David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

Tips for better SEO (search engine optimization) and website marketing …

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Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

Picture-perfect Pinnable Pics (12 hot tips!)

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

A blog without pictures is like dessert without taste. An effective approach to images can do so much more for your blog posts than just make them look pretty. Here are 12 ways to improve your blog posts with images.

If you still think of blogging as a writer’s job, you have been daydreaming while the Internet marches on. Blogging is now a three person job:

• Writer
• Artist
• Marketer

You might be all three people at once (most bloggers are), or you might be part of a blogging team. Either way, all three people are needed. The writer comes up with the topic and the words to express it. Of course, the writer is still the core person on your team. The artist comes up with visuals that make the post more appealing and transmit your message visually. The marketer makes sure there are people there to read the post.

Today, let’s look at the artist. The artist’s job is to add images to the post. Sounds simple enough. But there is a lot more to it than that. Here are 12 tips to super-charge your blog with visuals.

Picture-perfect blogging pics

Any image is a good image

If you don’t have images yet, put up an image on your very next post. Even if you don’t read a word more of this post, the most boring stock photography image in the world is better than no image. Stock photos might not be the most pinnable (likely to be shared on Pinterest and other visual social media), but at least they are technically pinnable.

Yes, I might slap your hand for putting up a boring image, but at least you’ll be breaking up the text with a visual, which is the most basic function an image does.

Headline images

Images can serve as a headline. The headline or title is what people read first. As important as it is to have a clear headline that arouses curiosity, a good looking headline makes readers more interested in giving your content their attention. And a headline image can sometimes be more pinnable or sharable on social media than a stock photo.

Just remember that there is a trade-off, since search engines can’t read images, so you might also want a text headline.  Here is a sample headline image from our site:

T10 Content Banner

It’s not just for Pinterest

In case you had not noticed, some of the most shared items on Facebook and Google Plus are images. And links to blog posts that have good images get clicked a lot more than links with no images. If this does not appeal to the artist in you, it should appeal to the marketer in you.  See how a this pic appears on Google Plus:

Image on Google Plus

Add to that the number of smaller social sharing sites that now require images, from various Pinterest clones to new Pligg-based websites. You really cannot afford to post without an image.

Arouse curiosity

Images that arouse curiosity are better for social sharing. Why, do they get shared more often? Perhaps they do, but more importantly, the share is more likely to lead to traffic. And isn’t that the goal of getting your post and its images shared? This image from WonderOfTech.com is a great example of arousing curiosity:

An image can arouse curiosity

Use text

Here is the oxymoron of our age. People will look at images rather than read through reams of text. But images that are basically text, tend to get viewed and arouse interest best. Why? Because they carry a message. If people like the message or want to learn more, they will read your post. Careful, though – don’t throw too much text on the image and make sure the lettering is easy to read.  Here is a good example from SupportForStepDads.com that really is just an excuse for making text into an image to deliver a message:

A text message turned into an image

Here is an example from BoulderLocavore.com of a photo that simply had text added to describe the picture:

Text added to describe the image

Original images

Images that are original are generally better than stock photos. There are a number of reasons for this. One of those reasons is the previous point about text. You can turn a stock photograph into something original by adding text.  Or you can add other images to stock photography, such as the logos that Bill Gassett created for his article at Virante.org:

Add text and logos to stock photography

Images that stand on their own

This might seem obvious from the past few points, but the most shareable images are usually those that stand on their own. People will share those images (with your link) just for the sake of the image, even if they don’t care about your post and haven’t read it.  By sharing it, they extend your reach to people who might even click through and read your post.  An image that is just a title or an introduction to your post will be shared mostly by those who have clicked through to read it, like it and bother to back up and share the image.  Here is an example of an image that stands on its own from TheHappyGuy.com, and serves to entice clicks from people who would be interested:

Sample image that stands on its own

Message-oriented images

Images that are closely aligned with your message, perhaps even summing up your post or pulling a snappy quote from the post, will be most effective, as they will intrigue the very people most likely to enjoy your post.  Here is another example from TheHappyGuy.com, showing how an entire blog post can be summarized in a single mini-poster:

So an original image that stands on its own with text that relates closely to the message in your blog post, arousing curiosity for interested people to click through – that is your ideal image.

Inspirational messages

One type of image people love to share are inspirational messages of hope, of being kind, of believing in yourself. If there is a message related to your post that you can give an inspirational twist, you can make your post more sharable through the image. Here is a good example from MartinaMcgowan.com:

Inspirational pic

Humorous messages

People also love to share humor. A funny message or a cartoon can get your post more widely shared. I wrote about the value of adding a cartoon to your blog not long ago. Can you think of a funny angle to your topic? Sometimes it’s hard, but perhaps you have a braintrust who can help out. Here is a good example of simple humor from HomeOnDeranged.com.

Images arouse curiosity

Sexy messages

You know that people are a lot more likely to share and click through for a pretty and alluring young lady. But be very careful that your image is safe for work, or you will lose a lot of potential traffic. Even just a really pretty smile can increase click-throughs to the post and keep people feeling good about reading it once they are there.  Here is an example from HotTubCoversCanada.ca:

A tastefully sexy image can inmprove readership and sharing

Combination messages

Can you work in both sexy and humorous, or humorous and inspirational, all the while getting some of your point across. The more elements mentioned above, the more likely you are to get people clicking through to your blog posts, and the more likely they will keep reading. Here is an example from MadLemmings.com of how humor and inspiration can work with your message:

Humorous blog image

But trying to include everything in an image might be too much (seriously, you are unlikely to be sexy, humorous, inspirational, arouse curiosity in an image that stands on its own and delivers your message). So the goal is not to use ALL of the tips above, but to use as many as works for each post.

