Sharks Have The Best Blogs

Earlier today I found myself in a doctor’s waiting room.  Having nothing else to do I did what most people do; read their magazines.  I was reading an interesting article on sharks and how they are able to locate their prey with these “super” sensors that are capable of sensing minute electrical charges.  These electrical sensors that are located on their head are so powerful that their perception was likened to dropping a AA battery in the ocean in New Jersey and sensing the electrical charge in Florida.  That is one intense sixth sense!

The article reminded me of how some of the most successful blogs are created.  Unless you have a monopoly in your market, you will have other people competing for the same business (or visitors, readers, etc.) that you are.  The most successful bloggers are the ones who can “sniff” out what others can’t.

Think about that for a minute.  If you are trying to promote your business online you can be certain that most of your competitors are doing the same.  And chances are that most of these people are doing similar things with their blogs to gain visitors.  So what does a “blogging shark” do?

The answer is as simple as it is vague: they can sniff out what non-sharks can’t smell.  Their blogs offer people something a little different or maybe they’re offering just a little more value.  The sharks can see when certain waters are unproductive so they head out in a different direction.

Any blogger would be wise to study the blogging methods of the sharks in their field.  What are they doing with their blog that you aren’t?  What are they doing different?  And most importantly, can you apply their successful techniques to your blog?

Not every tool that a blogging shark uses may be applicable to your blog, but you’ll probably find that most of them are.  By applying their tricks to what you’re doing, your blog will improve and become an even better addition to your business.

3 Things I Want To Know About Blog Visitors

With any blog that I own or operate there are just a few things I want to know about the people who come to visit.  There are many, many different items of statistical data that I could analyze about blog visitors, but for the most part it really boils down to just 3 questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you looking at?
  • How did you get here?

That’s it.  That’s all I really want to know.  I think you’ll find that these 3 questions cover the most important areas of visitor tracking and they also provide a good ruler to measure how well your blog is doing.

Let me break down these questions and explain what they mean to me:

  • Who are you? – When I ask this I’m not after a visitor’s name or what they do for a living.  I want to know if you are a new visitor, a returning visitor, a search engine spider, etc.  User agents, IP addresses and browser cookies do a pretty good job of separating this info out, and this info can then be broken down into their individual parts.
  • What are you looking at? – When someone is browsing through a blog of mine, I am interested in knowing which post they are reading.  Tracking this data for enough time will tell me what posts are more valuable or relevant to what people want.
  • How did you get here? – I am always interested in knowing how people found their way to my blog.  Did they run a search on Google?  Direct visit?  Click on a link at another site?  Did someone email a post? This kind of information is invaluable in determining where my blog is being mentioned and how well known it is.

These 3 questions tell me almost everything I want to know that can help me provide a better blog for my visitors.  If I know how many visitors, what they’re looking for and where they’re finding me, I can better prepare my blog to provide blog visitors with what they’re looking for.

If you look at the answers to these questions for a while you will probably start looking into another important area, and that is why your visitors are leaving your site.  Looking at exit pages and the duration of visits can also be vital information in determining the health of your blog.

What things do you want to know about your blog visitors?  What do you use to help keep track of this information?

Brand Your Blog To Your Business

I’ve mentioned blog themes a few times already and I can’t really overemphasize the importance of using the right theme for your blog.  How you present your blog to others is much the same as how you would present a brick and mortar store to your public; appearances mean a lot.

Many businesses invest in a quality layout and design for their commerce websites but leave little consideration for their blogs.  They may just grab any free theme available that catches their eye.  Sometimes the color schemes match up with their business site, but most often they don’t.

What these business bloggers may not realize is that almost every website design can be converted into a blog theme for use by WordPress.  For someone who knows a little web coding, it’s not too difficult to create a WordPress theme that mirrors the look of your business site.  Some designers charge more than others, so it pays to shop around for this kind of service.  (Feel free to contact me for a quote if you’re in the market for a custom blog theme.)

I don’t know about you, but every time I’m on a nice looking website and click to their onsite blog and see the “Kubrick” theme I die a little on the inside.  When they mix up the site and blog themes like that they lose the overall seamless nature their website once had.

Even if your blog is hosted on a separate domain I would push for it to be branded with the same theme as the main site.  This creates continuity between related business sites and lessens the chance of any visitor not knowing who you are.

When it comes to your business blog, don’t settle for a theme that doesn’t match your company; get a theme that brands your blog to your business.

Using Twitter To Bring Visitors To Your Blog

I know that there are a lot of blogs that are started that focus on very competitive topics.  Getting noticed in a field of thousands of other blogs or websites can be a very daunting task, especially if your blog is brand new to the field.  So what can a person do to help get a little exposure? Try using social media, particularly Twitter.  Twitter is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of social media out there and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if it became the social media leader in the very near future.

