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Small Business Blog Tune Up: Turbo Charge with SEO

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SEO turbo charge for your blog

Let’s face it: small businesses blog for one reason: to get noticed and eventually lead to some sort of sale. Whether demonstrating expertise on a topic, promoting your services or brand, or interviewing someone in the industry, you are encouraging people to come to your site, share your content, and ultimately do business with you. Paying attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can fuel your blog with more horsepower for relatively low effort.

Surprisingly, many small businesses have never heard of SEO or are intimidated by the acronym and what it means. But in reality, basic SEO takes little time and budget–you just need a little extra TLC every time you publish a post. I’m a big believer in the oft-repeated mantra, “The best SEO is good writing,” but imagine if you enlist the powerful combo of great content and some SEO tricks? Unstoppable.

Start Your Engines (Search Optimization that is)

Getting your site to rank high and often on search engines like Google and Bing is considered both an art and science, but still remains a mostly mysterious formula that mere mortals like us don’t control or understand (unlike Google). To make matters more confusing, search engines change and update their algorithms often, like the much-talked about Google Panda. But there are regular, basic steps you can take to increase the chances of your blog getting noticed early and often on search engines.

Get into Gear

If you have a WordPress.org site (that you pay to host the content), there are all-in-one SEO Plugins that will help guide and do the work for you out of the box. (Important and sometimes confusing distinction: Many small businesses use the free version of WordPress.com, which does not offer SEO plugins).

For the many small businesses on WordPress.com, the company stands behind its SEO in that “80 to 90%” of SEO mechanics is done automatically, which builds confidence, but we can can top 100% with just a little extra work.

Blogger.com is generally not considered particularly SEO-friendly (and ironically owned by Google) but has a page devoted to the practice. You can also find some tips here and other resources on the web about SEO on Blogger.

Move into the Fast Lane

For the majority of bloggers that are on WordPress.com, take these easy steps before publishing each post. The order you do them is a matter of personal preference: planning up-front versus optimizing at the end, just so long as you do it.

  • Use keywords for turn signals.

Once you have your topic and content nailed, think about potential keywords for your  post. For instance, if you’re writing about mortgage trends in your local real estate market, include all associated words at least once and think about other ways to say them sprinkled in your blog, typically this will happen organically anyway. The Google keyword search tool offers a comprehensive view of how your chosen keywords will fare. Be aware that there are different schools of thought on keyword density and “formulas” for the best results,but I advocate authenticity above all, meaning your post should sound natural, like a human communicating, not  a word-repeating robot. In fact, search engines have sophisticated tools that route out black hat seo practices like keyword stuffing and mark as spam.

  • Move the headline to front seat.

Sometimes in our quest to be clever or get attention (myself included) blog post titles can be obtuse for search. As with keywords, take the time to make  your headline  searchable. For instance I recently did a post on outdoor billboards and the headline was “Sex, Religion, Politics (and a Hitler teapot): Controversial Billboards Revisited”. Not exactly SEO-friendly. So I at least changed the “slug”, after the date, to “controversial-billboards-2012″. That earns me a more regular hits and I can still maintain my self-proclaimed witty headline.

  • Images ride shotgun.

As bloggers, we know the value of adding images and graphics to tell our story and it’s also a proven fact that content with images get more hits that those without. In a few easy steps, graphics can be a powerful SEO tool by reducing the file size (search engines dislike slow loading sites), renaming the file name to something specific and meaningful, and adding a title. There are other steps you can take.

  • Make Pit Stops for Categories and Tags.

Even if you’re pressed for time, “Categories” and “Tags” is worth the effort to do some of the SEO work for you, especially knowing the difference between the two:  Think of “Categories” as the bucket of content type versus “Tags”, which are more detailed words and phrases about the post. For the outdoor billboard piece, the Categories might be “outdoor billboards” and “advertising.” Tags would be more specific, like “Hitler teapot” or “J.C. Penney”.

  • Create your own traffic.