Of course, we must assume that you are writing something they will feel is worth reading.

BONUS TIP – Make it yours

Sometimes images get shared without your link. Yes, I know that might seem hard to believe on such a charming planet as this, but when it happens, you don’t want to lose ownership of the image. Imagine that 100,000 see your image without knowing that they should visit your website.

Slap your URL on the pic. Or your logo. Or your name. Or your phone number.  Tactfully unobtrusive, of course.  Here is a good example form a three months ago:

Content marketing can draw customers in

Now you are ready to go out and create blog posts that will catch the eye, and social sharing that will pull people in to read your blog posts – and help people better enjoy your post once they start reading.

I know three people who will be thrilled that you have all this pic knowledge ready to use – the writer, the artist and the marketer.

 


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Cartoonify your blog for top SEO results

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Cartoons give a blog – or any website – an unfair advantage in the search engines. Cartoons can turn an unremarkable blog post into prime link-bate, and a web page into SEO rock star status.

In the crowded world of blogging, the path to success is always to distinguish yourself. There are many ways to do this; here are just a few of the more common ways to distinguish your blog within its niche:

  • the length of the posts
  • the approach you take to a topic, perhaps playing Devil’s advocate or assembling multiple opinions
  • a unique writing style
  • incredibly thorough research
  • presentation

By way of example, Mike at Sugar Piner Realty Blog makes a big deal of how each post is a “lightning fast read”, which makes it easy for people to click through without feeling they will be stuck reading for hours (low risk).

On the other hand Neil Patel of Quicksprout Blog prides himself on long, detailed, highly useful posts. His is one of my favourite blogs; I don’t mind being stuck reading his long text because I almost always walk away something useful and actionable (high value).

Yes. Short is awesome. Long is amazing. Both these bloggers distinguish their posts by taking exact opposite approaches. But what they share in common is that they distinguish.

Whether a post is long or short, provocative or bland, informative or opinionated, presentation also counts. These days, the value of having an image on your blog posts is indisputable.

  • Pinterest is huge. No image, no Pinterest.
  • FaceBook adds images from links automatically. Your link is lost on FaceBook without an image.
  • Twitter is growing increasingly visual.
  • Google Plus is at least as visual as FaceBook…and I don’t even know if you can post there without an image.
  • Snapzu. GentleMint. Scoop.it. Manteresting. Sulia. Rockzi. Dudepins. DartItUp. Etc.  Those are just the ones where I have profiles; you might know of others.

What does this have to do with SEO? I’m getting to that.

Stock photography has bloomed (not literally, except for floral photography) over the past few years, as the number of blogs continues to rise, compounded by the realization that a blog post needs an image.

Infographics have also exploded (not literally) as everybody and their pet Chihuahua’s grandmother tries to cram “everything ever known in the universe since before the beginning of time” into one handy reference image.

People love funny pictures. #cartoons #SEO #blog posts

But Mark Anderson of Andertoons makes a strong case that cartoons are more effective than stock photos and Infographics.

It could be argued that stock photography (boring!) and Infographics (seriously?) are just being done wrong. And I might well make that case in another blog post (or two). But even done right, stock photography and Infographics would have a hard time competing with cartoons.

Is this where you get to the SEO part? Shhh. Stop interrupting.

A cartoon holds a dual promise that no other medium does. It offers the likelihood that any time invested in it will bring laughter, or at least a smile … or at least some form of amusement. Chances are pretty good that you will feel good after reading a cartoon.

In a good mood, the reader might be more amenable to continuing to read the post. Enjoying the cartoon, the post might be shared just for the cartoon’s sake. Who would do that for stock photography, or even for an Infographic?

Even if the cartoon sucks, you know that it won’t take more than a moment of your time, so this is a lower-rick activity than clicking through to yet another blog post on the levels of mercury found in southeast Pacific tuna. Who won’t read the cartoon?

If you have not yet heard, SEO these days is all about engagement. The more people you can get top view your content, and the more they engage with it, the better you will rank in the search engines. Lots of engaged people send lots of tweets, post lots of FaceBook comments and link back from their blogs. The natural links, just because your content is so awesome, are the Holy Grail of SEO.

eyeballs x engagement = SEO

SEO tips for cartoons (lightening fast read!)

  • Make sure your cartoon is on-topic with the post.
  • The cartoon does not have to re-enforce a specific point from the post, but bonus points if it does.
  • Make sure the cartoon can stand on its own, out of context. It will stand a much better chance of being shared in social media.
  • The cartoon does not need to have keywords in the text, but bonus points if it does.
  • Make sure the image file name and alt text have keywords, unless it would look really silly.
  • Make sure your URL is on the cartoon, in case it gets shared beyond your ability to track it.
  • Welcome reprints (you can even give link code, the way Infographics marketers often do).

Why my cartoonfographic rocks

The most shared post on this blog is actually an Infographic. It will never win any design awards, unless someone is giving out a what-do-you-call-that-awkward-thing award. But it does do four things very well:

  • It is short and sweet (lightening fast read).
  • It addresses a much-talked about topic (newsworthy)
  • It gives a useful, actionable framework for evaluating links (useful)
  • It looks almost more like a cartoon than like an Infographic (What DO you call that awkward thing?)

Cartoons are not cheap. They are labour-intensive, so you will pay a price. If you have deep pockets, they are a great investment every day. If your pockets are shallower, you might want to be strategic in how you use cartoons.

For instance, a lot of personal finance bloggers have a mix of content on their blogs:

  • useful tips and tricks for saving money, making money and keeping sane through it all
  • financial product reviews

Guess which of the two types of posts is income-producing? And guest which type of post people actually like to share? One way to make the income-producing posts more shareable is with a cartoon. The result is more inbound links and more social signals to the pages that actually need to rank well in the search engines.

