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Creating a Blog Content Engine

Recently, I had the honor of giving a presentation to some of the smartest people in social media. Hosted by the Social Media Association of Michigan, sponsored by Tech Town Detroit, I was asked to “cram everything I know about blogging into a one-hour presentation.”

Well, it’s pretty difficult to condense 12 years of experience into one hour. Knowing that these are savvy marketers, I thought presenting the tools and systems for keeping the content engine turning would be the most helpful since this can be a daunting task for even the most well-seasoned content marketers.

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Do You Really Need a Business Blog

Do You Really Need a Business Blog?

Do You Really Need a Business Blog

Any business can create a blog, and as you know, many, many of them do. But when the time comes to plan your own, you may be wondering whether you really need one at all. After all, you probably have a website, and you should be making your mark in social media. So how do you decide if you say “Hello World!” with a blog or just stick to your already traveled Internet terrain? Here are some questions to ask yourself when making this important decision.

Do you need more traffic?

If you already have all the traffic you need and you really don’t want any more, you don’t need to create a blog. After all, what’s the point of launching something that is likely to help you increase traffic and make more sales if you’re fully content in those arenas? A blog makes it easy to put out fresh, frequent content that makes the search engines happy and brings new prospects your way. Google and other search engines give higher rankings to fresh, relevant content. If you’re keeping your content fresh by providing helpful information and updating your blog regularly, search engines will make it easier for people to discover your blog. Maintaining a quality blog even encourages your current customers to check in regularly to see what you’ve published, possibly even sharing your content with others.

Do you want to build your brand?

If the world (and by the world, we mean your entire audience) already knows everything there is to know about your business, you might not need a blog. But if you’re like the rest of us mere mortal business owners, a blog can really help you build brand awareness. Just be sure to publish compelling, relevant content and mix things up with plenty of videos and images to keep things interesting and exciting. Show your audience who you are, show them why they should care about your business, and keep the self-promotion to a minimum.

Do you want to position yourself as an expert?

If you don’t want people looking to you as a source of information or relying on your expertise, you probably should not create a blog. Blogs are an excellent place to educate your audience, informing them and entertaining them at the same time. And a funny thing happens when you consistently produce quality content that fits this bill. Your audience begins to view you as an expert and looks your way when they need not only information but also products and services.

Do you want to engage your audience?

If you don’t want your audience to feel engaged with your brand—if you’d really rather just keep prospects at arm’s length, don’t start a blog. A blog can help with increasing engagement, which involves getting your audience to communicate with you via the comment section of your posts and (gasp!) responding to them. This helps your audience feel connected with your business. It also allows you to learn what your audience thinks and feels, which can only help you better serve them.

Do you want to demonstrate authenticity?

If you don’t want to convey a sense of openness to your audience, you probably don’t need a blog. Likewise, if you don’t want your audience to develop a feel for your brand’s personality, steer clear. With blogging, your audience gains insight into who you are and what your brand is all about with each post. You can’t help injecting personality into your posts, and as your audience witnesses your openness, they’ll also learn to trust you. That’s a win-win because trust builds brand loyalty.

The time and effort it takes to maintain a blog may be significant, but the benefits can be tremendous. Consumers have come to expect more than just promotion from the companies with which they connect. And if you want to encourage visitors to return to your site, give them a reason to do so. Provide the kind of regularly updated and useful content they expect from a blog.

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing

8 Simple Ways to Breathe New Life Into Your Content Marketing was authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland.

If you’ve been at content marketing for any length of time, you’ve discovered that it’s all too easy to become comfortable or even complacent. You know what you’re doing, you’re no longer a newbie, and things are running like clockwork, but are you doing all you can do? Could doing a bit more improve your results?

Yes, you are putting effort into producing compelling content, but there is always room for improvement. Why should you bother? Well, the bottom line is that even small improvements can prevent your audience from growing bored and losing interest while also providing your current followers with a reason to keep coming back for more. And you want new visitors, right? Taking the time to refresh and reinvigorate your content also encourages sharing and helps to draw new visitors in your direction.

8 Content Marketing Ideas for Brands

Take the smart approach to your content marketing efforts. Here are 8 tips to help inspire you:

  1. Manage Your Content

People have to see your content several times before you become top-of-mind, so be sure to fine-tune the actual pieces of content you will produce and work out when they should appear. To do that, you’ll need an editorial calendar and a content management system. The editorial calendar tells you what’s happening when on which platform and who is responsible for producing it. The content management system gets everything scheduled and ensures you have SEO information and images to go along with the content. Sometimes, both work together.

