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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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Blogging services

blogging

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

An interesting campaign by comments

Like most bloggers, I get spam comments – boring and annoying but that’s the way it is. Luckily, I have plugins so don’t often see all the spam that comes in.

Occasionally I do glance through what has been filtered as spam to check things are on track. Recently, a found a number of comments in the spam filter that were a bit different.

Using comments to get a message spreadannouncing through blog comments

Leaving comments in a blog can of course be one way to share your message, and attract traffic back to your site to really explain what is important to you.

But this is the first time I have seen someone set up bulk comments (and I assume it was automated so probably has been sent to many blogs) in order to make their point of view heard.

This isn’t a commercial message, either (although their site could be monetised of course) so it really stood out to me.

Imagine if do-it-in-a-dress, World Vision, Kiva, Greenpeace or any other charity or community group used this tactic – see why I thought this was unusual?

Sharing negative messages

The comments I noticed were criticisms of a writing site

The commenter’s name was even entered as derogative terms against that service so they were definitely keen to ruin the company’s name.

I didn’t click on the link provided as I have no desire to read a diatribe against another service, plus I don’t trust links in spammy comments!

Personally, I have not looked at the named site but I have heard of it. I know some people have found it useful for finding writing projects while the details I have heard concern me and others (the pay rate is apparently ridiculously low so clients can’t assume they  are getting quality results and it is not respecting the writers’ time and effort).

I don’t like what I know about that service and similar ones but I have never heard they are dishonest about the pay rates so each to their own.

I agree that the uninformed may be influenced by such sites to work for well under reasonable pay rates because they don’t know any different. It is fair to let new writer’s understand the industry.

It isn’t right to spam the internet with claims of scam and fraud about another company.

So what’s the middle ground?

How can you share a warning with people without crossing legal boundaries and without damaging your own reputation?

Attending blogging events, live or recorded

This Friday and Saturday, about 300 bloggers will descend upon Melbourne to learn more about blogging at PBEvent  with Problogger Darren Rowse.

And I’m pleased to say I will be one of them.

Why go to a blogging event?

leanring ABC of blogging

Learning the basics of blogging – and more

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I am going because

  1. it’s great to learn new things and conferences and seminars are a good learning experience (well, good ones are anyway!)
  2. it’s good to get away from my desk occasionally
  3. blogging is an important part of my business, and part that I really enjoy, so learning more about it is a good investment for me
  4. I like the idea of meeting other bloggers

Really, it’s just like going to any conference – the topic just happens to be blogging.

And PBEvent happens to be hosted by one of the best known bloggers in Australia. And is offering some great speakers and topics (you can see the schedule here if you’re interested).

How I learn  from events

When I go to any business event, one of my aims is to learn.

I think being open to new ideas and expecting to learn is a good starting point. Sometimes the best value from an event is the ideas it sparks so you need to be open to listening and learning.

Taking notes is one way I cement the information I hear. Traditionally that has meant writing notes in a notepad but obviously people have more options these days – I’m still inclined to write notes by hand as it works better at getting information into my mind.

To be honest, I often don’t read those notes again, and certainly not often. However, just the act of writing notes helps me retain the information better.

I also find that tweeting snippets of information is a great learning tool. By deciding something is valuable enough to share and putting into few words (I try for less than the allowed 140 characters) makes that point stronger for me. And hopefully it is providing value to my followers as well.

Tweeting information during a webinar is easy. I haven’t yet tried it at a live event but may give it a go during PBEvent.

If nothing else, I can reread my tweets afterwards as a reminder of some key information.

Live or recorded?

There are distinct advantages to live and recorded information sessions, I think.

Going to a live event obviously has the advantages of a new environment and networking with other people. It also means you can potentially interact with the speaker(s), ask questions and participate in the atmosphere. Sometimes you get additional opportunities, too, such as handouts, ‘conference only’ discounts and yummy food!

Listening to a recording of an event gives you more flexibility – you can hear it at whatever time suits you – and saves travelling time and expense. For information packed sessions, a recording also means you can pause and rewind the recording to catch important bits and make sure you understand things. For a poor sessions, it is also very easy to turn it off and get on with other things!