Using this blog as an example, if it weren’t for using services such as Twitter then the amount of visitors would be drastically reduced.  This site is centered on blogging with a focus on business blogging.  There are many, many other sites out there that are geared towards this topic.  These industry giants dominate the search engine results and so I would have to pursue ways other than search engines to attract visitors.  I chose Twitter.

Posting a blog update with a link in your Twitter stream can do wonders for your blog traffic.  Your new blog may be invisible in Google, but you can get the word out easily in the “twittersphere”.  As an added bonus, if other people like what you published, they may “retweet” your link which exposes your blog to even more people.

I have to add a word of caution to this: Don’t overdo it!  Promoting your website occasionally through Twitter is fine, but it turns people off when someone is tooting their own horn a bit too much.  Keep it in moderation and you should be fine.

So if you’re swimming in a sea of anonymity, look into using forms of social media like Twitter to get a little attention.

Blogs have fabulous growth potential

The fascination for all-things blog grows from the same plant that makes pyramid sales schemes so attractive – the explosive growth potential.

Myth or not, dreams of profit from pyramid selling, and its slightly more reputable multi-level cousin, are beguiling. It seems so simple, so without hitch and so possible. Anybody can recruit a few dozen disciples and then sit back while they each recruit their own posse and the earnings flow up the pyramid like lightening climbing a rod.

Except, of course, lightening doesn’t climb. No matter, it doesn’t stop millions of people being electrified by pyramid schemes each year.

Blogging is similar – or to be more exact, getting readers to a website is similar. The more inbound links you have, the more readers you get from Google. Inbound links are what traffic is all about.

But for any given subject, there is already a top-of-the-pyramid site, the site that all others refer to. For making money out of blogs – problogging – the top site is Darren Rowse’s www.problogger.net. Nobody else comes close and all refer to him like some omnipresent being.

The reason pyramids schemes fail, is because  they run out of people at the bottom. The disciples end up paying the cash to join, but make nothing.

So it is becoming with blogging. You start a blog and set up loads of out-bound links to people like Darren, but everyone else is so busy focusing on the top dogs you can never get your own inlinks.

It’s a tragedy, because, as reported in Wired, an article on the viability of blogging for a living, “at the bare minimum, a lone blogger will likely need to attract high four- to five-figure daily visitor figures to even attempt a blog-based livable wage.”

How To Choose a Free Blogger Template

Blogs and the activity of blogging became popular in the late 1990s. Many blogging platforms exist today with each one offering different characteristics and cost. Blogger is a free blogging platform owned by Google which allows a user to set up a free blogging account. From this account, a blogger can create one or more blogs.

A blog can be tailored to meet a user’s needs both in functionality and overall design. The blog content’s physical arrangement and display are controlled by a template. The template is the HTML code which controls how information will be displayed on the blog.

Users with strong technical skills can edit this code or write entirely new code. For users with less technical skill, many Blogger templates exist. Before downloading a free Blogger template, there are several considerations that should be reviewed.

How To Pick A New Blogger Template

Before selecting a Blogger template, consider the type of content and focus of the blog. Understanding how the blog will be used and the image it should portray will be important in deciding which blog template is best.

  • Visual Look of Blog – A blog’s aesthetic or visual look will determine how readers respond to it. If a blog’s design features dark colors and anime-inspired graphics, it may harshly contrast and not work well for someone who seeks to write about parenting and child development. Consider appropriate colors, graphics, and overall design which closely match the content of a blog.
  • Layout and Content Arrangement – A blog’s physical arrangement of content is also a top consideration. Blog templates now come in a wide array of formats typically ranging from one to four columns. The blog posts are usually in the largest column but can be arranged to the left, center, or right depending on the design. Identifying what other types of content will appear on the blog will help to understand how many extra columns are necessary.
  • Supported Functionality – Blogger provides a list of functionality that can be added to any blog. Some blog templates provide additional custom functionality or creates spaces for specific content to appear. A blogger seeking to display advertising may seek a Blogger template which comes prepared with areas pre-specified for standard advertising units to display.

One of the most important and often overlooked considerations is from where the Blogger template is coming. Blogger provides a basic set of free templates but many more templates are available through searching online. While these templates may seem like a bargain, it’s best to consider templates which have a specified owner who will provide support for questions on installing and updating the template. When using an anonymous free template, it may not function correctly or may require updates at some point in the future.

Blogger provides a set of free templates which can be used. Once an account is created with Blogger, a user is given access to a dashboard allowing for customization of the blog. To select a different Blogger template at any time, a user can do so by selecting the “Layout” dashboard tab, then selecting “Pick New Template” from the sub-menu (see Figure 1 below).

