June 23rd, 2011

Top 10 Indispensable Tips on How to Take Your Blog to the Next Level

Blogging is a great outlet to provide information, promote your business and establish relationships with your readers. Whatever the reason you have a blog, it’s important that your blog has a purpose and is written for a specific audience.

So, how do you take your blog to the next level? Avid bloggers, Chris Brogan and Michael Pollock have identified some great tactics to get you there. I’ve broken down the top 10, so check them out: 

1.  Write with purpose: First and foremost you must have an objective for your blog. It’s important to have a focus and think about what you want your readers to get out of it, what you can do for them, and what you want them to do after reading your blog.

2. Give them a purpose: Okay so you’ve provided your readers with all of this information, now what? Extract the insights for your readers and let them know what to do next. It’s better to provide your readers with content that’s helpful versus thoughtful. Give them a reason to read your blog and a reason to come back for more.

3. Know how people read: Put your best information first. If they like what they read, they’ll keep reading. People want information fast, so make it easy for them to get through your post. Bold the first sentence of paragraphs and lead with a strong sentence. Break up the post and make it easy for your readers to skim through and understand what they’re going to get out of it.

4. Be Brief: The key is to keep your blog short and simple. No one wants to read long complicated paragraphs. They want the facts, so be short and direct.

5. Ask Questions: This is a great way to get your readers thinking and involved in what you’re talking about. It’s important to make the question relevant to the reader and to ask thought-provoking questions, not just ones with yes or no answers. Make sure you check back and see if people are commenting, if so respond. Another great tactic is to start your post with a response to one of your reader’s questions.

6. Be human: It’s okay to sometimes let your personality shine through. Find a way to connect with your audience on a deeper level, if it’s appropriate.

7. Learn from others: Some of the best blogs are a compilation of others ideas. See what people are talking about and what people are reading. This might give you some inspiration or help you go in a different direction. You’re in the blogging business now, so get out there and see what’s going on in the blogging world.

8. Join the conversation: Start commenting on other blogs and provide a link to your blog in the comment section. This is a great way to not only learn from others, but gain possible new readers as well.

9. Build your audience: Want more readers? Try promoting your blog. There are many ways to do this, but one is to run your RSS feed through a service such as FeedBurner. This allows you to extend your feed and gain more exposure. Your URL is the ultimate link, so make sure it’s everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, company website, back of your business card, a part of your email signature, you name it, just get it out there.

10. Don’t overstuff your post with Keywords: Keyword search tools are great ways to figure out the terms most commonly searched by your audience. But don’t over-do it. Google, Bing and Yahoo will discount your blog post if they feel that you’re trying to game the system. The best approach is always to simply write good content that your target market will share with others.

For 5 more tips on blogging, check out the 60-second video below:

Posted by Rebecca Wilson, marketing analyst for the 60 Second Marketer.

March 1st, 2011

A New Spin on Managed Blogging for Busy Businesspeople

Even after more than a decade, blogging — among the “grandfathers” of the social media platforms — remains one of the best ways that businesses can engage with their customers and prospects online. But for all its strengths, blogging has an Achilles heel: without frequent updates, that is at least every week, blogging falls flat as a marketing tool.

Interested in having a social media presence, but don't have the time to write a regularly-updated blog? Managed blogging may be a solution for you.

It’s not uncommon for big brands to employ an individual or a small team who works full-time on managing blogging and other social media. Small enterprises are at a disadvantage since they tend to be extremely limited in both time and internal resources. Blogging and other social media initiatives are thrown to the intern or collapse altogether.

Enter Bloggernaut, a new service from Atlanta’s Zero-G Creative, which helps small businesses maintain authentic blogs for their firms without a heavy time investment.  In offering service plans that enable blogging up to three times per week, Bloggernaut promises to take no more than an hour of your time every month. (Side note: Erik Wolfe, who runs Zero-G Creative, is a friend of mine, but as of this writing, I have no commercial affiliation with Zero-G Creative.)

