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Social Media vs Search Engines for Blog Traffic: Who Wins in Content Marketing?

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I have posted previously about an ongoing MBA class on content marketing called Marketing with Social Media that I am teaching at a university in Silicon Valley. We just wrapped up our 7th of 11 weeks. And I have some numbers regarding the social media versus search engine debate.

All 73 students started their websites out from zero. No domain. No hosting. No idea of the difference between tagline and ‘tag, you’re it’. No nothing.

Some of them have been posting very faithfully, using specifically the SEO guidelines I gave them for each post. Well, sorta kinda. As much as people, especially students, follow rules in general that is. We also have a great back linking strategy. And and and …

Question: What performs better? Sending people to sites via your social networks or just writing good stuff and letting the search engines do their thing?

Answer: The course is 45 days old. I took three screen shots from Google Analytics. The reader can compare Facebook referrals to Google organic traffic. (I know. I know. There are other social networks. There are also other search engines.)

Compare the following three 15-day time periods.

Feb 17 – Mar 3

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The students worked their Facebook networks and in the end social network traffic outperformed organic search. It makes sense. The sites were still finding their feet and search was still finding them.

Mar 4 – Mar 18

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Facebook referrals remained constant, but search results more than doubled as well as outperformed social networking.

Mar 19 – Apr 2

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Facebook referrals dropped a little but organic search continued to increase – another 13%.

At the risk of overwhelming you screenshots and numbers take a look:

Facebook traffic dropped 33% from 617 visits the last week of Mar/Apr compared to 415 the last week of Feb/Mar.

Organic traffic increased 58% from 697 visits the last week of Mar/Apr to 1100 the last week of Feb/Mar.

One more thing – organic traffic grew by itself. That is my students wrote something and turned off their computers, while with social networking, traffic requires the student to write something and do something else, login elsewhere and promote, interact, build, smooze.

I may be wrong, but after a time, the promotion of content elsewhere = on social networks, gets cumbersome, tiresome, and loses its effectiveness. However, with search traffic, as long as the content is meaningful, follows the rules of good SEO, will continue to grow.

Who wins in the social media vs search engine debate when it comes to content marketing?

Blogs win.

Unless, that is, you have a different experience that you would like to share in a comment below.

How Often Should I Blog?

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Find your blogging pace

Find your blogging pace

One question I get asked a LOT is, “How much do I need to write at my blog?”

The question needs clarification.

How much does a blogger need to write to do what? Have an online platform? Get readers? Make money? Make money from traffic alone? Make money by offering display or affiliate ads? Make money by offering a service? Make money by some combination of all of these?

The answer to how much a blogger should write at their blog will differ depending on why the blogger writes? Depending on what the blogger’s end game is.

That being said, there is one thing that is absolutely foundational to making money with your blog. You have to have traffic = eyeballs of people specifically interested in the content at your site.

The traffic can be minimal, as in only those people you tell to go there. The traffic can com via referral, as in those people who are told to go there by hook or by crook. Think through social networking. The traffic can come via search = somebody dropped something in a search engine box and found you. The traffic can come through some combination of these methods.

In my Marketing with Social Media MBA course, I am teaching my students how to get people to find them via search engines.

Believing that is cheaper = a better of use time spent, for people to find me than it is for me to find them, I am teaching my students that they need to write in such a way that they become visible to the search engines without compromising the quality of their content.

The question again, “How much does a blogger need to write at their blog to get found by real people via search engines?”

Here are the weekly guidelines I am giving my students:

1.  Each student must write a minimum of 600-750 words daily. Those words can be in the form of 3 posts that are 200-250 words long, one post that is 600-750 words long or a 200-250 word post and a 400-500 word post.

2. Each student must guest blog (400+ words) at my site on a subject that I give them. And in this guest blog, they link back to their own sites. After guest blogging at my site, as one of their daily posts they must write about their experience of guest blogging at my site and link to it.

3. Each student must guest blog at a classmate’s site. They are free to pursue which site they will guest post at and the rules are the same. They will write 400+ words about something relevant to their classmate’s site, providing a link back to their own web site. And as one of their daily posts they must write about their experience of guest posting with a link.

4. Finally, each student is required to write an anchor/pillar/evergreen post at their home site. (400+ words) that they would be particularly happy with AND they are asked to share it with their social network IF they have one.

There are 73 students enrolled in the class. More than 50 of them are very active. A few of them are wasting their money and my time. I can’t help that latter group.

So, how is this working?

I will delve into the analytics as the weeks progress. But for now, the interested reader can see how the top 10 sites are performing after weeks one, two and three.

That question one more time: “How much do I need to write at my blog?”

My answer: “How much traffic do you want at your blog? Keep writing until that many people show up.”

The above guidelines will get you started.

5 Beginner Steps to Creating a Blog that You Can Monetize

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Last week, I wrote Follow 50+ MBA-level Case Studies in Content and Inbound Marketing about a 48-hour class that is happening at a university in Silicon Valley.

In the first week, my students wrote a combined 750-ish posts of varying length and purpose – daily posts, guest posts, link bait posts. At Top 10 Content Marketing Sites in the Social Media MBA course I listed up the best performers. You’re welcome to take a look to see just how many unique visitors, total visitors and page views that much effort can produce in sites that are starting from zero.

In this post I want to articulate the 5 first steps my students and I had to take BEFORE they could think about making money with content marketing and the challenges I faced to get them there and how I, ahem, overcame those challenges just to get the students online and writing.

