Category Archives: Blog Ideas

Ideas to help people create useful and effective blogs

Better Blog Month – November Intro 1

Compass ConceptSo some of you know, I had an inspiration, thanks to @journalistics during an online Twitter event called @journchat, to create something called The Better Blog Month Project AKA #BtrBlogNov.

Twenty one hardy souls signed up to participate in this free project, which I’m eager to do myself. There are many other ingredients that go into making a better blog, but this month we are concentrating on content, on the actual blog posts (along with some strategy around and behind the posts).

Basic Goals:
To over one month, create a better blog – Focusing on ways to:

  1. Create better quality blog posts
  2. Increase the quantity of blog posts
  3. Depending on which our site needs most, either increase the
    1. Diversity of blog posts or
    2. The focus of our blog posts

Basic Structure:
Those who signed up will receive and email Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the month of November 2009. Each email will have:

  • The topic of the day, and Some points to think about
  • An exercise
  • And some resources/links to help people brainstorm, or to provide more information (most of these are not planned as must reads, as I know our time is limited, but they are there to provide more information for those who want/need it).
  • For those who haven’t signed up, I’ll post a brief version of the day’s tasks, and to help get the community involved, I’ll ad some comments based on my experience doing the exercises, and ask for tips from all of us bloggers out there.

The Weeks are loosely themed:
Week 1: Getting Started on a Better Blog – Behind the Scenes Strategy
Week 2: Honing our Message
Week 3: Building our Inventory
Week 4: What comes Next
(Thanks to John Reddish @GetResults for helping me brainstorm the weekly titles)

Each day’s info are simply ideas, jumping off points as it were, gathered from several years of blog reading, time spent reading and absorbing information about blogging from other great bloggers, many years of writing in my work, a year of blogging, and are also informed by my 20 years of Public Relations experience. If I suggest one way/idea, feel free to make it work for you, but if you meet resistance, be sure to ask it to step aside and let you get on with playing and working; don’t let resistance move in front of you and block you from our goals.

I hope this inspires others to create better blogs this month too!

Cathy Larkin, www.WebSavvyPR.com , 484-802-7576, Find me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CathyWebSavvyPR (@CathyWebSavvyPR), Find me on LinkedIn:
http://www.linkedin.com/in/cathylarkin

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Tips for Connecting the Social Media Dots

Connect the Social Media Dots
Connect the Social Media Dots

Many small businesses owners are jumping onto the social media band wagon. If you are one of them, hopefully you have done your research and determined which social media sites make the most sense for your business (primarily based on where your customers or clients are spending their time). If you are already active, see below for a tip that can help you connect with clients and get business.

Use Social Networking to help Clients Connect the Dots for your Small Business

I have a tip, especially for solopreneurs who provide services such as business and life coaches, authors, independent PR and marketing pros, virtual assistants, mompreneurs, bloggers who are in business, and others. Don’t think of each social media site you participate in as a stand-alone site. Connect your various profiles to help your audience, and potential clients/customers, connect the social media dots and form a strong image of who you, as a business owner are.

What I mean is, if you are active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and also have a blog, you should consider connecting these services to one another to make it easy for your existing and potential clients to find out more about who you are and what you do. Each site offers your audience a different perspective on you and your business. For example, if I answer a question on LinkedIn, and someone finds value in my answer, they may connect with me via LinkedIn. Once they do, they can read my most recent blog posts right there on LinkedIn (I use an app to pull the full post onto my profile). If they again like what they read, they may click through to the blog directly, and read what I have to say in other posts. From my blog they can see links to my Twitter and Facebook pages, if those are sites they use, I’ve made it easy to connect with me.

Blogs and Websites

A good website enhances and expands on the information about your business and skills that may be on LinkedIn. A well-written blog provides even more opportunities to showcase your expertise. A static LinkedIn page shows where you have been, and some of what you have accomplished. A blog gives you a forum for sharing your knowledge in a way that helps your customers learn something, do something better, and understand something new, especially if you business provides a service. If you provide a product, then you can use a blog to tell them about ways it can help them, about trends in the industry, about what features they might want to see, and it can be interactive. Once you get a blog going, and if you are active in social media, you will begin to get comments. Be sure to read them and comment back. A dialogue with someone on your blog can really make you stand out among your competitors. Your image in their minds becomes stronger, you helped them connect the dots in a very strong way. People involved in blogging and social media love to share a good story, blog post or positive customer service interaction. They might just help to spread the word about you.