Two options you can use are Crackerjack Marketing’s free editorial calendar template or CoSchedule, an affordable paid option that integrates with WordPress.

  1. Vary Your Content

Often, people become really good at creating text content. The problem is, however, that such content may provide information an audience can use but become a bit dry after a while. Readers may become bored with the same old content style, and mixing things up a bit can refresh their interest. How can you mix things up? Here are some suggestions for varying your content:

  • Add photos–This can help boost readership, sharing and engagement.
  • Create and post slideshows.
  • Create and post video content.
  • Include infographics.
  • Add relevant memes to lighten the mood and capture interest.

Most businesses include blog posts (a proven lead magnet) and social media posts, at minimum. They may also include eBooks, webinars, slideshows and infographics. Learn more about the benefits of these content types in our two-part series on 7 Types of Content to Include in Your Strategy and Why.

  1. Get Inside Your Audience’s Head

It is all too easy to forget whom you are trying to reach with your content. Too frequently, business people/content producers get caught up in what interests them and focus too much of their content on that. When you’re trying to connect with customers, however, it is critical to make your content relevant and interesting for them. This means identifying your target audience, learning how you can reach its members, and then providing content that speaks to its needs. Incorporate how-to and question-and-answer content whenever possible. This type of content is not only helpful for your audience but also highly shareable.

  1. Work With Guest Bloggers

Your audience gets used to your voice and trusts in your expertise and unique perspective. While that is a good thing, you can shake things up a little by inviting thought leaders to guest post on your blog. This provides your audience with a fresh perspective and can translate into more sharing and exposure for both your blog and your guest blogger.

  1. Focus on Your Formatting

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. While what you have to say is the meat and potatoes of your content, your formatting is the presentation. And many people will pass up even the most hearty content if the presentation is just sloppy. Make your content clear, easy to read and attractive by using the following formatting elements:

  • Subheadings
  • Bulleted lists
  • Relatively short blocks of text
  • Fonts that do not detract from your text but do highlight concepts
  1. Listen to Your Audience

Use analytics tools to figure out who’s already visiting your site and blog and what content they find most interesting. That will help you craft new content to keep them coming back, and hopefully, sharing with others. Many analytics tools also include demographic reports, so you can get fine detail on your target audience. Add social analytics tools and social listening tools to this, and you will get a well-rounded picture of your customers and their interests.

7.    Make Sharing Easy

According to Pew Internet, over 76% of online adults use social networking sites, 64% of American adults have a smartphone and more than 45% own tablets. Your strategy must include content optimized for social sharing from mobile devices. Consider:

  • creating a mobile first website and blog design to make sure all visitors can navigate content easily
  • switching your email newsletter to a mobile first design
  • increasing your activity on the key social sites where your potential customers hang out (this could be LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest or somewhere else depending on your industry)

8. Revisit Your Strategy

Revisit and refine your strategy periodically. This means doing three things:

  • setting realistic goals
  • planning how to execute them
  • deciding how to measure them

Note that your goals have to be realistic. If your business plan has flaws, content marketing isn’t the bandage, and there’s no absolute guarantee of direct sales. What it can do is get more attention for your business and increase conversions, so that you can turn leads into sales.

Isn’t it great when you don’t have to guess at what to do next? Use these 8 smart tips to give your content marketing a boost. Then be sure to come back and share your results with us.

10 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic

Co-Authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland

10 ways to increase blog traffic

Creating blog content is one of the best investments you can make in promoting your business. The stats are clear:

  • Brands that create 15 new posts monthly average 1200 new leads each month.
  • Blogs increase the number of pages in the search engine index by 437%.
  • You’ll get 55% more visitors by having a company blog.
  • Whichever way you look at it, blogging for business is a good thing.

Many brands build a blog and expect the traffic to roll in simply because it’s a super awesome piece of web real estate. They’re in for a rude awakening when their launch day comes and goes with hardly a couple of stragglers stopping by to read what you’ve written.

Then comes the million-dollar question: How can I increase blog traffic?

If you’ve got your system down and producing a steady stream of content, take note of these ten things you can do to increase blog traffic, up your game and get more from your content marketing efforts.