The idea of a managed blogging or social media service is not new; this space has been occupied by agencies, consultants and ghostwriters for several years now. At their best, these services offer a viable alternative to having an in-house subject matter expert writing their own blog. A good ghostwriter spends hours with their client, soaking up as much knowledge as they can.

There is a common pitfall in managed blogging, however. As a client’s comfort level with their writing resource increases, there is a natural tendency for the client to step back and disengage from the blogging activity. Over time, the blog belongs less to the client and more to the ghostwriter or agency and the blog’s performance suffers. Authenticity is a primary ingredient for success in any social medium.

What I like about Bloggernaut, and what the service aims to achieve, is that the client’s voice is always present; every blog post is framed by regular phone interviews with the client, and the client’s own words are used throughout.

Bloggernaut offers businesses the convenience of a traditional ghostwriting service but without the fear of compromising authenticity which is a unique — and potentially powerful combination.

If you are considering hiring a third party firm to manage your blog or social media outreach, I would recommend that you explore your options fully before making a decision. You might want to evaluate a few different “flavors” of managed offerings before deciding what fits your business best. Now, you can include Bloggernaut in the mix; they’ve got a unique spin on a business that hasn’t changed much in the last few years.

November 29th, 2010

Blogger’s Glossary

Do you know what a Blog Carnival is? How about Linkbait? Or how about Blackhat Search Engine Optimization?

If you’re a blogger — and even if you’re not — these are definitions you should know. After all, a blog is one of the more important tools in a marketer’s toolchest. And being familiar with our Blogger’s Glossary can help you get more familiar with blogs and blogging.

Blog RSS Feed

This image is an example of a hotlink. The term "hotlink" is just one of 66 blogger terms in this glossary.

With that in mind, I asked Ashley Gallacher from BKV Digital and Direct Response (our sponsor) to track down the top terms every blogger (and every marketer) should know.

Let us know if we missed any that you think should be added.

1. AdSense: An ad serving application run by Google that enables bloggers to monetize their blogs. Every time someone clicks on an AdSense link, the blogger will earn money based on a per-click or per-impression basis. AdSense is good for pocket change, not good if you want to become a millionaire.

2. AdWords: Google’s pay-per-click advertising platform designed to help businesses to promote their products, services and websites. The advertiser identifies the keywords they want to target, and the amount they are willing to pay per click. AdWords is not entirely relevant to bloggers, but it’s still something you should have a good handle on since it’s one of the more important online tools for making money.

3. Akismet: (Automattic Kismet) The most popular spam filter plugin for WordPress blogs. The filter works by combining information about spam captured on all participating blogs, and then using those same spam rules to block future spam. We use it here at the 60 Second Marketer and find it invaluable.

4. Alexa: An internet company (subsidiary of Amazon.com) that ranks all websites on the internet based on traffic to the site. The Alexa rank reflects the popularity of the site; the approximate number of web sites in the world that have the popularity higher than the given site (the smaller the ranking the better).

5. Anchor Text: The visible, clickable text that typically provides the user with relevant information about the content of the link’s destination.

6. Archives: A section of the blog containing previous posts.

7. Automattic: A company founded by Matt Mullenweg in August 2005, and most noted for the development of WordPress (open source bogging software) among other projects.

8. Autocasting: Automated form of podcasting that allows bloggers and blog readers to generate audio versions of text blogs from RSS feeds.

9. Audioblog: A blog where the posts consist mainly of voice recordings sent by mobile phone, sometimes with some short text message added for metadata purposes.

10. Backlinks: Hyperlinks present in other blogs or websites that point either to the homepage or to internal pages of a website. Their significance lies in search engine optimization where the number of backlinks is an indication of the popularity or importance of the website or page. This is how Google determines the PageRank of a webpage.

11. Blackhat Search Engine Optimization: Techniques used to get higher search rankings, usually in an unethical manner. These techniques include: keyword stuffing, invisible text, and doorway pages. (For a quick, 60 Second Marketer video on this topic, click Blackhat and Whitehat SEO techniques.)