As a standard practice, linking to your own related posts, other blogs, or external content add value and insight, and also work to boost your SEO. As with keywords, link strategically and where it makes sense. No stuffing allowed!

  • Honk Your Own Horn

Most bloggers use their social network to get the word out for each new post. This is just good old self-promotion, but a reminder you can also increase your SEO with every share and reaching your extended network. A quick way to do this each time is by using the WordPress publishing feature that automatically sends to all social media outlets, or you can manage this process yourself. I opt to share manually to target different messages to my audiences, but nice to know I can use publishing in a hurry.

… Never Hit the Cruise Button

Once you’ve taken these primary steps to SEO-ize your blog, keep the wheels in motion for long-term good habits and practice. And remember, it’s not just good content that helps build organic SEO, but posting on a regular basis is just as important. Last but not least, pay attention to your stats: what are people searching on to find your blog? Use that data to fine tune your content continually.

What SEO practices work best for your blog?

Black Eyes and Bruises: How to Finish a Blog Post That’s Fighting You

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Finish a Blog Post That's Fighting You

Most of the time, blog posts just kind of flow from my fingers as I type. I might do a bit of an outline before I start, but I can finish the first draft of most posts in under an hour (and sometimes in as little as 10-15 minutes).

But every so often, a blog post decides to fight me. I have a great idea–or so I think–but the words just won’t come. I’m stuck staring at a blank screen, and when I do finally get some words written, I’m not happy with what I’m producing.

So I scream.

Or, at least I want to. I don’t actually scream because I don’t want to frighten the neighbors, but I have a little temper tantrum that usually involves me slamming my laptop closed and proclaiming that I’m giving up blogging and all other writing jobs because I’m no good. At one point, I actually told my boyfriend at the time, “Stick a fork in me! I peaked while in college! IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE!”

I might be a tad dramatic when I have writer’s block.

Yet, this isn’t traditional writer’s block in that I don’t know what to write. I know exactly what I want to write. The words are just in a boxing match with me.

I’m going to share with you a few ways I get through it whenever this happens, but please tell me that I’m not alone. Have you ever experienced knowing what you want to write but for some reason not being able to write it? What do you do to get through this kind of writer’s block?

My tips:

  • Delete everything.

Yep. It seems harsh, but sometimes, the best course of action is to highlight the entire post and hit the delete button. When you aren’t feeling it, your readers aren’t going to feel it either, and editing a pile of crap is often not worth the trouble. Save the idea, but burn everything else to the ground. Starting fresh can be cathartic and it might inspire you to approach the topic in a new way, giving you the ability to write something worth reading.

  • Have the tantrum (and work on something else).

As I mentioned, when I can’t seem to write, I throw a fit like a five-year-old who’s balloon just popped. It’s actually pretty effective. I get really mad, pace a bit, and then work on something else. Like a post about what to do when you’re trying to finish a blog post that’s fighting you. (Seriously, I just got done with a tantrum about another post that is bothering me.) Sometimes, I just need to come back to the original post with fresh eyes another day.

  • Play devil’s advocate.

Sometimes, it can help me clarify my opinions on a topic if I try to write the opposite. Playing devil’s advocate is not easy, especially when you have really strong feelings about a topic, but doing so really helps me find weaknesses in my own argument. Looking at a topic from a different angle is also great for getting the creative juices flowing, so for that reason alone, I like doing this writing exercise.

One thing I never do, no matter how frustrated I might be, is publish a post that isn’t my best work. The amount of utter crap on the Internet disgusts me, and by not putting my best foot forward with every single post, I’m only adding to the problem. In addition, it opens up the gateway to complacency. One “meh” blog post easily turns into two and before long, you’ve lowered the bar for your entire blog. So, even if a post takes a little more time, I’ll let it give me a black eye while wrestling it to perfection instead of just muttering “good enough” and hitting the publish button.

Your turn: when you can’t find the right words for what you want to say, how do you get through the blogging slump and finish the post that’s fighting you?