10 Ways to Increase Blog Traffic

1. Go for Visual Appeal

An interesting graphic or video encourages blog readers to share. And this, of course, is what you want. The more your readers share, the more traffic you can expect. Some good ideas include infographics that provide valuable information and appeal to the eye. A well-crafted, visually appealing video may stimulate your readers to share as well. Creating those how-to posts? Mark each step with clear, helpful photos. Without question, visual content is king online. Still not convinced? Here are 37 reasons why you should be incorporating visual content where you can (including your blog!).

2. Go to Your Audience

Instead of waiting for your audience to come looking for you, go ahead and go to it. Seek out online communities in which your audience gathers. Once you find a few that are very active, don’t commit the sin of drive-by posting or link dropping. Instead, become an active participant. Start and join real conversations. Show interest and provide valuable information. Leave your links as allowed by the online community. Include links to relevant information (available on your blog) when it pertains to the discussion at hand and will provide real value to the community. Many communities also allow a signature link, and you can usually provide information about your blog in your profile. Simply put, you have to be social, so kick your inner introvert to the curb for a bit.

3. Incorporate Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking is more than just a good excuse to indulge your OCD tendencies. It’s also an avenue to engaging your audience, building your network and sharing your content. How does it work? Essentially, you use social bookmarking sites to organize and share links you consider valuable. Here are some suggestions, just to get you started: Digg, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and Reddit.

The major benefits of using social bookmarking for your business include the following:

  • You benefit from the social bookmarking website’s credibility. A link from a social website can significantly help your search engine ranking.
  • When your content is bookmarked and shared, you get a boost in credibility, which can draw more customers to your business. Building an image as an industry leader is a good thing.
  • Put all your good stuff in one place. All those awesome reviews and testimonials you get? Make sure interested parties can find them via your social bookmarking site profile. This way, anyone looking can easily find all the reasons you’re so great.

One more thing, and this is important: Always read the rules of the site before you post, and avoid behavior that marks you a spammer. Share other people’s stuff, not just your own, and be social! Finally, keep in mind that it’s even better when others bookmark your content; add social sharing buttons to your blog to make it easy for readers to do so.

4. Try Question-and-Answer Sites

Who cares what you have to say? The people asking questions, that’s who. A high-quality question-and-answer site may have a large audience interested in the types of answers you can provide. Answering their questions in an engaging and interesting manner can help you establish yourself as an expert in your field. You’ll also get to insert links that draw traffic to your blog.
Here’s a handy dandy shortlist of question and answer sites to try:

5. Write Guest Posts

Creating content for a website that is not your own may seem like a counter-intuitive method to increase blog traffic, but it really can work! How? You write an interesting, compelling post relevant to your business and the particular blog. The blog owner posts it and you get to include your bio and a link back to your site, maybe even a line or two about your business.

Tip: Make your links count. Link back to a page (yes, one on your blog) that provides more information about the topic you covered, answers burning questions your reader is sure to have or gives something away for free. Read this post to get all the details on how to get the most out of guest blogging.

6. Present It on Slideshare

One easy tactic to increase blog traffic is to use your content to create presentations on LinkedIn Slideshare. The site has more than 60 million users and is widely used within the business community. To use it effectively, you need to marry the best points from your content, with stunning design and the right tags. If you get it right, your presentation could be featured by Slideshare, which will bring a lot of people back to your blog. Learn more about using the site effectively from this Kissmetrics guide to Slideshare.

7. Publish a Book

It’s also simple to use your blog to create a book or eBook. Spend some time up front thinking about a topic you want to cover in depth, then make each sub-topic an individual post. Not only will you get feedback as a you go (blog comments and social shares can tell you a lot about how people will respond to the content) but you’ll only need to add an introduction and conclusion to finalize your book. Invest in professional editing so that the book of your blog reads like a book instead of a loose collection of posts. Then publish it everywhere, including Amazon, iBooks, and Smashwords. Get it right and you could reach an audience who might never have seen your blog.

8. Syndicate Your Blog

Did you know that Amazon has a tool called Kindle Publishing for Blogs? It’s been around for a while, though it’s still in beta. Add your blog’s RSS feed and a title image and then Kindle users can subscribe to it via Amazon. In our experiences, this won’t net you a huge audience, but it will reach the people who do all their reading on Kindle.

9. Reuse the Stats

If your blog content includes stats, then you have the basis for a compelling infographic. This strategy will work best if you do a lot of research. Well researched and attractive infographics are immensely popular. It’s another way to repurpose blog content and reach a wider audience.