Which do you prefer? Have you tried both options?

I attend more webinars because of the convenience, but I like to attend some live events every year as well to interact with people.

Problogger Event

With the Problogger event, I get both as all sessions are being recorded so I can listen to them after the weekend. Which means I can relisten to important bits I missed but more importantly, I can hear the sessions I don’t attend (part of the weekend has two sessions running at the same time). And slide presentations will be included with the recordings, too.

The recordings are also available for non-attendees via a virtual ticket (which are being sold at a 25% discount until mid afternoon today Melbourne time I believe). You can grab a virtual ticket and get access to over 21 hours of blogging information plus a live Q and A sessions with Problogger next week (it is an affiliate link but I honestly think it is good value – and much cheaper than what I’ve paid to attend!)

And if you are going to Problogger event, or a similar event, you may enjoy the following preparation posts, too:

Blogging conferences and training events
10 things to do to prepare for PB Event 
Hot tips for Problogger ‘virgins’

Have you ever attended a blogging event? What did you get from it? And what tips have you got to share for those going to their first blogging conference?

Problogger event 2013 virtual tickets for 30 hours of training and learningUpdated September 2013: The 2013 Problogger conference is on again this month and you can choose to attend in person in Queensland (if you got a ticket fast enough!) or virtually (2013 recordings will available a short time after each sessions is run so you can listen on the conference weekend.) plus watching interactions on Twitter during sessions.

Why link internally when guest blogging

Last week in a twitter chat, I gave the tip of linking to relevant posts at the host blog within your guest blog posts.

interconnections between and within blogsThe question, of course, is why that is important.

  1. some may call it sucky to do something nice for the host blog, and I can see why they would, but I see it as building a relationship of doing nice things for each other – it greatly increases your chances of being asked to do another guest post and being remembered for other opportunities
  2. linking to other posts in the host blog shows you have sent some time on that blog which increases the chances of the host blog accepting your post but also has the potential to impress loyal readers of that blog
  3. many hosts want internal links in every blog post so will actually add them to guest posts – if you add them yourself you  have more control over the placement of such links and can choose which posts to link to
  4. having more internal links can help the SEO of the host blog – and the more traffic your guest post has, the better results you can expect so it helps both of you to include the links
  5. if the host blog shows track backs (ie the comment area shows incoming links to each post), the internal links you add give your post additional exposure
  6. by linking to another post, you are endorsing the content of that post to some extent, which adds weight to the host blog’s credibility. It also supports your ideas if the host blog agrees with you. So internal links build credibility for you both and increase the authority of the host blog, making links back to your blog worth more
  7. I’ve added it as number 7 but this could possibly be the most important reason of all – to build your reputation and credibility. The purpose of any good link in a blog post is to provide extra information or resources for the readers, and links to your host’s blog are no exception to that. By linking to relevant information, you are showing a generosity and desire to help your readers which builds a positive impression.

What do you think – have you ever noticed links to the host blog within a guest post? Did they add value to you and the blog?

 

Being nice with your guest post refusals

handwritten note of no thanksWhether or not you want them, as your blog gets older and more popular it is extremely likely that you will be offered guest posts for your blog.

And assuming you want to maintain a certain standard (in writing quality, content value and staying to a style and topic range), you will need to reject some, if not all, of those offers.

I’m not going to cover why we should reject posts nicely – or reject them at all rather than just ignoring them – that’s a topic for another day. And I’m ignoring obvious spam for this post, too.

Rejecting with respect

The key to refusing a guest post nicely is to be polite and respectful.

Even if the guest post is irrelevant to you or low quality, someone has taken the time to write a post and submit it to you. If they have really tried, they will have an emotional attachment to the post and your response.

How to reject professionally

  1. be polite
    • use their name with a greeting –  “Hi Sam”
    • thank them for their submission
    • don’t use derogative or insulting words
  2. show respect
    • show you have a reason for the rejection – it doesn’t have to be in detail but adding ‘we don’t accept guest posts’, ‘we only use posts on this topic’ or ‘your post doesn’t suit our style/audience’ makes the rejection less personal and lets them know how to avoid the same mistake
    • don’t be insulting, rude or patronising
    • write a proper response – a single ‘no thanks’ looks lazy and disrespectful so use proper sentences
  3. be positive where possible
    • if you list faults with the submitted post (such as if you like their information but want the writing improved before you could use it), start and finish with positives about the post

The rejection note doesn’t have to be long as long as it is respectful and makes sense – a greeting, one or two sentences and an ending is enough.