5 Ways to Avoid B2B Blogger Burnout

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falling from chair Whether you write about GPS systems or accounting software, you know blogging about business-to-business (B2B) topics gets boring quickly. As time goes by and you keep pushing for new topic ideas and trying to find more time to write about them, you often find yourself feeling uninspired, bored, or otherwise wishing for a way out. So you have to ask yourself: How can I avoid this problem in the first place?

To help answer that question, here are five ways to avoid getting burned out as a blogger!

Keep Up with the Competition

A little healthy competition can be a good thing. When you watch the other guys churning out quality content time and time again, you know it’s possible. What’s more, you’re challenged to try to keep up. Hopefully you’re already following a variety of other blogs in your industry, but if not, do some research and subscribe to a handful of the best. Then use them to keep yourself motivated.

Seek Out Inspiration

Finding inspiration goes hand-in-hand with eyeing the competition—by continuously taking in relevant content, you set yourself up to be inspired. Follow blogs in your industry, media outlets relevant to your field, interesting users on social media, and so on. Anything that serves to cultivate fresh ideas and concepts is worth using.

Get Help

When it comes to blogging, your load gets lighter when you ask for help. Who else on your team could contribute? If you’re a one-person operation, could you enlist guest bloggers? What series could you launch and then ask colleagues to contribute content? By delegating part of your blog work, you free yourself up to stay inspired.

Think Outside the Box

When you’re stumped for new topic ideas, don’t quit blogging—think about a blog post that’s different from the ones you’ve been doing. If you typically share your thoughts, why not post a roundup of other articles from around the Web? Or perhaps you might interview an industry authority, review a relevant book, or create and post a unique infographic. By letting yourself think outside the box, you expand the ways blogging can work for you.

Plan Ahead—and Be Realistic About It

Setting an editorial calendar for your blog, in which you plan a month’s or a quarter’s posts ahead of time, may sound daunting. The truth is, though, that knowing what you need to write ahead of time is half the battle. It’s harder to feel uninspired when Friday’s topic and synopsis are right before you. Likewise, when you set your schedule, be realistic about it. If you know you are only able to write once a week, set your calendar accordingly. This not only helps you avoid frustration and burnout, but it also gives your readers clear expectations about when you post.

What do you think? Have you experienced some sort of blogger burnout from time to time? What could you do about it? If you’ve tried one of the above strategies, has it helped? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

Image Credit: Bigstock

10 Tips for Discovering New Blogs

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discovering new blogs

We all tend to get stuck in our own blogging cliques from time to time. I’m as guilty as anyone. But getting out there and finding new blogs to read can be really inspiring. It can give you ideas for your own blog, introduce you to new people who have something to teach you, and give you a new perspective on the same old topics.

Below, I’ve listed several ways to find new blogs to read. My challenge to you is this: at least once a month, use one of these tips to expand your feed reader (and purge any blog you don’t absolutely love – life is too short to read crap).

1. Ask your mailing list to email you recommendations.

Lots of people will reply with their own blogs, some will reply with others’ blogs. In either case, you have the potential to find some gems.

In order to avoid slamming your inbox, which is possible if you have a big email list, ask people to submit their favorite blog via a Google Doc form. Ask for the name of the blog, the URL of the blog, and a one-sentence description of the blog. That way, you can easily sort through submissions to find blogs that truly seem interesting.

2. Ask for recommendations via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Yes, you’re going to get a lot of self-promoters, but you’ll also get some good recommendations as well. As with asking your email list, however, keep in mind that these are already people in your circle of friends and fans. So many of the recommendations you get will likely be for blogs you’ve already heard of or already read. It’s a start, because you will probably get some new blogs named as well, but keep going down this list to really get our of your circle and find brand new blogs. PostPost is also a tool you can use to easy dive into social recommendations without even flat-out asking people to send you links.

3. Discover new blogs on Pinterest.

You don’t need to be a Pinterest user to get benefits from Pinterest. Even if you aren’t interested in creating a profile and pinning, you can browse through the Pinterest categories to see what other people are pinning. Go to the category that most closely reflects your own niche, click through some of the most interesting-looking pins, and discover some new blogs. Now every pin will lead to a blog you want to follow, but some will.