Another strategy would be to have a weekly or monthly cartoon, and draw people into other posts through that cartoon. To be more clear, the cartoon would be a post on its own, perhaps with a round-up of the week’s or the month’s posts to get people moving deeper into your website.

Cartoons are particularly useful for dull topics, like grain elevators or concrete mixing. Even the world’s biggest grain elevator groupie, or the world’s biggest cement curing fan would be hard-pressed to read through 800 words on those topics without yawning.  Imagine, however,the fun you could have with a cartoon of a grain elevator sinking into improperly mixed cement. Ah, but now I mix my metaphors…

Cartoons are not your only option for effective and engaging images. Infographics work, too. Stock photography works, too. But cartoons do have a natural advantage, and are well worth your consideration. It could be the unfair SEO advantage that propels your blog.

DEAR READERS: What do you think makes the ideal image for a web page or blog post?

 


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Why You Should Be Blog Carnival-Crazy

Monday, January 16th, 2012

If you have never heard of a blog carnival or a blog round-up, this is not to be missed. As a blogger, you should seriously consider hosting a blog carnival – and you should absolutely be participating in blog carnivals every week.

First, the terminology.

  • Blog round-up. A summary of interesting blog posts from the previous week (or however long the blogger decides).
  • Blog carnival. A summary of interesting blog posts from the previous week (or however long the blogger decides).

Ah…yeah. So what is the difference? Originally a “carnival” traveled, hosted by a different blog each week. A few still do, but most are simply round-ups with a festive name.

Why your blog should host a carnival:

Traffic. When you post a dozen links to other people’s posts, guess what happens… they tweet about the post and sometimes link to it and generally send people your way.

Links. As I said above…

Networking. List a dozen blog posts and you get brownie points from a dozen happy bloggers.

Why you should submit your blog to a carnival:

Traffic. When someone posts a link to your post on their carnival, chances are people will follow the link and discover your blog.

Links. As I said above…

Networking. The blogger will appreciate that you contributed to his blog.

Blog Carnival tools:

There are a few ways that you can find posts to include in your carnival. There are two broker websites, which I will review below, and there are a few simple tactics to find posts on your own.

1. Tweet a request for contributions.
2. Ask your mastermind group on FaceBook or Skype or wherever (I have seen this done effectively several times).
3. Post a notice on niche forums.
4. Track the blogs you like via RSS and choose the posts you like most (several people do this).
5. Do a blog comments carnival. I take the more substantial comments that I leave on other people’s blogs, and I blog them into a carnival.
6. Post a notice on your own blog – that might be enough to get a flood of submissions.

BlogCarnival.com: This website has been around for a while, and lists hundreds or blog carnivals.

What I like about the site…

It is nicely automated. When you put in the URL of a blog post, much of the submission form is auto-filled.

Plenty of blogs in all sorts of niches, and since your posts will mostly be relevant to one niche all the time, and to most niches on occasion, this works well.

What I don’t like about the site….

Most of the carnivals listed no longer exist. At least there is a notice that the carnival does not exist, but still it does clog things up. I always sort the available blogs by “most recent” carnival, and don’t bother with ones that have not been kept up to date.

Several blogger I know who have used the site have complained that they don’t get the submissions people send. I know some go through, because I have had success, but I have no idea what submission success rate is.

Each carnival opens in the same window, so to submit to several, I need to manually open up several windows at a time.

BlogCarnivalHQ.com. In response to the submission problems at log Carnival, this site was set up by Tom Drake, a leading financial blogger (he also runs Fwisp, a growing social bookmarking site for finance bloggers).

What I like about the site…

Quick clicks to each blog, uncluttered by hundreds of no-longer active carnivals.

Great for finance articles.

Solid programming and a personal commitment by Tom Drake to keep it functioning properly.

What I don’t like about the site…

The site is still new, so other categories are pretty sparsely populated. (This is your chance to get your blog in on the ground floor.)

Each carnival opens in the same window, so to submit to several, I need to manually open up several windows at a time.

If you don’t want to run your own carnival, but you do want a post included in a carnival, there are three ways to find carnivals to submit to. One way is to search Google or Bing for carnivals or round-ups related to your niche. The other two ways are to search the two blog carnival websites I reviewed above.

 


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2011 Social Media Fail of the Year

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Most posts that bestow a title like this focus on the biggest company that made the most visible boo-boo, like FaceBook or Twitter or Digg or StumbleUpon. But this post focuses instead on the social media site that put the biggest stick of dynamite under its own mission and went…

Because this is a long post, let me tell you what you will read here. You will read a rant, and you will read some advice that you can use in your social media strategy – what you can learn from the 2011 Social Media Fail of the Year. And if you don’t heed the advice, the rant might just become your own in 2012.

Without further ado, the winner of the the 2011 Social Media Fail of the Year award is… BlogEngage. The founder, owner and nanny of this social bookmarking website has frequently made clear that his goal for the site is to build community. Let’s see how well he has done that – and what it means to you and your blog.

My Story (and rant!)

Until two days ago, I was the #3 “top user” of BlogEngage.

Why did I leave BlogEnage so suddenly?

Because my account disappeared. At first, I thought it was a terrible programming error. I had seen this before. So I quickly sent a Skype message to Brian Belfitt, the aforementioned founder, owner and nanny.

No response.

I tried direct messaging him on Twitter.

No response.

Then I noticed something strange on Skype. Brian’s avatar was no longer showing on his profile. And his location was now reading: “This person has not shared their details with you.”

I tried direct messaging him on Twitter again.

No response.

Have you any idea how much work, how much community-building it takes to be the #3 user at a site like that over a period of a year?