Example rejection notes for a guest post

Hi Sam,

Thanks for submitting your “how to treat frog fungal infections” post. It was well written, however, my blog only accepts posts on business related topics.

Kind regards,

Tash

Hi Mary,

I received your guest post yesterday, thanks. I won’t be using your post in my blog because it doesn’t meet the guidelines for guest posts.

Cheers,

Tash

Thanks Phoebe.

Your guest post, Measuring your social media ROI, was fascinating and well suited to my blog. However, I found it a little hard to understand at points and a couple of sentences seem to stop mid-idea. The questions you posed were thought-provoking so I would be interested in seeing a revised version.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Tash

Hi Bob,

While I appreciate you sending me a guest post I don’t think it suits my audience so I have removed it from my inbox.

Regards,

Tash

 

* image courtesy of 123rf

Make your offers relevant

Whether it is a direct email, marketing campaign or even a cold call on the phone, it’s really important to make the offer relevant to the other person – if you want results anyway!

Guest blog approaches

If you want to do some guest blogging and have found some potential host blogs, your next step is to contact the blog owner and offer your posts.

Today, I received a pleasant email offering me some guest blog posts. She wrote clearly, openly told me which site her bio would link to, provided samples of previous posts and offered to write on a topic I suggested.

Sounds good, right?

Yes, up to the point of looking at her URL and sample post topics.

She is representing a housing construction company (the name Word Constructions does mislead at times!) so was offering posts about building topics which is obviously completely irrelevant to my blog.

Check for relevance

alphabet building blocks

Letters are Word Constructions’ building blocks

It all comes back to knowing your audience and your purpose.

If I know my audience are people running a business, then they are not coming to me for building tips but could be interested to read a business book review.

If the purpose of my blog is to share writing and communications information, there is little point writing about the best time to prune a lemon tree.

A little bit of research on the part of the would-be guest blogger would get her posts into more blogs – you don’t have to read much of my site to learn I am a writer, not a builder, and that my name is Tash. I (and therefore my readers) are not her audience so her posts are not relevant and she wasted her time emailing me.

So for every piece of business communications, know your purpose and audience so you can make the message relevant.

Have you considered the relevancy of your blog posts to the people reading them? Are they at least relevant to the audience you want to attract?

Building an effective business blog

Whether it’s new or established, if you have a blog to help promote your business, you probably want it to be effective, right?

An effective business blog doesn’t necessarily mean it sells anything directly – in fact, trying to sell in every post is likely to turn people away and be highly ineffective.

So, what is an effective business blog?

Like so many things, there is no single answer. It varies between businesses.

elements of an effective blog

Some tools for building an effective blog

However, I think the following options cover most (if not all) objectives of business owners when they establish a blog:

  1. SEO value – a blog is an easy way to add fresh content with keywords to get higher rankings with search engines
  2. showcase expertise – giving information, lessons and latest industry news builds your credibility
  3. build relationships – having a community is important for many businesses. Relationships through blogs build trust, show the business personality and let you learn from your audience
  4. communicate a message – this is probably more for non-profit groups that want to educate people about a topic and a blog full of stories and information can be a great tool in that process

Of course your specific definition may include more than one of these options in more or less detail.

To know if your blog is effective, you need to know the purpose of your blog and have some sort of measurement in place to gauge how well you are meeting that purpose.

For example, if your blog is aimed at getting more website traffic, posting once a month won’t be effective but you can measure your success by comparing website stats each month. Testing posting three times a week then five times a week will show you what is more effective at gathering more traffic and subscribers.

Making your blog more effective

I have just read Chris Horton’s post on steps to generate leads online with your business blog. In fact, that’s what inspired this post!

Chris goes through three steps which  go towards the purpose of your business, marketing and blog – namely know your (target) audience well, address your audience’s needs and how to offer your audience value.

