October 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.

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.

Plurk: Is This for Business?

With all the recent outages and downtime over at Twitter (no doubt stirred up because of my recent article on How to Use Twitter for Business), many people have been checking out Plurk, a similar but different approach with the same 140 character message limit.

Plurk has some nice add-ons that separates from Twitter. There’s an interactive timeline that shows threads and makes it easier to follow a conversation. There’s karma points for signing up people. You can create “cliques” to better organize friends. It doesn’t constantly crash (so far.)

Plurk

Is this a business tool? Who the hell knows. I doubt the telephone appeared like a good business tool out of the gate. Is it fun to use? Definitely.

There are game-like features to it that make you want to invite more friends, post/plurk more often and get more involved. I’m not giving up my twitter account, dropping Facebook or giving up my blog for plurk, but like an 80′s arcade video game, I’m sure it’s going to get a few more of my quarters.

If you’d like an intelligent, detailed explanation of everything Plurk check out Frank Martin’s post on The Question of Plurk.

And, if you’d like to play around in Plurk, click on this invite or come visit my page on Plurk.

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.

Secrets to Success – What Are Yours?

Posted by: of BSETC on 05/12/08

Everyone has secrets to their success. It’s what makes them tick and it’s what makes them get things done. I’d love to share with you the secrets to success that I have found and would love to hear about yours.

I think that regardless of what we do in business, be it blogging, administration, bookkeeping, etc., we still need to have that secret in order to push forward.

1. The Speed of Implementation.

I can’t take full credit for this. I mean, I’ve always done it but I didn’t come up with that line. I don’t really know who originally said it but I saw it on an Eben Pagan video and it resonated so well with me. To be successful, you must take your ideas and implement them – FAST. Don’t hold back and don’t dilly-dally with details and with trying to be perfect. Get it up there and out there and tweak as you go.

2. Using Your Strengths & Delegating the Rest.

Don’t try to do everything yourself. Let’s face it – we all know you’re brilliant but to be successful, you need to learn that you aren’t the best person to do everything in your business. Read the E-Myth Revisited for a great take on what it means to wear many hats as an entrepreneur. It’ll make you realize that you should focus on what you’re good at and then delegate out the rest. Find the right people and they’ll pay for themselves.

3. Surround Yourself with a Good Support System.

This is essential. I’ve always been blessed with a great support system. My family has always supported my dreams and has never held me back (even if some of them – like wanting to be a millionaire before I turn 30 – seems far-fetched) and my husband is numero uno in terms of providing me with space and time to grow and build my business. Learn to surround yourself with positive people and rid yourself of the toxic people.

4. Only Do What You Love to Do.

I try to implement this daily. I don’t do anything I don’t love to do. Why? If I do things I don’t like to do, I run the risk (the high risk) of doing a poor job at or taking light years to turn it around to my client. We’re not meant to do everything. We’re just not. It’s the same with clients – we’re not meant to work with everyone. We’re meant to do the work where our passion lies and where our heart is because THAT makes us successful.

5. Only Work With People Who Energize & Inspire You.

This is really important. While it sounds similar to the support system, this refers more directly to your clients and/or customers. I’ve had an interesting entrepreneurial life thus far and I’ve met both really amazing clients and other clients whose styles did not mesh well with mine. I’ve come to learn that I’ve got certain characteristics that not everyone can get used to – for example, I only do scheduled calls due to my busy work schedule – and if the people I work with can’t come to terms with that, we won’t work over the long-term. So, find people that you are inspired and energized by and who embrace your talents and understand the way you work.

6. Limit Your Overhead.

Don’t do things in a complicated way. I swear to you, for everything you want to do in your business, you can usually do it on the cheap AND get a really professional result. I’ve hardly spent any money on marketing or advertising for my business. Aside from my website, I have very little marketing overhead. My websites are done inexpensively too because I do them myself. I understand that not everyone has that talent but do your research, stay in the green and you’ll become more successful. Think of how much less stress you’ll have when money is not an issue!

7. Be Aware of Your Human-ness.

I love this one. I often find that in the land of the entrepreneur, too many people forget that they are human (or that those they are talking to are also human). What I mean is that often times, things are done or said that would never be done or said if both parties were standing in the same room. Treat your fellow entrepreneurs with respect and you’ll go a lot farther. This too is something I’ve learned as I’ve grown as a business owner and moved out of that ‘corporate’ mindset.