Step One: Get a Domain Name and Hosting

More than 2 weeks out my trusty TA (teacher’s assistant) and I started sending emails to the whole class via the school’s learning management system. No response. What do you do when you can’t get a response and the only way to contact the students is email? You spam them until they figure out they had better do something.

About half of the 60+ students showed up with a domain name and hosting.

Another one fourth showed up thinking, “What’s the difference between having a domain and hosting? Aren’t they the same?

And still others said, “You emailed us? When? You want us to do what?”

There was no easy answer. My trusty assistant, Kevin, came to class and they drove him ragged getting everyone a domain and hosting. It wasn’t pretty. But over the course of the first 2 days and 16 hours of in-class time and a ton of emails, we got everyone in the class online with a domain, hosting and WordPress installed.

If any reader here has a better solution to this problem…by all means let me know.

Step Two: Get the Right Plugins and Set Up the Back End

With a group of students who don’t even know what WordPress is, much less a plugin, there was no easy answer to this either. Throwing something up on the giant screen and having everyone follow along just wouldn’t work. Besides I had to spend a LOT of time on Steps 3-5 and couldn’t afford the time.

I nearly killed my local and overseas staff. They were spending about 1-2 hours per site setting the permalink structure I like, getting the right plugins in place – SEO, sitemap, etc. Creating webmaster accounts for each and installing Google Analytics so we can track the results. 60+ websites at various stages of coming online x 2 hours each = a LOT of time.

Again, I knew of no simple way to do this other than throw food under the door to keep my staff happy, or at least well fed, while they brought all the sites to an equal footing. Suggestions?

Step Three: Decide What to Write About

Unlike the first two steps,  at this point I finally had everyone on the same page, in the same room, doing the same thing. I could get all 60+ students to look up and follow along.

I had all students create a tagline. My specific instructions were for them to tell me what they were going to write about in 10 words (not a magic number, but definitely less than 12) or less what they planned to write about. They were NOT to use adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions or articles. They were to come up with 3 different iterations and show them to five other classmates for feedback and pick the best one. Focus for a site from the get go is critical

Other instructions:

  • Write about something you are interested in
  • Write about something you can create an interest in
  • Write about something you have a lot to say about.

In my world, if a blogger doesn’t have a 1,000 things to say about their topic they will have a hard time making money with their site.

Step Four: Use SEO to Ensure Posts are Found

What is SEO anyway? Search Engine Optimization. But what is that?

I define Search Engine Optimization as content that appeals to real people (first) and to search engines (second). But it must appeal to both.

If a blogger only considers readers they might get read but only by the people the blogger tells to go their directly. They will not be found as well by search engines. If the blogger considers only the search engines they are likely to come up with stuff that is just unreadable. There is an ideal balance for the content. Ideal balance = optimization.

I have learned that there are some 220+ parameters that can go into an ideal post/page. I have also learned that pages can be overly optimized. But what I find of particular value is that I have also learned that there are about 20 ‘things’ you can do to a blog post that will get you 90-95% of the results you want. I will write about them in a future post.

If you can’t wait, you can buy the book – Marketing with Social Media. It’s the text book, first draft, that I wrote for this course.

Step Five: – Make a Plan and Work the Plan

For every hour of classroom work, I can require 2 hours of work outside of the class.  I am requiring my students to write 600-750 words DAILY. How hard can that be? They are permitted to adapt to their own style.

Some like to write multiple short posts.

Some like to write one long post each day.

Some like to do a combination.

It doesn’t matter to me.

Additionally, the students are required to guest post weekly at my home site about their progress (you can read their posts at Bill Belew Guest Writer AND guest post at one classmate’s web site that is relevant. Lots of link love happening that will only get better and of more value as the sites mature = get more content. Lastly, they are required to write one relatively higher quality post – link bait style.

Ongoing:

All 5 of these steps were done in the first 2 days of class, each a full 9-hour day, counting lunch. The students are off and writing at this point. Some get it, some don’t. Every educator knows that just because you tell somebody something, it doesn’t mean they learned it.

In the meantime, in about 10 weeks, this class will wrap up with some 15-20,000 posts being written over a large variety of niches and at various paces and different lengths and with different intensity and interlinking. How cool is that?

What do you think I can learn from this?
What would you like to learn?

What you can do:

Step 1 – Subscribe to the Bill Belew.com/blog to get more immediate updates from me at my home site. You will also be able to read the inbound and content marketing student experiences first hand

Step 2 -Subscribe to this NMX blog to get updates when they come out here.

Thanks for reading.

How to Get Massive Traffic with Link Parties

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At NMX 2013, the ladies from Six Sisters Stuff presented a session on a little-known tactics for building your blog community and driving traffic: link parties.

A link party is essentially a list of linked images generated by a blog’s community. Usually there is a theme and the link party’s call for links is posted at the same time every week. For example, The Pinspiration Party is a weekly link party where you can link up posts that talk about recipes, craft projects, etc. inspired by something you saw on Pinterest.

Many bloggers in niches like tech, social media, and business have never heard of link parties, while bloggers in niches like food and DIY are getting hundreds or even thousands of new readers per month using link parties. On the food blog I run with my mother and sister, we’ve built our traffic substantially using link parties (including the one hosted by Six Sisters Stuff), so I was excited to hear that this session would be part of NMX.