  • How many submissions? Not just of my own posts, but of other blogs I had no “interest” in?
  • How many votes? Not just of my “friends” but of other intriguing stories?
  • How many comments?
  • How much reaching out and interacting to promote what I had submitted?
  • How many new members I had recruited for the website?

Do I still think it is worthwhile for you to invest all this time and effort in social bookmarking websites? Read on, as I have some solid, well-grounded advice for you on this point. But first, some background.

It was dawning on me that my account, and two others I noticed (at least one of which showed up in the “top users” widget of the site), had been purposefully deleted by Brian. Why? The most recent time we had communicated, he had told me that I was conducting myself as a model member of his community. I was totally puzzled.

The next morning, I discovered a blog post on the site: http://www.blogengage.com/blogger/take-your-time-and-make-your-votes-count/ . Yes, he had purposely removed a number of accounts in what appears to be a fit of frustration at how the community was conducting itself in a way different than his intention of how they should interact.

I waited for most of the day for some answer from Brian to messages I had sent now through three separate channels. Those who have been around social bookmarking for a while don’t expect explanations. For instance…

  • The most open secret on the Internet is how Reddit will disable your account for no reason, while making it still appear to you that your account is active. There is even a name for them: “Zombie accounts”.
  • Digg used to be famous for banning accounts for good reason and for no reason until about a year ago when Digg V4 was launched, and now the second-most open secret on the Internet is how Digg won’t even ban people anymore for setting up duplicate accounts.
  • And Newsvine says they will respond to you. They don’t.

But a small gated community (Yes, I’ll explain that later)? Where you are on a first-name basis with the sole proprietor? Who is your follower on Twitter? Who you Skype with? Who you email with? Would he really just delete his Top User #3 from his site with no warning? No explanation? In the words of Shania Twain, “You must be joking, right?”

Finally, not getting a response from Brian directly, I posted a comment on his blog. And in the five minutes between posting my comment and when it was removed, I grabbed this screenshot:

Yes, the message is slightly provocative, although I assure you it was VERY restrained. In fairness to me, imagine how I felt at having a year’s worth of work just wiped out by an erratic webmaster. And in fairness to Brian for removing my comment, if you had just done something this “special”, you would not appreciate having it pointed out to you on your own blog.

Three Reasons for Earning the 2011 Social Media Fail of the Year Award

Is deleting my account, and several others, what earns BlogEngage the 2011 Social Media Fail of the Year on its own? No. It is just the fourth of four blunders that self-sabotaged the site’s social mission.

FAIL #1. The first was the famous RSS submission service (I believe this was actually in 2010, but it needs to be included as part of the pattern). I must say, this is a really cool tool and I had favourably reviewed it. Basically, subscribers have their blog posts automatically submitted to BlogEngage as they are published. They get an extra vote out of the deal, as well as removing the drudgery of submission. For people who have several daily blogs, this is very worthwhile.

Unfortunately, many people using this subscription are pure spammers, who use the service for hit and run bookmarking. They let the automated system handle the submissions and they don’t build the community.

  • They don’t come back to vote for others’ submissions.
  • They don’t comment on others’ submissions.
  • They don’t ask others for support – votes, comments, etc.

These are all three vital aspects of a “community” on a social bookmarking website.

Not all RSS subscribers are hit-and-run spammers. But most of the spammers you see today on BlogEnage appear to be RSS subscribers. They pay for the privilege to spam the site.

FAIL #2. The second was when Brian started charging for memberships. Don’t get me wrong, the site belongs to Brian and he has the right to do whenever he wants with it. And if he can find a way to make a living running it, God bless him. I also run a social bookmarking website for Canadians. I would love to make a living doing just that, so I can 100% understand his motivation.

However, Digg is free. Reddit is free. StumbleUpon is free. They are all free sites that bring huge value to users and lots of traffic to submitted pages. And because they are free, they attract more users to view the submitted pages. By creating a gated community, BlogEngage reduced the value of belonging to that community. When recently discussing Blogengage in a few of my mastermind groups, one person summarized:

This is just Hilarious! I am not a “member” of BE….never submitted or voting for anything as I really don’t see much value from BE (no traffic, low PR, no direct Home Page link) but just need to point out the hypocrisy of this “community” as most users are afraid their accounts would get banned.

FAIL #3. The third was when Brian decided to charge $200 for a special promotion package that included automatic publishing to the home page – by-passing the community entirely. No need to attract votes. No need to attract comments. No need to actually participate in the community. Pass Go, pay $200. Again, if Brian can get enough people to pony up and he can quit his day job, more power to him. It is his site. But again, this is not about building community; it is about by-passing community.

FAIL #4. Booting out some of your top users, for…for…for what? I can only surmise from the words and tone of his blog post that we were not building community in the fashion that the owner wanted us to. There was no mention of any terms-of-service violations. On most social bookmarking websites, they remove your account for submitting and promoting your own websites. On BlogEngage, I was one of the few who regularly submitted posts that I did not have an “interest” in, as well as those that I did.

By removing several quality members, BlogEngage has left the site a little poorer. As one of the others who was also deleted mentioned to me, referring to a letter he had received from BlogEngage not long ago: ”

The funny thing is that he said that our submissions were poor quality… most of our subs were way beyond the regular stuff over BE like ‘win $50 blogging contests’. Or post #465 on why CommentLuv is so great. Or win BE RSS subscription. “Affordable Web Hosting: Hostgator – Go ‘Gators!”

So once again, BlogEngage seems to be bypassing community to impose its own vision of exactly how people should interact with each other. Social media, or social engineering?