From the Pick New Template menu, a user can select from 16 blog designs with a variety of color schemes and layouts. The desired template is selected and then the “Save Template” button is selected. The new blog template will now power the blog.

How To Upload A Custom Blogger Template

Once a custom Blogger template is identified on the interest, it should be downloaded to the user’s computer. Before uploading it to Blogger, make sure to first download the existing template being used in case it is needed in the future.

Select the “Layout” dashboard tab, then select “Edit HTML.” From this sub-menu, select the link “Download Full Template” (see Figure 2 below).

Once the existing template is safely downloaded, the “Browse” button shown on the sub-menu page is used to search the user’s computer for the new Blogger template that will be used. Once selected, the “Upload” button is clicked to import the new template design. The new template will now power the blog.

Easy To Change A Blogger Template

Blogger provides an easy to use dashboard which allows a user to quickly change from one template to another. Whether using a Blogger provided template or seeking to use a free template, consider first the function and overall design the blog should portray. By following the steps above, a new template that perfectly matches the blog content can be changed in a matter of minutes.

How to Make Your Brand a Household Name

Your brand may never be a nationwide “household name.” But it certainly can be on the lips of your target audience, if you embrace these actionable tips.

The term “household name” is a carryover from much earlier days. It refers to those brands that became so popular, everyone knew them. GE, Coca-Cola, Kleenex, and Band-Aid are easy examples. In fact, some of them because so much a household name that the brand itself became the name used for similar products made by someone else. Kleenex is such a brand.

You may not be the next Kleenex; but if you have been into “branding” for a while now and not getting the results you want – a following, conversions, revenue from your efforts – then you are probably frustrated. Understand this first of all. Branding takes time – sometimes lots of it; and it takes steady work. The post that goes viral and puts a brand on the map instantly is truly the exception. Most of us are turtles, not hares.

Whether you’ve been at it for a while or just starting out, here are some tips that may help out. Ignore the ones that you know already, and maybe there will be a few that you can use. They’re not hard, and they are actionable right now.

Think About Spending a Bit of Money

No, this doesn’t mean buying advertising. It means sprucing up your content. Invest in AdWords. There are some cheaper alternatives, but Google really rules the roost. And get serious about content creation tools. There are free ones, of course, and if you believe your creativity and time allotment can do the job, go for it. But lots of enterprises are outsourcing at least some of their content with pretty good results.

Take Another Look at Your Target Audience

Hopefully, you have a buyer persona. If you are not getting “play,” then your persona may be not quite right or your content may not be reaching that persona for some reason. One smart move would be to carefully study the content that your successful competitors are producing. Their audience is the same; their topics must be resonating. You may have much to learn from this activity.

Know the difference Between Being Original and Being Authentic

Originality comes from creativity and uniqueness. It means your content was crafted by you or someone you paid to craft it, and hopefully, it has a creative bent – a compelling title, an engaging style, and readers respond. Being authentic is quite something else. It means that your content and your brand is trustworthy. Always be authentic.

One way to be authentic is to get brand ambassadors among your customers. They can participate in your content. You can highlight them using your product; you can ask them for photos and videos that you can then post. ModCloth does a great job of this, featuring actual customers wearing their purchases.

Make Sure Your Mobile Site or App Really Works

Mobile devices have surpassed PCs for accessing content. If you don’t have a mobile presence, get one now. If you do, test, test, test it to be certain that everything loads quickly and that navigation is super easy. No one will stay with your content if it is inconvenient or irritating to do so. They will just move on.

Grammar and Style

This cannot be said enough. When your content includes the text of any kind, you absolutely must do it right. If you have a problem with grammar, you can get academic help.

And if you have a strong academic background in writing, you have to be careful too. The average of textual content should be at about a 7th-grade reading level. Simplicity in sentence construction and vocabulary is absolutely critical, and lose the jargon.

Replace Textual Contact with Visuals Whenever Possible

Attention spans are short; people would rather be shown than told. The latest research shows that 94% of content viewers/readers engage more when there are visuals. And think about these stats about video reported by Digital Sherpa:

  • 50% of Internet users have view YouTube videos related to products and service at least once a week. This may include “how to” instructions or hysterical explainer videos such as that of Dollar Shave Club. It went viral and has had well over 22 million views on the website, social media platforms, and YouTube. (the video, by the way, cost only $2,500 to make.)
  • 80% of Internet users remember a video ad they watched in the last 30 days
  • 64% of website visitors are more likely to make a purchase after watching a video of the product or service.

This is a compelling case for videos. But, beyond those, there are other visual options coming, so stay tuned – live streaming augmented and virtual reality are all moving into the content marketing sector.

And use a variety of visuals – photos, infographics, drawings, memes, animated Gifs, etc. The same type of visual over and over gets boring.