My sister, Jessica, was able to attend this session live to take some notes about just how you can reap the biggest benefits from link parties. Here’s what she found out about getting results:

  • “The bigger the blog, the more the traffic…bigger blogs are more competitive.”

Popular bloggers who run link parties will have hundreds of bloggers link up every week. You can get traffic from these link parties, especially if you catch the linky (the tool used to allow readers to submit links) when it goes live, but don’t overlook the little guys. Brand new link parties can help you build relationships with other bloggers and stand out from the crowd.

  • “You’re going to see 10 times more [traffic] if you’re featured.”

Most link parties feature bloggers from the previous week every time the new linky goes live. Obviously, you want one of these featured slots, as it puts your link front and center. In order to get featured, the Six Sisters bloggers have two main pieces of advice. First, use a great image. If your picture stinks, it is very unlikely that you’ll be featured. Second, put a unique twist on your post. A recipe for mashed potatoes is probably not going to get lots of attention. A copycat mashed potato recipe from a popular recipe that includes a secret ingredient has a much better chance.

  • “The thumbnail is crucial…A picture really is worth a thousand words – or 100 pageviews.”

A good image isn’t just your key to getting featured. It also will encourage others to read your post. This is especially true with popular link parties, where you’re competing with hundreds of other thumbnails. What makes yours stand out? How can you entice readers to click? Think about it when creating your images and make sure your use a good thumbnail.

Want even more link party tips, including directions for hosting your own? Check out the full presentation, which is part of the NMX 2013 Virtual Ticket, available to all NMX University premium members. Don’t miss this great session and the hundreds of presentation recordings from our conference. Get your ticket today!

10 Ways To Stand Out As a Blogger

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If you want to be like everybody else, go with the flow. But if you want to stand out as a blogger, you’ve got to be different. Here are 10 good ways to differentiate yourself from the sea of other bloggers out there by bringing something unique to the table!

1. Be Generous: One of the most effective ways to get readers’ attention is by being generous. Respond to comments. Interact on other blogs. Promote others’ work. Host a giveaway at your own expense. Continually look for ways to give to the blogging community, and you not only come across as a generous blogger—you become one worth following.

2.Be Passionate: When you’re genuinely excited about something, your audience can tell. Write about topics that truly matter to you, and look for ways to communicate your passion to your audience. This could be through writing, podcasts, videos, or something else. Do what feels right to you.

3. Be Everywhere: Making your blog visible is about more than churning out regular content. You need to find ways to reach your audience even off your specific site. Engage on social networks like Twitter and Facebook by providing links to your content, related links, and interesting updates. Guest post on other sites to tap into other sites’ audiences. Do what you can to be in as many places as possible in order to build your presence online.

4. Take an Alternate View: When everyone else in your niche is saying “up,” be the guy who says “down.” An alternate viewpoint can be the thing that makes you interesting. Try this tactic with caution, however—being different just to be different rarely works. Your audience needs to sense you’re also authentic about your contrary view.

5. Try a Different Spin: Talk about business like a comedian. Write about recipes through poems. Do a photography blog wherein you only post photos taken at the same certain time every day. Do what you can to find a way to take a different spin on your subject matter, and you’re sure to stand out.

6. Go Beyond a Template: Blogging templates are great tools to start with, but to make your site more noticeable, move away from an “out-of-the-box” design. Customize your template with a professional logo/header, attractive social media buttons, and so on. It should be different from any other site, not an exact replica.

7. Showcase Original Content: Write creative content for your blog that readers can’t find anywhere else. Likewise, instead of using clipart to spice up your posts, take your own photos—and make them good.

8. Build Real Relationships: Your readers are more than numbers; they’re people. Take the time to connect and engage with these people to build real relationships—this alone sets you apart from many bloggers and also builds your audience over time.

9. Don’t Give Up: Anybody can start a blog and quit within the first year— most bloggers do. So rather than joining that statistic, take the road less traveled simply by not quitting. If you keep consistently blogging for over a year, you’re already going to be in the upper echelon of writers who don’t give up.

10. Be Yourself: The reality is that there’s no other blogger on earth who can blog like you can, with your personality and perspective and history of life experiences. Infuse your blog with who you are, and you’ll have a unique voice unlike anyone else’s.

Have you used any of these approaches? What’s worked for you? Any ideas to add to the list?

Working with Guest Bloggers: The Secret to Your Success

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Guest bloggers? Isn’t your blog supposed to be your voice, representing your view and perspective on business, life, parenting, family matters, your hobby, or even products you’re selling? Well, yes, it is. But it can be more…

Actually, there are lots of reasons why inviting people to write guest posts on your blog can be a great idea, including adding a bit of variety for your readers, gaining visibility through more popular writers, offering slightly different perspectives on your topical area and giving you a bit of a break from the daily grind of blogging. There’s also this thing called SEO and people who are willing to publish guest articles might just find themselves more frequently invited to write guest posts on other people’s blogs. Those guest posts you write that include a link back to your own site are great for your own site’s visibility. A win-win!

Even on the most personal of blogs, embedding a dialog with someone else that perhaps started out as an email exchange can be a powerful entry to write, or you can even frame a guest article by introducing it to your readers in the opening paragraphs and then add your own concluding paragraph after, reacting to the main piece and ensuring that your own voice isn’t lost in the process.

To have your guest bloggers be successful and to make the process as easy as possible, here are my hard-learned tips:

Agree on a theme or topic in advance — This saves a lot of hassles and misunderstandings, when the guest blogger sends you an article that’s just not relevant to your audience. Rejections are never appreciated, even if they’re appropriate, so sidestep it by asking them for a sentence or two summary of what they want to talk about.