You can also use Pinterest’s search function to find interesting pins, but be aware that this platform doesn’t have the best search out there. It’s okay, but you do have to wade through a lot of crap and duplicates. It’s better than it used to be, but it still needs work.

4. Do a Twitter search for some main keywords in your niche.

People love sharing links on Twitter. Use this platform’s search function to find the links others are sharing. Simply type in a keyword relating to your niche, and check out the links others are tweeting. These could lead to some awesome blogs you never knew existed.

5. Browse blog directories.

Blog directories aren’t as hot as they once were, but they can still be helpful if you’re trying to find new blogs. Here are some places to search since blogs are categorized:

You can find even more blog directories listed on TopRank (this list is periodically updated).

6. Check out who else is attending an event.

NMX is the obvious example, but you could do this for any tradeshow or conference you’re planning to attend. Some events have attendee directories, but even those who do not give you this access can help you find new blogs to read. Simply find the event hashtag on Twitter (ours is #NXM) and see who is tweeting about the event. This works especially well in the 1-2 months surrounding the actual event.

If someone else is attending the same event as you, they probably have a blog or website that is interesting to you. As an bonus, this also will introduce you to others before the event, so take advantage and set up interviews and meetings with people you find interesting.

7. Use Google Blog Search.

Many people never realize that Google has a special type of search just for blogs. When a topic interests you, try using this search instead of the main search. It will help you discover new bloggers instead of the same old news sites that everyone reads. Other search engines have a similar function (in case you don’t use Google).

8. Use Paper.li.

With Paper.li, you can easy create a “newsletter” of sorts that includes your favorite content. I’m sure you’ve seen some of your Twitter friends broadcasting their Papers. However, even if you don’t use this service to create your own Paper, you can use it to discover new blogs. Just click on any Paper.li link that someone tweets to see what content they’re reading.

If you want to get out of your circle a little, though, try instead going directly to the Paper.li site to see what people are curating. Simple click the “newstand” button at top right and then type a topic into the search bar. You’ll see tons of Papers about your topic of choice, each with lots of links to blogs where you’ll find content about this topic.

9. Sign up for Swayy.

Although relatively new, Swayy is a great way to discover new content. It’s still invite-only, but head to their website and request one and you’ll get in pretty quickly. Swayy allows you to sign up for topics that interest  you, and then it will display content in those categories. you can browse through new blog posts, read what interests you, and (my favorite part) instantly share the best content. You can even see analytics – they’re very basic, but you’ll be able to tell which of your shares were most popular. Like I said, Swayy is the new kid on the block, but so far I’m loving this tool for discovery.

10. Visit commenters’ blogs.

If someone comments on your blog, they are highly engaged with your content. Check out their blog in return – you might be interested in their offerings as well.

I like the comment plugin CommentLuv because it allows your commenters to link to their most recent post, instead of just linking to their blog homepage. That way, when you are perusing comments, you can click on links that catch your eye instead of randomly clicking through to blogs or websites that might not interest you. A post title is easier to understand than a blog name.

You can also use this technique on other blogs you like, especially if they use CommentLuv. It doesn’t have to be your own blog. Make sure to tell people how you found thing – it’s a great endorsement for a blogger you like.

So there are my ten tips. How do you find new blogs to read?

Image Credit: Altered, from Bigstock

From Good to Great: 5 Ways to Turn Passion into Better Blogging

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If there’s one thing that sets the big blogs apart, it’s passion. With that in mind, here are five ways to turn your passion into better blogging!