Ask Your Customers for Reviews (and Make It Easy)

Again, this is about lining up those brand ambassadors. And you don’t get what you don’t ask for. When you have a satisfied customer, send an email, ask for a review and provide the link to the review site for it to be posted. And ask them to share their great experience on their social platforms. Offer an incentive for them to do so. Good reviews from actual customers and posts that go out to a customer’s entire tribe “move” that brand. And, they build trust.

Test Re-Marketing

For some companies, re-marketing works very well. But there are also some audiences who see it a bit like stalking, and it disturbs them. Just because they visited your website and looked at a few items, they are now seeing those or similar items showing up while they travel around the web. Before you launch a full-blown campaign, test the waters with a small segment first.

E-mail Marketing – It’s Not Over

For a few years, marketers were “down” on email marketing. Their recipients were not responding, and analytics were telling them that the emails were not even being opened. That actually is no longer true if you do it correctly. Here’s how this work:

  • Gate some really enticing content – the price is an email address or a subscription to your blog
  • Place each conversion into the right segmented category. Yes, you have to segment your audience based upon where each individual is in the sales journey. They all need to get different emails and get them a bit regularly, so they don’t forget you.
  • The key is to create amazing subject lines. Many companies, of course, put discounts and deals in their subject lines. These are fine, but every once in a while, send an email that is not a sales pitch. It can be funny; it can be a poignant story; it can be a news item that relates to your product or service in some way. It can be a cause you are supporting.

After the Flint Michigan water crisis made the news, AQUAhydrate, a water company owned by Mark Wahlberg and Sean Combs (“Puff Daddy”), pledged one million bottles of water to Flint. This was posted all over the web, on social media, by news outlets, etc. Think of the brand spreading that occurred because of this one act. You may not be a big a the celebrities, but you can use your email list to speak of your good works. It says you care, and it makes you genuine.

In 2016, 89% of marketers said they were using email as a lead source. And with great tools for segmentation, an automation of email, marketers’ jobs are a lot easier these days.

Don’t Ignore Your Website

In all of the flurry to get content out there, to respond to comments, questions and feedback on social media, the whole point of all of the brand recognition campaign is to get visitors to your site – that is where they might actually be enticed to make a purchase.

Keep that website (and your mobile app) entirely up to date. And every time you change anything, test!

Blog “Rules”

If you start a blog, you are committed. You are committed to posting on a regular schedule. But here is what else you can do with that blog:

  • Don’t just post your own stuff. If you come across an interesting or humorous news article, re-post it.
  • Read other related blogs and ask if you can re-post cool stuff they have written
  • Get out there and make friends with other bloggers. After a time, you can approach them about posting some of your better articles. This is called distribution, and when you have a link back to your site, you may get some new visitors

Respond to Comments and Feedback but Don’t Get Suckered In

You will have angry customers. The “big boys” do all the time. If they post publicly, respond but don’t “take the bait.” It’s easy to get defensive and snarky, but just don’t do it. Respond calmly and solve the issue – publicly.

And don’t ever automate your responses. American Airlines and Progressive Insurance tried it with some pretty bad results. If you respond, it has to be personal. And respond to the compliments too.

Wrap-Up

These are only 12 tips. There are much more, to be sure. You may even have some. Let us know in the comment below. One thing is for certain. Brand marketing is a tireless and endless journey. Stay focused, stay informed, and take every opportunity to get that brand out there.

Good luck!

Do Blogs Have A Limited Lifespan?

The other day I got to thinking about blogging and if there is ever a time when a blogger should just call it quits. Specifically, I started something of an internal dialogue about what would happen if there comes a time when everything has been said already and any future publications would just be redundant.

I’ll take a hypothetical situation here and expand a little on it.  Let’s suppose that Jane decided to start a blog about cats.  She publishes a few articles a week and covers topics such as feeding, health issues, behavior problems, etc.  Eventually she notices that all her knowledge and experience on this subject has been published on her blog, any related news stories have been covered, and she has nothing new to add.  What now?

Some may say to maybe  revisit older posts and touch on them again.  But even if you do this, how long would you want to continue in the pattern of repeating information that is already on your site?

With the exception of perhaps tech blogs, I am leaning towards the opinion that any topical blog really does have what could be termed as a lifespan.  You may have an incredible blog that is a virtual encyclopedia of information, but eventually your blog will become an exhaustive authority on the subject where nothing new of value can be added.  It would be a bittersweet moment if and when a dedicated blogger reaches this point.

What do you think?  Do you think that a blog can continue to provide new and relevant topical content indefinitely, or do you think that eventually they can become “complete” and maybe should be shelved?

What is a blog ?

Although word blog is known to almost every internet user but still this question is very important  as we still have many misconceptions about blogging floating around the web.