His last step is about clear communication – make your blog posts simple, concise and relevant. Heard that before? Well, yes, that is where my blogging tips usually come in 🙂

I think it is important to note Chris gives three tips on developing a purpose and strategy for your blog THEN a tip on how to make each post more effective.

So have you defined what effective means for your blog?

Do you know who your target reader is?

How often do you measure your blog against your effectiveness definition?

Improving your blog’s effectiveness

Maybe your blog is not as effective as you’d like.

Yet you want it effective tomorrow, not in the six months it may take you  to work through everything Chris suggested. And, if you’re like many of other bloggers, you don’t want to shock your current readers by massive changes.

I think this is another situation where step by step is the solution.

Start defining your target audience and their needs in more detail (or some detail as the case may be!)

Each time you discover something that is not ideal in your blog, change that.

Maybe you decide your ideal audience are parents of young children but you have a blog category on teenage activities. That category doesn’t help your audience so stop writing posts in there as a simple step in making your blog more effective.

Step by step will take a while but is easier to face and implement than doing it all in one go.

I’m going to go out on a limb now – for you personally, what one thing would you like changed on my blog to better suit your needs? Let me know as a comment below.

No promises I’ll change it but I will consider all feedback in light of my blog objectives.

Setting rules for guest posts on your blog

As I have just started using guest bloggers on this blog (see Karol’s post from yesterday as an example), it seemed timely to discuss how you establish guidelines for your guest bloggers.

Why have guest blogger guidelines?

Every blog is different – as are all the bloggers – which means two things.

  1. to keep your blog focussed on your brand and style, you need to define how that happens
  2. not all bloggers will have the same high standards as you  so don’t assume any guest blogger will behave professionally or within your style

Guidelines for guest bloggers helps maintain your blog. Publicly available policies or guidelines will also reduce the number of blog posts you receive that don’t meet your rules.

What goes into guest blogger guidelines?

Well, the short answer is ‘that’s up to you – it’s your blog!’

rules & guidelines for blogs

Fun or formal, long or short, guidelines are handy…

But I’m guessing you want a more detailed answer so here are some important points to consider – you may or may not list all of them for bloggers to see but it’s good to have considered each one relative to your blog.

  1. length of posts – minimums and maximums
  2. unique content vs reused content – including how long after you publish the post can it be used
  3. standard of writing – is average acceptable or do you want great?
  4. standard of content – is it correct and up-to-date? Does it give something new or just spout motherhood statements?
  5. copyright and ownership – be sure the blogger has the right to offer you the post and any accompanying images
  6. how many links can be included in the post? in the bio box?
  7. how long is their bio? will it be shown and can it include images?
  8. do posts have to be informative rather than an ad for someone else?
  9. can affiliate links be included?
  10. what type of content do you want (or not want)? For instance, toplists only takes lists and other sites don’t want reviews
  11. what topics do you want (or not want) covered? Does it have to be something not covered before in your blog?
  12. will links get a dofollow or nofollow attribute?
  13. what promotion do you expect from the guest blogger?
  14. do you expect the guest blogger to visit your site and respond to comments? it’s in their best interests to do so but many don’t
  15. are there suitability factors such as no adult concepts or no swearing?
  16. how often will you post something by the same person?

Which ones do you include in your guest blogger policy (even if it is an unwritten policy so far!)?

Did anything on that list make you say “Oh, that’s a good idea!” and get you thinking?

I’ll post more about hosting guest blog posts soon, but let me know if you have specific questions…

Understand your blog hosting options

jion the blogging worldOnce people decide to add a business blog, they sometimes ask me about hosting the blog.

There are two basic options for having a your blog hosted – hosted by the blog software people or hosting you arrange yourself.

Hosting your own blog

Putting the blog software onto your own domain and web hosting is the better business option in my opinion. Yes, it does cost more but the advantages are worth paying that price.

So what are these valuable advantages?