1. Be Willing to Learn New Things

Take that enthusiasm you have for your industry and use it to grow your ability to communicate about it. Blogging is a unique medium, different from magazine advertising, direct mail marketing, or email newsletters—so invest the time to learn how it works and to continually improve your skills. Here are a few areas to explore:

  • HTML/CSS: In today’s world of user-friendly blog software and templates, you don’t need to know HTML or CSS coding to start a site—but learning a few basics won’t hurt. In fact, with a little extra coding knowledge under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to tweak your design as you like. For a good start, see this helpful article at Google.
  • Design: Content may be king, but design definitely matters. Keep track of blog designs you like and continually look for ways to raise the bar on how your site looks to visitors.
  • SEO: Search engine optimization is crucial for increasing traffic because it helps bring users to your site when they’re already searching for related information. For more information on this topic, take a look at “Why SEO Matters No Matter How Brilliant Your Content Is.”
  • Photography: The Internet is a visual place, so improving your pictures goes a long way towards improving your site. At the Straight North Blog, we’ve used royalty-free images from Fotolia; at my personal blog Food Loves Writing, I’m always looking for ways to take better pictures and even to hand-illustrate when appropriate.

2. Let Your Excitement Show—on Social Media

When someone is passionate about what he or she is saying, it’s not hard to tell—and that’s just as true online as it is at cocktail parties. Whether on Twitter or Facebook or another site, let your genuine enthusiasm show by sharing and posting online the things that catch your attention.

  • Relevant Links: Find a blog or website that inspires and motivates you? Share it with your followers and tell them why you like it. Not only does this make your feed more valuable, but it also builds community with the authors and creators whose works you’re promoting. Food bloggers do this all the time when they share recipes and links from other sites, like Sarah Kieffer from the Vanilla Bean Blog does here on Facebook:

vanilla bean blog

  • Interesting Articles: When you come across a study or article that relates to your industry, tell your fans about it—they might feel the same way, like Helene from French Foodie Baby does here:

french foodie baby

  • Your Own Work: Promoting your own content on social networks is acceptable, as long as that’s not all you promote. With discretion, let your followers know about your recent work—blog posts, press releases, news updates—and where they can find it.

the house that lars built

3. Find Other People as Passionate as You Are

One of the greatest benefits of sharing your passion online is finding a network of people who also love what you love. Whether you’re a food blogger obsessed with baking, a business blogger fascinated by corporate case studies, or a graphic designer ever on the hunt for slick logos, you can bet there are other bloggers who feel the same way. By forming relationships with like-minded people, you create a strong community that greatly enhances your online experience. Reach out on social media or via email.

Some of the benefits of blog community include:

  • Genuine friendships
  • Loyal audience
  • Promotion of each other’s work
  • Creative inspiration
  • Opportunities to learn
  • Greater visibility
  • Enjoyment

4. Reach High for Specific Goals

Passion is great, but passion with a purpose is even greater. Rather than just striving to blog better, set specific goals—this helps guide your efforts and ensures you’re moving towards a better blog.

Three tips for setting blog goals:

  1. Be Specific: Don’t say, “I want to blog better.” Say, “I want 2,000 new RSS subscribers by the end of three months.”
  2. Make Goals Measurable: If your goal is more subscribers, find a way to calculate that number. If your goal is a lower bounce rate, set up Google Analytics. Make your goals measurable so you know if you’re hitting them.
  3. Set Time Limits: Be sure to set time limits on your goals. Rather than aiming to blog twice a week, aim to blog twice a week for a year—this helps to keep you motivated.

5. Branch Out

Who says you have to stop at blogging? Why not branch out beyond traditional posts into the world of videos or podcasts? Sometimes a new vehicle is all you need to improve your work. Here are a few ideas for spreading your passion even farther:

  • Videos: Visual, engaging, and filled with potential for adding your personality to your site, videos are typically crowd pleasers. Try answering reader questions, sharing behind-the-scenes information, running interviews over video, or giving helpful how-tos, like Meghan from Eat Live Make does here:

photography 101

  • Podcasts: Built off the idea of radio broadcasts, podcasts let you communicate with your audience orally, opening up all kinds of possibilities, from interviews to roundtable discussions to music and more. One new way to do this is through a Google+ Hangout, which is what Alex and Sonja from A Couple Cooks did on March 9.
  • Guest Posting: Spread your voice online by guest-posting on other websites, like authors do on this site regularly. This builds community with other blog authors and gets your brand out to a larger audience.
  • E-books: By making an e-book, you have a packaged product to sell or give away. This option is great for how-to guides, topical booklets, compilations, etc.  You may create the book in a Word processor, save it as a PDF, and market that PDF directly through your site; or you could go through a service like Amazon Kindle Direct, like we did with our ebook.

written together

Your Thoughts

Whether you’ve been blogging a day or a decade, what have you seen to be keys to blogging passion? How does it show? How can you nurture it? Is passion driving what you do?

