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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Australian Women Bloggers Directory by Blog Chicks

blogging

Information, tips and guidelines for making your blog effective and worth reading

Blog layout to help readers

It’s easy to be reminded that the look of your blog can affect readership. But there is one little design tool I hadn’t thought much about – I wonder if I’m the only one?

I came across an old blog post on what appears to be a prosperous blog. It was an interesting post but very much an introduction to a topic so I was interested to read more. In fact, the post ended with a comment like “Next time I’ll tackle how to do this”.

Links to previous and next blog posts

Next post is very handy

I couldn’t find the next post on the topic.

The blogger didn’t go back and add a link after he wrote the next post (assuming he actually he did write it!), didn’t give the title of the new post in the first post and the blog layout did not include a ‘next post’ or ‘previous post’ link on the page.

I take the next post link for granted really and don’t think about it much. Does your blog have it?

Do you find it strange when blogs don’t have such navigation links?

Many times I read a blog and ignore the next/previous because I just read one post or I want to read about a topic so use the search function rather than read in sequential order. Yet today I discovered a very important use of this navigation tool.

From now, I value the next/previous post link much more and would never publish a blog without it. Would you?

Not going to Problogger event?

Darren Rowse at Problogger 2012

Darren ended Problogger 2012 with a chat to us in the stands of the MCG

If you keep on an eye on the blogging community in Australia, it would have been a bit hard to miss the fact the Problogger event is on this weekend.

In fact, #PBEvent has already started trending on Twitter and the event hasn’t started yet!

Does not going mean missing out?

Speaking for myself, I’m now getting itchy feet about not being there. I loved it last year and am sure this year would have been even better.

For one thing, this year there are 3 sessions on most of the time (mind you it was hard enough to decide between two at times last year!) and I would have loved catching up with some people from last year.

And I simply hate missing out on things, lol!

However, it just wasn’t possible for me this year due to family commitments, especially as the travelling would put me so much further away.

There are many blog posts around at the moment about preparing for and getting the most out of PBEvent, so I thought I’d write a post for those of us itching to go but staying at home this weekend.

The PBEvent you have when you don’t go to PBEvent on the Gold Coast…

These are just my ideas and if you can add to the list, please do in the comments below as I want the best non-event I can get!

  1. Problogger, Darren Rowse, has helped us a lot by making a virtual ticket available again this year so you can hear sessions soon after the attendees do. So step one – grab◊ a virtual ticket!
  2. Listen to the virtual sessions. Sounds silly but a virtual ticket is pointless unless you listen to the recordings! What’s more, try listening to at least one or two during the weekend so you not only get the buzz but also can follow related conversations as you go.
  3. Set up a twitter search for #PBEvent. Be prepared for a lot of tweets to flow past you. I know last year there was a lot of chatter during the sessions as people shared things they learned as well as discussing and expanding on points made. Just cherry pick things from the Twitter feed and you will gain ideas and inspiration is my (educated) guess.
    Twitter feed for #PBEvent

    Already #PBevent is trending on Twitter – tweets will fly over the Problogger conference weekend!

    There will also be related hashtags as each session will have its own – I guess the trending hashtags list will give us a clue on the day!

  4. Find out who is at PBEvent (many have announced that on Facebook, in their blog, etc) and keep an eye on their blog and social media feeds. A lot of valuable information and insight will be shared in the next week. And you can select bloggers from your industry to refine the information, too.
  5. Got some blogging friends or contacts who are in your area instead of the Gold Coast? Why not get together for an hour or two this weekend? Watch the social media feeds and discuss some of the ideas you read. Not as good as the main event but you can still get some camaraderie and new ideas – and maybe a laugh or two while you’re at it!
    Of course, making local blogging contacts can have a long lasting impact on your blogging, too.
  6. Look up posts and other resources from last year’s PBEvent (I listed some in posts here and here). I intend dong this before any recordings are available  – partly to pick up some of the excitement again but also to remind myself of what I learned last year and how it worked (or didn’t!) for me.
  7. Blog! If you can’t be with them, at least make that motivation to write some posts!
  8. Plan for next year. What stopped you going this year? If it was money, plan how you can raise that extra mony for 2014 (there is an affiliate session by Darren, a session on starting to monetise and a selling stuff session by Shayne Tulley to help, too!) If it was timing, can you schedule things differently for next year now so you can be at PBEvent?
  9. Give yourself thinking time over the weekend to consider your blog. Ask questions like why you blog, what is and isn’t working, are you reaching the right audience, is it worth adding more (or less) media to your blog, and how can you best measure the success of your blog.