  1. it is on your domain so you get a simple URL to promote, matching email addresses and a full website to do other things as well as run your blog.
    Yes, some hosted blogs now allow you to map a domain so it looks like your blog is on a domain (so you get the simple domain) and it can be cheaper than actually hosting it yourself.
  2. Control your blog & risk

    Keep control and reduce risk to your blog

    you have long-term control – if you own the domain and hosting, no one can change the rules. True, blogging platforms haven’t done much of this in the past but the possibility is there

  3. you set the rules – it is your site so you can do things your way. For example, hosted platforms generally won’t let you do much to monetise your blog but you can add Adsense and affiliate links throughout any blog you host
  4. no one else has back-end access to your site/blog so you know that the content remains yours
  5. you can choose the look and functionality of your blog. Hosted platforms offer some choice of templates, designs and plugins but if you host it yourself you have many more options.
    A wider scope of templates and style adjustments means you can make your blog look the way you want and, most importantly, unlike any other blogs.

Getting a hosted blog

Although I think hosting it yourself is a good move, getting a hosted blog does have some advantages, too:

  1. it is free – obviously a good incentive for any business!
  2. there’s nothing to install or update – you just open an account and the rest is done for you (well, the rest of the backend stuff – you still have to write the posts!)
  3. the host provides a certain amount of traffic by virtue of their domain and they usually have lists of recent and top posts somewhere on their site. Of course, traffic you generate also helps the host so it’s win win (to some level anyway!)

 

So that’s my view of your options – do you have any other advantages for either option that I’ve missed?

Next week, I’ll write about the actual choosing between these options – if you have any questions, let me know!

* Photo courtesy of 123rf

Headings to attract more readers

Headings (or titles) to blog posts and other online articles are important.

A good heading will entice people to read the post which means they will click on a link to it as well. So write a good heading not just within your blog but in the title you use for links to your blog post.

Including relevant subject words in a heading has two advantages for bringing in more readers.

Anybody looking for information on a specific topic will be attracted by seeing those words in the heading. It will also stop uninterested people clicking through to your post (and this is a good thing if you are trying to reduce your bounce rate and not waste time and bandwidth on people who are not your potential customers anyway).

Including subject words also helps search engines summarise your blog post and determine its importance and relevance for any specific search term.

Here are a few examples to show how a subject word can help:

What I’m reading vs My top business books

Preparing dinner vs Planning nutritious meals

My hobby vs Bike riding for fun

Which of these headings do you think will show up in search engine searches for business books, healthy cooking and bike riding?

Help others help you

I do a bit of guest blogging, and I believe it is a mutually rewarding experience if done well. I certainly don’t think the host blogger is doing it all for the sake of guest bloggers as they also benefit from the arrangement.

Maybe the host blogger likes updating the blog without writing much themselves, maybe they like the traffic guest bloggers can bring or maybe they are basing their blog on a team effort to give a broader picture. Whatever the motivation, the host blogger benefits.

Accept posts graciously

Email arriving from a laptopI think it is plain good manners and a strategic decision to be nice to people who offer posts upon request.

Recently, I saw a blog request blog posts through BloggerLinkUp. I looked at the site and the topics covered, decided it was a good fit for me and emailed the blog with a post idea.

The response received left a sour taste in my mouth and I didn’t bother writing a blog post for him. The issues with the email:

  1. he didn’t bother using my name or a greeting of any description
  2. he told me to read his ‘write for us’ page to see the requirements – he didn’t link to it or tell me how to find that page. At a quick look in his site menu and footer, I can’t see any related links so I left the site. It would had been easy to give me a link. It would have been easier to include such a link and requirement in the original request for blog posts
  3. he didn’t use his name to finish the email – it made it all very impersonal and showed no attempt on his part to build a relationship. I no longer felt comfortable with him or his site, and certainly didn’t feel it was somewhere I wanted to regularly contribute posts to
  4. this one is perhaps more personal, but I didn’t like his comment “I would publish your post if it meets the standard of this blog”. I felt he assumed I wasn’t up to the standard rather than assuming I am (sort of ‘capable until proven incapable’ is my usual approach). He didn’t acknowledge the topic I had suggested – who knows if that even met his unstated standards?

So if you want people to provide guest posts for your blog, or articles for your website or newsletter, try to build a relationship with those who offer you their writing – or at least send them a nice email response.

What sort of responses have you received from sending out or offering to write guest blog posts?