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.

7 Pieces of Blog Advice to Ignore

Author:

When it comes to advice, blogging’s like anything else—everybody’s got an opinion, and these opinions often conflict. How can you know whose to trust? Which advice is the right advice? Are there certain tips that you can always assume to be untrue?

To help answer those questions, here are seven pieces of advice you can safely ignore:

1. “Always blog every day.”

One of the earliest and most popular pieces of advice given to bloggers was also one of the worst, saying you have to blog every day. While the experts say daily blogging is necessary for building traffic, the truth is that daily blogging is not the only way to gain readers. In fact, some bloggers find the pressure to post every day lowers their posts’ quality and therefore, in the long run, hurts them more than it helps.

Better advice: Blog regularly, but blog quality.

2. “You need to be controversial.”

Controversial topics indeed draw readers’ attention—but sometimes they backfire. When a site with a generally happy, uplifting tone publishes a sharp, critical article, the audience recoils. Controversy for its own sake is not beneficial; it’s alienating.

Better advice: Don’t feel you need to be controversial to be different. It’s just as interesting to approach a topic from a new angle or perspective. More than that, stay authentic to your own voice.

3. “Comment on other sites constantly.”

In blogging’s early days, everyone said to comment on other sites as much as possible because by responding on other blogs, you alert other bloggers to your site.

Better advice: Rather than commenting on blogs to bring traffic to your own, comment on other blogs when you’re genuinely interested in what the blogger has to say. This fosters real relationships.

4. “Don’t go too specific.”

The biggest blogs are about the biggest topics—or at least that’s what some experts say. That’s why specialists often recommend writing about the industries with the largest followings. But if writing about the popular topics isn’t authentic to your voice, readers will notice—and you’ll never get anywhere.

Better advice: When someone says your niche is too specific, don’t listen. Whatever your passion, an audience exists for it.

5. “You have to build traffic.”

Whether you blog about accounting or home design, the experts push for numbers, numbers, numbers. Everything is about building Web traffic and attracting more eyes to your content—but, in reality, building traffic is only one potential goal.

Better advice: Evaluate what you hope to accomplish with your site—Brand awareness? Better SEO for your website? New leads? More sales?—and see if that goal demands more traffic. If it doesn’t, don’t waste your time.

6. “Pull pictures from Tumblr.”

Everybody knows pictures make blogs more attractive and interesting—they give readers something to look at, respond to, and sometimes share. And if you look at other blogs, you’ll find other bloggers taking pictures from Tumblr or Pinterest and posting them on their own sites. You may do it, too.

Better advice: Most photos on Tumblr don’t link to the original source, and taking someone else’s picture without permission is not okay; it’s stealing. It’s better to use your own pictures, or use a resource that gives full permission for usage.

7. “Nobody reads blogs anymore.”

Here’s a piece of advice meant to discourage: Blogging is done. You hear this from cynics and experts alike, along with stats on how many blogs exist and how few find success. Why should you even bother with a blog? Stick to social media instead.

Better advice: The prevalence of blogging is less a testament to over-saturation and more a testament to its power. In 2013 more than ever, content is key for firms to stand out online, as well as for individuals. Blogs add relevant, authoritative content for businesses and draw big-time SEO power for websites. That’s why, whether you blog for business or pleasure, blogging is worthwhile.

Your Turn

Does this post resonate with you? Have you received advice like this from well-meaning blog experts and wondered what didn’t add up? What other bad advice have you received about blogging? What good advice?