10. Put it on Audio and Video

While you’re pulling data from your blog post, consider two more options for reusing the content. Many people love to consume content on the go and would rather listen than read. For those people, a podcast version of your blog content is ideal. And then there are the people who love watching videos (such as mobile device users). Convert your post to a short video and you’ll get more attention.

These tips will help increase blog traffic and get more eyes on the content you originally created for your blog. As a result, your company can reap the benefits of more attention, more leads and more sales.

guest blogging

The Essential Guide to Guest Blogging

guest blogging

Co-Authored by Sharon Hurley Hall and Christina Strickland

So you thought guest blogging was dead? While Matt Cutts initially suggested that, he later clarified that he was talking about guest blogging for SEO link building. Guest blogging for reach and authority is alive and well, but you have to do it right. That means getting a professional to handle your guest blogging campaign. 

The Benefits of Guest Blogging

If you’ve ever been asked to write a guest post or been offered a guest post for your own blog, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Rest assured, there is more to guest blogging than just the exchange of free content. Guest blogging can help you establish yourself as an authority in your industry and get more targeted visitors to your blog or website. This, of course, carries the potential for increased sales. Besides that, however, guest blogging can help you develop relationships that will further your business.

Expand Your Reach

When you write a post on your blog, you reach your audience–your current readers and any new readers who happen to find your latest post, such as through the search engines or sharing. When you guest post on another party’s blog, you reach that blog’s audience. You can write about what you know and tweak it to cater to the blog’s audience, expanding your reach and attracting a whole new set of readers to your own blog. Some of these readers might not have found you on their own.

Boost Traffic

Each guest post you write should translate into increased traffic for your blog. Typically, you’ll have the opportunity to include a link or two back to your own blog, and if the blog has decent traffic and a solid readership, this can mean an upswing in visitors to your website or blog. If you also accept guest posts, you’ll have even more potential for increased traffic. Your guest bloggers will share the links to the content they provide for your blog, and the people who come to read it may stay a while to check out your other content.

Develop Relationships

If you write as a guest blogger, you have the chance to get to know other bloggers and share ideas. The same goes for accepting guest posts on your site. These bloggers may prove willing to spread the word about your business and send referrals your way. They may also share business opportunities and suggest ways to improve your strategies. Some might even become customers or develop an interest in a partnership with you.

Build Your Reputation

Write guest posts that inform or solve problems for the intended audience, and something wonderful will happen. In time, you will develop a reputation as an expert in your industry–a go-to person. This is especially true if you guest post on well-respected, well-written blogs. A better reputation means more business!

Tips for Guest Blogging Success

Take a look at the profiles on your social media accounts.

Make sure they are complete, accurate, and compelling. Editors and website owners will want to check you out online, so you want your profiles to put your best foot forward. Generally, it makes sense to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Include a link to your website/and or blog in each of your social media profiles.

Write several articles related to your industry and post them to your website or blog.

These articles will help show off your writing skills and provide a peek at your writing style. Make sure they are your very best work. If an editor or site owner goes to your website to learn what to expect from you and sees a bunch of spelling mistakes and grammar errors, he is unlikely to want you writing for his blog. Format each article to ensure that it is easy to read, and focus on interesting, helpful topics.

Reach out to the editor or owner of the site for which you want to guest blog.

The blog will usually list the owner or editor’s email address. Some will make it even easier by providing a contact form for you to fill out and submit. Alternatively, you can contact the owner/editor through his or her social media accounts, but try emailing first.

Introduce yourself to the editor/blog owner in a professional and friendly manner.

Explain what type of business you own and share your passion for the industry. Inform the editor/blog owner that you would like to contribute as a guest blogger. Share your goals as well. For example, you might want to guest blog for the purpose of building a reputation as an industry expert. Provide links to your website and your best articles as well as contact information.

Pitch topics about which you are passionate, making sure they are a good fit for the blog on which you will guest post.

Send well-written posts to the editors/blog owners who have accepted you as a blog owner. Include a link back to your site in each post. Also, if possible, link from each post to one of your previously published articles/posts, choosing one that is relevant and provides valuable new information (rather than the same information you included in the current post).

5 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Guest Blogging Campaign

Whether you choose a seasoned individual blogger or a marketing agency, you need someone who will avoid tarnishing your company’s reputation with spammy pitches. Believe it or not, people are still sending those out, often on behalf of people and companies who probably know better. Here are some examples of what to avoid so you can vet the people who will be pitching on your behalf.