12. Blog: A combination of the term web log. This type of website or part of a website is manipulated by an individual with regular, published posts of commentary. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. (For a 60 Second Marketer video on this topic, click Why Most Blogs Fail.)

13. Blog Carnival: A blog event, dedicated to a specific topic, where a host blogger coordinates the collection of relevant contributions from interested people and is published on a regular basis.

14. Blogger: The author of a blog. Blogger is also the free weblog publishing tool from Google.

15. Blogging: The act of writing something on a blog.

16. Bloglines: One of the most popular RSS feed readers. It is a web-based application that allows the user to subscribe to and manage RSS feeds.

17. Blogosphere: Term used to describe the universe created by all blogs and their interconnections.

18. Blogroll: A list of other blogs that a blogger might recommend by providing links to them (usually in a sidebar list).

19. Blog Scraping: Scanning multiple blogs and copying content that is not owned by the individual participating in the scraping process.

20. Comments: The majority of all blog platforms contain a section where readers can post comments on a blog. Comments have transformed blogs into live conversations, largely contributing to the overall success of blogs. Feel free to leave a comment in our comment section below. C’mon, don’t be shy!

21. Comment spam: Adding links via comments that point to the spammer’s website with the goal to increase the spammer site’s search engine ranking.

22. Compete: Web traffic analysis service that publishes the approximate number of visitors to the top 1,000,000 sites in the world.

23. CSS: Acronym for Cascading Style Sheets, a style sheet language used to describe the look and formatting of web pages written in HTML and XHTML. The advantage of CSS is that it allows you to control the style of any number of pages simultaneously from a central location (the CSS file).

24. Domain: Also known as domain name or hostname, it is a name that identifies a website or computer on the Internet.

25. Favicon (favorite icon): A square icon associated with a specific website or web page typically seen in the URL menu bar.

26. Feed: Allows users to receive updates from their favorite websites and blogs, as soon as new content is available. There are two main feed formats: RSS and Atom. (To add the 60 Second Marketer’s RSS feed by clicking the link.)

27. Feed count: Displays the number of subscribers to your feedburner feed.

28. Feedburner: Web feed management provider launched in 2004 that provides custom RSS feeds and management tools and allows you to add special features, and to collect data and statistics about your subscribers.

29. Fisking: A point-by-point criticism disputing or calling out errors in a statement, article, or essay.

30. Google Analytics: The most widely used website statistics service provided by Google that generates detailed specifics about the visitors to a website. We use it at the 60 Second Marketer to track unique visits, page views, bounce rate and other metrics.

31. Google Reader: The most popular Atom and RSS reader around the Internet. It is a web-based application that allows the user to subscribe to and manage RSS feeds. (You can add the 60 Second Marketer to your Google Reader RSS feed by clicking the link.)

32. Hotlinking: Also known as inline linking, the use of a linked object (often an image) from one site in the web page of another site. The second site is said to have an inline link from the site where the image is placed. Click the image on this page for an example of a hotlink.

33. Index Page: The front page of a blog or website.

34. Linkbait: “Bait” in the form of articles, videos, images, etc. that is created with the intention of attracting links to the website that is publishing it. The quantity and quality of inbound links are two of the various metrics used to determine the search engine ranking of a website.

35. Movable Type: Weblog publishing system developed by Six Apart.

36. Meta tags: HTML tags that reside in the section of a web page used to specify page description, keywords and any other metadata not provided through the other head elements. Meta tags used to be a huge deal, until they were abused, at which point Google stopped placing emphasis on them. (For a short, 60 Second Marketer video on this topic, click Google Wants to See You Naked.)

37. Moblogging: A blog posted and maintained via a mobile phone.

38. Niche: In online terms, it refers to a specific topic or subject.

39. Nofollow: A value inserted in the link code that communicates to search engines that they should not follow the link, thus improving the quality of search engine results.

40. PageRank: A technology developed by Google, that determines the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other pages link to it, as well as various other data using a link analysis algorithm. (For a 60 Second Marketer video on this topic, click How Search Engine Spiders Work.)