And by arbitrarily deleting accounts, BlogEnage makes it less worthwhile for members to waste time in building the community. As one person in another of my mastermind groups puts is, “True. Why should I just keep plugging away so that he can kill my account a few months down the road?” (I am still puzzled, though, with how we traveled with lightening speed from assertions that I was a model community member to deleting my account.)

Advice for Social Bookmarking Users

At this point, you might expect me to say “Don’t waste your time with social bookmarking, especially not BlogEngage.” Well, no on both counts.

I had written a very popular post on Who owns your Twitter account, the tweeter or his/her company? Spoiler alert: the answer is Twitter.

Lesson One from my rant above is that when you invest in a social bookmarking or social sharing website, you are investing in somebody else’s website. Don’t forget that.

What advice would I give current BlogEngage members?

1. Keep submitting your content. Yes, it could still get deleted at any time, but that happens all the time on the Internet. Your press release on a press release website can be refused. If the site is sold or shut down, your release is gone with it. Your comments on any blog disappear when the blogger sells the domain or shuts down. All my submissions at Mixx and Propeller disappeared when those sites shut down. These are still great ways to share content, build links, network and generally promote your website. Do it anyway. It is unlikely that Brian will delete every active user’s account.

2. Don’t invest in the community. Yes, Brian says that is what he wants you to do, but when your account can so arbitrarily be deleted, it is just not worth wasting your time. Invest in your own submissions, that’s it.

What advice would I give non BlogEngage members?

Don’t join. Digg is free. My Zoomit is free. Fwisp is free. HealthBuzzing is free. BizSugar is free. Blokube is free. NewsMeBack is free. Tipd is free. BlogInteract is free. Cloudytags is free. All of them are great social bookmarking sites. If everyone charged, it would be different, but why on earth would you pay for less value and more risk?

What general advice about social bookmarking?

Social bookmarking is still absolutely A.W.E.S.O.M.E. – a great way to spread your content around the web, to be active and visible, to build quality links directly and through other bloggers and website owners and social media lovers that see your content. If your content sucks, social bookmarking is not all that useful. But if you have great content on your website, go for it!

Call me a hopeless romantic, but I have already shaken off this minor setback. Most people are both good and stable, and most social bookmarking venues, micro-blogging sites and blogs are amazing places to interact with others on the Internet. Good for traffic. Good for SEO. Good for networking. Good for building a reputation. Good. Good. Good.

And most will never vie for the coveted Social Media Fail of the Year award.

 


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Business Blog Commenting Carnival #1

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Welcome to our first ever “Business Blog Commenting Carnival.” I spend a fair amount of time visiting blogs to learn, discuss, support and network.  With all the comments I leave, surely there are some that I should be sharing with my own readers.  And I thought also that you might be interested in some of the same blog posts that inspired me to elucidate, extrapolate or simply irritate.  And that is the idea between what I hope will become a regular feature on this blog.

 

 

Over at Do You Shine? Consider A Business Model Shift , I just had to agree that change is a mind trap…

This is so sadly true, not just with whole business models but even with small adjustments. How many times have I known that I should make a change…but change is disruptive. It takes time to even just set up a new process for doing something. There is a HUGE psychological barrier to making changes.

And at at 5 Ways to Make Your Site Fly, one of the 5 tips to make your blog faster was about resizing images. I added this…

I have also found an easy way to resize images is just to view them on my desktop, then reduce the size of the picture viewing window, then I just use the snipping tool to save the image in a new size.

I had to jump in at Want to start a business – How to come up with a new Business idea

I think a more basic question is why you want to start a business in the first place. Normally the reason to start a business IS because you have a passion about something. Or you see a problem that needs fixing. Or you are frustrated in your job because the boss just doesn’t get it.

If you have to search for an idea, there is a good chance your business will fail. The core motivation is missing.

On Social Media and Email – a Winning Combination

Indeed, there is no guarantee that your list will respond as you wish. First, the content must be really good, not something cobbled together on the cheap or a sales pitch with no curiosity of “Wow!” factor. And then, as you say, you have to be oh-so clear about what you want them to do, because people can be stupid – yes, even really smart people can also be stupid – and busy and distracted.

And while we are on the topic of the power of social media (I know this is not so much business related), I commented at 7 Links, 5 Writers

“One of the most amazing things about the Internet, and one I am most thankful for, is the way it brings together people of different ages, nationalities, backgrounds, and experiences, and enables them to become friends before it ever occurs to them that, under other circumstances, their paths likely never would have crossed. ”

I have often thought about this. It is one of the reasons I am so happy to associate with people on the Internet, even though I am a bit of a hermit. Many people I am best buddies with on the Internet, I might not even get along with in real life – who knows?  This virtual world is amazing.

 


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Can You Survive the Blog?

Monday, August 29th, 2011

No, this is not a horror movie (you might be thinking of The Blob). This is a blogging contest. I love a good blogging contest, and it seems that there have been precious few of them of late. But along comes…

…and it’s time to have some fun.

Blogging contests are a always great way to gain recognition as a blog writer and make new connections. They give new links for both people and search engines to follow (good for SEO) and they create a sense of importance for your blog. Plus, you could win prizes (but , really, that is probably the smallest benefit).

This contest is even better.

It’s like a reality TV show – only, it’s a reality blog show. Have you ever watched Survivor? Me neither. But if, you have, this is a lot like that show. Two teams will be selected and each will have to build a blog together. Along the way, folks get voted off until only one person gets to keep the blog and the fabulous cash prizes. This is a pretty original contest, so it is worth entering.

Here are the rules…

The Rules

Starting September 5, 2011, they will begin accepting entries for potential contestants. The deadline for entries will be September 23rd, 11:59 p.m. EST. Selections will be announced on October 3rd, and the official Surviving The Blog contest will begin on Monday, October 10th.