8. Be Generous.

Don’t be afraid to give away information or help out your fellow business person for nothing in return. I don’t mean start giving away your services for free but sometimes, provide advice or give away an ebook and do it for free. Don’t ask for a favor in return and don’t ask for payment. Just do it. It feels great and people will remember you. Michael Port, a past client of mine, used to quote often “Long after you’re gone, people won’t remember what you said but how you made them feel.�

What are your keys to success?

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.

Secrets to a Faux Blogger’s Success: Fake Steve Jobs

Usually faux blogs get lambasted on the blogosphere for violating the unwritten business blogging rules of transparency, openness, and authenticity. (Remember Raging Cow?) Not so with “Fake Steve Jobs,” aka Forbes columnist Daniel Lyons, who gave a hilarious speech at the Web 2.0 Expo last Friday. The 25-minute video is embedded below:

Lyons’ main points about his successful blog are:

  • It’s material he’s excited about
  • He has fun writing on FSJ
  • He embraces audience participation
  • The mystique behind FSJ’s identity helped build the blog’s readership

Lyons covers three “Whys” behind the Fake Steve Jobs blog: why he got into blogging (fear and boredom), why he chose Steve Jobs (he’s narcissistic, Apple has bad PR, and Apple fans tend to be so, well, fanatic), and why it works (it’s the audience!). When he first learned of successful business blogs like Jonathan Schwartz’ at Sun Microsystems, Lyons thought it was a great idea. But what if one of those blogging CEOs went crazy and posted all kinds of un-photogenic, not-approved-by-PR material? Thus Fake Steve was born, and readers found it interesting. He had 90,000 monthly readers within 6 months of launch.

“I think what’s happening in media is profound and interesting. This thing [Fake Steve Jobs] is all very wrong, obviously very stupid and primitive, right? But it’s a great way to learn about how new media might work. I think the biggest change we’re going to have is the involvement of the audience. Where Internet media is going to get interesting is when we start really exploiting the uniqueness in it rather than paving a cowpath. First generation Forbes.com was, take the print magazine and put it online. Hulu was take TV shows and put them online. But when we start involving the audience, and having people form a group to entertain themselves, I think that’s going to get really interesting.”

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.

The Dangers of Anonymous Blogging

BusinessWeek reports on anonymous blogging gone bad in a recent article Busting a Rogue Blogger.

Yes, there’s controversy in the sexy world of patent litigation, as Troll Tracker–formerly anonymous, now outed as Rick Frenkel–a blogger who writes on patent trolling, was outed as a Cisco employee. Why is this relevant? Because Frenkel was blogging about the very issues that Cisco was in court over.

Apparently Cisco didn’t know that they employed the Troll Tracker, but Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler cited the blog as an “independent source of information” while lobbying for changes in patent laws that would be beneficial to Cisco.

Death threats, bounties on the Troll Tracker’s identity, and litigation followed.

Cisco has since established some blogging policies, but they probably won’t help them in court. Even if these policies had been in place before Frankel started blogging anonymously, they probably wouldn’t save them from litigation.

Perhaps it’s time to start to develop your own business blogging policies for employees? What policies do you currently have in place?

Business Blogs Can Bring You Killer PR

When talking to people about the benefits of business blogs I often mention “establishing your credibility.” This goes hand-in-hand with “getting killer PR.”

Let’s face it, journalists are having to do more with less, so they’re more and more likely to turn to Google and other search engines to track down “experts” in a given field.

As you continue to build your blog over time, creating great content in a specific niche, Google’s more likely to return your blog as a result when a journalist starts researching a column or article. I’ve never hired a PR firm, and I work out of the top right corner of the US us locals call “Maine”, but I’ve gotten quotes in Inc., BusinessWeek Small Biz, and other periodicals and the local evening news because of our Web marketing blog.

In the Independent Street blog over at WSJ.com, Kelly Spors writes on How to Get Killer PR and gives five important tips. Just add “Write a Business Blog” as number six and you’re well on your way.

Upcoming Blogger Conferences

WordCamp Dallas is later this month — March 29-30. Netconcepts’ own Chris Smith will be speaking on SEO for blogs. There’s a great lineup of speakers, including WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. Registration is only $20. There’s no reason not to attend! Even if you blog on a different blog platform, you should still attend. The networking with fellow bloggers alone is worth the travel costs. I speak from experience, having attended WordCamp in San Francisco last summer and I loved it.

Blog World Expo is another fabulous conference to attend. Their inaugural year was last year. It took place in Las Vegas and will be back in Vegas this year — September 20-21. At last year’s conference I spoke on an SEO panel with SEO gurus Aaron Wall, Andy Beal and Vanessa Fox. I stayed to the very end of the conference, and I was glad I did. I got to hear billionaire blogger Mark Cuban speak during the closing keynote of the conference.