Specify your writing style — Do you like publishing obscenities? Do you want long, complicated sentences that are suitable for your audience of research scientists, or short, easily understood grammatical constructs perfect for a busy parent to understand? It’s your site, I encourage you to ask the guest writer to try and match your own writing style while still honoring their own voice in the process.

Long or short? Give ’em a target word count — This is one that always seems to be a challenge, but if your audience is used to substantial articles of 400 words or longer, a guest post of 135 words will seem insubstantial and pointless. Avoid that by specifying “target word count: 400 words” or, in the opposite situation, “please don’t exceed 250 words.”

Pictures? Video? — Just about all blog posts are enhanced by including some sort of media content. Are they responsible for this content? If so, make sure you tell them, and also ensure that they obtain the rights to the content (easily done if it’s their own photo or graphic, of course) so that they don’t put you in potential legal hot water due to rights violations. Your blog, your problem, even if the original was sent by a guest author.

Those are the key factors to ensure success working with guest bloggers. It’s easy and it’s fun!

I also asked a few other popular bloggers what their parameters are with accepting guest blog articles, and here’s what they had to say:

Jenny Ford: I have contributors and accept guest posts. it’s one of the only ways you won’t get stuck writing every single recipe!! (and getting grossly over-weight on my site! HA!). My tip – have a format, give clear details and expectations, let people know your deadline, make sure they have terrific photography.

Mary-Frances Main: I only take local “voices” and then they have to be relevant to the topic (which seems like a no brainer, but you’d be amazed!). Personally I like people I know – but will accept a recommendation of another connection.

Elizabeth C. Lewis: Make sure that before you ask for a guest blogger, you have read some of what they write! You don’t want to ask someone to write something to find out that they are terrible at writing and have to find a reason that you can’t use it.

Amy Gahran: Have a process: offer clear guidance on length, format, topic. Tell them how to submit a draft: text file? Word doc? HTML doc? Only do this for evergreen topics that can run anytime. Guest posts often don’t happen on deadline.

So there you have it. Not just my enthusiasm for guest bloggers showing up on one of my blogs — and I have four that I publish, ranging from my AskDaveTaylor tech support site to DaveOnFilm, where I share film reviews and the popular GoFatherhood site where I write about my experiences as a single dad — but the view of some other savvy bloggers who also invite submissions from friends and colleagues to mix things up.

Now, what are your thoughts on this? Do you accept guest submissions and, if so, what are your parameters?

Editor’s Note: For those who want to learn more from Dave, check out his session at NMX called “Quick and Dirty Video Production Workshop for Your First YouTube Video.”

Phil Hollows: Chat Transcript

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For our most recent Facebook chat, we were pleased to have Phil Hollows stop by as our special guest. Phil is known by many for his work at FeedBlitz and is the author of List Building for Bloggers. In January, Phil will be presenting at NMX; his session is “The 7 Deadly Sins of List Building.”

If you missed our weekly Facebook chat, you can see the transcript below to see what Phil has to say about email lists.