To be considered for one of the 2 teams, here are the guidelines:

  1. Write a “Why WeBlogBetter Should Choose Me” blog post for your blog that announces this contest, your intent to enter, and reasons why they should choose you over everybody else. Be sure to include ALL sponsors banners and links. (See code on the official post ). This sponsor list will continue to grow and it’s your responsibility to make sure you have the latest updates. You do not need to own a blog, however, to enter, you’ll still need to write the required blog post – you can do that by guest blogging on another blog or by starting a free one at WordPress.com, Blogger, Google Sites, or even on Squidoo.
  2. Tweet this post on Twitter at least 7 times. (Once per day for a week) Be sure to mention @WeBlogBetter so that they can verify that you’ve done this.
  3. Share this post on various social networking sites.
  4. Subscribe to the WBB Email List, if you haven’t already
  5. Follow these WBB Team Member blogs: PositiveSpin, LiveYourLove, Hajrakvetches!, SoloMomPreneur, FindAllAnswers.com
  6. Send an Email to: [email protected] with the subject: “Intent to Enter” that includes the following required pieces:
  • Link to your “Why WeBlogBetter should Choose Me” blog post
  • The Twitter ID that you used to tweet this post
  • Evidence that you’ve shared this post on other social networks (screenshots, links, your profile, etc.)
  • The email you used to subscribe to the WBB Email List.
  • A Short bio of yourself that includes details that will make you stand out from the crowd.
  • A 250×250 or bigger photo of yourself (Must be appropriate and Safe For Work).

Sponsor rules

And if you wish to sponsor, you can do so at the following levels:

  • $50 Basic Level – Get a link with the anchor text of your choice included – Lowest Placement
  • $100 – Silver Level – Get a 125×125 banner w/Link – Bottom Placement
  • $150 – Gold Level – Get a large 300×250 banner w/Link – Middle placement
  • $200+ – Platinum Level – Get a large 300×250 Banner w/Link – Top Placement (Top dollar gets top placement). Plus get your ad displayed in the rotating banner for 6 months (right sidebar of WeblogBetter and the 2 Competing Blogs)

Let the blogging begin!

 


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Animate Thy Blog

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Animate your blog.  No, not that kind of “animate”.  I’m not talking about Flash or GIFs or even video.  I am not talking about animation.

I am talking about animals.

an•i•mate (n-mt)
tr.v. an•i•mat•ed, an•i•mat•ing, an•i•mates
To fill with animals.

Before you go thinking that I’ve gone Noah on you, consider this question: “How do you engage your blog readers?” posed by Brian Belfitt at SEOMKT.

My response to that post (visible in the comments) was “all over the place”, according to Brian.  And he is right.  I reflected upon what I tend to do across the various blogs I write, and I realize that I like to “animate” them.  This may or may not be an approach you want to follow; it is one of many ways to add a little colour to your blog.

Real Animals In Imaginary Settings.

squirrelLet’s start with the approach I think works best.  Do you remember the cartoon “The Far Side”?  Gary Larson made a career of switching role of humans and animals.  People somehow relate to animals playing human roles.

I would be proud if I had even a fraction of Larson in me, I suppose, since I wrote about “Five Animals Teach Us Less-wasteful Dining Habits“.  Not only does the theme put animals in the role of humans, but three of the illustrations do, too.

Real Animals In Real Settings.

monkeysinhottubOver at the Hot Tub Covers Blog, I wrote about “Monkeys Love Hot Tubs“.  This is a more real approach, almost science.  We put together a video montage of Japanese Macaques enjoying their own hot tub (hot springs).  Again, we try to humanize the animals by characterizing their actions in human terms.  (No monkeys were harmed in the filming of this blog post.  And nothing needed to be staged.) This might not work with every blog, but if it does, it can really add some colour for your readers.

Imaginary Animals in Imaginary Settings.

bugs2What’s an Imaginary animal?  Daffy Duck.  Under Dog.  Rocky and Bullwinkle.  Thestrals and Blast-ended Skrewts. I wrote “The Bugs Bunny Guide to Linkbuilding” right here on this blog.  Bugs is imaginary, of course, and the world of linkbuilding and SEO is pretty imaginary most of the time (and certainly some of the advice Bugs shares with us is somewhat unreal).  This post is based on the concept of “What would Bugs Bunny do?”, drawing on real-life quotes form this imaginary animal. People really enjoyed this post.

Imaginary Animals in Real Settings.

tigger1This one is a bit tougher to do, since Rocky and Bullwinkle have only once been caught on film in the real world – when filming their movie a few years ago.

But Kevin at Out Of Your Rut did manage to venture into the Hundred Acre Wood capture this live interview of “Eeyore and Tigger on Stock Investing Risk“.  (OK, so some people might suggest the stock market is no more real than SEO, but I had to place this here for symmetry.)

Maybe you’re not an animal type of blogger.  But maybe you are.  I hope this gives inspiration for a few colourful posts.  Whether you use my definition of the word “animate” or simply use the meaning “to make more lively”, may you leave this post prepared to animate thy blog.

 


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Google Lets Evil People Block Your Domain

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Yeah, I thought that title would grab you.  Google announced a new extension to its Chrome browser, an extension that could truly rock the SEO World.  The extension does two things:

  1. It enables searchers to block domains from search results.
  2. It tells Google what domains have just been blocked.

chromeSays Google anti-spam spokesman Matt Cutts, ” If installed, the extension also sends blocked site information to Google, and we will study the resulting feedback and explore using it as a potential ranking signal for our search results.”

This blog post will tell you exactly how to preserve and enhance your search engine rankings in a world where users can send explicit feedback (this Chrome extension is neither the first tool for explicit feedback, nor will it be the last; but it might just be the most powerful, so far).