Poor Greeting and Tone

Sometimes the initial approach is wrong. If you’re going to pitch a guest article, then it’s worth finding out whether the site owner is male or female (not hard to do with Google and social media at your fingertips). I can tell you that I’m not thrilled about being called Mr.

Added to that, if your pitch letter suggests you are doing the site owner a big favor, then unless you’re really an expert in your field, the tone is wrong. An approach that recognizes that both parties get something from guest articles is more likely to get a favorable response.

Poor Spelling, Grammar and Writing

I’ve lost track of the number of guest post pitches I’ve received that read like an SMS message. Heads-up: if the blog owner has to decipher your pitch, it will end up in the trash.

Spelling and grammar errors are another no-no. From the blog owner’s viewpoint, if your pitch is full of mistakes, your article is likely to be just as bad.

If you want to give your guest article the best chance of publication, proofread, proofread and proofread again. Your job is to deliver a post that’s as close to publication-ready as possible. It’s the best way to impress the person who might publish it.

No Thought for the First Reader

Here’s something that I learned from journalism: when you’re pitching an article the person who is reading the pitch is your first reader. You have to make sure that person finds it interesting or your article won’t see the light of day.

People are busy, so you only have a couple of sentences to show that you:

  • can craft a great headline and introductory paragraph
  • know where you’re going with the article
  • can show how it is suitable for the blog’s readers
  • have the writing chops to deliver it

A no-fluff approach is the best way to get your pitch past the first hurdle.

Keyword Stuffing

Yes, people are still keyword stuffing, and still submitting short, badly written, virtually unreadable content.

My message to them: just stop!

It’s more important than ever for guest articles to be in-depth, relevant and useful. Format your post so it reads well on everything from smartphone to desktop screens and is web readable. That means plenty of subheadings, short paragraphs and an easy way to identify key points.

Same Old, Same Old

I get it; sometimes the best way to figure out a winning pitch is to base it on something you already know was successful. But some non-professionals do more than use a proven success as a starting point; they virtually replicate it. That’s just wrong and no-one wants to read me-too content. It’s getting harder to do something different but you can do it by:

  • expanding on a single point in an article
  • responding to an issue raised by someone else (perhaps in a comment or tweet)
  • posting a controlled rant (they always do well) about something important in your niche.

If you want to improve your chances of acceptance, offer something different, like an infographic or Slideshare presentation. It will take longer to produce, but that kind of visual content is widely shared and will do wonders for your online authority.

Whether you’re using guest blogging to build authority or simply for outreach, avoiding the mistakes listed here will make your campaign more successful. If you need some help with strategy or writing, contact the Crackerjack Marketing team.

blogging for brands

Common Questions about Blogging for Brands

blogging for brands

Co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland

Your brand blog should be the cornerstone of your content marketing efforts. Yes, Facebook, Twitter and the rest are essential too but they shouldn’t be your only home on the web. It’s what both practice and teach here at Crackerjack Marketing. (You can read more about why here.)

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, hopefully you understand the benefits of blogging for your brand. Whether you are new to blogging or a long-time content creator, you may have some questions.

How Often Should I Blog?

If you ask most people who have been blogging for a while, they’ll tell you, “The more, the better.” That’s because every post gives you exposure on the internet. It gives more people a chance to discover you because good content, updated frequently is one of the main reasons Google (or any search engine) uses to decide your fate in getting listed in search results.

The reality is that blogging is writing and if you are a beginner, you may find writing challenging. Writing a blog also takes time. But you’ll discover that the more you write, the better you get at writing and the easier it is to do. So let’s assume that you’re not going to be writing a blog post every day of the week to start. What schedule can you keep up with that is reliable? The most important advice we can offer is to get started and keep at it. Don’t let a week go by without at least one blog post. Once you get more comfortable with blogging, you should increase the frequency of your posts.

You’ll learn to write down ideas as they come to you, sketch out your posts and hit the keyboard. Blogging is a practice that requires discipline. Build from one post a week to two or three. That’s a frequency that will help you build your online presence quickly and start getting traffic, comments, and learn what’s of interest to your readers.

Blogging three times a week is an excellent rate. If you can continue at that pace, and assuming your content is relevant and helpful, you’ll see results much faster than starting slowly.