41. Page Views: Also called impressions. A request to load a single HTML file or web page.

42. Partial and full feeds: Whenever you publish a web feed from a blog or website, you can choose the part of your content that will go the feed. There are two main options: full feeds and partial feeds. Full feeds include all the content that is published on the website. Partial feeds will carry only brief excerpts of the content.

43. Permalink: The unique URL of a single post. Used when linking a post somewhere.

44. Pillar article: Tutorial style article, usually with the goal to teach your readers something. Pillar articles are vital for building validity and generating traffic on your blog. You could argue that this post is an example of a pillar article.

45. Ping: When a web log notifies a server that its content has been updated. Most blogging platforms automatically ping one or more servers once a blogger updates an old post or publishes a new one.

46. Pingback: A network tool used to notify a web author when someone else has links to one of their documents. This allows web authors to keep track of who is linking to and referring to their articles.

47. Pligg: A user-driven social networking content management system designed to manage an unlimited number of authors where the content is driven by independent authors’ contributions.

48. Post: Also referred to as entry, the individual articles that make up a blog

49. WordPress Plugin: Plugins are pieces of code created with the purpose of expanding the functionalities and solving a wide range of problems and needs of WordPress.

50. Pro Blogger: A professional blogger that generates enough income with his blog (or blogs) to be able to live on it.

51. Problogger.net: Website created by Darren Rowse in 2003 to help bloggers add income streams to their personal blogs. Darren knows his stuff — I’m a regular reader of his blog.

52. RSS: Acronym for Really Simple Syndication. It is a family of web feed formats used to deliver information from websites and pages that get updated regularly. Once you subscribe to a particular RSS feed, you will automatically receive updates from the website that publishes the feed, whenever they release new content.

53. Splog: A blog that is used to publish spam material. The purpose is to increase the PageRank or artificially inflate paid ad impressions from visitors.

54. SEO: Acronym for search engine optimization. It includes several activities that are aimed to improve the rankings of a website inside the results page of search engines. (For a short, 60 Second Marketer video on this topic, click What are the Most Common Search Engine Marketing Mistakes?)

55. Social media: A broad term used to define website and web applications where you have social interactions and interactive dialogue around a media form (text, images, audio, video, or any combination of them). I’ve written a book on this topic called How to Make Money with Social Media. You might also be interested in my 60 Second Marketer blog post called How to Launch a Social Media Campaign: A Step-by-Step Guide.

56. Subscribers: Visitors that either grabbed the feed of a website or that subscribed to receive updates via email.

57. Tags: A keyword or term assigned to a piece of information that allows it to be found again via browsing or searching

58. Technorati: Internet Search Engine for searching blogs

59. Trackbacks: If another blogger links to your article you can set up notifications via special comments called trackbacks. This enables the author to keep track of who is linking to or referring to their articles.

60. Twitter: A microblogging service including text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on a user’s profile page.

61. Uniques: The number of unique visitors or humans that have visited a website within a given time frame.

62. Viral Content: Content that spreads very quickly on the Internet. Will this post go viral? That’s a very good possibility, with your help.

63. Vlogging: Blogging using video instead of text. The 60 Second Marketer is not a Vlog, although the 60 Second Marketer YouTube channel has over 50 short, 60-second marketing videos.

64. WordPress: The most popular blogging software on the Internet, create by a company called Automattic. You’re reading a WordPress blog right now!

65. WordPress Themes: Blog presentation designs offered by WordPress

66. URL (Uniform Resource Locator): Specifies where an identified resource is and the avenue for retrieving it. The most common example if the addresses for web pages on the Internet.

That about does it for our social media glossary. I hope you find it helpful. Did we miss anything? Let me know. If you provide the term and the definition below, I’ll give you credit (and a link) for your efforts.

Posted by Jamie Turner, Chief Content Officer of the 60 Second Marketer, the online magazine of BKV Digital and Direct Response. Jamie is also co-author of How to Make Money with Social Media, now available all over the place.