New Media Expo Phil – Let’s start with something basic. Why does a blogger or podcaster, or anyone who creates content online need to build a list?
Patti Hosking What is the most effective outreach when marketing to PR firms, Phil?
Phil Hollows Hi! Several reasons: Because email is the most engaging subscription mechanism available because it is the most engaging
Phil Hollows So compare an email update to a tweet or an FB post – it’s much richer and more appealing for readers, which yields much greater engagement
Phil Hollows Seth Godin says that his email readership engages 10x more than any other mechanism
New Media Expo All – don’t forget to refresh your page to see responses and new questions.
Phil Hollows Secondly, you own and control your list. That’s a big deal when Facebook and other social sites change the rules, hide updates etc.
New Media Expo How does one even begin building a list?
Phil Hollows So if the rules change or your Google rank tanks, your email readership will be there for you and your business
Phil Hollows @Patti I don’t know – not my area of expertise ;)
Carol McElroy McHolland Generally speaking – what are the minimum stats/pieces of info you would ask for in an opt-in email form? Which would you require and which would be optional?
Phil Hollows To build a list you can sign up with a service like mine, FeedBlitz, or you can run with plugins or other solutions for your site. You should always have an opt-in form, even for a brand new site – you never know who’s going to stop by.
Megan Enloe Can’t agree more with the concept of controlling your own list as apposed to one controlled by Facebook or Twitter. If you are going to put all or most of your eggs in one basket, at least make it one you have control over.
Phil Hollows Think of capturing email subscribers as the flip side to SEO. Your SEO gets the visitors *to* your site; email subscriptions enable you to *capture* them once they arrive. Else your SEO efforts may be largely wasted.
Megan Enloe How often should an email go out to your list? How much is too much or too little?
Phil Hollows Hi Carol – Email address required, obviously. After that as little as possible. The more friction you add to the process the less likely a visitor will convert. For example, if you want to run a birthday promotion, don’t ask for date of birth – too personal,might put people off! Ask for birth *month* and send a mailimg to everyone that month with their birthday surprise.
Rick Calvert that’s a good tip Phil!
Phil Hollows Hi Megan: On frequncy your list will tell you when you’re getting it wrong! Too often, people will leave. Too little, people will leave. It varies for some people how much they want to hear from you, so you can offer multiple versions of your list – say a daily and a weekly digest – and offer people the choice when they sign up
Phil Hollows That way they self-select into the time frame they’re comfortable hearing from you – greater engagement, fewer unsubscribes.
New Media Expo What is a good open rate, Phil Hollows?
Mary Jo Manzanares I like the birthday example Phil. I’m of that age where I’m offended when it asks for a year.
Dave Cynkin Phil, for content creators who don’t have a handle on content marketing yet, what advice would you give them for inviting visitors to join their list and providing something of value?
Phil Hollows It varies – but if you’ve a good engaged list then getting in the 20% range is very possible. For larger or more stale lists the open rate might be less – and I’ve seen large lists with 2% open rates. While that sounds bad – and it kinda is! – there’s still enough activity from that group to generate revenue
Megan Enloe Unless you’re my doctor you don’t get to ask for my birthday.
Phil Hollows What you really need to do, whatever the open rate, is work on improving it. Looking for patterns.
Phil Hollows So short, SEO-optimized keyworkd rich post titles translate really well into email subejct lines
Phil Hollows Get the important information at the start of the subject line
Phil Hollows Because on a smart phone in portrait mode you only have about 35 characters and the blink of an eye to persuade the owner to open the email. Make it count!
Phil Hollows Dave – Start writing great content. Have an email subscription service on your site so that you get the visitors engaged and wanting to hear from you. Secondly, having a relevant incentive to join a list is a fabulous idea – there’s a trade in return for them giving you their email address.
Phil Hollows It helps establish trust and value from the very beginning.
New Media Expo Phil Hollows – Please share some common mistakes people make when building their lists and also in marketing to those on their lists.
Phil Hollows Great questions! Let’s see on common mistakes…
Phil Hollows 1) Hiding the email subscription option below the fold or behind an ambiguous icon.
Phil Hollows 2) Not offering incentives to enncourage new signups
Phil Hollows 3) Being too aggressive with popups! <– Pet Peeve
Phil Hollows 4) Writing rambly subject lines and / or redundantly repeating site name / company in the subject line
Phil Hollows In terms of errors when building a list:
New Media Expo Phil Hollows Please also share some ways we can entice our communities to join our list.
Phil Hollows 1) Not mailing enough or mailing too often
Carol McElroy McHolland Hi Phil – thanks. Yes, the conventional wisdom now says as little as possible and I tend to agree. But, that doesn’t provide for much “mining”. Would you mine information with later surveys, questions, etc.?
Phil Hollows 2) all “20% off, free shipping” and not providing content / value
Bob Dunn oh, I hate popups … but question back on the open rates, do open rates show just the first time that it’s opened, or is it counted if they go back and open again, as I usually get around 60%
Phil Hollows 3) Not creating targeted lists for different content categories
Phil Hollows 4) Going too far off topic!
Phil Hollows To join a list make sure your form(s) are clearly visible, above the fold
Phil Hollows Use social proof (x,000 readers) to help visitors realize that they are not alone and that they can trust you
Phil Hollows Incentives!
Phil Hollows Use email signup links in your email signature, business cards and printed / offline collateral.
Phil Hollows Bob: Popups work – they’re really effective – but they must be used respectfully. You need to be on the 2nd or 3rd page view of the session before you pop one up, because at that point you know the visitor’s interest has been piqued and they’re exploring more. The popups that slam into your face before one has even had teh chance to tread the first page show that the site owner doesn’t respect me as a prospect. I always bug out.
New Media Expo What type of newsletter or email content receives the best response , Phil Hollows?
Phil Hollows Carol: For mining you can always ask for more information when you move the visitor down the funnel. So for a blog subscription you migth just want email address. For an e-book or white paper, perhaps name and (for corporates) job title, company etc.