I should make it clear that I was always a big believer is both explicit and implicit user feedback.  The search engines would be fools not to pay attention to which sites please their visitors when serving up sites to new searchers.

It was just over two years ago that I released Sticky SEO, essentially detailing how you can keep more visitors longer on your website, going deeper into the site.  For the most part, this means pleasing more visitors even more than you already do, since that is what Google looks for.

So what do you do with this Chrome extension?  Well, you want to please your visitors so that they don’t swear, curse and block your domain.

PROBLEM # 1: FREE LOADERS

Searching for free tattoos?  Probably not.
Searching for free tattoos?
Probably not.

There are a lot of people searching for free stuff on the Internet.  You don’t give your stuff away free, but the “free loaders” show up at your website.  “What?  They want a million bucks to dig a hole to China?  I want someone to do it for free.  Bloody rip-off scammers.  Block, block, block.”

There are probably not too many people searching for “dig a hole to China” and expecting free service.  Nor are there many people expecting to get new shoes for free.  Nor gourmet coffee or gift baskets.  Nor metal buildings or intercontinental pipeline installation.  Not even free tattoos or body piercing. But there many niches that include freebie searchers,  for example…

  • website templates
  • resume help
  • music downloads
  • ringtones
  • online games
  • learn Spanish

How do you make sure that people searching for freebies don’t block your website when they discover that you are one of those evil profit-seeking cannibals who wants to feed your family?  You give them what they want, of course.  You add something free to your site.  You give them a free option, or you link to a free option.  Somehow, you make sure you please them.  Remember what your mother said?  “You can never go wrong being nice to someone.”  Well, she should have said that.

PROBLEM # 2: GENERALISTS

Let’s say you sell a very specific item or service that is part of a bigger niche, but people don’t search all that specifically.  In Sticky SEO, on page 14 (until I eventually get around to updating it), I tell the tale of a client who wanted to revamp its website back in 2006.  They sold commercial fitness equipment, but their clients would search just for “fitness equipment”.  The problem was that ten times as many people looking for home gyms also searched for “fitness equipment”.

Life would be easy if people searched for “home fitness equipment”  or “commercial fitness equipment”, but life wasn’t meant to be easy.  What would they do about all this traffic from generalist searchers?

Please them, of course.  Remember what your mother said?  “You can never go wrong being nice to someone.”  Like I said, she should have said that…especially if she knew Google was going to give all those people an easy way to block your domain and tell Google your site sucks.

How to please those generalists?  No point in reprinting page 14 here.  You can read it for yourself.  (Hey, it’s a free download.  Did you think this was a sneaky sales pitch or something?)

Your evil competition wants to eat you.

Evil competitors want Google to eat you.

PROBLEM # 3: EVILDOERS

Yes, the world is an evil place if you look at it right.  Google’s motto is “Do no evil” (or something like that.  But they never said anything about not arming your competition to do evil, did they?  How much do you want to bet that across the Internet’s freelancer markets there will be an SEO arms trade: “100 domain blocks for $15 – from separate IPs in over 20 countries”?  Maybe for $25, who knows?

So how do you deal with that?  No inbound link is supposed to hurt your rankings, so that your competition can’t spam you out of the search results.  But what if a coordinated group of offshore outsourcing in China and India and Greenland gang up on you?

Sorry, I don’t have an answer for you on this one.  But I am sure Matt Cutts will be asked about it sooner or later, and maybe he will have an answer.  Hopefully.

 


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Blogging Right Takes Effort

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

The following is a guest post by RetroSciFiGeek, a natural follow up to my post on the golden rules of guest blogging.

One of the rules, obviously, is that you should prepare a quality post.  I say “obviously”, because I think we can all agree that it should be obvious.  Apparently, though, it is not.  In fact, most offers to guest blog are of very low quality.  When RetroSciFiGeek tweeted about how much effort he puts into each of his own posts I asked him to write about it for us.  I think it is instructive of how much effort goes into a guest post, or any blog post for that matter.

Some people do not get the difference between spam and a quality blog post,. In all my years of blogging I would say that I have come across spam on mainstream sites and I have come across quality posts on sites that are not so popular. Sometimes it is easy to think that a quality blog post comes naturally to the person writing it. A quality blog post usually takes a while to put together for people like myself. In my experience, a really good quality blog post can take hours to finish while a spammy post can either be one of those automatic hit jobs or a post that takes less than five minutes to complete.

When it comes to quality, the blog post needs to be well researched and it also needs to provide the answers to what the reader is looking for. Take for example the posts that I write on retroscifigeek.com. What most people think is that it took me a few minutes to put these posts together.  However, that is far from the truth. On average, one of my posts takes about three hours to complete. You might be thinking in your mind “Whoa!” or “No Way!” but I can assure it most certainly does.

Here is how the whole process breaks down for me:

Watching the Show (1 hour to 2 hours)

When I write about a particular show I have to watch the episode first. Watching episodes on the television or the computer takes more time for me than it does for most folks. The biggest reason is I have to constantly stop the episode so I can take notes on what is transpiring. Sometimes in really intelligently written shows like Battlestar Galactica or a show where there is a lot of techno-babble, I have to watch the show once and then go back through and watch it second time to take the best notes I can. The reason for watching it twice is to make sure I don’t miss anything that is important to the overall story that is being told.

In all honestly, watching the show is the best part about the whole process because I get to enjoy the show for what it is. When going back through a second time, I have already seen it… so taking notes is so much easier. I can concentrate on the little things that I may have missed the first time through. Obviously, watching the episode online or using a DVR makes the job a whole lot easier, but it still time consuming, to say the least.