 

 

◊ Yes, this is an affiliate link. However, I suggest this because I know how great the event was last year. If I help cover my costs through an affiliate link, it helps my blog keep going and it doesn’t cost you anymore than if you bought a ticket directly. And it’s all done through Problogger so I never see any of your details.

What do you know about blogging?

On one hand, blogging is simple – put some words into a blogging platform and publish them. Make them good words and you’ll get lots of readers.

On the other hand, there is a lot of skill, strategy and knowledge that goes into running a good blog. And a lot of different measures for deciding if a blog is successful, or not.

leanring ABC of blogging

There is a lot to learn about blogging – but the important aspects are already with you

So what do you know about blogging?

What do you want to know about blogging?

Do you know why you care about blogging?

This isn’t a trick question I can give you an answer to.

I do think it is important to know why you are blogging (or thinking of blogging).

If you know why, you can make your blog suit that purpose and you have something to measure your success against.

For instance, if your aim is to build awareness of topic X, you can decide if 10 targeted readers is enough or if you need thousands of readers a week. Whereas if your aim is to blog to build  a habit of writing 200 words a day, a look at your post dates is an easy measure of your success.

I recently read a post by Rhianna which lists what she knows about blogging. It isn’t a technical list of how long posts should be, the best post frequency or choosing great titles, but a more basic list of what she knows about herself and her blogging purpose.

Like the Cheshire Cat said, how will you ever know you have arrived if you don’t know where you are going?

In a business context, I think this becomes even more important as time blogging could be spent elsewhere for perhaps greater profit – how do you know the blog is ‘working’ and worth the effort if you don’t know what it is meant to achieve for your business?

Even if you hire someone like me to help write or edit your blog posts, you need to know the purpose of your blog to assess it’s worth. And give direction to the writer.

So in the comments below, let me know why you blog. Or put in your ideas of maybe why you blog to help form your final answer and see if that changes how you blog.

* Images courtesy of 123rf

Ads disguised as information is lose-lose

For myself and for clients, I have often had an editor question whether I will provide an editorial (or article) rather than an advertorial. It’s almost insulting.

brand resting on trust

Brand rests on trust.
Dressing ads as information is not building trust.

Editorials are often the expectation

I say almost because I understand why an editor wants that reassurance.

It’s insulting because I wouldn’t ever pass an advertorial off as an article. I just wouldn’t. It is unprofessional for one thing and I would hate it as a reader so don’t do it as a writer/publisher.

Silly, I know, but I also assume others would not offer an article or editorial when planning to provide an advertorial.

This week, I was shown my silliness in believing that.

I read a guest post on a blog to find it was part advertorial. And the first part was advertorial to make it worse.

It flavoured how I felt about the post as I read the rest of it – I was suspicious because I was just waiting for the next sell instead of the next piece of information.

How was it an advertorial?

Let’s use this guest post as an example of advertorial.

It was a bullet list of tips related to a service offered by the guest poster. The topic and introduction did their job, bullet point one was a very generic statement without explanation.

The second bullet point was a sales pitch. “[This] is paramount. If you haven’t done it, I would be happy to help you”

It did not teach me anything, nor entertain.

A subsequent point included her business. Using your own business in examples is fine, and can be an effective way to put your name into an article. However, she did it as an explanation, not an example. And included a boast about her success in that area.