5 Creative Solutions for Twitter Embeds on WordPress

Author:

When WordPress came out with the ability to embed Tweets on posts and pages, a few of us thought, “cool.” It’s so easy. Just click on “Expand”, then on “Details,” which will open up the single tweet. Then just copy and paste the URL. And there you are: a sweet, instantly embedded tweet, like this:

 

But after the excitement wore down, we struggled to find a really good use of it, and it seemed that the feature would become just another WordPress function.

With that said, let’s wrap our brains around 5 ways to get creative with embedded tweets.

1. The Rambling Testimonial Problem

Sometimes your clients’ testimonials can seem too formal, too long or lacking in authenticity while the real ones —short, to the point and fun— are ‘hidden in unexpected places.

The Solution: Mix it up by embedding a few real-time tweets on your site’s pages along with your others. If someone brags about your services, workshops or products in a tweet, be ready to capture it before it whooshes by.

2. The Boring Review Problem

Sometimes reviews of products or services feel canned to your readers, lacking in freshness, spontaneity and personality. They are just plain boring.

The Solution: I see fantastic, personal, in-the-moment tweets about restaurants, hotels and other products and services come through my stream all the time. If you see a tweet about you or your business, take it for what it is and consider using it because it’ll make a powerful statement.

3. The Dull Fact Problem

Sometimes facts you want to present in a blog post or web page are intriguing and other times they are dull.

The Solution: If someone shares a fact on Twitter,  someone with a name and a face, well, that makes it more interesting. Of course, you should verify that it is indeed true, but think about livening up your article or post with it.

4. The Self-Important About Page Problem

Let’s face it. An about page can easily become the ramblings of an egomaniac. Whether you write in the first person or third person, you are talking about yourself and attempting to show the world that you can solve their problems. It can make you feel icky, writing so much about yourself.

The Solution: Sometimes someone shares something unique about you on Twitter and in fewer than 140 characters, the have captured the essence of you. It’s great because it provides social proof. It isn’t just you saying things about yourself. A few tweets from other people on your about page offer that unique, outside perspective.

5. The I’m-Talking-to-Myself Problem

 Your blog can feel like one huge echo chamber  if it’s always just you.

The Solution: Bringing in new voices to supplement your post or story is a great way to create a conversational setting. By scattering tweets here and there from people who have something to say about your topic in real time can add an in-the-moment feel. Another benefit of embedding your tweets is that if a reader finds the per on interesting, they can click and follow them on Twitter, right from your blog.

What other ways can you see embedded tweets being used to make your content more powerful?

Putting Pen to Paper: P H O T O G R A P H Y

Author:

Have you ever had a challenging time coming up with a blog topic? Everyone has a different way to jumpstart their juices. I simply take notes (yes, actually take to paper, pen in hand) and jot what comes to mind. So if you’re at a complete stop, simply grab a piece of paper, then start jotting anything that comes to you. Every dot is a powerful connector.

I love photography, so I decided to jot down each letter to jumpstart this post about my inspiration for taking photographs. Perhaps one of the letters will stick-to-mind on your next jaunt into the world of photography, or in your own writing discovery.

P-H-O-T-O-G-R-A-P-H-Y

Passion: everything that gives this little planet a voice excites me. I am always present-minded aware that life is fleeting. It gives me that sense of urgency to capture unique moments of truth.

 Autumn Rainbow

 

Honesty: many people ask me if I “stage” my subject. I am a true believer in what you see in that moment is truth, and I want to snap it and share it, exactly how it presents in front of me.

Asbury Park Americana

 

Opportunity: opportunity is all around you. Look down, to the side, up. Frame a spot catching your eye. And snap the shot. Right place, right time.

Three Umbrellas

 

Timing: sometimes you’re simply in the right place at the right time. And, sometimes you’re not. So create that timing. When you anticipate that perfect moment wait, patiently… patiently.. patiently… then snap your shot!

Tent Sweet Tent

OOH!: it’s that feeling: “STOP THE CAR” ~ you just *have* to stop what you’re doing, grab your camera and take the shot. There’s nothing like the feeling that you captured a moment no one else had the chance to see, and immediate need to share it!