But for many, dipping your toe in the water is more realistic. With the idea that the goal is to get fully wet and start swimming, it’s fine to start off slowly. No matter what, though, no matter how little traffic you see in the beginning, do not quit. It takes time to see results. Slowly but surely, you’ll be discovered and read. You’ll meet people. The benefits of blogging will become apparent to you, and they are many.

Once you’ve committed to blogging, don’t think of it as an optional activity. Consider it as important to your business as paying the bills or opening your door in the morning.

How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

While you understand how important relevant, valuable content is to the success of your blog, you may have questions about length. If you visit a handful of blogs, you’re likely to see blog posts that vary considerably in terms of length. So how do you decide how long to make your posts? Which length will your readers prefer?

Many bloggers keep their posts to 250 to 500 words while others write closer to 2000 words each time. While longer posts can provide a good deal of detailed information and may help stimulate conversation, there are benefits to writing shorter posts. Among them are the following:

  • Tight focus: With a long blog post, you may feel tempted to wander a bit with your point, and in doing so, you may inadvertently lose your reader’s attention. When you write shorter posts, you have less room for wandering, and you’re more likely to stay tightly focused on your topic. Your readers will appreciate you for that.
  • Scanability: Most Internet users don’t read online content the way they read offline. Instead, they scan, looking for the highlights in posts and specific points of value. Short posts are easier to scan than long versions, but you can increase the scanability of any post by including bulleted or numbered lists, headings and subheadings, and short, easy-to-digest paragraphs.
  • Time: The longer your posts, the more time you will have to put into writing them. In fact, you may even put off writing longer posts because they do take up so much of your time. Since shorter posts require less time to create, you can post more often and have a better chance of keeping your readers’ attention and interest. Just think, if you only write once or twice a month because your long posts take so long to create, your readers may get tired of waiting and go elsewhere in search of the content they seek. If, on the other hand, you focus on shorter posts, you can write more often (perhaps once or twice a week) and provide regular content for your readers to digest.

Though there are benefits to writing short blog posts, this doesn’t mean you should NEVER write longer posts. If you have something of value to share, and you need 1000 or more words to share it well, then by all means, write a longer post. Your goal is to deliver well-written content that your audience will value, share, comment on, and come back to see more of. In the end, the length doesn’t matter as long as you meet this goal.

What Are Some Common Blogging Mistakes to Avoid?

Everyone makes mistakes. They are a natural part of life and running a business. But if you can learn from the mistakes others have made, you might make fewer of your own and enjoy a faster, smoother road to meeting your goals. Blogging for your business might seem simple and easy, but there are plenty of pitfalls that can get in your way. Here are four of the most common blogging mistakes business owners make and tips for avoiding them.

Sporadic Posts

Failing to blog regularly is one of the most common mistakes business bloggers make. Think about it: if you found a magazine you liked, but the publisher only sent it sporadically, how long would it be before you lost interest and moved on to different magazine? The same sort of scenario works with blogs. Sporadic content, no matter how good, sends readers looking for another blog that regularly posts content of value to them.

Keep your readership happy and interested by posting regularly. There are no hard-and-fast rules about the number of times you should post, but many bloggers find their readership satisfied with a couple of posts per week. Even if you decide to post just once a week, make sure you keep up with it to avoid losing the interest of your readers.

Unrealistic Expectations

It’s normal to have the highest hopes for your blog. Who doesn’t want to experience success? But expecting overnight blogging success is an all-too-common mistake. As with building a business, developing a successful blog takes time and hard work. Commit to devoting 12 months to developing your blog and cultivating your readership. Your job won’t end once you complete the first year, but it’s reasonable to see some encouraging results by then.

Focusing on Promotion

Many new business bloggers feel confused about the type of content they should post on their blogs. They often make the mistake of including too much promotional content. This can be a major mistake, as a business blog isn’t meant to serve as an advertisement. Instead, your blog should provide conversational content that is relevant and interesting to your readers. While it is okay to use your blog to make business announcements and share news of new products and services, much of your content should focus on industry news, hints, tricks, advice, how-to’s and insights into your industry and company. Keeping sales to a minimum will help you attract loyal readers.

Discouraging Conversation

Your business blog is an important tool for conversation and interaction, but many bloggers disable commenting. While their reasons for doing so, such as avoiding spam and negative comments, are often understandable, disabling the comment feature can impair your ability to connect and engage with your readers. Instead, you might find it easier to meet your blogging goals if you not only enable commenting but also encourage your readers to share their comments, questions, concerns and stories on your blog. Then, be sure to respond and keep the conversation going.