It probably would have come off as a clumsy example if the earlier point hadn’t been blatantly promoting her services.

In short, an advertorial is an ad disguised as an informative article.

What makes an article an article?

A good article (or editorial or technical piece or whatever name a particular site or magazine calls it) is basically the sort of article you want to read.

It will

  1. provide real information or entertainment, maybe both
  2. not overtly promote any business, person or product. It may promote an industry, service or type of product. So I could write about the value of using a professional writer but not directly write about my writing services.
  3. be accurate and correct, although it may be biased in one direction
  4. be written to the writer’s best abilities – and possibly better if the business gets it written or edited for them
  5. build trust and loyalty

 

It’s what I aim at in every blog post and article I write – I want to help people write and communicate well.

Is it the sort of writing you prefer to read?

Do you ever read an entire advertorial?

 

 

Learning from Problogger experts

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of listening to the Problogger webinar. It was not on a specific topic (well, no more specific than blogging anyway!) but was a three person team (named below) answering questions.

elements of an effective blog

Learning how to run an effective blog

As always, I shared various tips from the webinar on Twitter as I listened, but I am also going to share a summary of those tips here.

Writing out my notes helps cement the ideas in my head, for one thing, but I also like to share information  to help others so this post is a win-win!

Blog content

Obviously, a blog offers little value if it doesn’t have any content so this is a crucial aspect to cover. Shayne and Darren both agreed that content is the priority – you can adjust the layout and visuals of your blog if need be, but poor content really limits the success of your blog.

  1. Create content to show your expertise/credibility relating to your goals. So if your goal is to get more coaching clients, write content that shows you are a good coach and how you can help people
  2. there are many advantages to adding content to your site consistently, especially when your blog is new
  3. it is ok to ask for help, including in blog posts and on social media, as it builds engagement
  4. create a reader profile so you know who you are writing to/for. And figure out where they are online so you can go there, too.
    1. test where your readers are – try different social media platforms, etc
  5. grow your reader base by helping people. Become a resource for them, do things like answer relevant questions on Twitter/Facebook
  6. featuring others is a good way to engage with people and build interest (and therefore readers!)
  7. be  honest to develop trust – for example, the carryology blog gives honest product reviews, even of competitor products!
  8. generally, adding opinions and personality to blog posts results in more engagement and loyal readers – it helps differentiate you from others covering similar topics
  9. SEO knowledge should inform the way you write, not drive it. So yes use keywords in your content and titles, but don’t focus on SEO – focus on your readers.

And always remember that blogging success can take time so hang in there and don’t give up too soon!

Advertising on your blog

While not all blogs have advertisers, for those who do want this income option a common question is whether to get direct advertisers or use something like AdSense. Here are some of the comparisons from the webinar:

Small blue advertising icons

Accepting advertising can make you money

  1.  using AdSense can turn off other advertisers  – or they will just rely on AdSense to get onto your site (so you share the profits!)
  2. you need a decent amount of traffic to get direct advertisers paying you. Personally, I think the amount of traffic needed is less for a very niche blog or if the blogger has some connection so advertisers can be sure the blog will pick up.
  3. in the early days, expect to contact advertisers rather than waiting for them to approach you. And continue this even when you have advertisers approaching you!
  4. you have less control with AdSense so less desirable ads may be shown on your site – and may therefore be part of  a first impression for a new reader. Remember you may not even see the ads your readers see, especially as Google is targeting ads at people’s past browsing history more and more.

Moving beyond blog posts

Many bloggers have found their blog has led to other opportunities – and many make more money and gain credibility more from those extras. Of course, many other bloggers are happy to just blog or use the blog to support a business.

  1. if you are thinking of using a freebie to entice people to sign up for something or subscribe to a newsletter, plan ahead. For instance, if you expect to sell eBooks in a year or so, don’t start giving away an  eBook now as an enticement. Once someone has received a free eBook from you, they are less likely to want to pay for one later (although hopefully they will have seen the value in your eBook!)
  2. while good writing is always a good thing, remember that your sales page is not just about the writing or describing what is in the eBook (or other product information) – it has to induce action (ie buying!)
  3. a blog can be a great testing ground and experience for writing eBooks. There was a lot more about eBooks in the webinar but I think that can wait for another blog post!