Then there’s BlogHer 2008 — a conference for and about women bloggers, taking place July 18-20 in San Francisco. All the speakers are women. My 16-year-old daughter Chloe Spencer (the Neopets blogger) was privileged to speak on their Professional Blogging panel at BlogHer 2007. I attended last summer and really enjoyed it, even though I wasn’t the main intended audience (i.e. women bloggers).

One guy I spoke to during a cocktail reception at BlogHer last year told me that BlogHer was a great conference for single men like him to attend. He said it was “like shooting fish in a barrel.” Haha, I laughed when I heard him say that. Contrast that with WordCamp Dallas, which is projected to be 75% male.

Any other conferences for bloggers out there that I’ve missed?

Is Your Monitor Size Holding You Back?

Bloggers are information workers. And information workers need a big screen monitor — and/or multiple monitors — to be optimally productive. The Wall Street Journal blog recently posted about a study by the University of Utah that found that folks using a 24-inch screen completed tasks 52% faster than those with an 18-inch screen. And folks using two 20-inch screens completed tasks 44% faster than those with an 18-inch screen. So size (and quantity) really does matter. This conclusion was affirmed by most of the commenters to that WSJ post.

So… what monitor size are you blogging with? And are you using two monitors, or just one? That one single small monitor you’re using for blogging is holding you back!

According to a Google employee who commented, Google engineers get to choose between a single 30-inch HP LCD or two 24-inch monitors, and employees in other departments get one 24-inch.

My office setup is 3 screens — my MacBook Pro laptop screen which is 15-inch, a secondary, 17-inch monitor plugged into my laptop, and an iMac with a 17-inch built-in display. The iMac and my MacBook Pro are set up to both use the same keyboard and mouse. To accomplish this, I use a free software program called Synergy. It is amazing! I can move my cursor across the three screens with one long swipe of my mouse. I can copy text on my iMac and paste it onto my laptop, and vice versa.

When I went from one screen to three screens, I definitely saw a productivity benefit across many activities, including email, blogging, article writing, and Powerpoint creation. Right now as I write this post, I have the “Write Post” screen on one display and the Wall Street Journal post open on another display. It makes it so much easier when I want to quote or reference bits from the WSJ.

Another interesting point that another commenter to the WSJ post made was that monitor size was a criterion he used in evaluating potential employers. He called it an “environment factor.” That was really good insight. We at Netconcepts are in the process of trying to fill 11 open positions. Seeing workstations configured with awesome monitors could very well influence a candidate’s decision to come work at Netconcepts.

Bloggers, What’s Your Hook?

Whether you’re just starting out in the blogosphere or you write for an established blog, you’ll need an angle to set your blog apart from the rest. Ideally, this theme will carry through all your posts, injecting the blog with a unique style and personality (e.g. snarky, witty, professorial, egotistical to the point of humorous, self-deprecating, nihilistic, voyeuristic). Your angle could also be in the way you present your content, too. For example, you might offer video blog posts that are extreme close-ups or you might include hand-drawn illustrations with your posts.

An angle helps make your blog remarkable, which is a laudable goal for any marketer. In his book “Purple Cow,” marketing guru Seth Godin stated that being “remarkable” doesn’t mean you (or your blog) needs to be the best, it means that you need to “be worth remarking about.” Seth also said that the opposite of “remarkable” is “very good.” In other words, having a “very good” blog just doesn’t cut it — not when there are hundreds of millions of other blogs out there too.

Another way of thinking about a “hook” or an “angle” is to think about your blog as “link bait.” Link bait is content that is so funny, so interesting, and so useful that it becomes irresistible to other bloggers and site owners to link to and “remark” on. Nick Wilson revealed 5 “hooks” in his landmark post on link baiting:

  1. humor hook
  2. news hook
  3. contrarian hook
  4. resource hook, and
  5. attack hook

Link bait can take the form of Top 10 lists, humorous videos uploaded to YouTube, checklists, cartoons, tools, widgets and blog plugins — to name a few.

One business blog that I think really nailed this concept is Sparkle Like the Stars, a blog owned by jewelry retailer ice.com. The blog is snarky, irreverent, fun, voyeuristic, trendy and useful — all at the same time! This blog’s hook is paying off, in the form of a loyal following.