Even if you still have questions, we hope that you get started and keep going. The more you publish blog posts, the faster you’ll establish a drum beat. It’s okay if you need to change things up a little later. The important thing is to take action!

Who Owns the Blogger Relationship?

Who Owns the Blogger Relationship?

Who Owns the Blogger Relationship?

I’ve been asked this question a few times recently: In an agency, when one does blogger outreach or creates blogger programs, who owns the blogger relationship? The person establishing the relationship, the agency, or the client/brand?

For me, I feel the right answer is the person establishing the relationship – and in the case of our agency, me, or one of my colleagues. Though I reach out to bloggers for the benefit of my client, it is my job (or the job of someone on my team) to find the right bloggers, stimulate their interest, negotiate the details of the agency/blogger relationship, and ensure that all goes as planned for all of the parties involved. In many cases, the client and the blogger have minimal contact with each other, as we manage all of the details. As such, we as individuals, rather than the agency or client, own the blogger relationship.

Since each of us owns our own relationships, it falls to us to make sure each blog we select for a client program will fit our client’s needs. One of my primary recommendations for anyone who’s looking to work with bloggers is to get involved with bloggers well in advance of needing to work with them. This can involve commenting on posts in a meaningful way, sharing and reposting information, sharing tips, promoting the blogger’s posts, and sending a friendly email introducing yourself in a low-key (rather than aggressive and salesy) manner. Your contact should illustrate your knowledge of the blog’s subject matter and your genuine interest in it. Connect not only via the blog but also via the blogger’s social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Then when the time comes to engage with the blogger, you, as the owner of the blogger relationship, are already known to the blogger, and can make a more credible introduction to your client or project. And because you will work with more than one client, it makes sense to develop connections that focus not on a particular client but instead on your niche. Build your reputation and expand your blogger rolodex based on this niche, your philosophies, your great personality, and your way of working with bloggers. This means you will have a network (one you will have to continually nourish and build) of bloggers to reach out to when the need arises.

When you think about the multiple touchpoints you’ll need to have with a blogger even before you try to get them involved in your client’s project, you quickly realize why the blogger relationship belongs to you, the individual, not the agency or client.  Any client (or boss) who tells you otherwise likely doesn’t understand what it means to build true relationships with bloggers.

Image source: Flickr (aidan_jones)

 

How To Structure A Great Blog Post

How To Structure A Great Blog Post

How To Structure A Great Blog Post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even if you’re a great writer, you may struggle now and then with how to structure a blog post to make sure your key points are getting across.  In nearly seven years blogging and helping clients with blogs, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way which may help you, whether you’re just starting a blog or refreshing one you’ve been writing for a while.

Keep it short – or only as long as it needs to be

Why struggle with a long post if a shorter post will work?  While some business blog posts average in the 750-1,000 word range, many are quite successful at 300-500 words.  If you can explain what you want to explain in fewer words, do so, and your reader will get to the point more quickly.

Keep posts focused on one primary topic

If you find yourself starting to describe a second or third topic, step back and determine whether you can break the post into two or more posts.  A focused post will have a greater chance of getting read all the way through, so your key content will more likely get noticed.

Use headers, bullets, or other organizing tools to make important content stand out

Posts are easier to read if they have markers to break up the content and help draw the eye to important parts.  Using headers will help to highlight the key points you’re making (as in this post), as well as help search engines to find keywords within your post (if your headers include keywords).  Bullets can be used to similar effect – anything you put into a bullet will be more easily readable and noticed even if someone is skimming through the post.

Include an image near the top of the post

Sonia Simone from Copyblogger says, “Images are steroids for your headline.”  Using a great image will help draw readers in and focus on your content.  Look for images which are either literal – directly related to your content, or evocative of your content with a concept or theme.

Put time into your title – then think about it some more

As the old journalism adage goes, you should put 50% of your time into writing the article and 50% into the headline.  The same holds true for blog posts.  If you get the right title it will draw your reader in and help them to focus on your content – but the title has to match the content.  It can’t be too broad, too punny, or too blah. Additionally, a keyword-rich, focused title will help with search optimization.

How do you keep blog posts focused and help your readers quickly get to your most valuable content? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

This post originally appeared in a slightly different form at the Creative Concepts Blog, where I’m a regular contributor on social media topics.