On my blog, I have profile “badges” or small clickable buttons leading to my LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook profiles, and on each site, I link over to the others.  These are the next “dots” that folks can use to connect who you are, and what you have to offer. For a blog or website, you can set up what’s called a profile badge for each site, copy the code, and then add it to your blog or website. Or you can use a service like retaggr or the WordPress plugin Follow-Me.  Ideally, you are active on all of the pages you link to, and are providing different, but related, content on each site that helps this hypothetical client prospect connect the dots and fill in an image of your business, to get a further feel for who you are and what your expertise is.

LinkedIn

A LinkedIn profile at it’s basics provides an online work history or resume, so someone can get a feel for your background. It can be much more (but that is fodder for another post). So fill it out completely, and be sure to add links to all of the sites where you are active. Also, be sure to update your status at least a few times a week. As a colleague Irene Koehler noted in a recent Twitter #SmallBizChat that I hosted, don’t forget that Google ranks LinkedIn profiles fairly high in their index for your name. So why not put on your best face and show that you are actively engaged by updating your status. Better yet, ask or answer a few questions on the site. It gives you another way to showcase your expertise or knowledge on a subject.

Facebook

Facebook and Twitter allow you to interact with people in a public way (there are private options to communicate on each site too). Both sites allow you to share links to interesting online articles and resources; to provide value to your clients and prospects, and your friends. People tend to begin using Facebook to connect with family and friends, but solopreners and small business owners often begin to see it’s value for connecting  their business and their clients who use Facebook. When you reach this point, try setting up a Facebook Fan Page or a Facebook Group, once you have defined how one or the other fits into your larger strategy for providing value to your clients.

Twitter

Twitter can be another dot in creating the image of your business. Twitter is great for connecting with anyone who shares an interest in things you are interested in. It is often a mix of business and personal information, if you only post links to your site, your connections there won’t grow quickly. For my POV on Using Twitter, click here. It can take getting used to, but has been very successful for many small businesses, as it is opt-in. If individuals like your info, they “follow you,” or click a button and then see your messages on their page. Since all you give out in a Twitter profile is an image, short bio, and a website or blog link (no phone numbers, no email addresses), it is easier than other sites to connect with people you have never met, nor worked with before.

For me, Twitter is a way to source links to great content (blog posts, news articles, software and tools, breaking news and industry info) that is of interest to me and my audience. It also allows me to easily interact with people asking and answering questions. Following someone’s Twitter stream or tweets  (as the flow of short 140 character messages arecalled) gives you insights into an individual. How they use twitter (once they get the hang of things – I don’t judge anyone by their first few weeks of activity) can tell you a bit about how they are in business. Do they just send out notices about their own stuff? Do they interact with others in a positive manner, do the provide value, do they show a sense of humor, do they help others, do they answer questions asked of them. It is kind of difficult to lie about who you are in 140 character bits over time. Your personality shows, and that can be a good thing for helping clients connect the dots about you and your business.

How Do You Connect the Social Media Dots?

Let me, and my readers, know how you connect the social media dots for your clients, customers, or audiences. Feel free to ask questions about ways you can connect with your clients, or let me know how I can help you connect the PR and Social Media Dots for your business or organization.

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Blogs as a Useful Business Tool

Someone on LinkedIn just asked the question, “has blogging had it’s day in the sun, or is adding a blog to a website still useful for SEO purposes.” I decided to copy my answer and tweak it to fit my blog. The answer is YES Blogs are still a useful business tool!

Why are Blogs a Useful Business Tool?

More people than ever are reading blogs. Blog readership is on the rise among internet users.

More than two-thirds (68%) of online Americans say they visit online blogs, communities or social networks, and 33% engage in product research online to help them make purchase decisions.” That’s way up from the past when the answer was often – what’s a blog.