Bob Dunn Yeah, I grumble because they are effective, like you, it’s a pet peeve :)
Phil Hollows There’s no point asking for information if it isn’t relevant to the mission or if you’re never going to use it.
Phil Hollows So the deeper in you get, the viasitor is that much more engaged and willing to part with more information to get the more valuable item you’re offering.
Phil Hollows Bob – don’t get me started ;)
Carol McElroy McHolland I realize all industries are different, but can you give an example or two of fresh/creative/useful execution you’ve seen recently?
Phil Hollows OK so what gets the best response? The content that’s the best fit for your audience! But if you’re writing a post with an action in mind, make sure that you have a clear, explicit call to action.
Bob Dunn did you see the other part of my comment questioning open rates? … should have known better to start if off with a comment on popups
Phil Hollows And I’m a big believer in making calls to action imperative and to the point. get the download. Buy now. Don’t be like me and be all English and say “please”! :) Be the boot camp drill sergeant and TELL THEM what to do
New Media Expo Phil Hollows Which brings us to – how can you tell what gets the best response?
Phil Hollows LOL Bob! That 20% rate should be a unique rate – at least per day. But if you see a recipient engaging multiple times with a piece, that’s a great “tell” that you’ve written something they’re very interested in.
Allison Boyer ” I’m a big believer in making calls to action imperative and to the point” – love that advice, I think a lot of marketing via email (and otherwise) is just too wordy. Any advice for self-editing? I’m bad at that personally and my communications always seem to go on too long.
Phil Hollows how to tell? Metrics, metrics, metrics. Track what subject lines delivered the most opens. Figure out why. Test!
Phil Hollows Vary calls to action – what happens to your click through rates?
Phil Hollows And if your actions end up being say a purchase or a download, what you want to maximize is the # of people taking that action at the end of the day. So you might want to consider testing more focused subject lines or calls to action if that yields better desired activity. I mean, everyone loves kittens, right? So lots of opens for cute kitten emails. Pretty poor impact if what you want to do is sell a book on oil drilling.
Phil Hollows hey Allison :) Practice! Think SEO keywords.
Carol McElroy McHolland Hey Allison – I read this book once a year – it’s a classic and I promise it will help. :) See below…
New Media Expo When it comes to the short attention span, Phil Hollows, should email communication be brief or do people generally read through?
Phil Hollows The other great thing you can do is build lists based on activity. So if soneone’s downlaoded an ebook, say, or already bought from your store, they’re MUCH mroe likely to repeat that activity. So target them with mailings – they will be much more effective than a general broadcast.
Phil Hollows Also use autoresponders to nuture people based on what they have done.
Phil Hollows So for example, if you download the FeedBurner Migration Guide from FeedBlitz, our goal is to have you start a trial. So the autoresponder you get when you download the Guide helps explain all the good things you can do at FeedBlitz thaht you can’t at Feedburner. Then, when a trial starts, we start you off on a training course sequence to help you be sucessful. We’re trying to nurture the prospect into being a trial user, and then a trial user into becoming a successful customer.
Phil Hollows Tough to keep up! Great questions :)
Phil Hollows OK so mostly brevity is the soul of wit, so if you can get your point across quickly, so much the better. Seth Godin’s emails are ytpically very brief – learn!
Phil Hollows OTOH Copyblogger’s are typically longer because the agenda is much more educational. If you’re posting about food, perhaps it’s better to have the whole recipe in the email. So longer is better.
Phil Hollows I know that I’ve sent several thousand-word emails out because I was writing my book (ListBuildingForBloggers.com) one hapter – one blog post! – at a time. But the interesting thing was, those who did read all the words were really engaged with them anbd bought the book. So it really does vary! See what works best for your audience
Carol McElroy McHolland Excellent example re: FeedBlitz/FeedBurner. “and then a trial user into becoming a SUCCESSFUL customer.”.
New Media Expo Is it bad form to send out more than one email per day – if they all tout something different?
Phil Hollows Carol – I tend not to subscribe to much beyond what I need for the mission here at FeedBlitz. I think one example of what NOT to do (although it was creative!) was American Apparel’s crossing the taste line with their Hurricane Sandy email promotion.
Phil Hollows Sending more than one email ad day is OK *if* that’s what the subscriber list expects and *if* it’s relevant
Phil Hollows For example, many of feedBlitz’s customers happen to be coupon / deal bloggers. Coupons expire and their subscribers want the best deals *now* – so these guys often have “express” mailings that mail out multiple times a day – it’s what works for their audience.
Phil Hollows For some people though a daly mailing starts to feel like they are being “bombarded” – and that’s a quick way to low engagement, unsubscribes and spam complaints. You don’t want that. That’s why we recommend creating a weekly digest variant of yout blog subscription, where you can mail out a summary of the week’s activities autoamtically.
Phil Hollows Five minutes! Have I missed anyone?!
Phil Hollows (LOL – Facebook is asking me to slow down – hope they don’t block me from this chat!)
New Media Expo Phil Hollows Thanks so much for coming by and sharing your lunch hour with us. I hope you won’t be a stranger to the NMX community and we’ll see you in January!
Phil Hollows Join me at my talk in January at NMX “The Seven Deadly Sins of List Building”
Dan R Morris Oh man. . . I get here right at the end.
Phil Hollows You can also follow me on Twitter as @phollows email me phil@feedblitz.com
Carol McElroy McHolland Thanks, Phil. Cheers! :)
Phil Hollows THANK YOU so much for inviting me here to chat – it was a pleasure and a privilege :)
Megan Enloe Thanks for stopping by Phil.
Megan Enloe No problem Dan. Phil Hollows will be at the Expo in January. You can ask your questions in person:-)
Bob Dunn Thanks Phil a lot of great stuff here… now have to go and get my next newsletter ready to send out via Feedblitz :)
New Media Expo Also, I’m sure Phil Hollows won’t mind coming back to respond to any late questions. We’re always open on the Facebook page!
Allison Boyer Thank you, Phil! See you in January!
Our next Facebook chat will be tomorrow, Wednesday, November 7 at 10am PT/1pm ET. Our special guest will be Chris Ducker who will discuss outsourcing. Chris will also be presenting his session, “45 Things New Media Content Creators Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants to Help Grow Their Business” at New Media Expo in January, so be sure to see him live at the event!