Writing the Post (40 minutes)

Writing the post is probably my least favorite thing to do, because sometimes when I am watching a show, I just want to get to the next show. Obviously, I don’t want to forget things about the show that I just watched, so I jump right into writing the post. I know I said I take notes about what happens in a show, but I still remember things while I am writing that I did not remember to write down during the note taking process.

Before you can even begin to write about the episode you just watched, you have to structure the post in such a way that will make sense to the reader. Sometimes that means structuring it by character, place or thing. I tend to structure a lot of my posts based on where the most characters are in the show. Once the structure of the episode is laid out, then the writing process begins. I will say that the majority of my posts tend to be between 900 and 1400 words. This all depends on the show that I am watching and also the length of the show. Then there are times when the show itself is one of those filler episodes. When this happens, the posts tend to be shorter because the story is not adding anything to the overall story.

Editing (20 minutes)

Editing the post takes about 20 minutes for the entire piece. I know my grammar is not the strongest in the world, so I use Microsoft Word 2007 for grammar and spelling. Even then I know my grammar could use some work. I always joke about how I got a “C” in English and a “B” in French class. I still cannot figure that one out. Anyway, when I reread the post I find sentences that don’t make sense or words that are missing or words that don’t belong. Editing can make a world of difference and believe me — sometimes I get lazy during this process.

Finding Pictures, Videos and Finishing Up (30 minutes)

At the end of all the other processes, it is now time to find the pictures, videos and other doodads that belong on the post. I pretty much use Paint.net and Google Images for all my picture needs and Youtube.com for all my video needs. Usually I do a search on Google Images and then edit them for size in Paint.net

For videos, it is pretty cut and dry. Go to Youtube.com find the video and then place the code into the post. Now sometimes you will want the video at a different size. All you have to do in that case is to change the size parameters in the video code. Not too hard but it still takes time to do.

This whole process has taken over three hours to do and I have not even touched WordPress yet. I always upload my posts as a draft and then I go into WordPress to make sure the post will look right in a browser. Sometimes, but not all the time, I find little errors that have to be fixed so this makes publishing the post take a little bit longer. Once I have the whole post edited, and the code fixed, I am then able to add tags, categories, and anything else that the post may need.

As you can see writing a quality blog post takes time, research, patience, and the will to do it. It might take a little bit of computer know-how, but WordPress has made things so easy that I believe anyone can do it. In my past, I used to write those spammy looking posts that were less than 200 words. I used to always wonder why I was not getting the money and/or traffic for those posts that I thought I should get. I also used to wonder how sites like Problogger or Techcrunch were able to get so many followers. Now I know! It is a process of writing good quality posts first and then everything else will take care of itself.

 


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The Golden Rules of Guest Blogging

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

So many people are guest blogging these days. It is almost a cliché to say that once the masses get a-hold of something, they cheapen it. Sadly, the cliché is often true. So it is with guest blogging. I regularly receive offers to guest blog from people who have no clue what they are doing …which generally is wasting my time and theirs. So, here are the Golden Rules of Guest Blogging:

Know Thy Blog

That’s right, take time to study the blog you want to guest post for. What topics do they cover? What topics do they avoid? (Hint, if there are subjects that would be obviously on-topic, but they haven’t touched in the past 341 posts, they probably do NOT want your take on the subject.) Are posts serious? Fun? Are posts mostly practical or philosophical or reviews or opinion? Are posts very professional or very informal? Very carefully worded? Or anything goes? Are posts one-sided (is there a theme to the opinions?) or well-balanced? Is the writing top-quality? (Hint, regurgitating an article-directory article won’t fly on a good quality blog.) Are all the posts long? Short? All different lengths? These are just some of the points to look for.

Don’t Bore Thy Audience

Keep in mind what you learned about the blog you wish to write for. Even if it is a very serious blog, you don’t have to be boring. At very least, use colourful analogies or some form of allegory. Jesus spoke in parables, politicians do so all the time, and you can, too. Look for a new way to express old thoughts. For instance, how to eat frugally has been written all over the blogosphere, but how animals can teach us to eat frugally has not been covered very much. Get creative.

Can’t be creative? Maybe guest blogging isn’t for you. Your creativity – your fresh approach to a topic – is one of the main reasons a blogger might want a guest post on her blog.

Bring Value to the Table

Why on earth would I want you to write for my blog? Well, there might be some good reasons. Here are a few that I would consider worthwhile….

  • You have an amazing idea that captures my imagination
  • You have superstar credentials, strong enough that my blog would be very impressive just to host your name on it
  • You have an amazingly strong account at Twitter or StumbleUpon or other places that can drive traffic and links to my blog
  • I can’t write for the life of me and I need good writers that will impress people with the quality of the post
  • I have a far too ambitious publishing schedule to cover it all myself

What do you have to offer? At the risk of sounding like a nag, study the blog; you’ll quickly learn what might or might not be worthwhile. For instance, on this blog you’ll see immediately that I write very well and that “ambitious” is an antonym of my publishing schedule. You will also note that I rarely take on guest posts, so you’d better be prepared to really “Wow!” me if you hope to escape my brush-off.

Approach Bloggers Who Welcome Guests

I am not the only blogger who ignores most offers to guest post. But there are many bloggers who hungrily invite guest bloggers Try searching Google for your keywords along with “guest post” or “guest blog”. Or head over to Ann Smarty’s guest blogging forum where many of the more eager hosts are already waiting for you.

Write Well

If you write trash, your post will be accepted on a trashy blog. You get what you pay for. Or what you write for. Or what you scribble for. This falls under the heading of “when is an opportunity not an opportunity?”

These are the Golden Rules, as I see them. There are also some guest blogging tips to consider at About.com .

 


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