We, at Netconcepts, decided to follow in the footsteps of Sparkle Like the Stars to create a blog about shoes we affectionately named, “The Shoe Paparazzi.” The idea behind it was to fuse footwear with the “sport” of celebrity watching in order to capture and keep readers’ interest. At this point it’s still just an experiment, a pet project of Netconcepts that wasn’t commissioned by a client, but is something we hope can be used in the future to prove the case for the “celebrity watching hook” as a viable angle for online retailers.

As far as blogs go, I’m not 100% certain we’ve hit that right hook/angle yet to build that loyal following every blogger dreams of. I put it to you, my fellow bloggers, do you think our Shoe Paparazzi experiment is link-worthy? What’s your blog’s hook, and how’s that working out for you? Talk back via comments.

Do You Need a Blogging Regimen?

As a certified Business Blog Consultant–I’m still awaiting the paperwork, but I’ve been assured it’s on it’s way–I work with a number of businesses on their blog and other Web marketing strategies. Being a blog consultant is tricky; much of our work is up front.

We often design a blog, set it up on either WordPress or TypePad, strategize with the client, identify influential bloggers in their industries, and show them how to work the software.

Often, that’s where our work ends. Some of our clients blog regularly and see the expected, positive results and return on their investment. Others, unfortunately, put up one or two posts and begin the shame spiral of neglect.

Although I’ll sometimes nag a client who’s blog is whithering on the vine, there’s not much I can do–short of ghost blogging–to get their blog back in shape.

Which is why I wrote Jumpstart Your Blog: A Business Blogging Workout Regimen. The article reviews some blogging basics along with the amount of time new bloggers should spent on each activity.

I’m not sure if this is a salvo against abandoned blogs, a wake-up call to companies that have neglected their blog, or a reality check to people who are thinking about a blog but don’t realize the time and passion that needs to be committed to a successful business blog…I guess I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

If you do have a new or lapsed blog, perhaps all you need is a workout strategy. What do you do when it’s been a while since your last blog post?

Is Blogging Recession Proof?

There are two groups of people who apparently make hay during  a recession: journalists and Web marketers.

I’m not sure if this recession is different than previous ones, or if I’m just more aware this time around, but it seems to me that every business magazine and marketer is talking up the recession.

Business magazines run cover stories like “You Can Beat the Bad Economy.” (BusinessWeek Small Biz). Marketers talk about how to sell, market or profit from a recession in ezines, blogs, teleclasses and seminars. (I should know, I’m talking to a fellow marketer about doing a teleseminar on this very subject.)

There is one truism to a recession: market more. Yes, while everyone runs for cover, this is the time for you to ramp up your sales and marketing efforts.  One of the most cost-effective ways businesses can do this is through a blog. And, as every one else scales back on marketing, it makes your life so much easier.

Even with falling advertising costs, your blog still costs less; basically a few dollars a month in hosting fees. And, with a falling economy, there’s plenty of topics to discuss. A quick search of Technorati includes such posts as:

Hmm…maybe that last one hints that even bloggers aren’t immune to the recession…especially those who are reliant on Google Adsense to make a profit.

Blog carnivals – a link building secret weapon

One thing which has been alluded to briefly here on BusinessBlogConsulting.com in a couple previous posts is blog carnivals — a relatively untapped opportunity for blog marketing and link building.

It was fellow Business Blog Consulting contributor Toby Bloomberg who first turned me on to blog carnivals. For those who aren’t aware of what a blog carnival is, it is a traveling column on a particular subject matter that is passed on from blog to blog, each blogger selecting a topic in that subject matter and including relevant resources accompanied by their own commentary about those resources. For example, there might be a blog carnival on nonprofit marketing and indeed there is. The members of the blog carnival rotate in and out, kind of like a column rotates. Here is an example post from a nonprofit marketing blog carnival.

Why should you care about blog carnivals? In short, because it’s a great way to grow your link popularity and thus your search rankings, and because it’ll also gain you visibility in the blogosphere amongst bloggers. This can be accomplished in two ways:

  1. First, by hosting a blog carnival, you garner links you wouldn’t otherwise have garnered from the other blog carnival hosts as well as other bloggers who follow that blog carnival (assuming of course your posts are of some value!).
  2. Second, even if you don’t join a blog carnival, you can submit your own posts to the current host for consideration in the next carnival post. For instance, in the example carnival post above on nonprofit marketing (which focused on “Creating and developing online communities through Web 2.0″), imagine if you had written a post on “How Nonprofits Can Use MySpace” and then gotten that post included in that week’s edition of the carnival — and all it would have taken is reaching out to the host via email to get on their radar.

Check out BlogCarnival.com, a directory of blog carnivals, to see if a blog carnival already exists for your industry or topic of interest.

 

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