 

3 Ways Google Remarketing Increases Sales and Online Interaction

Author:

Every website exists for the purpose of being seen. Whether you are a small business offering products or services, or a blogger looking to gain readers and wider web influence; you want prospective clients to see what you have to offer. However, achieving those site visits is only half the battle.

What you really want is interaction:

– Visitors making a purchase or hiring you for your services
– Readers linking to your blog
– Fellow bloggers talking about your blog through comments and re-posts
– Expansion of social media influence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Google Remarketing is the way to take your site to the next level! It gives you the opportunity to increase interaction, not just traffic.

What is Google Remarketing?

Google Remarketing is an online follow-up tool that allows you to continue to present your ads to prospects, even after they leave your website. You see, not every person who visits your site is ready to jump in. It takes constant exposure to your offers to influence your prospects to make some kind of interaction on your site, be it sales or a blog interaction. Google Remarketing gives you the ability to put tailor-made ads in front of your prospects wherever they go on Google’s extensive Display Network.

Here are 3 ways to use Google Remarketing to increase sales and online interaction:

1. Create More Action with Targeted Ads

With Google Remarketing, you choose what you want your visitors to do. Maybe you want them to buy a certain product, hire a particular service, or make a connection through social media. Google Remarketing gives you a programming code that can tell whether or not your visitor has taken that action step. If they leave your site without taking action, Google will know and that’s when Remarketing begins. After leaving your site, your prospect will be shown custom designed ads promoting your desired action step on every website they visit within the Google Display Network. This is an invaluable tool! Remarketing offers automatic follow-up for your website until your prospect takes the action step you want.

You control:

  • Desired action step (attending your webinar, purchasing an e-book, “Liking” your Facebook page, following your Blog or Twitter account, etc.)
  • Desired demographic. Remarketing allows you to create specific ads for certain target groups. In other words, you can show different ads to a stay-at-home mother versus a young entrepreneur.
  • Site-relevant ads for your products or services. For example, if you offer a landscaping service, an ad specific to that service will appear when prospects visit a relevant site (ie. HGTV.com).

2. Reach a Larger Audience

Google claims on their site that Google Remarketing “reaches 83% of unique Internet users around the world,” so the Google Display Network is an invaluable asset for those looking to achieve maximum exposure for their products, services or content. Every time your prospect visits one of these thousands of sites, they will see your customized ad specifically targeting them. Additionally, because the network is so large and includes so many big-name websites, you gain more than just exposure. You also gain the impression of “being everywhere” and being associated with big-name brands.

Sites within the Google Display Network include:

3. Get the Most Bang for Your Marketing Buck

The best part about Google Remarketing is it can actually get you a lot of free exposure. Google tracks your prospects, promotes your site, and compels those prospects to take the action steps you want them to take, and you don’t pay anything for this promotion unless your prospect clicks on the ad. This means that if your prospect doesn’t click on the advertisement directly, you are still exposing them to your brand and building the credibility of your site. This will make any future advertisements all the more effective. Building your brand and establishing credibility is paramount to turning site visits into interactions. Google Remarketing offers this service to your site with absolutely no risk.

Are you ready to begin building your brand and extending your web influence?

Google Remarketing is an incredible tool that turns website visits into site interactions. More sales. More readers and followers. More clients. You can also improve your local search rankings.

What do you think of Google Remarketing? Please enter your comments below!

6 Ways to Add the “Show” to Your “Business”

Author:

Imagination. It is the wonderful result of recorded audio. When you listen to the radio, podcasts, audiobooks or other recorded audio, the imagination is in full motion. Your imagination belongs to you and you alone. You have full control. Your imagination is unlike any other.

Your imagination is used for your sole benefit. The characters and scenes created in your “Theater of the Mind” are exactly how you want them to look. The images are created in your mind in a way that gives you the greatest pleasure. It is all to benefit you.

The wonderful details in a story can stir the imagination in magical ways.

Video typically doesn’t stimulate the imagination the way audio does. When you see a car in a video, you know exactly what it looks like. If you and I both see a car in a video, we would both describe it in very similar ways. There is not much left to interpretation.

If I describe a cherry red 1968 Ford Mustang to you, I couldn’t possibly describe every detail. What does the interior look like? Where is it parked, or was it moving? Is there anybody in it? What kind of tires are on it? Hard top or convertible? There are many details to the story left to your interpretation.

Your imagination creates the car in a way that adds the most to your story and vision. That is the magic of recorded audio. Vivid details take your stories to another level of engagement that video cannot.

There are ways to include recorded production elements within your show that will enhance your listener’s imagination and experience. When you add recorded elements, the imagination of your listener will be further stimulated. You will help create elements within your listener’s “Theater of the Mind.”

Here are a few recorded elements you could easily add to your podcast to spice up the listening experience.

1. Intro/Outro

This is show biz. You produce your show to entertain just as much as inform. Your podcast is just as much “show” as it is “business.” Add some sizzle to your show.

A produced “intro” and “outro” for your podcast is an easy first step. The “intro” opens the show, as in “introduction.” The “outro” closes the show, similar to a conclusion. At a minimum, find a great piece of music that will open and close your show. You can find many sites on the internet that sell music clips for less than a few dollars.

 

2. Interviews

Guest interviews are a great way to add depth to your audio. A second voice on the show will stir the imagination. Listeners will wonder what your guest looks like. The stories told during the interview will create visions in the mind of your listener.

Listeners enjoy eavesdropping on other conversations more than listening to a lecture. By adding interviews to your show, you allow your listener this pleasure. Sure, you could provide the information yourself rather than going through all the work to secure, arrange and conduct the interview. If you are hoping to develop a relationship with your listener using content that will be engaging, go the extra step by including interviews within your podcast.

 

3. Listeners

Adding listener audio to your show is another way to juice up your podcast. When you simply read a listener e-mail, the question typically lacks the passion that would come from the listener. The inflection is a little different than the caller would use. The question is also asked in the same cadence, style and voice that you ask every other question.

When you add listener audio, a second dimension is added to the show. Though the caller isn’t actually there, the second voice almost creates a conversation. Your audience is now listening to a conversation rather than a monologue. The question will also be asked in a way unique to the caller.

Similar to the way interviews stimulate the listener’s imagination, callers can add to the “Theater of the Mind.