Who or what is Problogger?

Problogger is a website about blogging (what a surprise!) started by a Melbourne man, Darren Rowse. Darren and the site have gone on to be well recognised as blogging authorities, with a range of blog posts, eBooks, webinars and the annual ProBlogger conference (and virtual conference attendance) to help other bloggers learn and develop.

Today’s webinar was hosted by Darren and included Shayne Tulley and Jasmin Tragas. Shayne manages Problogger’s marketing and website design/development – and has a one week old baby – while Jasmin produces the eBooks and live events for Problogger.

Between them, this trio has a lot of knowledge and they generously shared some of it with us today.

Additional resources

Some other information gained from today’s webinar included:

Or you can listen to a recording of the webinar 🙂

Blog post writing isn’t always easy, but it’s possible

Does every blog post come naturally and easily? scrabble letters 'writing blog posts'

Speaking for myself, the answer is a definite no!

Speaking on behalf of clients and many business people I have spoken to, I would also give a resounding no!

Speaking for yourself, do you think it’s easy to write blog posts? How about if you try writing them to fit a marketing schedule?

So sometimes we have to make ourselves write a post, even if it is hard finding an idea or topic.

Don’t force your writing

A post on SEO outreach by Emma Fox stated “don’t force yourself into making something for a website.” (Yes, the same post that inspired my post about taking time to develop ideas last week has inspired this post, too!)

It’s an interesting statement.

You can take it to mean its best to write naturally and don’t go too far in making your posts relevant to a very different topic. Which are good points.

Or you can read it as advice to  only write for other blogs when you feel like it. Which sounds very nice, but is not so practical for a business owner trying to market their business!

Choosing a guest blog host

 When it comes to choosing where to put a guest blog post, I try to get that balance through the following ideas:

  1. if the blog’s topic is too far from my areas of knowledge, I don’t write posts for them
  2. I only approach someone with a potential guest post when I know I have the time to provide the post, meaning I have a bit of time to be able to write without it being a huge chore or stress
  3. I don’t try being someone else or write in another’s voice so the post feels natural. I will angle the content and tone to suit an audience but keep to what feels right for me
  4. I am experienced in writing on demand – I think you can choose to write at any time, not just want for the right mood, without feeling forced into it. Habit and attitude can get you writing – like Chris Guillebeau, I like the quote  from Somerset Maugham: I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.

Give ideas time to develop

plant_time_light_bulbLR

Ideas & plants take time to grow

Last night I read a blog post on guest blogging (or SEO outreach) as it is something I am interested in and enjoy doing. There were some great tips in this blog post, but there were also a couple of points that I reacted to.

Post ideas can take time

Researching blogs to offer posts to is obviously an important step in guest blogging, but I disagree with the following statement:

If you don’t have any ideas for articles the first couple of minutes of scanning the website, better spend the next minutes looking for another website to scope out.

Many people will never find a host blog if they used that criteria!

A couple of minutes may show the blog is not suitable for you (eg the wrong topic or demographic) but it often isn’t enough to get ideas. Sometimes I get ideas from the first sentence I read in another blog, but other times I have to read a few posts to get a feel for that blog and allow inspiration to strike.

Creativity is in all of us, and I believe it can be developed, but even so that’s a lot of pressure to state you need to find ideas so quickly while also assessing the blog overall.

Fast fix or quality results?

There’s a business concept about giving clients a choice of two elements – well done, fast or cheap. They can’t have all three options in the same project.

I think that’s true for guest blogging, too. You can do it well – quality writing on well researched blogs to build relationships with bloggers and their audiences – or you can work at getting a lot of posts online in a short time frame.

It’s that old quality vs quantity argument, I guess.