According to Nielsen, “the average online American went online 62 times, visited 115 domains, viewed 2,580 web pages and spent nearly 75 hours online in January 2009.” http://www.marketingcharts.com/interactive/average-american-visits-115-domainsmonth-8151

SEO for Blogs – Organic Search Works Wonders:

However, as far as SEO is concerned, the ability of a blog post to get a company to the top pages of Google has not diminished. Especially if the post is well-written and optimized for organic search (i.e. keywords and key phrases are worked into both the post/page title and into the text of the post that also provides useful targeted info). Google’s algorithm takes into account the newness of blogging info, whereas a traditional website gains pagerank more by its age and incoming links, and well as SEO (this is glossing over a lot to make a point as blogs also benefit from these two factors). A well-written blog post, with a bit of SEO finesse in the post, combined with the way the blog it set up (proper permalinks and SEO plugins for example) can go get a post on Google within hours.  Until Google changes its algorithm again(how it selects the search results we see), this should remain an important factor.

Can a Blog Expand the Reach of your Brand?

Another benefit I have noticed is that blogs and social networking work together to help reinforce a brand’s depth of knowledge on a subject. Clients who have found me, often mention reading a blog post of mine that I had pulled into my Facebook or LinkedIn page, as the thing that nudged them into contacting me. Social networking tools (and tips and tricks) can help integrate your blog into your profiles as more than just a link.

Good Content is still King

I remember a Google staff member being interviewed on a tech blog and he said something that has stuck in my mind and worked for myself and for clients – the best way to get onto Google’s 1st page of results is to have the exact words/phrase that someone is searching for on your page (blog or traditional website). This brings up a point about balance – you need to balance writing for humans with writing for search engines. No keywords stuffing either; write a good post that incorporates a few selected keywords and synonyms.

Can a Blog Serve as my Whole Website?

Many websites have actually moved to using a blogging platform, or blogging software, as a content management system and as the entire website. Create most pages as static pages, then use one page for the dynamic, changing blog posts. WordPress.org makes it easy for the client to update their own content, without having to run to their web guys for every little change.

How Does Business Blogging Work?

I usually stay away from absolute statements, but corporate blogs have to be done right. These tips do apply to almost all blogs, but in order for a company blog to work, you need to allow comments and interaction with readers/ customers.

  • It has to be transparent – that is whomever is blogging needs to disclose that fact. A faceless corporate blog no longer works nearly as effectively as a blog from a specific individual (not necessarily the CEO), or named team of bloggers, or at least from a department.
  • It also does not work well when used as a bullhorn to shoot out 90% company praise & press releases. It does work best when it addresses issues that it’s prospective readers would find useful and/or interesting; what’s in the news in the industry, what’s new a the company. Yes you can include press release-type material, but at a rate of 1 in 6 or 1 in 12 posts.
  • A company’s blog can create the feeling of a personal connection with this formerly ‘faceless’ company.

So my advice is don’t just add a blog onto a company site, but first identify the blog’s potential audience, and objectives. Then create a plan and tactics to reach that audience and achieve those goals. Don’t forget to integrate the blog into the overall public relations and social media strategy.

The Do Blogs Provide Value Anymore Take Away Point:

Yes, they still provide value. These ideas outlined above work for the small business blogger and entrepreneur as well as the medium-to-large-sized company; for the mommy / mom blogger and the niche blogger too. Blogging is a form of social media; it is about give and take; it’s about creating and building trust in your brand. If you treat your blog as just another way to polish your brand’s image, it will more than likely end up tarnished.

Cathy Larkin & Web Savvy PR –

Your Public Relations & Social Media Guide – I bring new media tools to the traditional PR toolkit to expand your brand and build your business. I talk “tech talk,” but translate fluently into “plain English.” I help individuals and organizations set up their blogs (or add one to an existing site); I help people expand the reach of their brands by creating, and helping them execute, a social media PR plan; and I coach people on how to tackle specific aspects of PR and social networking sites; call me 484-802-7576, or Cathy [dot] Larkin {at} WebSavvyPR {dot} Com. Or find me on Twitter.

By the way, if you are using http://Twitter.com, I do not mind if you add your twitter ID/username to your comment, in addition to the website link the comment form requests. It makes it even easier to create community and connect with folks, so feel free. I will not treat it as spam, unless of course the comment itself is spammy.  The correct way to make a link clickable in comments is http://twitter.com/CathyWebSavvyPR.  If you are new to Twitter, feel free to check it out and contact me there, just remember to click on the @Replies tab to see messages sent to you!

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