You don’t need to include the entire phone call. It is show biz. Use the part of the call that will most add to your show. If the call includes a bunch of details not relevant to the question or the show, feel free to edit those parts out of the call. As long as you are not changing the intention of the caller, or making it sound like they are saying something they didn’t say, editing the call is perfectly acceptable.

 

4. Audio Examples

When you make reference to a piece of audio, play a sample. If you are talking about an interview that Jimmy Johnson gave after a race, play a clip of that interview. Your listeners will be further engaged by the additional voice. Audio examples are just another way to add that additional level of production to your show.

Additional audio will take your listener to another place. An interview clip will transport your listener to the interview location. An old television clip with create memories of seeing the show. A sample of a classic speech may elicit visions of the orator. Use audio to enhance the listening experience.

 

5. Celebrity Endorsements

People like to have their decisions validated. That is why many companies hire celebrities to endorse their products. If Michael Jordan wears Hanes, it should be alright for me to wear Hanes as well. I don’t feel like I’m the only one doing it when I see Michael Jordan doing it.

You can use this concept to benefit your podcast. If you can get a well-known name in your area of expertise to record a quick endorsement for your show, that piece of audio will add an element of credibility to your podcast. Your listeners will feel like they are not alone in liking your show. They will be validated.

 

6. Sound Effects

Sound effects can easily enhance the imagination. You need to be careful that you don’t overuse sound effects. Too many effects can make your show sound amateur. However, a well-placed effect here and there can add to the delight of listening.

Adam Carolla has a producer who is responsible for adding sound effects to the show. If you haven’t spent time with Adam’s podcast, listen to one episode simply for the production elements. His content may not be your cup of tea. However, the production of the show must be admired.

The magic of recorded audio comes from the imagination. When you stir wonderful visions in the “Theater of the Mind” of your listener, you will truly begin to engage your audience. You can then begin to build meaningful relationships with your listeners and keep them coming back again and again. Use these ideas to add a little “show biz” to your podcast today.

Photo Credit: Bigstock

Guest Posting isn’t Dead (…Yet)

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Early this month, I was having a conversation about guest posting with a friend of mine. This is a topic I have personally been examining over the last year, so when he asserted that “guest posting is dead,” I had to voice my opposition.

I do, however, think that guest posting expectations bloggers have are sometimes a bit out of whack. Guest posting isn’t dead any more than blogging itself is dead, but the way some bloggers go about guest posting is certainly putting it on life support.

(If you’re new to guest posting, you might want to check out our five-part series on guest posting, which will help you write better posts and place these posts on great blogs, as well as our beginner’s guide to guest posting.)

Guest Posting the Wrong Way

Guest posting started as a simple theory: if you write a free post for another blogger and his/her readers like it, they’ll come back to your blog via the link at the end of your post and become a member of your community as well.

I can tell you from tons of personal experience that this doesn’t usually happen, at least, not at a rate that makes your hard work worthwhile.

Even if you write a guest post for a well-known, popular blogger, that traffic isn’t going to translate. Readers are fans of certain blogs because they like that specific blogger. You’re someone new, unknown, not to be trusted. A small percentage of people who read your post – even if they like it – will actually click the link in your bio, and an even smaller percentage will actually become long-term readers on your blog.

If you go into guest posting with the expectation that you’re going to get tons of traffic and new readers to your own blog, you’re likely going to be sorely disappointed.

Guest Posting = Branding, Not Immediate Traffic

I still recommend guest posting, however, because if you do it properly, you can end up with tons of new readers. It’s about being strategic.

Guest posting is about branding. You want your name to suddenly start popping up everywhere so people start to recognize it. If you write a one-time guest post on another site, you might get a few curious readers coming to your own blog, but if the same readers start to see your name everywhere, they’re going to start to wonder who you are, and if they like your content, they’re going to end up on your blog sooner or later.

So, think about guest posts in terms of groups of posts going out over the course of a week, not just single posts here or there. Immediate traffic shouldn’t be the goal; you’ll see traffic over time as name recognition builds.

Guest Posting for SEO

Guest posts are also great for SEO purposes. You do have to be careful about putting too much stock into a single type of link-building, since Google is constantly changing, but having your link without a post on a popular blog can help your search engine standings. Even better than linking back to your homepage in the bio is to link to specific posts relevant about the topic within the guest post you write. Don’t overdo it or your host will likely turn down the post, but definitely link to posts on your blog when relevant and helpful to the reader.

Relationship Building with Guest Posts

My favorite reason to guest post is to build relationships with other bloggers. If you offer a well-written, interesting guest post for another blogger, you’re giving them free content that they can’t get anywhere else. It’s a great way to get on someone’s radar. Often, I’ve guest posted for someone and they’ve gone on to become a long-term reader of my blog, even though they had previously never heard of me (or just knew me as one of the bajillon commenters on their site). Relationships with other bloggers in your niche are invaluable.

Managing Expectations

At the end of the day, guest posting is simply about managing your expectations. If you are looking for massive traffic numbers, especially right away, this is not an technique worth your time. If you’re taking a more “slow and steady wins the race” approach to blogging and interested in benefits other than traffic, guest posting is definitely a great blog-building technique to add to your promotional activities.

Interested in getting the most out of a guest post – or really any post you write on any blog? Jon Morrow is coming to NMX Las Vegas this January to present a session on the Anatomy of a 100,000 Visitor Post. You don’t want to miss this one!

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