And to be frank, if you give me the impression of trying for maximum posts rather than quality the chances are I won’t accept your guest post. So I would never tell people to only spend a few minutes researching  a potential host blog – it looks fast rather than in-depth to me.

Developing ideas

How do you develop ideas, whether for a blog post or anything else?

Do you give up if no idea hits within a couple of minutes?

* Images courtesy of 123RF

Choosing your blog hosting arrangement

Setting up a blog may seem daunting but it really doesn’t have to be. However, the first step, how to host your blog, can be difficult if you haven’t done it before.

List of varous factors in choosing a web host

Some things to consider

So, here are some things to know and consider before making your choice…

  1. check out the various advantages to hosting yourself or through your blogging software
  2. if you already have a website, adding the blog to that site means you share the traffic, have only one URL to promote, can see combined statistics through your host and only have one host relationship to deal with
  3. think long term – what do you want from your blog? how do you want to manage it? Just because you don’t need a feature now shouldn’t be a major reason in your choice. For example, a hosted blog won’t let you add Adsense ads which may be something you want to do in 12 months when you’ve built up some traffic.
  4. how technical are you – or how much technical support do you have? While installing and updating the blog software doesn’t require html knowledge, some people find it challenging so a hosted blog has appeal
  5. what will your audience expect? Do you need to earn their trust? Seeing your blog on your domain and branded appropriately goes a long way to building trust and credibility
  6. minimise risk by choosing a reputable host which ever type of hosting you go with
  7. assess the different risks for your business

What other questions are you considering (or did you consider) as part of your decision?

Reviewing the usefulness of old content links

Old content can still be good or it can be out dated, depending on the topic and the opinions given.

Since May 2012, I have ended each month with a blog post referring back to some of my old content (from my newsletter and blog). I’ll list all seven posts at the end of this one.

It has been interesting to read things I wrote in the past and think about how relevant they are today and how else they can be applied to good business communications.

To be honest, much of my content does still apply as writing doesn’t change rapidly – had I written about mobile phones or social media it probably would have been a different story!

Did it work?

Looking back, reviewing old content each month:

  1. was an easy way to find new content I guess – there was some time involved in deliberately going back to that month of past years and I did have to think of what to write about the old content
  2. created easy posts to write in advance and schedule
  3. helped build more links within my site, especially bringing some of those older pages back to life.
  4. didn’t have any significant effect on the number of readers to those posts (compared to posts made around the same time, there was little variation in reader numbers – with the exception of making procedure manuals accessible which was 3 to 6 times more popular than posts within a week of it going live). Given only one post stood out, I’d say it was more about the topic than the old content link.
  5. also didn’t seem to have attracted particularly more or less discussion either
  6. took advantage of work I did in the past – leveraging is a great concept!

The biggest question to me, however, is what you thought of it.

Was it interesting to revisit old content? Or maybe I was too subtle and you hardly noticed that I was doing it?

Would you like me to continue this into 2013? If so, are there any changes you would like me to make?

My old content driven posts were:

May – planning future communications
June – making procedure manuals accessible
July – knowing the right terms
August – consistency over stats
September – reading efficiently saves money
October – accepting feedback graciously
November – dividing up business tasks
December – honesty in blog comments

Honesty in your blog comments

Once you start blogging you will start getting comments. Unfortunately, a large proportion of them will probably be spam, but the real comments are great.

What about the real but not-so-great comments you may get?

As I wrote a few years ago (back in December 2007 to be precise – old content that still rings true!), I think you have five choices about how to act on negative comments.

Spam and outright abuse I think should be deleted and forgotten.

Comments that just disagree with you or  realistic or even constructive  criticisms are a different story.

Keeping negative comments in your blog seems honest to me – you’re not censoring and are being transparent.

It may be confronting to leave negative comments live, but it gives you a chance to be human and show that you are open to feedback – especially if you show that you have learnt from it.

Have you ever left negative comments in your blog? What response have you got from doing so?

Would you use negative comments to stir a controversy or a discussion?