Sandy Moment

 

Gratitude: when I’m in the right place at the right time; when I upload my photos to my computer then discover the camera captured something I didn’t see, I say “thank you” aloud to The Universe.

Kiss

Readiness: goes without saying.  A photographer is *always* ready to take the shot. Whether it be camera-in-hand or simply cell phone with camera, anything with a lens, and memory.

Grandfather

Amazement: I truly am amazed by life. Its design, texture, color, shape, expression. Everyday is a day of wonderment and inspiration to capture that moment.

Celebration

 

Patience: admittedly, not my strongest ability, though, interestingly, if I anticipate that perfect shot, I can hold tight and still for as long as it takes.

Effervescent Rainbow

 

Happy: the moment I have the opportunity of time to grab my camera and head outdoors to shoot, I’m happy, and all in the world is good.

Serenity

 

Yay! The feeling of sharing my photos and seeing a person’s eyes light up and say “Wow! I love this!” It gives me complete joy to evoke emotion with a photograph. It gives me a true sense of accomplishment and confirmation of purpose in the art of photography.

Snowswept Beach

 

So if you find yourself at full-stop on ideas for starting your post, or you’re a budding photographer interested in looking for a way, or reason to begin, simply grab your pen, and sheet of paper. Your mind already knows the answer; it just needs the pen and paper to jot the “how to” and then, you’re on your way!

Do you have more tricks for coming up with, and moving ideas ahead?

How to Turn ONE Piece of Content into an Online Marketing Marathon — Without Lifting a Finger!

Author:

What if you could create one piece of content, and then turn it into four completely separate pieces of fresh, original content to use all over the internet to help market and promote your online brand?

It’s doable. And way easier than most think, and it’s the topic that I’ll be covering at my presentation in Vegas this coming January, entitled “45 Things Content Creators Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants to Help Grow Their Business.”

In the meantime, and to get you thinking about the topic and what it can mean to you, as an online content creator, here’s a rundown on how it works. You’ll see a bit of a pattern developing, which I’ll cover at the end of the post.

Step 1

Sit down in front of a video camera, with a like-minded person that you know your audience will love to hear from. If you can’t be with them in person, then get them on Skype and record a split-screen chat between the two of you. We’re talking 20-minutes of content, that’s all that’s needed.

Step 2

Send that video to an AV virtual assistant to have it converted into an audio podcast. They’ll clean it up and splice together a cool sounding intro and outro, too – to make it sound super professional.

You can also have that VA cut up the original video file into 5-minute clips, creating four original videos that can be uploaded to YouTube and used for keyword marketing, individually!

Step 3

Send the audio file to a transcriptionist virtual assistant (known universally nowadays as a “VA”) and have them convert it into a Word document. They will then draft and schedule the written content into your blogging software, which can be used as blog post content.

Step 4

Send that Word document to a graphic designer virtual assistant and have them layout it all out into a snazzy looking eBook, or PDF guide of some sort, which you can then use as a giveaway – such as an opt-in offer – or just a freebie for your community – they’ll love you for it, telling all their friends to go visit your blog!

Step 5

Have that same graphic designer VA convert certain quotes from the conversation into images that you can use on your social media channels. They’ll brand the image with your logo, a cool photo and a URL for people to remember to check out later on.

BOOM!

Five different pieces of original, branded content created out of just 20-minutes of work. Did you see the pattern? Yep – you got it. Utilize the power of virtual staff to build your content creation empire.

This is Just the Tip of the Content Marketing Iceberg!

There are so many more things you can get virtual assistants to do for you as a professional content creator. Membership sites, squeeze pages, full-blown online courses, Kindle books – you name it.

They can’t, however, do any babysitting, or pick up your dry cleaning!

The list goes on and on and I’ll be going into a LOT more detail on everything at New Media Expo in January. I’ll even touch base on the different tools you can use to work with VAs to have them become super productive, and for you to get the biggest bang for your buck as a virtual boss.

See you in Vegas, baby!

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