blogging
    as a marketing channel will vastly increase in popularity over the next
    few months. I congratulate retailers such as these who are willing to
    lead the way.
  • Yes, definately include links to products in the blog posts. That’s why you have the darn thing anyway!
  • Rather
    than giving readers a sales pitch, tell a story. Talk about the
    experience of using the product. Refer to other related articles found
    on the web and work a product link in. Do what eHobbies does in showing
    photos of their employees having fun playing with products.
  • If
    blogs are going to prove themselves as viable marketing tools, then
    it’s imperative there be some system in place to track their
    effectiveness. That should be a given and not something difficult to
    do. After all, blogs are just a website and you can track statistics
    about site visits, referers and page views, have unique URLs for each
    product which can be tracked through to the ecommerce site and on
    through to purchase, and track movement from the blog to the main site
    as well.

I contend that, though blogs are not for the faint of heart,
they will prove themselves to have viability for retail marketing. In
an ideal scenario the benefits they provide will occur in sequence:

  1. They’re
    niche-driven attracting readers who are interested in the topic at
    hand. That’s qualified traffic. It makes sense that those will be some
    of the best customers.
  2. If the blogs are routinely updated visitors will come back again and again, many of those being existing customers.
  3. Trust and brand loyalty will result.
  4. Many
    of these customers will become evangelists for you and talk about you
    via their own consumer-generated media outlets (blogs, IM, chat rooms,
    email, etc.).
  5. Your blog will become a center of influence around which a community of interested customers/shoppers develop.

What’s not to like about that!

Here are links to each of the blogs mentioned: Ice.com, eHobbies.com, Bluefly.com, and Stone Creek Coffee.

[Special thanks to Rich Ottum for stimulating my thinking about this issue in two blog posts he did.]

Preshrunk.info

Posted by: of ExecutiveSummary.com on 01/2/05

A t-shirt blog, my new favorite commerce blog since MightyGoods.

Link

Fleshbot Films

Posted by: of ExecutiveSummary.com on 10/22/04
Necromania

Gawker Media’s publisher Nick Denton, now routinely dubbed “blog impresario” in the press, has poineered another blog revenue stream: productization. Sure, lots of other blogs use Cafe Press to hawk mugs and t-shirts, but Gawker has now launched Fleshbot Films, a line of erotica…er, excuse me: porn, to complement its porn review blog Fleshbot. First release: Necromania, the last film (and first porn film, set in a sex therapy center/funeral parlor) by weirdo director of B classics Ed Wood (most remembered for Plan 9 from Outer Space and imortalized by Johnny Depp in Tim Bourton’s film Ed Wood). Denton rather stumbled into the rights for the long-lost film but apparently thinks it’s a good opportunity for his blog’s quirky audience. Amazon is already accepting pre-orders for the item. The whole story of how the deal came to pass is in this week’s New Yorker Talk of the Town.

MightyGoods.com

Posted by: of ExecutiveSummary.com on 10/7/04

I love this blog! I actually wrote an email today to my buddy Nick Denton of Gawker Media saying that I was talking with some colleagues today about the ways people shop online differently than offline. I wrote to Nick in part:

I think people shop online when they know what they want, but it’s harder to browse online. With Xmas coming up, if I have a specific idea for a present for someone, I’ll get it online for the convenience. But just knowing that I have to buy *something*, I’m more likely to go to some physcial stores where I can just wander around and see what catches my eye.
One exception is when I’m tipped off to fun things through blogs. Often, blogs are great at turning up weird, offbeat products I wouldn’t have seen elsewhere, from some specialty shop or whatever. I can think off the top of my head of at least 3-4 products like that I’ve bought thanks to blogs. So what about a blog specifically about shopping? A personal shopping assistant?

He replied, “have you seen mightygoods.com?” No, I had not, but it’s exactly what I had in mind. Written by Margaret Mason, who writes the wonderful Mighty Girl and is a contributor to The Morning News, the site explains its mission thusly (you know how I love blog mission statements!):

Mighty Goods is a shopping blog that’s updated five days a week. We spend a great deal of time finding and posting things we love. These aren’t just any old things, these are exactly the right things. They will brighten your eyes, match your couch, and fix the annoying problem that’s been bothering you. They will make you want to fortify the economy with your purchasing power.

I love the tagline, too: “Hooray for stuff!”

Link

MarketingSherpa: How to Build Your eRetail Business with a Blog (6-8% of Readers Convert to Buyers)

Posted by: of ExecutiveSummary.com on 09/8/04

This is a great one for the perennial question of how to make money off of blogs. Rather, actually, it’s an example of how a site with a solid revenue model already — e-commerce — can use blogs to make even more money. (NOTE: this case study from MarketingSherpa will be availabe for free for only a couple of weeks.)

The case study tells of how T-shirtKing.com increased its sales dramatically using a blog. The site was in the habit of writing long essays about the subjects of its t-shirts — for example, biographies on Miles Davis and Albert Einstein — for its email newsletter, which were quite popular with subscribers, but anti-spam filters were taking a toll on the effectiveness of its email program. So, using Movable Type, the site redesigned its site to publish via a blog, and added a blog to its content mix, publishing the essays in that format. The essays and the blog publishing platform worked well to drive more organic search traffic, and played into the site’s affiliate program as well. The results, according to MarketingSherpa, were dramatic:

Site sales tripled during 2003, and have continued strong in 2004. Altogether, blog content helps to bring in about 35% of total site sales — 10% from the email newsletter, 20% from affiliates who often reuse the content, and 5% from Blog traffic itself.
Blog readers are among the traffic most likely to convert to buyers. “Six to eight percent of Blog readers buy something. Once someone finds a Blog entry and reads the whole thing, they are about as qualified as you can get.”

MarketingSherpa: How to Build Your eRetail Business with a Blog (6-8% of Readers Convert to Buyers)

Keiko Groves

Posted by: of ExecutiveSummary.com on 08/12/04
Keiko Groves
Keiko Groves

Another example of a commerce blog. 19-year-old student Keiko Groves is selling her original clothing line through her LiveJournal weblog where she mixes updates of her funky modified thrift-shop clothing with pictures of her boyfriend and puppy. According to this Orlando Sentinel piece, She makes just about enough to pay for her college tuition and cell-phone bills and the blog has brought her to the attention of more established designers. Steve Rubel calls her the future of marketing, which may be a slight overstatement, but if she’s what the future of marketing looks like, it is a welcome sight (the fact that she serves as her own model for her clothing probably doesn’t hurt, in her case).

Link

LooseTooth.com Shop

Posted by: of ExecutiveSummary.com on 04/5/04
avis.jpg
Avis Valentine
spokes mannequin

Artist Brandy Agerbeck uses Movable Type Blogger.com to present the merchandise in her store, where she does the fulfillment through Cafe Press. Very clever use of a business blog, where the blog is the business.

Link

 

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